Do You Need an Architect for Your Custom Home or Remodel?

If you’re trying to decide whether to hire an architect for your custom home or remodeling project, you’ve come to the right place. Building a custom home is a significant investment, and hiring an architect is an investment in your future home. Sure, there are drafting services and off-the-shelf house plans that promise dream homes at a lower cost. It can be tempting to choose a less expensive design option when thinking about all of the other custom home costs, but this comes with trade-offs.

A good architect creates and adds value to a project in several ways that will significantly impact the home building process and your happiness with your new home. Think of an architect as a highly trained dreamer, master coordinator, and problem solver. They can streamline your core decisions upfront while offering a client-driven design process that puts your goals front and center. Then, they translate your vision and goals into a beautiful and buildable home design within your budget.

To put it another way, an architect is your advocate whose mission is to bring your vision to life. Here, we’re sharing several of the most visible (and perhaps some surprising) ways an architect adds value to a custom home build.

Table of Contents

Why Hire an Architect for a Custom Home

Building a brand new home is exciting (fun!) and full of a thousand different decisions (potentially overwhelming). Figuring out how you want your home to look, setting a budget, getting permits, and dealing with the inevitable delay — there are many moving parts and interdependencies. A project can quickly get derailed without an experienced and steady hand guiding the design process and handoff to construction. An architect provides client-centered design expertise that will lessen the amount of friction and keep your project on track.

1. Site-Specific Design

Every piece of land is different and unique. Designing and building on sloped sites can be especially challenging, but even flat terrain can present obstacles. An architect will offer creative site-specific solutions, like how to maximize views or design around old-growth trees that must stay. An example of this is our contemporary farmhouse project in the Colorado Golf Club in Parker, Colorado, whose elevated site allowed for ample windows on each facade to frame views and bring in natural light.

An architect can maximize a site’s attributes in a variety of ways:

  • Use home orientation to maximize views and natural light
  • Work within a site’s microclimate(s) to optimize home systems and energy efficiency
  • Creatively integrate elements of site terrain into a home’s architecture
  • Recommend proven solutions for site planning and preparation 
Located in the Colorado Golf Club in Parker, CO, this contemporary farmhouse custom home nestles into the landscape and surrounding wild prairie grasses. We designed the home to be u-shaped, creating a patio with privacy and shelter from the wind.

2. Design Expertise

Looking for new design ideas? An architect is full of them. Are you prioritizing health and wellness in your new home? An architect can help with that too. They can also advise you on where and how to integrate design trends with timeless design principles in a balanced and thoughtful way, so your home looks great now and ten years from now.

You’re building your dream home and want it built right. An architect brings years of education and experience to a project. They know how to do things right and what mistakes to avoid. They have the qualifications and knowledge of design principles, building materials, and construction techniques. For a case study in timeless design principles, our traditional custom home design in Cherry Hills uses the rule of thirds to encourage your eyes to delight in the many features and moments along the four-sided architecture.

This traditional French-inspired custom home has an asymmetrical design with an over-all balanced composition. The eye is naturally drawn upward from the main front patio, where a chimney and dormer stack vertically on top of oversized windows.

3. Setting Priorities

Knowing your “why,” or the kind of life you envision in your home, will help you establish priorities, and an architect can help you with this. They know what questions to ask to get you thinking about specific functionality and features that are most important to you. This discovery creates your home’s programming and will balance your functional needs with aesthetics. Your priorities also create the framework for your project’s budget, which is an essential part of your project’s success.

Modern farmhouse remodel with firepit and pool by KGA
The original home had a small deck and little connection to the 5-acre lot, so creating outdoor living opportunities was one of the top priorities of this modern farmhouse remodel.

4. Staying on Budget

Speaking of budgets, at KGA our goal is to facilitate realistic and honest conversations about the project budget. This allows us to focus on designing a home that meets your goals and is realistic to the established budget. Having financial discussions early on with your architect and builder team will help you stay true to your priorities and optimize your home’s design and construction for maximum value.

