Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Choosing a Residential Remodeling Architect?

There is an interesting discussion going on over at blogbuddy Susan Serra, CKD's blog The Kitchen Designer about a long-standing feud between kitchen designers and architects.

You see, most architects throw a tape across a room and measure it within 6" and call that good enough.

They do their drawings the same way, then put disclaimers on them requiring that anybody working on the project confirm all measurements and dimensions. Thus, any experienced kitchen designer, receiving a set of architect-prepared plans from a potential client, is aware that the designs they do to bid the project can never be cast in stone until they can measure what is there.

6" might seem good enough for an architect(and it is hard for me to believe they are not trained that way since so many of them do it), but it is not nearly good enough for a kitchen designer. We are trained to measure (accurately) to the 1/8". And, since most of us are ordering products like expensive cabinets and appliances, we soon learn to check and double-check ourselves. If we don't we are not successful.

Architects also "fudge" elevation drawings. They draw existing windows, and other fixed architectural elements, as well as new items like cabinets and appliances, in such a way as to make them look "balanced" and symmetrical, when they are really not. They LIE!

Phantom inches in an architect's plan (there are almost always more shown than reality) lead kitchen designers to offer a client elements in the kitchen for which there is no room. Then, when the client decides to order the cabinets for the design we have so carefully planned with them, six weeks before their contractor needs the cabinets (if we're lucky); we go out to finally measure (because the client hasn't made a commitment until then), and find that the island won't fit and the windows are so far off from what we planned that the entire design has to be redone from scratch...And, of course, there is a price increase going into effect at midnight.

Now, THIS INDICTMENT DOES NOT INCLUDE EVERY ARCHITECT...only 99% of them. Unfortunately that means that most homeowners looking to plan an extensive residential remodel will hire someone in the 99%.

My advice on seeking out an architect who specializes in residential remodeling and realizes the importance of these issues is on my web site; on the
Kitchen Remodeling - Where Do I Start page.

Take your time. Do it right, and you will find an architect in the 1%, who will save you BIG BUCKS, that you will never have to spend, and design a masterpiece of a remodel for you. It's truly wonderful to gasp with delight every time you come into your home.

If you are in the San Francisco Bay Area you can hire one of the architects I call the Fab Four in my comment on Susan's blog. Or, if you are near Pleasantville, NY, you can hire Susan's favorite architect, Mark R. LePage, AIA, who also has a blog Living Well in Westchester.

The Fab Four (ALL of the great residential remodeling architects I have met in 25 years of designing kitchens) in alphabetical order:

Bruce Bonacker, AIA, Bonacker Associates, San Francisco, CA (415) 434-4300

Chris Ridgeway, AIA, Half Moon Bay, CA

John Rohosky, AIA, Architect, San Francisco, CA 415.442.0104

Paul Rotter, AIA, San Francisco, CA (I hear Paul is semi-retired now) (415) 661-5025

Now. We kitchen designers also have some part to play in this feud, and I must admit we play our part with GUSTO. When we do get a chance to go out and measure the existing conditions, and find that the architect has fudged the plans all over the place, we then REDESIGN the architect's design! :-D

We are trained to do that and we delight in doing that. And architects then rightfully HATE us for redesigning their well-considered plans, and convincing their clients that we are better designers than they are...This is another matter entirely. Architects, probably rightfully, claim we are sullying the overall concept they have created with such care. All in the name of giving their clients, and ours, a functional kitchen. Conflict reigns!

I myself have been sooo guilty of this transgression sooo many times it would make your head spin. Nowadays though, as an independent kitchen designer who does not sell product, I am actually in a position where I sympathize with the architects...because occasionally my clients do the same thing to me :>(

In the meantime...We architects and kitchen designers are "talking" and you get to listen in. Life is good.