We found a plan we like. Can you help us?

Every architect, especially those of us that specialize in residential design, has gotten this phone call: 

Client: “Hi. My wife and I are interested in building a new home. Is that something you might be interested in helping us with?” 

Architect: “That’s so wonderful. We are very excited for you and your family. We would be glad to help. Creating custom homes for our clients is actually something we have specialized in for the last 15 years. Please, tell us more about your project.” 

Client: “Well, we found this plan online that we sort of like, but we’d like to make some changes. We’d like the rooms to be larger, the entry isn’t in the right spot, the kitchen is too small and we’d like 2 stories with a walkout basement though it’s designed like a Colonial Ranch. You can do that right?” 

Architect: *facepalm* 

Generic stock plan from the internet.

Generic stock plan from the internet.

Custom Architect designed single family residence for a family of four.

Custom Architect designed single family residence for a family of four.

Now, I don't have anything against house plan websites. They serve a specific niche, are priced at the low end of affordability, and SOMETIMES are even designed by architects. But (there's always a 'but' nowadays, no?) if you're intent is to use them as a reference point for an architect to start from you're going about the process backwards. You see, when you start with the plan that "kinda sorta works but not really" you have tied your architects hands by instituting an expectation that the final product should look something like what you've provided. And if your intent is to just "build a house", then by all means find a plan that sort of works for you, looks the way you like, hire a builder and get that sucker built. But, if your intent is to build a home that suits your family, is designed for your family, and is built for YOUR family, our best advice is this:

Stay away from looking at house plans.  

Start by looking at the work of local architects in your city. Find at least two whose work speaks to your tastes and schedule interviews with both. Ask them questions about how they work, how they design, the level of service they offer and what their approach is to a new client and a new project. You don't need to get into specifics about your project just yet. The goal is to find an architect that you feel comfortable talking to and who you think you will feel comfortable working with. Once you do that, then it is time to start talking about the specifics of your project.

You see, when your goal is to build a home for your family and not just a house to live in there is a different set of priorities that will be unique only to you. The architect that you hire will understand this and work alongside you and your family to create a home that meets your needs, your budget, and will be flexible over time to accommodate the changes that life sometimes throws at us. 


Jeremiah RussellComment