Archive Page 2

The Client’s Time Investment

Once our working relationship is established (see Getting the Project Started), the real fun begins.

“How long will the design process take?”

As a rule of thumb, the design process takes approximately the same amount of time as building the project. In other words, a project that requires 6 months to build requires 6 months to design. This does not necessarily include permitting (which depends on many variables).

“How much time will you need me during design?”

Meetings

We will need to meet to review design drawings, preferably in person.  This is especially important for the first design meeting and for major design milestones. These meetings are usually 1-1.5 hours long.

Most clients find it helpful to meet at their home, so that we have a visual reference of size, configuration, etc. of the spaces being considered. Sometimes it is easier to meet at your place of work, or at a nearby restaurant or coffee shop, especially if the project is a new home or is located far away from your workplace.

Homework

You will have homework, including private discussions about the drawings and ideas.  You may find it helpful to continue to look for inspiration photos to illustrate thoughts you have as the design develops, and you will want to spend time researching fixtures and appliances.

Showroom Visits

Together, we will typically visit a plumbing showroom and lighting showroom.  These visits are usually 1.5-3 hours long.

We may also visit tile and flooring showrooms.  This is something that may be delegated to one lead “decision-maker”, and we may follow up (either separately or together) at additional tile showrooms.   Ultimately, we will meet at your home to mix-and-match samples and narrow choices.  The first tile showroom visit can be 1.5-3 hours, depending on the project. Subsequent visits and meetings vary with each project but are usually significantly shorter.

Tally

Many of my clients have said that they dedicated 3-4 hours per week to their project (some weeks more and some less, averaging 3-4 hours per week overall).  Your decision-making abilities, both individually and jointly, are the biggest factor affecting the time investment required.

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Getting the Project Started

“We want to move forward.  What next?”

Now that we know we’re on the same page (see How to Prepare for the Architect-Client Interview), we build the foundation for a successful project, beginning with:

  • Contract and retainer – When the budget, objectives, timeline, and chemistry are all in place, the next step is signing a contract. A retainer is required with your signed contract, which is applied to your final invoice. The retainer is typically 10% of the estimated fee.
  • Follow-up meeting – This is an opportunity to continue the discussion about design we began during the interview. You may be able to fill in a few blanks that you hadn’t been able to earlier, or you may have additional questions, ideas, or inspiration images to discuss.
  • Measure and draw existing – To get started on a remodel or addition project, I first need to document what is there. This may be limited to relevant areas or include the entire house, depending on the scope of your project. Most Seattle homes that are “typical urban lot” size take two people 3.5-4.5 hours to measure, which includes significant architectural features (walls, doors, windows, etc.), but does not include mechanical or electrical systems and fixtures, or items which would require destructive demolition. Note: We need to open closets, cabinets, etc. to measure how deep they are and will also take photographs.  Access to the attic(s) and crawlspace(s) should be cleared and ladders provided, if needed.

How to Prepare for the Architect-Client Interview

The first meeting is an opportunity for us both to interview each other.  It is very important that everyone that will be involved in the design process be together at the interview so that we all get the chance to ask questions and get a sense for what it would be like to work together.

“What do you need from us?”

1) Brief written description of your goals for the project, including:

  • list of “must-have” items, “would be nice to have” items, and “don’t want” items (Note: If all of the people living in the house don’t agree about the goals, it is helpful to know what differs.)
  • budget for the construction cost of the project (for more insight into costs, see “How Much Will my Project Cost?”).
  • timeline for the project (when you will be ready to start design, begin construction, and move in)

2) Inspiration photos from magazines, books, vacations, etc.  (Note: It is not necessary that these photos be “the answer” to your goals, so don’t exhaust yourself trying to find that!  It is more helpful that you find photos of things you like, even if the photos represent a variety of architectural styles.  A photo of a “cozy corner” may look different for you than it would for someone else, so photos really help me tune into your own personal taste and learn what those words mean to you visually and experientially. Even photos of something you really DON’T like can be helpful for comparison.)

