Over the past 5 years, our housing market has seen vast improvements in design, affordability, and structure. We are now seeing reconstructed office buildings transformed into lofts, 60’s style homes being renovated into modern-day masterpieces, and, my favorite, reinventing the wheel of architecture and finding more earth-friendly materials to construct a home.
This expansion in our industry introduces even more questions from a potential homebuyer/creator when it comes to hiring an architect. I have become a huge fan of renowned Nashville architect, Mitchell Barnett, discovering that he has 30+ years of experience and created a name for himself in each of these areas of architecture.
Being a native to Music City Nashville, Mitchell Barnett naturally, related his role as an architect to being a music conductor: “The architect is more or less the conductor; making sure that the music you’ve written is carried out correctly by all members of production during the recording process. The architect is the visualizer of the entire project.”
First off, what do you want? What do you envision when you close your eyes and see yourself living happily in your dream home? Are you in the market for a small cottage with quaint exposure or a mega home on 15 acres in the Leiper’s Fork? You may not need the skills of a mega home architect if your needs are met on a much smaller physical scale. Are you detail oriented and find beauty in the small things or are you more of a bigger picture person that enjoys homes with more of a grandiose appearance?
You want an architect that can successfully bring to life the vision you have in your mind all while using the resources and connections that he/she has built from a withstanding career. Three commonly overlooked concepts when hiring an architect are designability, ability to assist the owner in the bidding and negotiation process of contracts with builders, and the architects’ ability to assist the owner during the construction process.
Seek out an architect that understands the style of home you are desiring to create. Find an artist that thrives on the same style of homes that sparked your interest in this project, to begin with. One of my favorite qualities of Barnett is that he starts each project with a blank sheet of paper and a pencil. Barnett quoted, “Every owner deserves an original design for the home they’re paying for.” He’s one of the most talented creators in the industry and I believe that is all attributed to his skill and passion for hand-drawn architecture. He has developed a unique style that combines centuries old, baroque architecture with modern day styles and cohesively blends this with each client’s wishes.
A key attribute to consider when hiring your architect is their reputation within the industry and their ability to collaborate well with the other branches. This will only come from an experienced architect (as we mentioned before). An architect who has a working knowledge of each branch of the industry and, most importantly, an architect that can provide resources for contractors, builders and interior designers. What does the architect bring to the table? Awards, past clients, reputation, etc. A notable architect with a prestigious reputation can also increase the resell value of your home.
Start with twenty architects that have an intriguing portfolio. Interview each of them, lay out your desires for the home you wish to create and see how they respond. Narrow it down to the ones you feel can successfully carry out these plans. From there, discuss their potential to provide contractors, designers, and builders that they have a track record with so you are assured of their ability to collaborate well with others. Shave off a few more options until you are left with 3-5 potential architects.
Now we introduce the more stressful topic: money. Once you have a few architects that you believe in you will be more open this discussion. Barnett opened my eyes tremendously to the importance of negotiation in the hiring process stating, “the low bid is not always the best bid.” Why are they (the architect) providing the lowest bid? Are they providing fewer services? Are they providing you with a standardized design? It is vital to seek out many options when starting your project. Unlike other architects in the industry, Mitchell Barnett charges every client the same price across the board: 4% of the cost of construction. Right away this reassures the client that they are not being taken advantage of based on their income, status, or type of home they want to design.
There is obviously a long list of options to consider when hiring your architect. After spending a bit of time in this industry and interviewing one of Nashville’s most notable architects, I believe this is a promising way to start your search. Keep an open mind, but be firm in your desires. Be confident in what you demand but be humble in your approach. This is a process that you will remember, and live with, the rest of your life! Enjoy every step of the way, create long-lasting relationships, and have fun!