ArchiTalks: Advice for Clients

What’s working with an architect like? Will we show up in all black? Maybe. Will we request or readily provide caffeine? Probably. Will our office space be awesome? Definitely. Will we surpass your dreams? Absolutely.

Note: This is the twenty-sixth post in a group series called #ArchiTalks started by Bob Borson of Life of an Architect. This month’s topic comes from Jeff Pelletier: “Advice for Clients”.

Advice for Clients

Well…that’s a hard take, as I know from working on the L² Lab that I am my own worst client. And I’ve only ever been the architect. So to get us started, I thought I’d ask how a current client would answer that question. She and her husband have never worked with an architect before and I’m currently designing and managing the renovation of the entire first floor of their home with RATIO – trying to show the leadership I can bring in work, woot! He’s a commercial real estate lawyer, so he drives a hard bargain. She’s a woman of immaculate taste, and self-diagnosed OCD. I knew I would have my work cut out for me, but working with them has been so rewarding. So what did she have to say when I asked her what advice she would give to a client the first time they work with an architect? Check it out:

“I would say bring your vision since it’s your space. Bring pics, talk about what’s important to you, and share your ideas. Then…do the most terrifying thing of all…LET GO. When you work with an expert, they will far surpass anything you could even dream of! So just sit back and prepare to be amazed. You’ll collaborate and hone the vision, but be open to ideas and new perspectives. And bottom line: HAVE FUN. Your vision plus their expertise = dreams come true.” – SL

I couldn’t have said it better myself. I actually had jotted down some of my own notes before asking her input…and they were very similar to all the points she brought up. Let’s break down the advice for clients.

1. Bring your vision.

This is your space. You know best how you live. A great architect will ask you those questions in initial meetings, like “What does your kitchen look like when you’re cooking? Who’s doing what?” But that doesn’t mean you should come unprepared. Use Pinterest. Or bring magazines. We can distil any idea you bring us, even if it’s a sketch from your kid. But we want this to be your space, and you’re paying us well to do so (*cough*pretty please*cough*), so please – let us know what you like.

2. Let go.

Now that you’ve handed over your ideas and talked through the use of your space, please let us work. We went through a lot of school; at least 5 years of it, but more likely 6. And while your college days may have been parties and weekend football games, ours were spent with late nights in a cramped studio learning how to refine our craft to do the very thing you just hired us to do. You don’t try to help your lawyer in a negotiation, and you don’t try to help your doctor take out your appendix. Please let us work. The best of us will come back to you and involve you in the process, but we need some “heads down” time to focus and refine your vision.

advice for clients via

3. Collaborate

We’re back! It’s time to work together on the refined vision and your future space. We’ll likely show you a couple iterations, walking through the use of each scenario and helping you pick the bits and pieces you like from each. Please be open, but respectful. This is our craft, but it’s your space. We spent a lot of time on this, but you will spend the next long time IN it. We want to make sure it fits you. The best architects will welcome this collaboration time with open arms, editing the model in the middle of the meeting to help ensure you understand exactly how your new space will work. Enjoy this!

4. Have fun

This is a build up of number 3, and some of the best advice for clients I can give. Have fun! You paid us well (remember? I said pretty please) and now you’re enjoying the fruits of that labor. We’ve been working hard to make your dream come true and we’re not done. Enjoy the virtual walk-throughs, the mock-ups, the material selection days. Tell jokes, go to lunch, tell your friends about your awesome new space. It’s almost here! We’re as excited for you to experience it as you are.

5. Enjoy the dream turned reality

It’s here! Your space, our work – we’ve made a baby in the form of a building! We worked really hard on it and hope you enjoy it. Prop up your feet, cook a nice dish, work efficiently in the office…we’ve thought through every nook and cranny of this space, from big picture to tiny screw. When you work through a section of the kitchen and find yourself loving a certain detail, that’s us. Enjoy it, and let us know! This is your dream turned reality and we want to make sure you’re happy.

Working through cabinet details and kitchen flow for the #JSLreno. All BIM, all day. #lifeatRATIO

A post shared by Lora Teagarden (@l2designllc) on

Bring Vision. Let go. Enjoy.

The final advice for clients? Relax with a glass of wine in your new space and realize that dream from so many months ago is now the reality of your awesome life.

That’s why you hire an architect.


To see the take on “Advice for Clients” from other Architects, follow the links to the others in the #ArchiTalks group who are posting today on the theme:

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