Engaging an architect is an exciting first step in the process to design and build your new pad.  In the name of transparency, we have honestly answered many of the questions you may have around what an architect does (well, what we do anyway).

We aren't familiar with the design and building process, can you explain?

Sure thing, we have laid it all out here.

Is there a minimum value on the projects you work on?

Yes; we work on projects with a construction cost of $800,000 and over. Most of our projects fall within the $1.2 - 4 million price range.

How involved are you during the process?

Past clients have reported being pleasantly surprised by the amount we manage on their behalf! Our service is comprehensive and begins early; we can help you collect reference images and create your design brief. We will navigate council approvals on your behalf, and run the tender or engage in pricing negotiations with builders. Finally, we oversee construction until the day you move in.

Our clients tend to be busy people who like us to take care of the little details. Based on your input, we can select everything from tapware and door handles through to lighting, cabinetry materials, flooring and paint colours. As part of the feedback process, you’ll be presented with physical samples you can touch, plus images and 3D perspectives that give a clear picture of what the design scheme will look and feel like.

We generally find most clients are happy to sign-off on the selections that we present to them, as we have already spent plenty of time getting to know their likes and dislikes. It’s about tailoring the design solution to your personality and lifestyle.

Why should I choose to work with an architect?

An architect is the right choice for people who want a home that is completely customised to how they live, not for resale purposes or what's the norm. Think of it like a tailor-made suit! This is why architect-designed homes always look different to what you see in the weekend paper and can attract higher values. No standard ‘3 x 2’ homes here; we design dedicated spaces for the client’s lifestyle and interests (bring on piano rooms, art studios, libraries and cosy winter rooms!)

We spend five long years at university and are trained to critically analyse design and what it is that makes amazing spaces. Architects can design for a wide variety of different sites and environmental conditions, and create buildings that are sustainable and efficient in terms of materials and energy.

A common misconception is that architects are creative types who aren’t as adept at managing the construction process. This simply isn’t true, and our client testimonials attest to that.

On that note, I've heard architects never stick to budgets. Is that true?

That’s rubbish. It’s essential to find an architect who respects your budget and has a proven track record of maintaining them, regardless of size. Don’t just take it from us that we stick to budgets (we do, much to the frustration of some clients – we’re not afraid to say 'hell no!' at times). We’re more than happy to share our client’s feedback with you.

Can you recommend a builder?

That's all a part of the service. We work with a select group of builders and can suggest one who is a good fit for your project construction type and budget.

We are picky when it comes to builders; honesty, transparency and build quality are the three key factors that determine who we work with. We are not interested in putting tenders out to a heap of builders and hoping for a bargain – lower price means lower quality, and that is not what we are about. We believe in paying a fair price, and consequently, variations are not common in our projects to date. The builders we work with are generally one-man-bands or small businesses, so they don't have huge overheads such as marketing departments or steep advertising bills. They’re people we genuinely like and get along with – and we’re sure you will too (which is important, as they’ll be hanging around awhile!)

How do you charge?

We present you with a lump-sum fee, broken down according to the various stages outlined in the services section. This fee is based on a maximum project budget and size that has been determined and that we have both agreed upon. This sets us apart from most architects, who tend to charge a fee that is a percentage of the entire project. However, we are confident in our processes and systems and are happy to offer clients a lump-sum fee where these variables are known. We find that people appreciate the peace of mind that comes from knowing the entire project cost upfront, including our fee.

However, should the budget or size of the home increase considerably, then we reserve the right to charge a variation fee. For this reason, we’re adamant that the 'real' budget should be disclosed early on (in addition to any contingencies), so we can design accordingly from the onset. In some cases where the budget isn't known and clients are keen to let us go a little wild with ideas, we can offer a percentage fee payment plan based on the construction cost.

Aren't architects expensive?

Relative to draftspersons and building designers? Generally, yes. We design long-term homes for our clients, who understand the value good design can bring to their lifestyles.

In addition, a quick search for architect-designed property sales often proves the old adage 'you get what you pay for'. Several of our clients are repeat customers who, due to a change in their circumstances or a desire to do it all again, have successfully sold the homes we designed for them and then commissioned us to build their next.

In many cases, by making smart design decisions and increasing efficiency, the cost of our fee is offset by the savings made in regards to the build.

Can we engage you for some services but not others?

We offer two service packages: Partial Services and Full Service. Full Service sees us involved at every stage, including the construction period, to ensure the project is built in accordance with the design intent. Building is often a process of iteration. Our continued involvement allows us to refine the project as needed and minimise the number of issues that may arise in future stages. For these reasons, the Full Service package is what we recommend.

There is nothing more frustrating than seeing an incredible design not completely build in accordance with the drawings. And it’s an untruth that you will save money by not engaging the architect for construction; in reality, the opposite usually occurs. We are able to assess builders claims and negotiate quotes on your behalf. We often save our clients money by simply checking that what’s been quoted is correct – it’s one of the benefits of knowing a project intimately!

In comparison, Partial Services excludes the Contract Administration Stage (construction). Whilst we occasionally do it, this type of package is suited to projects that are known in the industry as 'D&C' (design and construct), whereby the project has come to us through one of our regular builders. In these cases, the client takes responsibility for the design through the construction stage.

This all sounds like my bag. Here's to the sweet life! But what next?

The first step is to contact Simone to schedule a call to discuss your project in more detail, including indicative fees and timing. The next step is a face-to-face, obligation-free meeting in our West Leederville office. We’ll be working together for a while, so it's great to chat over some good coffee!

Do architects always wear black?