7 Tips For Working With An Architect

If you’ve never worked with an architect, here’s some tips I would pass along to help you with your project.

1. Look for an architect that fits you and your project.

You’ll be interacting a lot with your architect so make sure your personalities click. You’ll want to be similar to your architect in some ways so that you’ll get along, but you’ll also want them to complement you in bringing something to the table that you don’t have that will help the project. Some architects do many different types of projects, some specialize in certain project types, so decide if you need a specialist or a generalist for your needs.

2. It will not be an instant process since everything is customized per your needs.

Though there may be pieces of the project that are standard, each project has it’s own combination of those pieces. Every site is unique and so are you. Projects are designed like buildings are built, starting with a foundation, and ending with the finishing details so follow the process to get to your end goal.

3. Take the right amount of time to mull over all the decisions you will need to make.

Each design phase provides a chance for your feedback to be incorporated. You’ll need to balance giving your self enough time to feel good about your decision but not giving yourself too much time to doubt your decision. Always keep your overall reasons for taking on the project in mind as a guide.

4. Share what is driving your need for your project with your architect.

If you have self-diagnosed a solution to your problem, it is possible that it may not be the best one so let your architect know the root of your issues. Maybe you don’t need an addition, you need to rework your existing spaces instead. Maybe it would be better for you to move or tear down and start over, instead of remodeling or adding on.

5. Give your architect some inspiration.

It’s actually easier to design for someone who gives some idea of what they want. Maybe you’ve seen some things on a trip or on social media that you love. Share that with your architect as a jumping off point.

6. Focus on your current needs, but keep your future needs in mind.

Building is expensive so you’ll want to know what your spending your money on will help your immediate needs. Sometimes future dreams don’t happen because life doesn’t always go in the direction you think it will. However, you don’t want to do something now that would impede something you want later. So mention to your architect if you have a future project so they can figure out how the current design will fit with that.

7. Consider how you can phase your projects.

Sometimes phasing a project can be helpful if you want to pay for your construction project over time or if you want to stay in your house during construction. You can work with your architect to determine what would be the best phase of the project to start with.

What Kinds Of Drawings Can I Get From An Architect?

Though the finished product of any building project is in three dimensions, architects typically produce two-dimensional drawings for contractors to build from and also for the building officials to review. It’s possible in the future that contractors and building officials will be able to use 3D models to work from, but 2D drawings can still help people understand how spaces and materials go together. Here are names for the different types of drawings architects make and what you are looking at:


The most common drawing is call a plan. Sets of drawings are often called “plans” even though they may contain other types of drawings because what an architect does is planning what a contractor is going to built. Floor plans are typically the starting point of all the other drawings. They are an overhead view of the space, if you sliced through the walls at around 4 feet or so above a floor level. With a floor plan, you will get sense of how all the spaces connect and be able to compare the proportions of the spaces. Floor plans typically will have the most dimensions out of all the drawings and can also note the sizes of doors and windows. They can also have tags that show you how the other drawings in the set relate to the floor plan.

A roof plan is an overhead view of the space just from the outside, not cut through at a certain floor level. It will show the roof slopes and materials.

A site plan is also an overhead view, though at a much wider range than the roof plan. It shows how a project will meet the zoning requirements, like how far the building needs to be setback from the property lines or how much of the lot will be covered with roofs or pavement.

A reflected ceiling plan shows what the ceiling will look like, though it is mirrored (thus reflected) so the walls in the ceiling plan will be in the same orientation as the floor plan. It will show where the lights are going and what the ceiling finishes and heights will be. Sometimes electrical plans will accompany reflected ceiling plans so the switches can be planned out in advance, as well as any power outlets.

A foundation plan shows what will be going in the ground to support the building. A framing plan shows the wood or steel members that will make up the floor or roof. These are often done by a structural engineer, but on some smaller residential projects an architect might do them instead.


Elevations can be either exterior or interior. Either way, they are a straight on view of a wall if you were standing in front of it (either on the outside or inside of the building). Elevations tell how high things in the floor plan are so most of the dimensions on the elevations will be for heights. Elevations are also a common place where materials of surfaces are noted, especially on the exterior.


