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Residential Services Offered?

  • 1.  Residential Services Offered?

    Posted 04-24-2019 02:59 PM
    I recently had a discussion that has made me curious about the services that residential architects provide. I have yet to be able to dive into this area of architecture myself, but am always looking for information so that I'm prepared when the opportunity presents itself!

    I have always envisioned a residential architect designing or providing the following as a general rule of thumb:
    -the building exterior
    -coordinating with site design and landscaping
    -designing interior finishes including: lighting locations, lighting fixtures, flooring, paint colors, cabinets, counters, stair railings, interior trim
    - construction administration

    I appreciate any info you'd like to offer. Thanks!

    Brenda Nelson AIA


  • 2.  RE: Residential Services Offered?

    Posted 04-25-2019 05:28 PM
    Yes, Brenda, you're right. That's what we do. We also coordinate required consultations, such as structural engineering, energy calculations, green building monitoring, surveys, soils reports, etc. 

    We help the client find bidders, sometimes prepare addenda, etc during the bid period, review the bids with client, prepare the construction contract, and/or help the client negotiate the contract with a contractor.

    We also submit the drawings for permit and revise them as necessary.

    Busy bees, we residential architects!
    Judith Wasserman AIA

    Bressack and Wasserman Architects
    751 Southampton Drive
    Palo Alto CA 94303 
    ph: 650 321-2871  
    fx:  650 321-1987

  • 3.  RE: Residential Services Offered?

    Posted 04-26-2019 05:30 PM
    Hi Brenda,
    Confirming yes to Judith's reply.
    One difference is that at my firm interior design is an additional service and we provide limited construction observation services under our contract as we do projects on a fixed fee. Additional construction observation outside those specifically outlined in our contract is handled as an additional service. For landscaping, all services are additional services except those necessary for egress and grading away from structure.
    Not all clients want all services to be provided, so our firm offers flexibility both at the initial contract and a way to add those services back if they request them later (of course, schedule permitting). And if we cannot do it, we send the client to a qualified consultant that can take care of those services.

    Jennifer Kretschmer AIA
    Principal Architect
    J. Kretschmer Architect
    Los Gatos CA

  • 4.  RE: Residential Services Offered?

    Posted 04-26-2019 05:41 PM
    And in addition to what Judith Wasserman listed, we check shop drawings and other materials during construction, such as door and window orders.  
    We also go to fabricator shops to assist with layouts, such as laying out the templates for stone countertops and other fabrications on stone slabs as they
    are often unique and have veining which needs to be considered in the design.

    We often assist with window coverings and selection of light fixtures and finish hardware.  

    The list is endless....

    Gina G. Moffitt, AIA

    620 Moulton Avenue, Studio 106
    Los Angeles, CA 90031
    T: 323-227-5647

  • 5.  RE: Residential Services Offered?

    Posted 04-30-2019 11:12 AM
    Over the past 16 years, I have offered residential services at most levels available. I understand the variety of services that people want and the misunderstanding from the public about the degree of services we offer. I've had small additions, bathrooms, kitchens, master bedroom additions, and whole house renovations. I've done a few new houses and everything in between. I've had great clients and I've had clients who have wanted the "least."

    After this many years (and being in practice 28 years), I resolved several years ago that I would only take on residential projects that met with my criteria for full CA services (that I outline in the interview). From there, the clients that seek and embrace that generally want my input for all design decisions including interior design (finishes not furniture) and a general command of the project, even during construction.

    It takes saying no often.

    We still collaborate throughout the entire process and even during construction, the design details may be malleable to tweak as they see things unfold. It's their house after all. Yet, by then I've worked diligently to gain their trust, so they'll trust me to help pick colors, finishes and remaining details to maintain a consistent theme.

    It took scores of previous residential projects to get it right and to get so frustrated with anything less.

    Of course, each rule has an exception. I can't predict the future.

    Lee Calisti AIA
    lee CALISTI architecture+design
    Greensburg PA

  • 6.  RE: Residential Services Offered?

