You are about to begin the once-in-a-lifetime experience of building your legacy home, which will last for several lifetimes. You plan to pass this home to your children, and you hope they will pass it to their children. You want this dream home to be so gorgeously accomplished that it will retain its appeal for generations, but you need it to have all the comfort, convenience, and sustainability that today’s modern technology can offer.
Or maybe you’re designing a home for your busy, growing family, and you want this home to serve your exact needs at this very moment, and for the next decade or so, but you know that eventually your needs will change. So even though you are custom-designing your home, you need to ensure it has exceptional resale value.
Either way, a million-dollar home is a huge investment, and you’ll want to get every detail of the process exactly right. So how do you choose the perfect architect for your custom-designed luxury residence?
Find Residential Architects.
1. Ask your builder for recommendations.
You need your architect and builder to work as a team, and chances are, if your builder is an accomplished luxury home contractor, he or she has worked with many of the best architects in your area. Bluestone stays in touch with most custom-residence clients long after project completion. This not only means that a builder will hear what it was like to work with a particular architect from the client’s end, but the builder will know which clients are still happy with their home design a few years out.
At Bluestone Construction, we have an excellent team, with engineering and project management backgrounds. We’re familiar with the basics of architecture and sound structural design, and we’ve worked closely with all of the best architects in Asheville, NC. We know who’s who in the business, and we can help you make a solid choice.
2. Use the AIA Architect Finder or the Houzz architect finder tool.
The AIA tool connects you with licensed architects, who are members of the the American Institute of Architects. You can be confident in knowing that any architect you find here has been vetted by a respected professional organization.
3. Word of mouth.
Recommendations from people you know are a great way to find an architect. If you have friends who have recently built a house you love, ask for their architect’s contact. If there’s a local house you love, but you don’t know the owners, your builder probably knows the designer.
You are looking for an architect who listens well and treats clients respectfully, who isn’t distracted by an inflated ego, and who keeps projects on-time and on-budget.
1. Consider your architect’s reputation.
This is especially important if you’re planning to eventually sell your home. A custom-designed home by a well-known, award-winning architect or architectural firm has a higher resale value.
2. Come prepared with examples of homes and architectural features you love.
Before your initial meeting with your architect, research their website and social media to make sure you like their design style, as well as to observe how well they communicate.
It’s also helpful if you email your potential architect a few examples of homes you like from design blogs and architectural sites, or bring a few bookmarked architectural magazines to the meeting. (You can start by looking at our Be Inspired page, with links to Instagram, Pinterest, and Houzz.) This way, you can better ensure that you and your architect are on the same page, and they can give you more realistic answers to questions about possibilities and budgets.
3. Ask detailed questions.
Does the architect have references that you can call?
Who is going to do the actual home design? Is it the lead designer with a firm, the firm’s founder, another licensed architect, or an intern?
Does your architect carry insurance?
Will the architect or firm help you navigate fixtures and finishes, or will you be left to parse this process on your own?
Will your architect be handling zoning approvals?
Is your architect LEED-accredited, or do they have some other green certification?
Has your architect designed a home for a site similar to yours? What challenges did they face?
What challenges do they foresee with your project?
Will you pay the architect by the hour, as a percent of the cost of the project, or by the size of the project? Can they provide a total job estimate?
Who will own the finished plans? If you’re custom-designing a home, you probably don’t want your architect to recycle those plans with another customer, and especially not a customer in your area.
How often will your architect need to meet with you? Will they be available if you want to meet with them?
What is their design process? Do they begin with schematic work, giving you multiple options, or do they jump right into construction documents?
Will they be working with a landscape architect, and if not, will they be providing a full site plan to show how the home fits into the landscape?
4. Pay careful attention to the architect’s portfolio.
If all the homes look similar, and they’re not a style you love, you probably want to keep looking. An architect may claim to be able to design in a diverse range of styles, but if that claim isn’t backed up by tangible examples, you could be disappointed later.
Ask specific questions about design choices and finishes that catch your eye, in either a positive or negative way.
Ask about particular projects—what issues came up, and how did they reach a solution?
5. Trust your intuition.
You’re going to spend a lot of time with your architect over the next several months. You’re going to problem-solve with this person and tell them intimate details about your life. Treat the initial meeting like a first date. Pay attention to body language and facial expressions as you tell a potential architect about your ideas and your budget.
The architect should ask questions of you, as well. They may ask who will live in this space, what these people are passionate about, what their hobbies are, what their day-to-day routine is, which spaces will be used during which times of day, etc. If an architect seems abrupt, disinterested, or busy, they’re probably not the architect you need.
6. Visit a home your architect has designed.
You found a few architects, you had a great interview, the price is right—are you ready to sign a contract? Almost.
Ask your probable-architect if they have a client who will allow you to walk through their home and check out the design-work firsthand. It’s even better if the home is a few years old, so you can look for red flags that only manifest with age, such as cracks in the walls, buckles in the floors, or nails popping out in random places.
If your architect’s client is thrilled enough with their work to be willing to help them out with a walk-through, and that walk-through further convinces you of your architect’s brilliance, then you’re in a good spot.
Starting the process with a builder can save you time.
Of course, if you have any questions about any part of the home-planning and building process, Bluestone Construction is happy to help. As an architect-driven custom-home builder, we are perfectly positioned to help you select the most on-target design team for your particular project. As experienced luxury home contractors, our style is building what’s best for you.
We’re invested, because we’re invested in you, as our client, but also because it makes our job easier. We prefer working with very detailed drawings from the start, because this allows us to put together a more accurate bid with less surprises down the road. We can help you get your project started right.