Where a plan is a view of a horizontal cut through the building, a section is a view of a vertical cut through the building. You will be looking in the same direction as an elevation, except you can see inside the walls, floors, ceilings, and roofs of the building to help understand how the interior spaces of a building relate to each other. Sections can be of the overall building to show a double height space, sloped ceiling, or stairs. Or they can be more detailed, showing the components of a wall.


Sometimes all the information you need to know about doors, windows, equipment, and finishes can be noted on the drawings. But other times, when all the information can’t be listed on the drawings directly, the information is entered in a table with a symbol placed on the drawing to refer back to the table.

What Drawings Will Be Included In My Project Set?

Not every kind of drawing will be included for each project. New construction is more likely to have more kinds of drawings since everything is being constructed from scratch. If the renovation is simple enough, maybe only a floor plan is necessary. Drawings that relate to the finishes (reflected ceiling plan, electrical plan, interior elevations) sometimes aren’t included if the owner wants to coordinate those items with the contractor instead of planning them out with the architect.

Buying A Stock House Plan Vs. Having A Custom Plan Design For You

There are lots of websites that sell house plans. Perhaps you are in a hurry to get your house built so you want to get a pre-made plan to get started with construction soon. Or maybe when you started looking at house plans online, you found the perfect one for you.

But others may not see the exact design they want for their house online. The house plan you want may not fit inside your lot. You might have a lot more suited for a walk-out basement, but the house design is for a flat site (or vice-versa). The main level plan could be just right, but you want a second story as well. Or you need to rework the closet, bathroom, or kitchen layout. Or add a few feet to the living room or bedroom.

There are lots of products you can buy in stores that you can use just as they come. However sometimes you need to make some modifications, like hemming some pants to the right length. But there comes a point where the modifications are more complicated than making something from scratch.

When you start changing the room sizes, you will effect the roof line. If you add higher ceilings, you will need more stairs. Some seemly subtle changes have a domino effect. If you are not careful, the design can seem pieced together and not cohesive.

Another thing to consider when buying a stock house plan is if the drawings are tailored to your local building codes. Are the walls and ceilings thick enough to fit the required amount of insulation? Is the structure strong enough for your local snow and wind loads? If you live in a historic district or have an home owners association, would the design meet those requirements? Are the exterior materials appropriate for your local climate?

Stock house plans you buy online are priced at a lower price than a custom house plan because stock plans are designed to be sold multiple times. A custom plan will be used just once, for you, because it is designed around your specifications.

If you think a custom from scratch plan would work best for you, then Remnant Architecture can help you design your home.

Updating And Making A Master Bathroom More Functional

My house is a 1989 builder basic, and this especially comes out in the bathrooms. The bathrooms have oak cabinets with 30″ high plastic laminate counters. The master bath has a large jetted tub and a tiny one-piece fiberglass shower. Also the master bath toilet is in an awkward location.

My current master suite plan

Existing Master Suite Issues

My master bath vanity, at 6′-0″ wide, is a nice enough size with double sinks and some counter space. New cabinets, counters, sinks, and faucets would be a good update. However, I would like to tinker with the other elements of the bathroom, as well as the rest of my master suite, because they have more flaws in my opinion than just outdated finishes.

While my current bathtub is 6′-0″ wide, my shower is only 2′-6″ x 2′-6″. Since I use the shower more frequently than the tub, this is too much of a disparity for me. I could possibly do without the tub, but the tiny shower is my number one issue to resolve on my remodel.

3D view of my current bathtub and shower layout
3D view of my current toilet and vanity layout

Another thing that could be improved on in my master suite is the door swings. The door into my bedroom swings into the door opening for my bathroom. Then the bathroom door swings into the floor space in front of the toilet and then up against my shower door.

The tight door swing situation in my current master suite

The last issue in my current master suite that I would like to improve on in the remodel is the closet. It is less then 5′-0″ wide currently and has hanging space on both sides. As a rule of thumb, I aim for a 5′-0″ wide closet for hanging space on one side only. This is because hangers typically take up about 2′-0″ of space and that leaves 3′-0″ for walking space. If I design for hanging space on both sides, I typically make the closet 7′-0″ wide. If I hang clothes of both sides of my current closet, my shoulders will hit the hangers as I walk through. I currently only put clothes on one side of my closet as a result.

