Spaces for Life: Questions for an architect



By Lance McCarthy

Lance McCarthy
Lance McCarthy

One of the most misunderstood parts of a project is the role of the architect/designer. We see a wide spectrum of personalities, from the silk-scarved artiste flourishing his pencil dramatically through a worksite to the over-priced bespectacled architect drawing a plan for the client that didn’t meet any of their needs. Many architects view the rest of the industry with disdain, and everyone else returns the sentiment.

Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be that way. I sat down with Joel Perry of Indwell Architecture and Design this week to ask him some questions. He has been a vital part of countless projects for us in this part of town, and we have found his collaborative method to be a bright spot in the industry.

How does one find a good architect?

People look for someone who has done attractive work. Unfortunately, it is entirely possible to have something beautiful that doesn’t meet the client’s needs. Architecture at its root is communication. Look for someone you are comfortable with who can listen well and understand what you are trying to accomplish. The architect’s job is translation — capturing the client’s vision and being able to translate that into the built environment.

What problems are you solving a lot these days?

There are two problems we are seeing a lot. On the remodeling side, families are outgrowing their homes but they don’t want to leave their neighborhood. They usually imagine that the only solution is a monster addition, but often that doesn’t have to be the case.

On the new construction side, we are encountering people who have looked at a lot of houses, but aren’t finding anything that feels like home. Although a custom designed home may cost more per square foot, it can be organized more efficiently while better serving the clients needs.

Are there any trends you are seeing right now in projects?

I think social media influences trends quite a bit. We are getting a lot more creative requests out of clients who have spent time on Houzz or Pinterest.

There is definitely a trend toward more open plans, where they can feel connected from space to space. When they are in the kitchen cooking, they still want to feel a part of what’s going on in the other room.

We are also seeing that same need for connection from the inside to the outside of the home — from front porches to outdoor living spaces that can serve as additional rooms.

What is something my architect probably won’t tell me?

As a general rule, an architect is probably good at design or budget, but usually not both. We sometimes have trouble telling a client that their needs don’t fit within their budget.

How should one prepare for a meeting with an architect?

A picture is worth a thousand words. Because architecture is communication, it is important for the architect to understand what a client means by words like “modern” or “clean lines.” Pictures help to bridge that gap.

It is also important for the client to have a good understanding of the program that they are looking for, or the problem they are trying to solve. You want to ensure that the architect is focused on the right priorities.

A video interview with Joel Perry

This weekly sponsored column is written by Lance McCarthy of ReTouch, a full-service, client-based contractor specializing in home remodels. For more information about their services, or to view samples of their work, visit their website.