Choosing Our Architect

And the winner is an obvious: “Architect B” – Mike Blondino (www.blondinodesign.com). After meeting with Mike on Wednesday, we knew instantly that we wanted to work with him. Joel and I had a fantastic time the entire day and couldn’t imagine working with anyone better. There was a few key things that made us pick Mike over “Architect A”:

  1. Mike toured our property on his own time before we even committed to working with him; Architect A said that they try not to do site visits. That bit of extra effort really goes a long way. And I feel that touring a home site is critically in creating a home that is going to fit well on your site.
  2. Mike budgets for 7 revisions in the design process, Architect A said that typically they only do 1-2 revisions. There’s no way to get a home perfect in 1-2 revisions!
  3. Mike’s fees were higher than Architect A, but the overall value in what we would be getting would be well worth the extra money spent.
  4. The real winning factor is that we truly felt a great connection with Mike and feel that he’s genuinely interested in designing a home for us that is personally ours and will truly be a one-of-a-kind custom design for us.

On Thursday, July 25th, Mike sent us a proposal which included details for the contract between us. This includes our basic home details (square footage, number of bedrooms, number of levels, etc), number of revisions, lengths of review times, and his proposed fee. Joel and I browsed through it quickly and over the next week we’ll spend some more time reviewing it and making any necessary changes. But, for the most part, we’re in agreement with the contract.

It feels great having met such a great person to work with and we’re very excited to have met Mike and fortunate to get the chance to work with him. Cheers!

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Second Architect Interview

Today we met with “Architect B” – our second in-person interview of the week.  We chose this firm because they’re a smaller firm (2 people) who designed a beautiful shingle home that I greatly admired online.  After speaking with the owner of the firm on the phone a few months back, we really made a great connection and meeting in person was a must.  He’s located down in Vancouver, WA and prior to us going down there on Wednesday, he was actually up in our area for a family party.  I had given him the address to our property and he went and checked it out on his own time.  That gave him a great background for the conversations about our home.

Upon arriving in Vancouver, we met up with the two of them and all hopped in one car.  The owner took us for a tour to see the exterior of a few homes that he designed around the area and we even got to go into two of them!  One of the homes which they dubbed “The Hamptons” was the same one that I admired from seeing the photos online.  It’s simply a gorgeous shingle-style home – styled quite coastal and very relaxing.  An open living rooms leads to an expansive outdoor living space complete with a garden, covered bbq and built-in outdoor firepit.  The interior of the house had among other things, two kitchen islands, which we adored, a beautiful sunroom, and a “guys” bonus-space with a hidden theater. To get into the theatre you had to push in one of the rocks on the fireplace…very cool!

The Hamptons shingle style exterior

The Hamptons shingle style exterior

The two-story great room with a beachy coastal vibe

The two-story great room with a beachy coastal vibe

Double islands in the kitchen is great for prep & serving

Double islands in the kitchen is great for prep & serving

With the push of a rock, the hidden media room appears

With the push of a rock, the hidden media room appears

(via)

After touring “The Hamptons”, we toured the second home “The Georgian”.  This home was very open although a bit more traditional in styling.  But the view couldn’t be beat – 180-degree view of the Columbia River.  A few key rooms that caught my attention were the large white kitchen (again with two islands) with gray quartzite countertops, a beautiful laundry room with ample room for folding and hanging clothes, and the first floor master bedroom with gorgeous trim work and hardwood flooring.  Both of the homes had previously been featured in the regional Parade of Homes when they were built…and I can see why.  The attention to detail in design and construction was exquisite.

The kitchen was the most beautiful room in The Georgian

The kitchen was the most beautiful room in The Georgian

Gorgeous gray quartzite countertops in the kitchen

Gorgeous gray quartzite countertops in the kitchen

More than enough folding and hanging space in the laundry room

More than enough folding and hanging space in the laundry room

(via)

As we were on our home tour, we talked in great length about designing homes, our style, their background and what we were looking for in a home.  We also really discussed their process in designing a home.  We came to realize that they were truly interested in making each home they design fit the needs of the clients.  This became apparent after both talking with Architect B and talking with the homeowner of The Georgian.  One thing that really resonated with both Joel and me was when Architect B said that they keep tweaking the home plan until each and every space is perfect…until it can be tweaked no longer.  We really liked that.  We want to make sure that we’re going to love every inch that we build, without unusable space or oddly shaped spaces.

After our tour we went back to their office and spoke for over an hour about what we were specifically looking for in a house.  We went through a laundry list of things that we wanted, the number of rooms, how we wanted the rooms to feel, the typical activities in each room, etc.  We were able to show examples of spaces that resonate with us (thank you Pinterest), as well as show floor plan ideas that I had been working on.  It was really great.  They were truly interested in what we wanted to get out of our home design.