I have come up with four options for my remodel starting with the least invasive to the most invasive, which will probably correspond to the least expensive to the most expensive.

Option 1

This option does not move any walls, but it does move some plumbing fixtures and doors around.

Master suite renovation plan – option 1

In this option I would replace the existing large tub with a shower of the same size. Then I could move the toilet where the shower used to be.

Option 1 – shower & toilet view

This leaves a whole wall that could be taken up with the vanity making it extra long (almost 9′-0″ long). There could even be a storage cabinet between the sinks.

Option 1 – vanity view

To improve the door situation, the door to the bathroom would be changed to a pocket door so it would not swing into anything. Then the door to the closet could be moved to one side, instead of the center, leaving one side for clothes and a decent sized walkway inside the closet.

Option 2

This option keeps the wall dividing the closet and bathroom in the same place but expands into the master bedroom. My current bedroom space inside of my master suite is pretty large so taking a few feet out of the bedroom is not a detriment to me.

Master suite renovation plan – option 2

The expansion into the bedroom space provides the closet with 3′-6″ more in hanging space and also gets the closet door into a better position. The hall that is created when you come inside the bedroom also helps to give more sound privacy to the bedroom. The hall could be used to access a linen closet since the bathroom vanity is not as long in this option as Option 1.

Option 2 – toilet & vanity view
Option 2 – shower view

Option 3

This option switches the location of my current bathroom and closet. The window that is currently in my bath stays so the closet has a window, and then a new window of the same size is added to the new bath location. The bath extends 5′-6″ into my bedroom, but that still leaves enough space for the bed wall (which would become 14′-7″ long).

Master suite renovation plan – option 3

The shower, toilet, and vanity are all on one wall. It’s the same size vanity as I have currently, but the shower would become 5′-0″ wide.

Option 3 – shower, toilet & vanity view

This option is big enough to still fit a tub, which could be a freestanding tub. The closet ends up being accessed through the bathroom, but that is not an issue for me. There is also an entry hall created like the last option.

Option 3 – tub & shower view

Option 4

This option is an addition to my house. My master suite is on the second floor of my house so the bathroom addition would create space below on the first floor. Currently there is a screened porch on the first floor below where the addition would be. I would like to replace the screened porch eventually because of some design flaws (another post for another time) so the new screened porch could be incorporated into the addition. The addition would be 13′-6″ x 14′-6″ overall.

Master suite renovation plan – option 4

In place of my current closet and bathroom, there would be two separate walk-in closets with a hall in the middle leading to the new bathroom.

Option 4 – closet view

Inside the bathroom is a 5′-6″ wide shower, two 5′-0″ wide vanities, a toilet room, and a tub.

Option 4 – shower & vanity view
Option 4 – vanity & toilet view
Option 4 – tub view

Which Option To Choose?

I am leaning towards Option 1 or 2 since I feel like I am getting a big enough improvement without having to have extensive changes. My husband likes Option 4 because the bathroom is much more luxurious than our current bathroom, and it gives more square footage to our house. Which option do you prefer?

Roof Shape Options For A House

Different roof shapes can change the look of your home, as well as give you different layout options for a room that is built into the roof. There are typically three main roof shapes that are used for different effects on house: gable, hip, and shed. Sometimes flat roofs are used to give a modern or urban look, though flat roofs may not always be allowed in residential neighborhoods, especially those with HOA restrictions or within zoning areas that have architectural guidelines required by the planning department. There are also some more speciality roof types like gambrel, mansard, or barrel that correspond to specific design styles, but for this post, I’m concentrating on the main types that area most commonly used.

To illustrate the different roof shapes, I’ll use my house as an example. I have a gable for the roof over the main body of my house and over my garage, though they are clipped or hipped at the end. My front porch has a hip roof.

My house’s roofs

Gable Roofs
This is what my house would look like with all gables. I actually wouldn’t mind if the main and garage roofs were plain gables instead of clipped. It looks nice and clean. However, I think the front porch looks a little odd as a gable because it has to have such a shallow slope to clear the windows. I think the hip roof for the porch was probably chosen for this reason.