    Posted 05-01-2019 05:44 PM
    I live in a tough market for residential architects. Because the builders own the market and have designers on staff while NOT charging for design. So I am left with the crumbs that fall from their table. Of course I am rather new to the residential market as an architect and I am finding it very difficult to find a wedge in.

    I completely agree with your assessment of providing only full service. I just wish it was an option. It may be on occasion in the future, but it will require many years of work to establish a reputation to have the option to say "no." You have 16 years of building such a reputation. 

    I am in the Southwest Michigan area.

    Thank you,

    Todd Oeftger, AIA
    Ligature Studio, LLC

  • 7.  RE: Residential Services Offered?

    Posted 05-01-2019 07:25 PM

    I'd like to believe I've built a portfolio and reputation to earn the right to say "no" as I described. However, there may come a day, when I'm not as busy as I am now when I'll have to revisit that decision. The market isn't that great here for residential architects for similar reasons that you described. Living near Pittsburgh helps as metro areas seem to contain more people that "get it." However, as long as I can be choosy, then it keeps me from making decisions that go against my mission. A recession might change that, but I hope we don't go through that again.

    Lee Calisti AIA
    lee CALISTI architecture+design
    Greensburg PA

  • 8.  RE: Residential Services Offered?

    Posted 05-03-2019 05:51 AM
    I run into that a lot - the "free" design - whether from builders, kitchen consultants, or any other contractors. The reality is that the contractors bury their design fees in the cost of construction. My only product is "just drawings" so the client sees their full cost, while the client sees that he is getting a physical product from the contractor for his money - never mind that all the labor, overhead, profit, and other costs of doing business is wrapped up in that "product" cost.

    I do my best to educate my clients, but it can be a hard - and never ending - process.
    I live in a tough market for residential architects. Because the builders own the market and have designers on staff while NOT charging for design. So I am left with the crumbs that fall from their table.
    Todd Oeftger,  05-01-2019 17:43

    Thomas Bank AIA
    Principal Architect
    Simply Stated Architecture, P.C.
    Lemoyne PA

  • 9.  RE: Residential Services Offered?

    Posted 05-03-2019 11:37 AM
    Hey Todd, 

    Take what I've observed in the last 5 years with a grain of salt. 

    - website opener looks great. nice logo. 
    - website leads to ABOUT -> it can have a bit more photos. maybe an exciting intro video. 
    - formerly known as, concerns me, because why did you change names? did you have a law suit or bankruptcy ?
    - the COVER tab up top is redundant and confusing.
    - WORK shows 5 renderings, 2 real life projects. 
    - blog doesn't have content yet
    - houzz is pro. I would save the advertising money and spend it on Google ad-clicks.
    - Facebook isn't loading. 

    Your website is my only indirect way of learning about you, and so far its not painting a strong story. You are a licensed architect, so I'm sure you can do more variety of houses than the white ranch style. Maybe focus more on construction details, sketches, care into construction. Why would a home owner hire you over a draftsman that can work with SketchUp?

    I absolutely believe that General Contractor will dominate the market if the terrain is unchallenging, and the construction is new. Architect' s strength is really in creatively repurposing existing homes or designing comfortable mansions. To find clients for comfortable mansions, the home owner would need to have lived in a DESIGNED house for them to appreciate an architect's design. Otherwise, it is very hard to justify your additional fees on top of a builder's. 

    I've tuned into 20x30 on Youtube, and believe he's found a great method on promoting his brand and design acumen. 

    The Tsai house looks like a nice build, continual partnership with that builder is another good promotion. 

    Exciting times Todd. Hope that helps~ Maybe this conversation can jump start the forum to share more personal experiences.

    Charles Ou-Yang
    Stephen L. Ball Architect, Inc.

  • 10.  RE: Residential Services Offered?

    Posted 05-03-2019 01:34 PM
    I certainly agree with Charles's assessment. I think the big issue is that if you are selling "design" you are lost. Most mid-range clients either don't want it, don't appreciate it, or expect to get it for "free." There is very little value placed on design, even if the client can recognize it. But sadly, this is what is usually held in highest esteem by the schools that trained us, and the schools convinced us that it is what we have to sell.

