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Your friends and family think it’s absurd to use an architect. Here’s why they’re right.

When almost all of our clients engage us, it’s the first (and possibly only) time they’ve worked with an architect.  Shows like The Block and Grand Design have done an enormous amount of heavy lifting in Australia to lift the public’s understanding of how design can improve our lives. For professional couples with equity in their home, having a beautifully designed home is no longer aspiration – it’s achievable.  They love good design, they recognise the value a specialist can bring to their process and they’re time poor.  Boom! Perfect scenario to start working with an architect. 

Then they tell their family and friends and they questions start to creep in…. 

“Why do you need an architect, how hard can adding square rooms be?”

“You’re asking too much from this, when your mum and I were your age, we all fit in a house half this size and it never even occurred to us to renovate it!”

“You’re going to spend so much on professional fees – couldn’t you use that money towards your new kitchen?”

“I had a friend’s dad who used an architect and they blew his budget by 150%!”

We’ve all got them.  Boomer dads that just think you can ‘throw a room on the back’ and “you’ll be right”. Investor friends who can’t stomach spending money on something they can’t recoup quickly (unless you’re talking about their latest car which has depreciated quicker than shares in Twitter/X…whatever you call it now).  

So many clients share with us the cautions their friends and family share with them when they hear of their radical plans to work with us. So I thought I’d list 4 ways in which your family and friends are right:  

It’s going to take longer

Our clients spend at least 12 months in design, pricing and approvals before they start construction. This applies to projects at 500K to projects over 1 million and beyond.  I’ve had people approach us to work with us, who are scared off by these timeframes – only to find themselves 1 year down the track with a design they can’t afford to build or that they don’t love enough to build. 

Short changing time, shortchanges your certainty.  Time spent in design and the consideration of it directly impacts on the quality of the building at the end.  Spending time in design and selections also reduces a HUGE amount of stress that occurs during a build.  There is not much worse than being interrupted in a 10:30 work meeting or school event by a builder desperate for you to go and pick your tiles and grout and decide on a layout because the tiler is on site and doesn’t have direction. 

Time avoids these crisis and in its place you get confidence and certainty around your selections, they’re availability, they’re inclusion in the builder’s fixed price and the space to enjoy your kid’s (terrible) school concert in peace! 

So yep, they’re right. It’s going to take longer and you’re going to be super happy you invested that time. 

Short changing time, shortchanges your certainty.  Time spent in design and the consideration of it directly impacts on the quality of the building at the end. 

It’s going to be expensive

I know, I know, you don’t want to hear this.  But it’s important to understand. Designing your forever home is a completely different proposition to tricking up a house for quick sale.  Your heart is as invested as your wallet and this asks different questions and comes up with different answers.   

We’ve written extensively on cost and budget management – and at all times we recognise there are multiple avenues to building your home.  An architectural house is not for everyone. But it is for people who are really planted where they live, who see a long future there, who care about their neighbourhood and who care about how the home feels and performs over the long term.  

None of these things come cheap.  Our values around money are slowly formed and tightly held. It is inevitable that your dad – who sees housing as an investment – and you – who sees housing as a place for security and expression – will butt heads on this one (sorry, not sorry dad…). 

Like time, we see over and over again people who trade money in the short term for stress in the long term.  And almost inevitably spend a similar amount of money – but for a poorer outcome.  Our clients spend money before the project starts.  They’re buying certainty and risk management and a better outcome. 

Yes it will cost you more, but you’re going to get a significantly improved asset that can bring you joy now and in the long term if you ever sell it. 

Don’t take my word for it, here’s some other smart people saying the same thing! 

ArchitectureAu, Domain & TheSpaces

Our clients spend money before the project starts.  Again, they’re buying certainty and risk management and a better outcome. 

You won’t be listened to  

One of the really big fears any client faces when they engage professional services is that they’ll put down a bunch of money, and they won’t be heard. Well, I’m here to say “you won’t”. Just joking. You totally will – but not the way you might expect. 

When our clients bring us a design brief and a problem they want to solve, one of the earliest things we begin to do is test and prod their solutions. Architectural training is about iterative learning.  We are really good at testing and rejecting and improving and then rejecting and starting again. And we do this over and over again in order to form a strong enough concept to put in front of our clients.  

Clients (bless your hearts), tend to settle on the first solution they see.  Let me give you an example.  Our gorgeous client Honi wanted a lift and build under for her small footprint cottage in Camp Hill. Given her brief, the site constraints, the view opportunities, we came back to her with a really different scheme – leave the house, demolish a verandah, and create a stepping split level extension. She didn’t get a traditional ‘deck’ but she did get a gorgeous kitchen and lounge room that frames and embraces her garden.  

So you could say, we didn’t strictly listen to Honi’s prescriptive requirements, but we did interpret them in a fresh way – and we’re pretty sure we can say she’s happy!….you are though, right Honi?! 

Check out her project on instagram @my_camp_hill_cottage_reno 

When our clients bring us a design brief and a problem they want to solve, one of the earliest things we begin to do is test and prod their solutions.

You’re going to be smug later on 

This is probably the thing they’re not telling you, but I am. The smugness is hard to fight. It’s photos by your dream pool on a hot day, it’s having space for your entire clan for Christmas and not breaking a sweat. It’s curling up with a good book in your favourite sunny spot in winter that you planned out with us five years earlier. It’s getting given another platter for christmas and storing it in the ridiculous amount of storage space you planned and built for the home. 

It’s the joy of seeing the house settle and age into its landscape – getting richer and better with time – not the other way around. Like our fantastic client Adam said a year after his family moved in “Building this house, and by extension, meeting and working with you all, has been one of the greatest things we have done as a couple. Every day, we take great delight from the ever-deepening ties between our lives, this building and our surroundings” 

Couldn’t have said it better myself. After investing all that time and money in a joyful, collaborative design process, you’ll have something you’re genuinely proud of.  You can afford to be a bit smug. 

“Building this house, and by extension, meeting and working with you all, has been one of the greatest things we have done as a couple. Every day, we take great delight from the ever-deepening ties between our lives, this building and our surroundings”

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Herston QLD 4006

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