My house if it had all gable roofs

Hip Roofs
Here a version of my house with all hip roofs. There’s not too much difference on the main body of the house. However the roof over the garage has to be raised to still have a bonus roof above (unless a dormer is added, which I looked at below). Without the bonus room built into the roof, it appears as a bigger house because of the added wall space when the roof is raised.

My house if it had all hip roofs

Shed Roofs
I tried putting shed roofs all over my house, and it turned out very different! Shed roofs are typically used for small additions attached to the main house (like sheds, thus the name). It works for the front porch, but in order for the second story and bonus room to still be there, I ended up with a third story! Because shed roofs don’t come back down after reaching a peak in the middle, they cause quite a height difference between the two walls supporting them.

My house if it had all shed roofs

Flat Roofs
My house with all flat roofs was the most dramatic change of them all in my opinion. I don’t know if I like it on a traditional two story house. But it would be nice on a house that wasn’t very wide (like a row home). It would be cool to have a roof deck, though.

My house if it had all flat roofs

Earlier I mentioned dormers as a way to not raise the roof but still have enough space that can be built into the roof for a room. I made all hip roofs but kept the garage roof at the same height. At the end I added dormers with different roof shapes (gable, hip, shed).

My house if it had hip roofs and a gable dormer

My house if it had hip roofs and a hip dormer

My house if it had hip roofs and a shed dormer

Refreshing A Front Porch

There are two things that have always bothered me about the front of my house since I saw it for the first time when my husband and I were looking at homes to purchase.

First is the brown color of the shutters, front door, and railing. It is just too dark for me. I like more color, and my house has a lot of shade due to trees and a long, covered front porch so dark colors look even darker.

The other thing is the brick columns. They always seemed a bit skinny to me. I’m sure they are the right size to support the roof, but I think that masonry materials like brick need to show their stout nature so probably 4 to 8 inches wider would have been what I would have chosen if I had designed them.

Mapletree Existing Front Color
Model view of the front of my house as it was when I purchased it.

So to change out the colors, I started thinking about a bright color for the front door. Something similar to a leaf green would liven up things but not be too overwhelming just on the door. I also think getting a new door with frosted glass would be nice as well. For the shutters, a muted blue would complement the door color.

As for the columns, there is probably a lot of things I could do to change up the look for the front porch. It would be nice to have the porch another foot or two deeper so there is more room for chairs. But I want to keep it simple since I don’t really see too much need to spend a lot of money redoing it. I’m planning on wrapping the brick columns with 1 inch thick white boards to create columns.

We have had some issues with insects eating the wood railing so it would be nice to replace it with a non-wood material, but I would at least like to paint it white as well to match the columns. I would also paint all the wood trim on our house white to match. We eventually need to replace our windows so those becoming white too in the future would make the front of our house not so dreary.

Mapletree Front Porch Reno
Design for my front porch refresh.




How To Make Your Living Area More Open Without Knocking Down A Wall

Though open concept living spaces are very popular today, most older homes were not laid out this way. I recently bought a house built in 1989. There was a solid wall with only a 3 foot wide opening between the kitchen and living room (see below).



My first reaction was that the wall needed to go. However, the previous owner had just put in new flooring through out the house, and in order to fix the floor when the wall and adjacent cabinet were removed I would have probably ended up replacing the entire floor. That seemed like a waste of perfectly good flooring and was not in the budget for the time being.

In order to still connect the spaces and not extend my scope too far, I created a pass thru in the walls between the rooms. I had to remove the upper cabinets around the built-in desk, which helped to make it feel more open. I did have to reduce the size of the opening from my original plan because as luck would have it, I ran into a main waste line running inside that wall. Relocating plumbing was not in the budget either. However, I do still like the proportions of the opening. See below for an in progress shot.


I based the opening size on the existing studs to minimize the framing needed. A 2×4 was added on top and bottom, then drywall and trim were put up. Finally I painted the wall an accent color of red (the adjacent walls are gray). See below for the final look. Now I can have a conversation with someone in the living room while I am in the kitchen!