Re-Constructing Home-Part 12: From Concept to Reality (Choosing a Designer vs. an Architect)

There are as many ways to renovate a home as people who desire home renovations. Some folks choose to go it alone from concept to design to completion. Some choose to hire contractors, designers, and/or architects. Homeowners get involved in the actual renovations in varying degrees: some are constantly covered in sawdust and spackle; some eyeball the progress and make changes here and there, and some are content to write a check and let the architect/contractors/designers hash out the rest.

Derek & Bethany chose a middle of the road level of involvement in their renovations. Both of them are handy-ish. Bethany has both a vision for what she wants and an eye for design. So, they didn’t want to be completely conceptually hands-off. But they also didn’t want to spend every weekend from now until Evelyn’s senior prom wrangling with home renovations. Ultimately, they chose a designer and a contractor to handle the renovations. Why leave out the architect? The home already had what folks like to refer to as “good bones.” They didn’t need to level the house and start over. And there wasn’t a ton of exterior work to be done (well, there was that back roofline—but they managed to sort that out). And architects are expensive. Very expensive. The designer Derek & Bethany hired was able to sketch the space out for them, including the expanded back portion of the house and the new back roofline, being conscious of architectural principles. But, as Derek is quick to point out, not many designers are quite as amazing as his designer. In fact, most designers would need to work in conjunction with an architect to create plans that were structurally and architecturally sound. But Derek & Bethany’s designer had a good understanding of architectural principles—and a secret weapon. But we’ll get to that in a minute.

When their designer finished the initial plans, Derek and Bethany looked them over, made adjustments, and kicked them back to the designer to be reworked. Then—here’s where the secret weapon comes in–the mostly-final plans were forwarded on to a (very part-time) architect to be put into CAD (computer-aided design). The architect’s minimal involvement allowed the designer to produce plans that the contractor could read to make the renovations. And it also ensured that the new design would allow the house to continue to do important things like provide shelter and stand upright. When the contractor had the plans in hand, then the physical work—complete with demolition and re-construction—could finally begin.

Derek & Bethany saved a chunk of money upfront by choosing a designer instead of an architect. But some of those savings dwindled a bit when construction began. Small issues cropped up occasionally. For instance, the back roofline became a bit of an issue. One of the upstairs bedrooms was designed so that the back corners of the room intersected with roofline at a height of only 4 feet. When the room came to fruition, a quick decision was made to raise the roof a few inches, so that the corners of the room weren’t simply dead space. But raising a roof, as you might imagine, isn’t a quick and easy fix. So, several thousands of dollars later, Derek & Bethany had room corners that someone other than Evelyn could walk into. Would an hiring an architect have resolved the 4 foot corner issue before it unfolded? Perhaps. But renovations are never without challenges in both communication and the actual construction process. Obstacles are just part of the reno game.

Regardless of the construction hiccups, Derek & Bethany love the design of their new home. It’s warm, functional, and perfect for entertaining. Their designer did an incredible job incorporating who they are as a family into their home design. And now that construction is zipping along, they are that much closer to the design (and their dream home) becoming reality.






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