How to work with an architect

Paula and Jeff Reardon are no fools. When they decided to perform a gut renovation of the 1250 square foot Tribeca loft that they had called home for 20 years, they immediately understood that they needed an architect.

Luckily for them and the other daring New Yorkers who possess both the design vision and the budget to transform their living spaces, there is no shortage of capable architects in New York City.

Here’s how to do it right.

Start with research. Now’s not the time to settle for your sister’s friend’s cousin. “Treat your search for an architect like you would your search for a doctor,” says Bolster COO and Co-Founder Anna Karp. “This will be a long-term, cost-intensive process. So do due diligence on each architect’s aesthetic and learn all you can about the projects they’ve done in the past.”

Bolster has pioneered the smart-renovation category. Through the use of sophisticated data, they’re able to identify, measure, and quantify the performance risk on every project. The process allows Bolster to absorb 100% of that risk so that homeowners looking to renovate can indulge in the design process rather than get bogged down in the back-end particulars.

After the Reardons engaged Bolster to partner in their renovation, Anna recommended Bolster architect Jessica Wetters and her clean, contemporary aesthetic. The Reardons studied Jessica’s work and were quickly taken by her clean lines and modern sensibility.

The next step was to meet her.

A signature part of Bolster’s process centers around the initial site visit and the sketch phase when the homeowner and architect spend a good 6-10 hours together. It’s a design aesthetic boot camp. “This is a good chemistry check,” Anna says. “You want to be sure the architect listens to you and will be able to channel the vision you have for your home.”

As the Reardons and Jessica traded ideas, they came to understand and trust each other. The sketch phase led to new collaborative designs that ultimately made their way into the finished kitchen and study.

However, before this back-and-forth can even take place, it’s crucial that your architect treats your budget seriously and understands how it impacts your lifestyle and aesthetic goals. Do you have kids? Do you work from home? Is your vinyl collection a prized possession?

Anna adds, “Jessica was able to completely channel the Reardons’ design vision and how it related to their lifestyle needs. They love entertaining and cooking. So Jessica worked within the budget and property constraints to turn their apartment into their re-imagined dream home.”

A good New York City architect possesses skills about which homeowners may not even be aware. That’s why it’s so helpful to understand where the architect’s services begin and end.

Because even high-end Manhattan apartments can have tight floor plans, picking the right furnishings takes on a greater role, both in terms of design and practicality. Anna says that homeowners should consider a budget that can accommodate an architect’s input on everything from the “furnishing down to the coffee machines.“

But perhaps the most important of the architect’s myriad jobs is the one that elicits the fewest number of oohs and aahs. This is the ability to navigate the byzantine matrix of permits, meetings and walk-throughs dictated by the municipal board, the landmark board and of course that most recalcitrant of New York institutions – the Co-Op board.

“The code in New York City is more complex than anywhere in the country,” says Jessica, who has designed buildings throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn, “Even to gut renovate an apartment, you’ll need a licensed architect to stamp your drawings and submit sophisticated drawings for approvals. It isn’t just paint and finish and new floors, it gets into all the other aspects of architecture. That’s why an architect is required.”

Jessica says that patience might be the most important thing about working with an architect, even in the “now, now, now” capital of the world. “Most people do their homework and understand that it’s a complex process. But it’s still a surprise for a lot of homeowners. Like everything else in New York City, renovations are more complicated.”

Anna adds, “That’s the beauty of the Bolster process. From the architect’s first sketch to the last little bit of polish on the fixtures, all of these moving parts are accounted for in order to deliver a quality finish, on time and on budget.”

About Us

Bolster is a data-driven team of experts on a mission to eliminate risk from major home renovations by being radically transparent across everything we do. We hire the industry’s best talent and use a continual improvement process to financially guarantee that your major home renovation is designed and built beautifully, on-time and on-budget. From the first sketch to the final handshake, our homeowners know the cost of every line item and have full visibility into project milestones.