Thursday, April 5, 2012

Hiring an Architect

Q: Help! My landlord requires an architect for my move to a shopping center. It is basically a vanilla box now. He has given me a list of names to choose from but I have no idea what I am doing. Any thoughts?

A: If your landlord requires an architect, then there is nothing you can do. My landlord provided me one that in the end, I felt was a waste of time. I remember many meetings when I could tell he just didn't get my vision and at one point he said sarcastically, "So basically you want it to look like an Italian restaurant". I almost slapped him.

Let me get to the heart of this: A landlord may want an architect for many reasons:
1. To actually see something in black and white and approve your design.
2. To have technical blueprints for the contractor so work goes smoothly and professionally.
3. To make sure the interior build out stays on budget, is not a hodge podge of crazy ideas and amateur rigging so it is usable for the next tenant.

After going through all the above procedures here is what I learned in the end: I did not need an architect because I knew exactly what I wanted. My space was a former GAP so everything was simply cosmetic to transform it into an older, time worn interior. It was a big open room- how hard could it be? I am good at pre-visualizing so I knew what it would look like when it was finished. I wasn't one of those gals that had to see paint swatches or wood samples and sleep on it to make a decision. I had done a plan on my computer (although amateur) to show the scale, the check-out counter, the storage, all the electrical outlets, the overhead lighting, the toilets, the phone jacks, the computer, the plumbing, the kitchen, the storage- everything. In my head it was done. I just needed to explain it all to others. But with any work that needs a permit from the city, you do need blueprints if the build-out is over so many thousands of dollars. I hired all the painting, distressing, wallpaper, computer, security, utility & music people myself. That was not up to my landlord. I also went out and picked out the entry flooring, the ceiling tiles, the ceiling fixtures, the front doors and hardware, the toilet and sink and faucets, the kitchen cabinet and sinks. I had to have all that ready for them when they needed it. Some of that I paid for, some of it they did.

I became good friends with the general contractor hired by my landlord to redo my space as well as his foreman and all the workmen. I was here every morning checking in to answer their questions and make sure they were on the right page, went to my old shop and worked during the day, then came back every night to see what they had accomplished. The foreman and I would sigh many times over the blueprints because the architect did not follow a lot of my plans and jazzed things up too much and made things more difficult for the crew.

So the #1 thing I learned. START WITH THE JOB FOREMAN! Find out from your landlord who will be working on your space and ask HIM about architects because he and his crew are who have to deal with the plans, work from them and make sense from them. This is a HUGE lesson. Some general contractors meet with the landlords but it is really the job foreman who has to read the blueprints, deal with getting the job done, manage the carpenters, the painters, the plumbing and electrical, doing things in order, hiring and finding the supplies and be in constant contact with you. Make sure you like this guy. They have their favorite architects, believe me. At one point the foreman said he could have done my blueprints as he had that skill. If only I knew that before hand, how much smoother it would have gone. All in all it turned out 99% exactly as I wanted. A year later the architect brought a camera crew in to shoot my store for his portfolio. I had to keep my lip zipped as none of it was his idea, he simply drew up the plans which were overworked. Hope this helps. -Deb

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