    So, you have to switch to selling things that DO have value over just going directly to a contractor, like:
    1) Detailed plans and specifications that give the client the ability to get competitive bids, if they wish, knowing that they are getting apples-to-apples comparisons. The saving from this alone can often pay for most, if not all, of your fee. Plus, they get a trained designer, to boot!

    2) Increased resale value over a "contractor-designed" house.

    3) Reduced headaches during construction. Someone on the client's side to help solve problems. Faster/easier build.

    4) Help with picking out the myriad of things that are necessary for a project, with no vested interest in increasing the construction cost.

    5) Lower contingency fund needed by contractor with everything spec'd.

    6) Assistance with getting a permit through difficult design review boards.

    I could list a bunch of others (and you are welcome to check out my website if you need other ideas), but the point is that you have a lot to offer clients beyond what contractors by themselves can offer, that can have definite value to prospective clients.

    Richard Morrison, AIA
    Architect-Interior Designer
    Redwood City, CA

  • 11.  RE: Residential Services Offered?

    Posted 05-15-2019 08:25 PM
    Charles, Thank you for your feedback. It has been tough to keep up on all the technology fronts and to know what others actually see and do the work that provides income. The Houzz Pro+ was a big mistake for me. I have been caught in, what I was told by others I know, that it is a good thing. But it has been a big investment with little to no return. I will work on the Web page. I know it is lacking valuable information that clients want to know. Does any one know what the Google ads cost is?

    Thank you,

    Todd Oeftger, AIA
    Ligature Studio, LLC

    269-220-0383 office
    269-830-7088 cell

  • 12.  RE: Residential Services Offered?

    Posted 05-15-2019 08:33 PM
    Got a friend that does Google ads and set a budget for $250/month. For him, it's money well spent. He has 5 stars with 20 reviews! 

    For me, I've been hesitant, since I cannot ensure a 5 star review. Homeowners are stuck with us much longer, and sometimes they hate us! And sometimes we get thrown under the bus by the GC because they want to look like the hero. 

    If you're going to do Google ads, make sure to dedicate to exceptional service and investing more time for the promotion rather than fees. maybe others can chime in too. 

    Charles Ou-Yang
    Stephen L. Ball Architect, Inc.

  • 13.  RE: Residential Services Offered?

    Posted 05-15-2019 09:21 PM
    Google ads cost whatever you want to spend. I have mine set around $50 per month. Google send me statistics on how the ad performs, how many click to my add, and if they call me.
    That amount doesn't drive a lot of people to my site.
    I still get more responses from Houzz but it's also more expensive.
    I have figured that it costs 12% of gross revenue for the projects I get from Houzz. It's half that for the projects that come from my Google Ad. Referrals are always the best dollar value as they cost less than 2% for the "thank yous" I send out.

  • 14.  RE: Residential Services Offered?

    Posted 05-01-2019 05:55 PM
    Given that you are highly involved in interior design aspects (explicitly excluding furniture), I am wondering why you stop at furniture? This can be a highly lucrative area, and one would think that helping to select furnishings and fabrics would be important in achieving a coordinated look. I am asking this because I am truly mystified as to why architects don't want to be involved in this area of design. (Is it a process that architects just don't understand? They see it as too frou-frou? Too burned out to deal with more details? Don't want the accounting hassle?) And yet, I hear complaints from architects that the interior designers and decorators are driving a Mercedes while they are driving a Toyota. I just don't get it.

    Richard Morrison, AIA
    Architect-Interior Designer
    Redwood City, CA

  • 15.  RE: Residential Services Offered?

    Posted 05-01-2019 07:20 PM


    Actually, I'm not opposed to it at all - including ID services (FFE) in my services. However, in my area with even the degree of architectural services I offer, most clients prefer to address that themselves. It seems even the clients who give me the longest leash still need to control something, to choose something on their own. This is truer today with online purchasing (don't cringe).

    I agree with you about having a coordinated look, even down to the furnishings. I'd be open to learning how to approach this with clients and then offering it as an added service. We as architects do complain (about many things), but perhaps we are our own worst enemies.