3) Information that you may have about the house and/or lot, such as:

  • old blueprints – whether original or from previous remodels
  • survey
  • “Improvement Location Certificate” – Sometimes found in your mortgage documents, this is a drawing that shows the outline of your house, garage, etc. (the “improvements”), with dimensions of the structures and of the lot itself.  Sometimes, easement information and encroachments may be included in this document.  If you do not find a one in your file, you may want to check with your title company to see if there was one obtained on your behalf.  I have found that the drawing does not always make its way into your loan document package.)
  • copy of previous appraisal
  • if you’re changing the exterior appearance of the house, it is helpful to know if you anticipate problems with your neighbors
  • neighborhood covenants, if any

4) “Walk and Talk”  – One of my favorite things to do is to be guided around a house by potential clients, listening to what they do and don’t like about their homes.  It is fun to learn what they wish for, what they’ve already changed, and how they see themselves living there.

Decorating the early 1900’s home (Part Two – Kitchens, Bathrooms, & Porches)

Here are some highlights from “Domestic Architecture”, written by architect L. Eugene Robinson, published in 1917.  Part One of this post contained excerpts regarding living room and bedroom finishes.  The excerpts below address kitchen, bathroom, and porch finishes:

Kitchen

  • “…cleanliness is of first importance, the treatment of materials should suggest it, and decoration need not be neglected.”
  • “have all surfaces so treated that dust and dirt will show, but will be easy to remove.  Here glazed or glossy finishes, or semi-glazed, …are desirable.”
  • “Plaster may be given a slick, steam-proof varnish or paint, and the wood given an enamel finish.”
  • Wallpapers having a glazed surface are in common use…”
  • “…should be no crevices or angles not easily reached with ordinary cleaning apparatus.”
  • “Severity of design is becoming to the nature of the kitchen.  Simple wainscotings are very serviceable and attractive, and may be counter height, thereby forming a continuous line around the room.”
  • “…counters…should not be treated with paint, varnish or any other material except oil.  However, such working surfaces may be covered with a matting of rubber or oilcloth.”
  • Tile work…is highly serviceable, wainscotings, counters, facings for built-in ranges and floors being the chief parts constructed of this material.”
  • “…main objection to tile floors is their coldness…”
  • “A hardwood floor of oak or maple is best, if tile cannot be afforded. A cheap wood floor may be made very serviceable by laying upon it oilcloth or linoleum.”
  • “Color…should…suggest perfect sanitation.  The best colors are white and blue, but with white or cream may be used green, brown, gray or other color.”
  • Colors may appear in tile borders, linoleum, wallpaper, painted surfaces and in simple hangings.”
  • “…should be bright and pleasant but not cluttered.”
  • “Extra large kitchens…should have more color than small ones.”

Fabulous and fun vintage kitchen photos can be found at http://www.shorpy.com.  For a direct link, click here.

Bathrooms

  • Surface treatments…much the same as those for kitchens. Waterproof materials are practically essential, where water and steam are so prevalent.”

Porch

  • “Porches are really exterior features, and should be treated much the same as other parts of the exterior.”
  • Light-colored paints and stains generally look better than dark.”
  • Masonry should not be painted under any circumstances…”
  • Porch floors of wood should receive several coats of exterior floor paint of neutral color, while the ceilings should be painted white or buff.”
  • “…more than two colors of paint on a frame house should not be used, except perhaps in very limited quantities.”
  • “The main color should cover the body of the house, while the other should serve only as a trim color.  Alternate color effects should never be used.”

Decorating the early 1900’s home (Part One – Living Rooms and Bedrooms)

Domestic

When it comes to finish materials, where do you go to find out what is truly period-appropriate for your vintage home?

While antique shopping in Oregon last summer, I found a book published in 1917 by an architect named L. Eugene Robinson, titled “Domestic Architecture”. The book was intended for homeowners who were remodeling or building homes at that time, and much of what was written is relevant for restoration or remodeling turn-of-the-century homes today.

Here are some highlights regarding interior finishes for living rooms and bedrooms:

Living Rooms

  • ..should be above all restful.”
  • colors should be dull and neutral
  • Old ivory or cream white enamel of semi-dull finish on the woodwork, oatmeal paper of light brown on the walls, light buff paper on the ceiling, and any good flooring with, perhaps, Oriental rugs…”
  • “…it is not well to slavishly hold to the color and tones of the scheme.  If this is done, the effect will be monotonous, which is not restful.  There should be judicious departures in color, chiefly in the furnishings, and especially in certain architectural features such as fireplaces, floors, and ornamental glass windows.”
  • “As a rule, the gradation of color should be such that the ceiling is light, the frieze less light, the wall and wainscoting darker, and the floor darkest.”
  • “A floor may be of very light wood, while the gradation of color starts dark at the base of the wall.”

