“This is my design. You don’t fully understand the concepts of what I have planned for this house. Until you move in, I’ll make the decisions. You can give me input; however, the final decisions will be mine to make. After all, the house isn’t yours until I hand you the keys.”
-Architect whose name shall not be revealed
It’s hard to believe, but this is a real conversation that a client of mine had with their architect. It happens sometimes. The architect designs a home and then has a hard time letting go of the reigns. They start to love the design so much that they don’t want anyone messing with it, even the owners. Of course, it is the owners who will live in the house and so they really need to be happy with the design. If they feel like something needs to change, they need to be able to make the change.
Taking over the control of the home design is not always easy. Even a good architect can overreach sometimes. It is important to keep an open channel of communication with the architect. If you feel like he or she is not listening to your input, tell them. Be honest. Don’t shrink away from the change you want to see incorporated in the design. You will be disappointed in the end if you do. Instead, be clear and stand strong. You don’t have to be rude or aggressive (hopefully), just clear and direct.
You may need to ask to work with a different individual. Some architectural firms have more than one architect. If so, you may want to switch the architect that you are working with. This can be hard because different architects may have different visions and switching visions mid stream is a risky move; however, if the original architect is not responsive to your needs and wants, then the switch may be your best option.
I once had a client who had hired an architect to design their million dollar home. A battle ensued between them over a window in the living room. The architect wanted it as it was a crucial piece of the design to him: bringing the beautiful view into the home; however, the client wanted a solid wall to hang a specific piece of artwork that would not fit anywhere else in the house. It turned into a drawn out battle, and I was asked to step in and give my opinion. My opinion was simple, it’s the client’s house and what they want wins, even if it ruins the design in the architect’s mind. After all, he won’t have to live in the house when I am done building it, the clients will. What they want wins, period. In the end, we left the window out and the owners hung their piece of art.
Always remember that the architect is working for you. You are not his or her client, they are yours. They need to be responsive to your input. If you say you don’t want a window on the east wall of the living room, they should hear you and make clear that they respect your input. They may question your reasons for the choice, and that is a good thing. Keep in mind that architects design homes for a living. They have a lot of experience with many aspects of design and there are many angles that you may not have considered. An architect may, for example, explain to you that without that window, the living room will have no cross-ventilation and will be hot and stale. This might be new information that you had not previously considered, and you may change your mind about the window as a result of hearing it. Stay open to your architect’s feedback, just as you ask your architect to stay open to your input.
Design is a two way street. It needs to flow. Ideas come in and results flow out. Some ideas change aspects of the design that seemed to make sense in previous renditions of the design. That is fine. Eventually, the design will come together and will be complete. Until that time, keep the communication flowing. In fact, keep it flowing even after the design is complete. It is very common for changes to be made during the construction process. It can be helpful to get the feedback and input from your architect on changes you intend to make on the fly. Going back to that living room window: now that the house is under construction, you may notice that moving the window over six feet or so would give you a better view. You could simply move the window without consulting your architect, but a consultation may be a better choice. Again, what will the architect suggest that you had not considered? You won’t know until you ask.
Always keep your communication clear and open. Be willing to hear what your architect has to say. Make sure they are willing to hear what you have to say. Design the house together; however, always be clear that it is your house. You are the one who will be living there. You are the one who needs to be satisfied with the layout and the functionality of the home. You know your quirks and intricacies better than your architect does. Just because he or she doesn’t understand why you want a paper shredder built into your kitchen table doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea! Get what you want. The house is yours from the start of the project, not from the delivery of the keys.