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Series of Pictures of How the House/Site Looks During Construction

 

Once we knew roughly what we wanted, we investigated potential architects.  We went online, looked in the telephone book, made calls, talked to people who had recently built, and selected 6 firms for face to face interviews, 3 local to Olympia, 1 in Tacoma, and 2 in Seattle. 

During the interview process we tried to determine whether we would be in control, what type of work (homes vs commercial) and the style the firm emphasized (creativity).  But, most importantly, did we like the people?  We told each firm that we wanted a home that pushed the envelope on architectural style and that we loved Frank Lloyd Wright concepts.  (A copy of our design brief can be found here.)

At each meeting we presented the outlines of our project, our wish list, pictures of our site etc... and asked questions.  Would the people we were meeting with be the principals on the project, what design philosophy / influences dominated the firm, were the firm or individuals in the firm LEED Certified,

We then compared notes and selected 3 for a second interview, 2 local and 1 in Seattle, and scheduled a second meeting.  At this meeting we hoped that the firms would have looked at our packet and been prepared to sell us, rather than us doing all the talking about our vision.  

It may not have been a perfect process, but we selected Mort Stafford James Architects in Olympia.  They are a small firm, very creative, had LEED Certification, and were eager to design a work of art and not just another house. 

But, most importantly, we liked Mort and Christian.  It is important that you like the people you work with, after all you will be living with them for the next 4-7 months.  It took three months from the time we purchased the site to the time we had an architect and saw initial sketches (below).  Because we had the design brief and the architect visited the site the basic concept was approved immediately. The sketches fit our criteria, and importantly, it was sensitive to the site we had purchased. 

                           

     

 

 

 

 

For a larger view click Floor Plan or Street View.

 

Bottom line, depending upon the type of house you want to build, you might be able to buy a basic set of plans on the cheap or have your builder do the drawings.  We explored both options.  On the other hand, if you wish to live in a work of art and not just another box or mini mansion, as we did, there is no choice but to find an good, creative architect. 

A good rule of thumb is that the architect will cost around 8-20% of the total project cost, excluding land.  Mort James priced services on an hourly basis and gave us a fairly exact quote for the project. Thus, we were able to stay at the low end of this range.  The clearer you are with your design brief, the less time your architect will take to design the right structure and amenities.  If you are not clear, the price will be at the upper end, because there will be changes. 

One final thought on architects .. for most people and for a single family home, it is better to deal with a small boutique firm rather than a large architectural firm.  You are more likely to get personal attention from the principle(s) and overhead and thus your costs may be lower.

A final personal thought: Our daughter is an undergraduate at the School of Architecture at University of Colorado - Boulder, so I guess we have a desire to make certain our investment in our home will go to stimulate the imagination of the talented architects of the future.  If the younger citizens are more tuned into the environment, when this house comes on the market when we are old and grey, the home should command greater value than what is being built today.


We welcome your comments on this site.
You can email Christine Garst at
cbgarst@aol.com
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