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Hiring an Architect or Designer

Updated on March 21, 2015
Bungalow style home.
Bungalow style home.
Plans are always useful.
Plans are always useful.

Do You Need an Architect or Designer? by George Bogosian

For some construction or remodeling products, one way to save money is to skip the designer or architect—and do the plans yourself or directly with your builder. Whether you use residential architects.... or interior designers for your interior design jobs, some form of building design help will be useful to your building project. Bottom line is.... good architectural design will make all the difference. But when does it really make sense to use a designer or architect?

Do you need a designer or an architect for your home building or remodeling project? The easy answer to the question is maybe. Let’s see why.

Some design work is needed on any project, but whether the owner does it, builder, designer or architect, needs some careful review up front. It's not just kitchen design or bath design that requires attention. Obviously the more complicated the project, the more value there is in hiring a competent designer or architect. There are many aspects of the design job. It's not just the finished project’s aesthetics—you also need to consider how it will be constructed, what materials are to be used, and how the new space will be used. Making decisions about design prior to construction saves time and money. You should spend more time in this design process than in the construction phase.

Should The Builder Do It?

Most competent builders can figure out how to construct a project, but do you want them spending time figuring out the entire conceptual look, framing structure and finish details? That can be wasted time. This is not a place for trial and error or a learning curve with your money. Does this builder really have the necessary experience to create the design? Many builders are competent builders but poor designers. That will ruffle the builders nail pouch!

Good, competent Designers/Architects have years of experience laying out the design and function of a building. Does form follow function or does function follow form? It's the melding of these two disciplines that are needed to create a successful project. A good Designer/Architect can be a godsend, while and a bad one can give you a devil of a time.

You can always tell when a good designer or architect was involved. The proportions are right and there is an overall look that feels just right. Good experienced Designers/Architects understand these concepts and will put them to work for you in the design stage of the project.

Working with Designers & Architects

If you use professional help for your design, review his or her past work. Arrange an interview and you should not be required to pay. Usually one hour is enough to evaluate each other and the possibility of working together. Design, budget, and the schedule to create plans and fees are some of the topics that you need to discuss at this meeting.

The purpose is to see if there is some chemistry and understanding about the project between all parties. Don't go looking for a lot of free design at this meeting. During your

Don't go looking for a lot of free design at the initial interview.

introductory phone call, ask about their interview arrangement procedure and set up an appointment. If you’re remodeling or expanding your current home, invite the designer or architect to come to your home so they can see first-hand how you live and what you envision. If it's a new home design, meet at their office may where you can see existing project plans that are similar to your needs.

Architect Tracy Platt of Platt /Hichborn Architects of Exeter, NH has a few thoughts on the subject of design. He says a good architect works to create " the best design for you and your needs and within your budget." Well said. Too often these aspects get overlooked in the initial planning for your overall job.

Know Your Budget

Tracy believes the architect’s job is to evaluate all aspects of the project, from size and age of family, to priorities of the use of space and of course your budget. Tell the Designer/Architect your desired or budget limit for you project at the outset. This detail often gets lost in the excitement of the moment. This happens often, so please discuss finances, it saves money and time.

Tell the designer or architect your desired or budget limit for you project at the outset. This is an important matter. I know I'm repeating myself, but it needs to be repeated. There has been much wasted money by leaving this element out of early discussions. There are many preliminary plans left on the table and never build because the construction costs were not within the budget limit.

You can hire designers who are specialists in certain areas, like certified kitchen and bath designers. There are also builders that offer design and build services. You need to make the decision of whether or not hiring a design professional would be in your best interest. If you value good design, and are not comfortable making all the decisions, then I would recommend hiring a professional.

Designers or architects have different methods of charging for their time. Some work of an hourly fee while others break down the project and charge fees for different aspects of the project. Find out how the Designer/Architect breaks down the project by discussing this at the interview meeting.

The scale, scope and your desires of your project will determine the need for a professional designer or architect. Many people wouldn't be caught dead without using an architect for a large project while others are dead without one. Hire the best you can afford if you chose to use their services. Their help will be evident in the finished product.


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    • bigocean profile image

      George Bogosian 7 years ago from New England


      I agree, that often you save money.... and certainly peace of mind by using an Architect or Designer.

    • GmaGoldie profile image

      Kelly Kline Burnett 7 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin

      I write often on home improvement ideas - I always encourage my readers to seek the trained expert. Explore your own likes and dislikes - do your homework but the experts have years of experience and most home improvements are pricey - it is an investment in both your time and money.