Urban Natural Homes March 6, 2015

When Should I Hire an Architect?


In the core of Seattle, and even in the surrounding area, we have many homes that are really starting to show their age.  They may have “good bones,” be sturdily built and have that certain vintage charm, but ultimately many Seattle homes are in desperate need of some restructuring to make them livable and bring them into the 21st century

If a seller doesn’t do the work before listing, most buyers realize that sooner or later they are looking at some remodeling – but how much?  And where to start?  And how do you know if the changes you are thinking about are going to require an architect?  To answer these questions I turned to architect Nicole Taylor, Principal at MAKE Design Studio, who specializes in eco-friendly residential remodels. Her short answer to the question “When do I hire an architect?” is, if you are switching out in-kind items such as kitchen or bathroom cupboards and you are confident in your builder or interior designer, then you can likely go ahead without an architect. However, if you are starting to move things (i.e., walls, windows, doors, lighting, etc) to different locations or hoping to change the feel or function of your home; then it’s time to consult an architect.

Actually, in talking further with Nicole I learned a great deal about the multitude of roles that an architect can take in a remodel. We know that an architect creates drawings—well actually these days 3D computer generated models—of the envisioned finished space. But in addition, an architect can recommend and assist you in finding your general contractor, help with cost estimating and be a valuable resource during construction.  Nicole pointed out that changes to the design during construction can often cause the cost of a project to sky-rocket. Taking time during the design phase to fully explore options and using tools such as 3D modeling to completely understand the end product result in construction drawings that accurately reflect the client’s goals. These drawings create a “graphic contract” between the client and contractor and are invaluable in ensuring construction progresses efficiently and on budget.

An architect who specializes in residential projects can sometimes also act as your interior designer, helping you to chose not only the overall look you are after, but also all the design elements from cabinetry, to floor choices, to wall colors, to lighting, all the way down to trim and switch-plate covers.  They can also act as a consultant, giving you ideas and advice to help you decide on the best direction for updating your home. And finally, as an eco-friendly architect, Nicole can also advise you on “green” products that will help you create a healthy home. While many believe that going this route is going to cost them more, Nicole knows which products will make the project affordable while delivering the quality we’d expect.


Nicole Starnes Taylor
MAKE Design Studio