    Lee Calisti AIA
    lee CALISTI architecture+design
    Greensburg PA

  • 16.  RE: Residential Services Offered?

    Posted 05-01-2019 07:31 PM
    Hmm, I wonder if people wanting to select their own furniture is something that we just assume, or if our clients themselves are assuming that architects have no interest in it. Perhaps suggesting that "since you've spent all this money getting a great look for your house, maybe you'd like the design experience of XX years in making sure that your furniture and window coverings enhance your house, rather than detract from it," would be persuasive.

    I've been thinking about doing a book about the process of residential interior design for architects, but I'm still on the fence as to how useful it would be perceived.

    Richard Morrison, AIA
    Architect-Interior Designer
    Redwood City, CA

  • 17.  RE: Residential Services Offered?

    Posted 05-03-2019 02:22 PM

    I am also an architect who provides both Interior Design along with Architectural Design and have enjoyed the comprehensive process it provides. My opinion as to why other architects don't pursue this field is because most architects are not trained in this area.  I received my first degree in Interiors and then decided to go for a Masters in Architecture.  My studies in Interior Design involved lighting techniques, fabric compositions/uses, furniture design, historical interiors and space planning. There are no opportunities that I know of to gain this information in Architecture school.  While anyone could go the self-educated route or learn on the job, many consider this direction not so interesting.  I believe that our firm's integral approach to design has made a better end product.





    4421 N Oakland Ave #200                 O 414.204.8917 

    Milwaukee, WI 53211                        C 847.778.1625




  • 18.  RE: Residential Services Offered?

    Posted 05-03-2019 06:29 PM
    Hi Suzie, 

    I think it's great that there are few Architect's offering interior services. I think it's OK for Architect's to have a high level approach, outsourcing detailed work in MEP / structural / and interior design, but it's not OK to be completely removed from the process. 

    Gensler is a world renowned example of mixing the two trades and receiving insane recognition for its work. Many firms followed suit. 

    Can you elaborate a bit more on how the Architect's training differ from the interior design trainings? Architect's are trained to understand lighting and architectural finishes, but is interior design schools better at providing a rule of thumb?

    And how come the self driven learning is considered not so interesting? Is 3 quarter long certificate necessary?

    Thank you for sharing!

    Charles Ou-Yang
    Stephen L. Ball Architect, Inc.

  • 19.  RE: Residential Services Offered?

    Posted 05-07-2019 12:19 AM
    I've been waiting a few days to jump back in on my original post because I have greatly enjoyed the ongoing discussion. My natural thought in architecture is that the outside of a building and inside of a building are generally inseparable. So when I think about offering residential architectural services, I simply can't imagine doing that without being involved with the interior style of the house, mainly the built-in items such as trims, casework, lighting, etc. I was surprised to learn that many people do split up the services and its been very educational to learn about all your different business models.

    A couple of things also made me think. I have to agree that many people think that they are getting design services for free when they buy a "custom" home from a builder (i.e. pick out carpet, granite and paint). I wonder how we can start a campaign in some way to educate the public that builders typically don't know about design in the way an architect or interior designer has been trained (at least the one who designed my current spec-house rental didn't have a clue! Seriously...why would anyone put the fridge and the pantry in that configuration!!). However, I don't think putting down another valuable profession is the right way but I think there could be a positive way to go about - any ideas?

    Richard - your book note also got me thinking. We love picture perfect rooms and might enjoy selecting coordinated furniture and decor for our clients, but there's something for me that's missing just a bit in that viewpoint. What if there was a book that might showcase exterior architecture that was inspired by client's current furnishings? Maybe a pair of antique rocking chairs handed down from grandparents? Or perhaps a painting from Paris purchased during a college summer? I'm not sure how to go about putting that book together, but I'd really like to see a lived-in, curated home combining new and old. (I'm picturing that commercial where the couple asks the architect, who of course is wearing a black sweater and speaking with an accent, to design a house around their new faucet!)

    Thank you to everyone who has replied (so far) both on the forum and to me directly. I am loving the sharing of ideas and thoughts.

    Brenda Nelson AIA
    Windsor CO