Monday, January 15, 2007

Architects, designers, and contractors--OH MY!

Over the past two weekends we have been hosting little get-togethers for various people at the house. These have not exactly been social in fact, we are gearing up for our BIG SPRING PROJECT. The BIG SPRING PROJECT (I've begun to think of it in all capital letters because of what it may mean, good and bad, for our lives) will either be a new garage with studio space on the second floor or it will be an addition with a laundry room/bathroom on the bottom floor and a master closet and full bathroom on the upper floor.

So we've now had three architects and as many contractors out to check out the place and offer their preliminary estimates on cost, feasibility, etc. What a difference from person to person. Some really seem to have an appreciation for the house, some seem like they just want to get out of it as soon as possible, and some don't seem to care one way or the other.

This is going to be a very interesting venture. Right now, we're thinking we'll do the garage first. That would make me really happy because I'm hoping to use the upstairs studio space--at least part of it--as a soaping room. :) Then again, having a real-for-sure bathroom (OMG, and a closet!!) wouldn't be anything to sneeze at either.

Regardless of which project takes precedence, I think we'll have drawings done so that we've got them on the shelf and ready for whenever project #2 gets off the ground. And we're looking into having measured drawings done of the entire house. I think it would be really helpful to have a complete set of drawings for the old gal.


Leslie said...

I'll be interested in following your experiences with working with an architect to help you design/redesign parts of your house. I think that down the road we'll probably want to do that, because I want to significantly redesign the first floor (which the previous owners butchered in their quest to provide as many rentable bedrooms as possible), but I have this big fear of hiring an architect who, as you put it, is basically apathetic towards or just doesn't get it when it comes to old house character. I'm afraid of choosing someone and then having what they come up with (and I pay big bucks for) be something that we just aren't happy with. Is that an irrational fear?!? Who knows - I don't know nothin' bout working with an architect!

This must be a very exciting time for you though!!

Oblio70 said...

As an Architect and (new) homeowner of an old house, I'd like to offer my perspective. Generally speaking, remodels are not typically glamorous jobs for an architect, and remodels on OLD houses are frought with many problems (liability), historically signifiant homes even moreso. Some of these problems can be fixed painlessly, but more often, their repair may overshadow the addition origially intended. An example: should your foundation be failing, or even improperly constructed by todays standards (this is common; many victorian houses were built on non-mortared brick stacks or even rubble), do you spend the time (and buckets of money that goes to a contractor) to fix that, or offer a haphazzard work-around? Is that new addition resonable now? Is working with a client whom had not expected this fuming mad or deeply distressed worthwhile? Truthfully, the answer is "sometimes". Working on old homes is an exciting and very rewarding job when done patiently and correctly, but it is NOT for the faint-of-heart/non-artisan.

As a recent homeowner, I know that a seemingly simple project can escalate quickly. You never know what you will find until you peel back the layers (more than just peeling up a corner). And it's not reasonable to cover the problems back over, or pretend they don't exist. Can of worms, indeed. Now I personaly don't trust most people to work on my house with the care/expertise it needs. I will do what I can myself.

But I recently worked for an Architect who specialized in remodels for old houses, and from his perspective, I could see it was a labor of love for him. Part fortune-teller, part councelor, part financial advisor he would make it clear to the client/owner what they were likely to face as well as what they might have to address as well. He could offer the best solutions and knew the most reliable contractors. He also knew his community well, took pride in it, and was loved for it in return.

In conclusion, I do recommend an architect, but one that is local (invested) and one whose focus is primarily on old house remodels. Anyone else would just see it as a job, and then no one would be happy.

Moni said...

I just found your blog via the dish and I'm going to bookmark it! I love old houses. Hubby and I have been renovating for several years now. ;)

katielady said...

Wow, those are some serious projects! Good luck, can't wait to read all about it!

cjh said...

I found you through katielady and spent some quality procrastination time catching up on your blog from the beginning. I bought a 1920s Victorian about two months ago. I can relate to your stories but, unlike you, know very little about her history. I love that you bought the house and contents. A blessing and a curse indeed. Can't wait to read more. And hopefully see more pictures! Good luck!