A good architect will look out for your best interests and be transparent about architectural fees and custom home costs so you can make informed decisions about what’s right for you.

5. Coordination and Connection

The best architect is an active listener and team player open to new ideas and ways of doing things. They will approach your project in a spirit of collaboration and work productively with builders, local agencies, trades, and suppliers. They also have a network of vetted consultants and professionals and can make quality recommendations for builders, structural engineers, interior designers, and the many other consultants involved in building a custom home.

6. Maximizing Resale Value

Most people intend their custom home to be their forever home, but life and plans can change. An architect helps you create a one-of-a-kind home that reflects your lifestyle with timeless appeal should you decide to sell in the future.

Why Hire an Architect for a Home Remodel

We’ll be among the first to emphasize that not all remodels need an architect. For smaller projects, hiring an architect might not be necessary, or even make sense. But if you’re considering a down-to-the-studs remodel, significant floor plan changes, or major exterior changes, we recommend hiring an architect. And while the benefits of working with an architect during a remodel are similar to those in a custom home, there are additional ways a design pro can smooth the bumps in your project. 

7. Design Solutions

An architect will take a space that no longer serves you and transform it into a home with an updated design that’s in sync with your tastes and lifestyle. In an older home, an architect can address previous remodeling efforts that are awkward or out of place with the home’s architecture. Designing to zoning regulations or community design guidelines can be challenging. A local architect will likely be familiar with both and can recommend creative solutions that meet your goals.

They can also advise you on whether you should remodel a home or scrape it and start fresh. If your home is unique with many quirks, an architect can advise you on how to remove them or integrate them into the new design. Such was the case with our remodel of a historic Tudor home — among the many improvements was embracing the home’s unique floor plan as a design feature that enhances its character and charm.

8. Major Changes

Additions, relocating rooms, and removing walls change how a home lives and breathes and benefit from an architect’s trained eye and expertise. Even if major structural work isn’t required, lots of smaller changes add up and have a cascading effect on how your home looks and lives. For example, our transformation of a dark and awkward Cherry Hills Village rancher included removing walls and relocating the kitchen for a brighter and more contemporary home for a young family.

Your architect can evaluate your intended improvements and integrate them while maintaining structural integrity, good flow, and proper circulation. Depending on the scope of work some municipalities also require an architect’s approval of schematic designs during permitting.

9. Historic Preservation

A historic home is full of soul, character, and a host of additional renovation rules and regulations. If your home is on the National Register of Historic Places, its standards will apply to your project. Even if it’s not on the register, your municipality may have its own set of guidelines to follow and will inform everything from structural changes to windows and paint color. An architect can take the lead on designing to the established standards in a way that integrates your desired upgrades while maintaining the home’s original character.

Side elevation of a remodeled historic tudor cottage home originally built in 1937
Staying true to the architecture of this historic Tudor home, we re-created and repaired all of the chimneys, old and new, right down to the flue tile; and found brick and clinkers to blend the additions with the original portions.

10. Changing Your Home’s Exterior Style

Updating your home’s exterior is transformative. It can make your home unrecognizable and feel like living in a completely new house. In a remodel, a great architect sees the possibilities of the diamond in the rough and is professionally trained to design every architectural style in a way that retains the spirit of the original design. For instance, our remodel of a Bow Mar rancher reimagined an outdated exterior and interior into an inviting contemporary home full of light-filled spaces with effortless indoor-outdoor living.

Some architects prefer and only design in one particular style. But don’t limit your design options ‒ instead, seek an architect with a diverse portfolio of work so you’re confident they’ll listen and bring their most creative ideas to your project.

Connect With KGA Studio Architects

Get ready for the rewarding journey of creating a place you’ll love calling home. Contact KGA for a complimentary consultation to discuss your custom home or remodeling ideas and get your questions answered.

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