After our full day with Architect B, Joel and I went to the Parade of Homes which was just a few miles away.  This year, the homes were all builder stock homes (not custom homes) and after touring The Hamptons and The Georgian you could really see a difference in the quality of the materials as well as the awkwardness of some of these room shapes, sizes & layouts.  One home caught our attention – it was called “The Nantucket”.  The floorplan wasn’t anything spectacular, but it had a great entryway & staircase.  I also liked the outdoor covered bbq area with vaulted wood ceilings.  We might have to steal a few of those ideas for ourselves 😉

Gray shingle exterior  on The Nantucket

Gray shingle exterior on The Nantucket

Open great room with a beautiful built-in

Open great room with a beautiful built-in

All in all, we had a pretty great day down in Vancouver, and we had a lot to talk about on the way home!

First Architect Interview

Today marks our first real interview with an architect.  Up until now, I’ve called and spoken with a handful of architects on the phone, but today we met with one in person.  For anonymity we’ll just call this firm “Architect A”.  We chose to interview this firm because they’re very well known in the Northwest.  They’ve been doing work here for decades and their homes are all over the eastside (usually in developments).  They have a ton of stock plans online, design a lot of homes for builder’s communities and do custom homes as well.  At least one of the other homes in the neighborhood where our land is was designed by Architect A a few years ago too so we figured that they might be a good place to start. 

We arrived at 9am and lo and behold the architect (who is also the owner) had forgotten about our appointment!   The project manager at the firm called the owner and told us that he “had a brain fart and apparently isn’t feeling too well.  It is Monday so who knows what he was up to last night.”  Seriously, that was a direct quote.  Needless to say, that didn’t start things off very well. 

The project manager said that he could meet with us though so we spent the next 45 minutes discussing our future home and their firm.  In the time we were there we pretty much made up our mind that this was definitely not the firm for us.  There was a few things that sealed the deal for this decision:

  1. When we asked about their process for gathering information about what we are looking for in our home, they said that we just need to email them our wishlist and then they will come up with a plan.  Can you believe that?  An emailed wishlist?  How are we even supposed to know what to think of if they don’t ask us any questions?  And it seemed that they liked to do everything over the internet – no need to for phone calls or meeting in person.  We would have assumed that it would be a decent sized conversation or process to let them know all about our thoughts of the type of home that we wanted. 
  2. He never asked us anything about the style of home that we’re looking to build.  I even had a few photos that I could have showed him, but he didn’t even bother to ask.  He had no idea if we were looking for a craftsman or an Italian villa!
  3. We asked if/when they would do a site visit and he said that they try not to do those.  This firm is located about 15 minutes away from our land.  It baffles me that they wouldn’t want to take a look at it to come up with the best idea for a layout.  I do realize that a lot of information can be gathered about a property with photos and a good survey, but come on!  Nothing beats seeing the land in person.  Nothing. 
  4. We talked about timeline and I mentioned that it would likely be a lengthy process for us to have a home design since both of us work and we have two boys.  I said that it could take over a month to review a plan for us.  That way we could really digest the design as well as show friends/family for input.  His response was that taking too long means that you forget about what you’ve discussed with them (a.k.a. they forget about you), and that their typical custom home plan takes 8 weeks to design.  8 weeks!!  They could absolutely not design a home in 8 weeks and have it be our perfect home that we’d want to stay in for the rest of our lives. 

The list of things that we completely disliked about them runs about a mile long, but I think that the most important part is that we felt like they just didn’t care about us.  That we were just another number really. 

I’m sure that we could have gotten a pretty basic box of a house from them that would have had the correct number of bedrooms and bathrooms and likely been functional…but it wouldn’t have been “our” home. 

Needless to say, we’re moving on and looking forward to meeting our next architect on Wednesday.  In hindsight, I guess it’s always good to figure out what you don’t want 😉

Party at the Property

Before we even purchased the property, my dad had the great idea that after closing we should have a picnic to celebrate our purchase.  Joel and I thought it was a great idea for a time when friends & family could stop by and check out the property in person.

After rescheduling it once due to bad weather, on June 30th we finally had a party at our property!  Of course, we chose the hottest weekend of the year though!  We went from the first (cancelled) weekend being overcast and rain to the next (rescheduled) weekend with 90-degree heat!  That’s Seattle’s summer for you though.   Instead of needing umbrellas for rain, we needed them for the sun…luckily my parents brought four for us.

We gathered patio umbrellas, a folding table, camping chairs and a charcoal grill and hung out on the property for a few hours last weekend.  It was great.  We had a good gathering of friends and family that stopped by throughout the time we were there.  And it was fun having people there asking questions about our future plans & schedule.

Thanks to everyone who came and endured the heat for some fun in the sun!  I promise the next time we have an event we’ll have air conditioning and a deck to enjoy the view from 🙂

"welcome home" balloons from my parents

“welcome home” balloons from my parents

fun in the sun (shade)

fun in the sun (shade)

a quick bite to eat

a quick bite to eat

Joel relaxing in the shade

Joel relaxing in the shade