#ArchiTalks 35 “starting a design….”

“starting a design….”

A Referral

Typically, the Design Process starts with a referral and talking with the Client over the phone.  I do not have a website, I am working on one), and I do not advertise.  I work primarily by referral, a past client or an engineer or consultant refers clients to me or I meet people at the building department or out in public at a function, meaning that I am always marketing.  I do have a blog, “i’ve never met a woman architect before…”, a Michele Grace Hottel, Architect Facebook page and I do put jobsite signs up.

The Existing Coronado House

Initial Meeting

The phone call is usually followed by a meeting.  I do not charge for Initial Meetings but I do not design a  house for a client at an Initial Meeting.  It is a chance for us to meet, look at my portfolio, look at the house and preliminarily review the scope of work and see if you have any existing drawings for the house.and any other information.  Then, I can go back to the office with the info and prepare a proposal and if the proposal is accepted, a contract for the Architectural services.  The Architect will also do a preliminary planning/zoning code and building department review to see if the project can be done and if there are any clearances or roadblocks that say that the project cannot be done and a building permit cannot be obtained..  If there are Homeowner’s Associations (HOA’s) or if there are Historical Reviews, there are typically additonal reviews to the design and these usually are an additional service because they require more time and drawings or documentation than may be required to get a building permit.  

One thing that many architects hear is the comment from clients: “well, why should i sign a contract with you when i don’t know what you are going to design for me? What if i don’t like the design?

There are a few answers to this.  Sometimes, Architects will put together a Pre-Schematic (Documenting/Measuring the Existing conditions and drafting them) and a Schematic Design package to include a few different schemes and will charge you for these designs.  However, we still need to sign a contract for this work and the Architect still retains the right to the design, if you don’t want to proceed with the work and if you do.  The design is only for the project that the contract is for.  .  Another answer is that meeting with the Architect, looking at their portfolio, visiting their other projects and speaking to past clients is usually enough to realize whether you want to hire them or not.  


A Material and Color Study Elevation for the Coronado House

Pre-Schematic and Schematic Design:
After the Contract is signed and an Initial Payment is processed, the existing conditions are documented and drawn and will become the base plans on which the design is created and if you do have plans for the existing conditions, those plans must be verified so that we can see what is going on and yhe structure will be verified also.  Around the same time, we are meeting with you to discuss the building program, what rooms do you need/want, what adjacencies to these rooms do you need?   The DESIGN part begins!  I will usually design three schemes based on the program and the site constraints.  I have a concept that is derived from what your wants and needs are and what I see as a design solution to answer those desires.

I was looking through the emails and the photos that these clients sent me and one of the good things about these clients is that they had bought a 40 ft. by 50 ft. lot with an existing 1,300 sq. ft. 100 year old house that was not historically significant because of all of the bad work that had been done previously and t could only be expanded by only so many more square feet because of the planning and zoning codes of the area, that are pretty complicated.  They  knew that they wanted a modern house that was made of certain materials, and they had a pretty extensive list of requirements that I tried to accommodate and I think we, (the team)  (the clients, consultants, contractor and subs) did a good job of including it all and of coming up with a design that was both modern but adhered to the “features” that were required in order to obtain a higher floor area ratio. FAR.

They had a list of all of the rooms that they wanted and the different functions that would be in the room and they also had art that they wanted to incorporate into the project.  Now, these clients were not just getting to know each other (sometimes client couples will say, “i bet you didn’t know you were going to have to do marriage counseling along with the design, did you?”  But this couple had known each other for many years and they had bought and sold several houses in different cities and knew what worked and what didn’t or them.

The thing is that most of us who do custom residential we get to know what a client likes, which doesn’t neccesarily mean that I will see it in the house that they are living in, I am there to help them realize what house they want to live in.  But  compared to commercial or institutional it is much more personal.  It is their house and they have some pretty specific ideas of what they want and don’t want but that doesn’t mean that you can’t show them things that you think would work for them.

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A detail of the finished Coronado House

The last few years I have designed a couple of houses that were all new construction on never before developed lots still within sight of The city, a rarity in these parts. I am also presently designing a house for a developer of smaller tracts of housing on a seven acre site with natural conifers. He showed me several images of projects, modern,  that he liked but the plan was what I derived conceptually from the site. He liked the spatial relationship of the rooms in the existing house but I  reconfigured them to take better advantage of the site and the function We are designing the house on the same area of the site as the existing  house but he wants a more modern house that will use stone from the area of available and wood windows and doors to make it vernacular specific.  I am really looking forward to developing the project.

A concept sketch for a new house

One of the schemes that we aren’t using for the project

After we meet to look over the three different schemes, we can make changes to the schematic design to work the plans and the elevations and sections out.  Then we will proceed with your signoff and approval to: the next phase

Design Development:
The  phase where we develop the design and include more details in the spaces on the plans and elevations and sections..  

Now right about now, I like to have contractors give preliminary estimates so that we can see if we are in line with the budget that the Client wishes.  

Now right about now, you are probably saying, “But I wanted this done yesterday, it doesn’t work like this on HGTV!!!”

No, it doesn’t, because HGTV is television and we work with reality.

And that’s starting a design….

I am now offering sponsorship opportunities and I am grateful for that. Please contact me via my website below for more information.

To read other architect’s #ArchiTalk takes on “starting a design…” please follow the links below:

Matthew Stanfield - FiELD9: architecture (@FiELD9arch)
Slow Down. Hold Still.

Lee Calisti, AIA - Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
where do we start?

Lora Teagarden - L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
How to Start a Design

Jeremiah Russell, AIA - ROGUE Architecture (@rogue_architect)
Starting a Design: #Architalks

Eric T. Faulkner - Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
On Your Mark, Get Set -- Start a Design!

Michele Grace Hottel - Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)
."starting a design..."..

Meghana Joshi - IRA Consultants, LLC (@MeghanaIRA)
Architalks #35: Starting a Design

Brian Paletz - The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
Where do we begin?

Jeffrey Pelletier - Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
Where do you start when designing a new home?

Keith Palma - Architect's Trace (@cogitatedesign)
do-re-mi- Design

Jim Mehaffey - Yeoman Architect (@jamesmehaffey)
First Thing's First

Tim Ung - Journey of an Architect (@timothy_ung)
5 Tips for Starting an Architecture Project

Mark Stephens - Mark Stephens Architects (@architectmark)
How it all begins...

Steve Mouzon - The Original Green Blog (@stevemouzon)
Starting Wrong - The Amazon Mistake


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