Bedrooms

  • “…should have the quality of freshness regardless of the color scheme…”
  • “While women usually prefer white, pink, blue or yellow rooms, men generally prefer brown, grey or green.”
  • Any color scheme that is not disturbing and that does not take on a dingy air may be satisfactorily developed.”
  • Wallpaper… is used almost to the exclusion of other materials…”
  • “On sanitary grounds the painting of bedroom walls is preferable to papering.”
  • Woodworkwhite or cream in color, firstly because it is neat, fresh and easily washed, and secondly because any bedroom set of furniture will conform to it.”
  • “A very handsome treatment for a bedroom is to make the woodwork exactly like the bedroom set, of maple, walnut, mahogany, or any hard wood.”
  • Maple flooring is very satisfactory for bedrooms.”
  • “For inexpensive treatments, white paint may be used on the wood trim, and gray paint on the floorSometimes, matting over a common floor proves very satisfactory.”

(Part Two will cover kitchens, bathrooms, and porches.)

Lake Washington – Before & After

lake-wa-before

Before

Lake-WA-1

After

The idea of a grand front porch addition was inspired by the homeowner’s travels to the South as a possible solution to two problems:  too much sun (which meant blinds closed and view obscured), and not enough room for party guests when entertaining.

The design drew upon the Colonial Revival “vocabulary” of this home and others of the same era.  The extra-deep cover acts as shelter, making it possible to enjoy being outdoors when warm but rainy (which describes a good portion of the year here), while providing shade for the interior living spaces without blocking the view.

The Truth about Green Design

From the food you eat to the car you drive (or bus you ride), the idea of being “green” has become a part of daily life in America, especially in forward-thinking cities such as Seattle.

When I have clients who ask about whether or not I do “green” design, the answer is, “Of course!”  I have always been motivated by eco-consciousness and energy conservancy.  Now we just have more and better tools available.

A "green" green sink. Salvaged, recoated, and repurposed in the laundry room.

A "green" green sink. Salvaged, recoated, and repurposed in the laundry room.

But, what does it really mean for YOU and YOUR project?

First, I need to understand your motives and objectives.  Clients often fall within one or more of the following categories:

  • Good Steward – You want to do what you can for the environment.  You want to reuse what you can and donate what you can’t, even if that means you have to invest more money in labor. When you cannot find suitable salvage, you want to purchase products that are “green”.
  • Health Conscious – You have chemical sensitivities or underlying health conditions which have made you greatly concerned about the off-gassing of products, as well as dust and mold.
  • Investor in Technology – You want to support alternative energy innovation by using systems such as solar heating and rainwater harvesting, even if the initial investment is significant and the payback period is long.
  • Conservationist – You want to consume less, and get more out of what you already have.  You are not willing to be experimental and would rather “go with the known”.
Cabinets and light fixtures like these are excellent candidates for donation to a salvage company.

Cabinets like these are excellent candidates for donation to a salvage company in exchange for store credit, tax credit, or cash.

Prioritize

It is very rare for a client to say “yes” to all of the above categories and also be willing to accept the higher price tag for materials and labor that accompanies that decision.  Nearly everyone has to at least prioritize their eco-goals, finding the best intersection of cost, return on investment, comfort, and impact on the environment.

One person's junk is another person's treasure.  This mantel was salvaged from a home on Capital Hill in Seattle.

One person's junk is another person's treasure. This mantel was salvaged from a home on Capitol Hill in Seattle.

Buyer Beware

The marketplace is flooded with “green” products (including many inferior or fake ones), and using those products doesn’t necessarily make your project a “green” project.  Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is there suitable salvage that would be an alternate?
  • How long will this product last?
  • How much of this product is wasted during installation?
  • If recycled content is important, what percentage and what type of recycled material does it contain?
  • How much energy does it take to produce and transport this product?
  • Is the source renewable?
  • How reliable is the information?
  • How much more does this material cost, and how does that compare to additional labor for reused or salvaged material?
  • How difficult will it be to maintain this material or this installation?
  • If resale value is important, how does this choice factor in?
  • Is this trendy?  Will it go out of fashion?

Establishing this criteria at the beginning of the design process allows us to filter each decision according to your objectives, reducing frustration and delivering the best outcome for your budget, life, and the environment.

Fiber cement rainscreen siding, aluminum windows, composite decking on cedar framing

Fiber cement rainscreen siding, aluminum windows, composite decking on cedar framing