There’s an old black and white movie called “Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House,” I’ve mentioned it before. In it, a young couple starts out in a New York apartment with, among other issues, a bathroom in which they can barely move. They try to renovate an older home and eventually build a new home, but end up with the same kind of bathroom they had before. So, the first thing that might –– and should –– differentiate your architect would be the ability to design for your needs. Do they take the time to listen? Do they ask the right questions that ultimately, will give you a solution to the real problems?

In our firm, we make sure this happens through an early interview process to understand your true needs. We want to get to know you and understand how you live. We ask detail questions about how you want to live in the space … for example, what is your daily routine? The design of a master bedroom suite can be more desirable if designed around the different work schedules for a husband and wife. The same is true with expensive features in your home, a luxury tub in the master bath for example. Some use it; others just include one for re-sale value but will never use it. In the process, they may sacrifice the opportunity for a nicer, more functional shower.

Some clients insist they know exactly what they want and just want the architect to prepare permit drawings based on their design sketches, they are very set in their solution. However, we encourage clients to question everything on their wish list and intended layout. Many people say they want a Jack-and-Jill bathroom, but have never lived with one. With young kids, it can be a nightmare, resulting in locked door from the previous user, or multiple doors interfering with one another. It could actually be better to have a hall bathroom. The same can be said of under-utilized living rooms or dining rooms. We encourage the elimination of spaces you are never going to use. Why incur that extra cost?

Other features that may or may not be available from various firms: Cost estimating, viewing the design in 3D in preliminary design or the advantages of the size of the firm. For example, Studio 21 has a staff of three licensed architects to bounce ideas off of each other internally when faced with complex design issues.

Another feature that sets us apart from many other architects is our architect led design+build option. We don’t do this with every project, but it is available. In that case, we’re the general contractor and hire all the subcontractors. We do all the scheduling, coordination of construction, permits, and payout requests that a builder would otherwise do, giving you a single point of contact and a clear sense of accountability. Those who have used it realize it is a great process.

How do you know if you’re choosing the right architect for you and your project?

Look for rapport. It’s easy to confirm that your architect is licensed, and you can peruse his or her website to see the type and look of projects the architect has completed in the past. But consider that this is someone you will spend time with over a period of a year or two, someone who is shepherding you through one of the biggest financial investments of your lifetime, and one that usually requires great emotional or at least mental energy. Do you like this architect? Do you feel comfortable and sure this is someone upon whom you can rely? Only you can answer those particular questions.

As you may assume, a large majority of our work comes from referrals. If you know someone that is in the early planning stages of their project, please put them in touch with us, they will likely thank you once they have the opportunity to work with us.

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