By David Wulff, AIA
In my practice, I often have clients and potential clients tell me they have never worked with an architect or designer and don’t know what to do. So, let’s first dispel some myths.
A designer doesn’t just press a button and somehow a design magically appears. Yes, computers are a useful tool, but the design doesn’t automatically happen. As the saying goes, “garbage in, garbage out”. It takes the proper input to get the desired results, and this is where you, the client, are an integral part. You are the “input”. I always tell clients that I am just the facilitator of their input. The “design” is based on them. So, here’s a list of what I generally tell client:
- Select the designer. I encourage potential clients to talk to more than one architect or designer. You need to know that he/she is really listening to what you say. Not just the words, but really listening and you need the feeling that you are on the same page.
- Make a list. Determine what it is that you ultimately want to do. If it is a remodel or a new home, articulate precisely what you want to achieve. Make a list. I always encourage clients to collect as many pictures as possible of things they like. It can be anything including colors, materials, pictures of kitchens, bathrooms, etc. Anything that will help to convey what they are thinking. Also, there are things that you may want but thought they were too expensive, mention these too.
- Cost. Ok, now the hard part. Many people are reluctant to discuss cost, thinking that somehow they can get all they want for the figure they have in their head but never tell the designer. Won’t happen. You just can’t get a 3,500 sq. ft. home for $150,000 (including lot). Be realistic. Although the architect can’t guarantee the final cost, at least they have some way of knowing what your expectations are.
- Decisions. Be prepared to make them. Many people are unaware of all the decisions they will need to make. Again, all the elements that make up a project just don’t happen. Because of the amount of decisions needed, I often warn clients looking for a new home design that it may be beyond what they want to get involved in and may be better off either getting a modular home or buying an existing home. Decisions need to be made regarding almost everything: lighting, flooring, wall materials, colors, hardware, doors, windows, toilet fixtures, deck material and railings. The list is endless.
- Have fun. This is the most important point I tell clients. This process is fun. Never forget that. The end result is worth it.
DAVID H. WULFF, Architect,