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How To Work With An Architect: 4 Things That Will Make Your House Design Project Much Easier

Signing with an architect is a big deal. It’s the most concrete step you’ve made so far toward making your new home a reality. It’s also the beginning of a relationship, one that needs to function well so the process can move forward as smoothly as possible. Learning how to work with an architect will be key to your house design’s success. 

Designing a home is a long-term project and one that’s not always flowers and confetti. You’ll mostly be communicating about the workaday (dare we say unsexy) details, at least at first. To make the process as painless and productive as possible, we’ve gathered together our best advice for how to communicate with your architect and develop a forward-thinking, positive mindset.

But, First!

Remember that we’re absolutely stoked to be designing your house. Designing buildings that are a balance of efficiency, beauty, and utility lights us up. We’re in this to win it. We care about making every little detail of your design as perfect as we possibly can. 

We hope you feel the same way about working with us. We assume that you chose to work with us because you love our work. We assume that you’re excited to see the ways that our talented designers and technicians will create a real-world design for your new home. 

So, since we’re all excited to be here, let’s take a look at how we can work together to get you an incredible design. 

Trust Us

Trust is the number-one thing you need to have a thriving relationship with your architect. 

We’re in the service industry and we’re here to help you realize your dream. But we have to do it within the parameters of a workable, on-budget design. We take an honest approach to our work. That means that if certain ideas won’t work, we’ll tell you. That’s part of the process. 

We won’t just leave it there, though. We’ll explain why we’re recommending something different and work with you to figure out what to do instead. 

Here’s an inside scoop: some clients will pay us for our services and then…ignore our advice. Don’t do that. Instead, take advantage of our expertise. You sought us out to help you articulate your vision. To create a design with integrity. To leverage our experience so your home can be as fantastic as possible. The more you lean into our experience and expertise, the more we can do for you. 

You may not resonate with our original proposal, of course. And that’s okay! We want to be challenged to get to your vision and to use our team’s incredible experience to benefit you. And we have the chops to do it. Remember: we do this all day long, every day!

Engage When You’re Needed, Breathe When You’re Not

How much should you — or shouldn’t you — engage with your architectural team? We think the answer boils down to this: Be involved with the process but be involved at the right times.

We want to know you and how you tick so we can make your design uniquely you. So we’ll engage with you a lot at the start of the project. We’ll ask you pointed questions about your preferences, the way you imagine using the space, the way you like to live, work, and play — all so we can get to know your style. We’ll soak up any visuals you bring to us, from Pinterest boards to magazine clippings. All of this will shape your design.

And once we’ve downloaded all of that information, we need space and time to do our work well. Before we ask you about paint colors and plumbing fixtures, we need to make sure the structure will create a dynamic experience, hold up, and perform. When you haven’t heard from us for a while, it’s time to stop and breathe. We’re working our magic behind the scenes. 

And when we do need something from you, we’ll reach out. Be responsive, work with us to make informed decisions, and be kind. We fight the hardest for the clients that have treated us with respect, and been good partners in the process.

Develop Curiosity

Designing a house is an emotional project. It’s easy to make assumptions — for us and for you. It will be most productive if we approach each other knowing that design has many moving parts and shifting targets. It’s never straightforward. 

Like most people, we respond best to curious minds. If something is confusing or makes you feel misunderstood, start by asking us about it.  You can expect the same from us. If we don’t understand what you’re saying, we’ll ask. We’ll work to be curious and to approach you with an open mind.

Good design takes time. Good design takes collaboration. Good design will take a thousand detours before arriving at a solution. Strap in for the ride and see if you can’t reframe the lack of predictability as an exciting journey. Develop reasonable expectations, for yourself and for your design team.

Nurture A Collaborative Approach 

You know what you want and we know what needs to happen, on a technical level, to make the beautiful house you can see in your mind’s eye into a structure you can actually live in. We know if that unusual roofline can be built with collapsing. We can figure out how to position the building to take advantage of the view and allow you to install solar panels. We can identify what types of materials will make your home feel truly special while also falling within your budget. 

We hope this is a relief for you. We’ve studied and practiced architecture for many years so that you can rest easy, knowing that we know to do this. It’s similar to hiring a really good lawyer: you don’t need to know precisely how the law works for them to fight for you and represent you fairly.

This doesn’t mean that we’ll leave you in the dark. In fact, we have communication milestones built into our system. Here’s what you can expect from us when we’re creating a house design for you:

The Big Picture 

We meet with you at the start of your project to hear all about your vision. This is when we lay out the process and answer questions. We also clarify which aspects of your vision are non-negotiables and which are more flexible.

Progress Check-Ins

At crucial moments in the design process, we’ll show you what we’ve done so far and get your feedback. 

Check-ins won’t happen every day or even every week, but we will reach out at the right times to ensure that the project is meeting key milestones. If we’re not communicating, it’s because we’re deep in the design.

Pacing Ourselves

Related: we follow a reasonable, well-thought-out timeline. As a client, you’ll experience a bunch of decision fatigue. These projects can stretch out for months or even years. If we were checking in with you all the time, it would be, frankly, bananas. Instead, we reach out to you only when it’s time to get your feedback. We want to protect your time and your sanity (and ours).  

A design is an evolution. The deeper we get into your project, the more we’ll refine the vision. By spacing out our communications, we’re giving you an opportunity to think through your preferences and mull over new ideas.

Providing Direction

At just the right time, we’ll talk with you about the fun stuff: the finishes, fixtures, and materials that you likely think of when you’re imagining your new home. 

Once it’s time to consider options and make final decisions, we’ll direct you toward high-quality showrooms and materials lines. We’ll also help you organize and think through the details. Choosing finishes is an exciting process. It’s also time-consuming and emotionally draining. We’ll be there to help you move through it. (Or, if you prefer, we can always choose for you.) 

For the record, we love the back-and-forth nature of this process; narrowing down options until you find just the right light fixture or the perfect tile for your backsplash is our idea of a good time. We have opinions but we’re not arrogant. We’re game to try any and every idea, especially when it means infusing more of your personality into your design. If something won’t work, we’ll explain why and work with you to find a just-right solution.

A Few Closing Words

This is likely the one, and the only, time you’ll work with a team to design your own home. We’re excited and honored that you chose us for this work. We’re here for you every step of the way — and we know what those steps are! Working with us, you’ll have a roadmap that will take you through the entire process. Together, we’ll create an absolutely gorgeous place for you to live.