Posted to OurFarmstead by Mary in PA
From my list of potential candidates, I phoned two designers and three architects. The sequence of Q&A varied, but in the end I felt I was able to come away with a good feel for what each had to offer. In my mind, it’s not just what they can do (design-wise), but also how well their services/prices match our needs/budget. Here is how it broke down:
Designer 1: Reasonable cost, likely would not offer the creativity and had little interest in doing site plan. No services beyond delivery of the design/construction drawings.
Designer 2: Emphasized his experience with custom homes, but had seemingly unreasonable (?) fee schedule... 50% non-refundable upfront based on anticipated sq ft, the balance as we work through. They own the drawings. Overall, I just didn’t think I would like working with him.
Architect 1: Only minutes from our rural building site and recently struck out on his own from a larger firm. He either didn’t have the skills to articulate his strengths/areas of interest (in terms of design) or he hasn’t figured them out yet... seemed generally unenthusiastic about the project.
Architect 2: Located about two hours away in upscale area, specializes in residential. I saw some of her work on her website and really like it. She offers (as a package) design AND construction management (CM) for best control over end results (when using a GC). Her typical clients are in the $850K+ range... way, WAY above our budget. We had a lengthy and interesting discussion. We were both able/comfortable challenging each other - in a good way (maybe challenge isn’t quite the right word here). For example, she asked alot of Q about our intention to O-B and I asked about her desire to work on a smaller project, with a much smaller budget than what she was used to. She wanted to meet with us to further discuss the project. While I was interested in her skills, I did feel that there was a wide gap between her typical high-end projects and what we planned... would she have trouble with us doing the GC? Or budget-shopping our finishes? Or selecting less 'green' options in deference to the budget? Although I didn’t set a meeting during that call, I told her I would definitely contact her to let her know our status, or set a meeting.
Architect 3: Recommended by a knowledgeable friend, lives and works close by, does residential and commercial. Our phone conversation was fairly good. He charges in a straight hourly way (and at a very reasonable rate), would do a site visit, help in site-planning, the design/construction drawings and phone consulting during construction, but not on-site supervision. His set of services and fee structure fit well with our needs.
I set up a meeting with architect #3 to see some of his work (including his own house). I figured we would meet with him, and if all went well, go with him. If there were still some question, we would also meet with architect #2 to investigate that option. So architect #3 is up (face-to-face meeting next) and architect #2 is on-deck. And for now, there are no designers in the bullpen.