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Mary in PA's Journal Entries

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Posted by Mary in PA on 7/23/2009

We got a draft floorplan from the architect. It was disappointing. Since I’ve never done this before, I’m not sure if what we got is a typical first-round result, or if we’re on the road to ‘this isn’t going to work’. I tried to keep an open mind as the architect showed me this initial plan. I tried hard to see the project from his POV and really consider what he was bringing to the table in terms of design.


Getting to this point (initial floor plan) has taken many weeks of waiting – which is another facet of my disappointment. Overall, the architect spent about 13 hours so far. That includes both prep (three-hour site visit, reviewing our written notes, two one-hour phone calls with me) and actual design/drawing. I’m okay with the amount of work produced in those hours (e.g. the concept floorplan), but I’m not okay with that fact that it took so many weeks to get in just 13 hours of working time. He says he spends a lot of time off the clock (unpaid) thinking about a project, so maybe that accounts for some of the in-between time in terms of calendar days – but the pace still seems slow to me.


One drawing, on a topographical map I had given him, shows a hand-sketch site plan for the driveway, house/garage, ag-building and small barn. The other drawing shows a floorplan of the first and second floor with some furniture for scale. We had previously agreed that he would do only this initial work and then we would meet – so his scope of work was on target. I’m glad we did it this way. If he had done elevations and construction details for this floor plan, it would have been even more disappointing due to all the extra money spent on something that won’t work for us.


So, what are the problems with the design? Well, to be fair the architect did accomplish some of the things we had asked for, and that was good to see. But in my opinion, the day-to-day functionality of the house was not good at all. I’m not talking about tweaking the size of a room here or there, but rather of the relationship of one space to another and the relationship of the house to the site. I’m not going to make this post too long by going into all the details. Suffice to say, if this house in this orientation had existed on the land prior to our buying the property – I would not have wanted to purchase it!


Our agreement with the architect is straight hourly work – we can pay the bill and walk away at any time. And with about 15 hours into it, I’ll feel okay if we have to move in a different direction – in terms of actual money spent (lost). It’s disappointing, but sometimes despite your best efforts at hiring, things just don’t work out. I feel a lot less okay with the time lost. Whether we continue with him, hire someone else, or go it on our own (design our own home) – the time lost can not be recovered. I think the real question is whether or not, through continued effort, back-and-forth discussion and revisions, we can work toward a really good design that makes best use of the site, fits our lifestyle, and stays in our budget. Or is this initial concept a serious red flag, and we should end the working relationship in a professional manner and move on. We’re thinking it over and exploring some options before we get back to the architect.

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