When the Architect Crushes All of Your Dreams Like a Dirty Dancing Elephant

1:06 PM Katy 14 Comments

I wish I could summon some hope about this. Honestly I am so shocked that my knees were knocking after I saw the floor plans/elevations. Yes, it's fabulous. Yes, it's creative and impressive how he got all that square footage out of my teensy-tiny lot.

It also looks like it will cost $100,000 for dry-in. Since I was shooting for $35,000 for dry-in, this pretty effectively squashed all of my plans to start building in January. It sets me back years.

The problem is that I don't know how to tell him that I can't do any of this. I can't afford those garage doors. I can't afford the roof. It's way too complicated. The foundation just got more expensive. Now there are french doors & closets & no room for the antique sink I told him I want to use. There's an HVAC forced air system I didn't want. (I wanted a mini-split.)

Basically everything is shot to hell and I feel like I need to go back to the beginning and start over. Do architects always do this sort of thing? Blow your budget to kingdom come and back, while simultaneously making you passionately covet a house you can never have?

I am crying today.

You Might Also Like


  1. Wow, tell him no way! Don't let him intimidate you. I am fuming that he drew something totally off from what you said you wanted. Is the architect in any way connected to the builder you plan on using? Maybe he always scales things UP in hopes that people will agree, but really knowing they will scale it down in the end. Sending up prayers for you!

  2. Of course they do. Do NOT go for his vision you go for yours. If you want SIMPLE and mini-split then do that. You want an antique sink then put it in there. This is your build, your baby. Which makes me ask, why are you using an architect anyway? Josh's mom could have helped you out! Anyway, bigger and more luxurious is not better. Go for the simplistic and cozy beach cottage you wanted. It will fit the area better anyway. Can you imagine if you placed his version there?

  3. Well, I don't want to step on any toes, but check out your agreement with the architect. If what he designed doesn't fit within the budget you gave him, he is likely obligated to redesign. (redesign within the fee you already paid... but again this is conditional on the agreement you signed.) Residential architecture is a tricky thing - you have to interpret and balance the requests of your client with codes, standards, etc. Sometimes things get lost in translation. But I can totally understand how frustrating it is to feel like someone hasn't really listened to you. I promise not all architects get those results... sigh.

  4. Seriously, make the dude give you what you asked for, not what he felt like drawing. We toyed with the thought of a teardown/rebuild on this lot and had a fab house designed for our existing foundation and the architect didn't even get the number of bedrooms right. Frustrating. Thank goodness we didn't do it.

  5. Whenever I'm in a brainstorming session, the mediator says to think of crazy ideas because its easier to tone down a crazy pie-in-the-sky idea than to jazz up an ordinary one. So, can that principal be applied here?

  6. Well I now have the input of my parents -- they think I should just put off building until I can afford what the architect drew. Which means by the time it's finished, my kids will be in their 20's.

    I exaggerate slightly. But I was thinking: what's the point of doing something like this, when I could be spending the money right now (a little bit each year) taking my kids to the beach ? Instead of never going anywhere while they are young, because I'm hoarding cash like a squirrel?

    I'm kinda feeling confused right now.

  7. It also just occurred to me that I flip out too easily and fall into despair over things. Surely there is a medication I could take for that??

  8. I hear margaritas are a type of medication... :)

  9. Katy - I hear you!
    Here is the thing: when you are used to doing everything yourself and creating everything you need and want out of bubble gum, band-aids, wood pallets and spare parts, it is very hard to adjust one's thinking to building the house you deserve, the (so called) 'right way.'

    For what it is worth, I recommend:
    1. Find out what temporary structure (tent, camper, trailer, etc...) would be acceptable to have on the land now. Get one cheap, to use now while you save up money. The kids are young enough now, that anything will be a fun adventure and when they are older they will appreciate what you build all the more.

    2. Go through the plans and think about what you want and need, rather than just what you think you can afford. For me looking at your post, and reading your blog:
    *Garage doors - Katy can probably find/make something just a nice or better, but the choice of doors can wait/doesn't have to impact building.
    *HVAC - do local codes require it for new buildings? Isn't mini-split usually for retrofits?
    * Foundation & roof - it is OK to ask the architect to rework the plans in order to keep the structure within your budget.

    3. Talk to your architect about how you see the house and your budget. It is your house in the end. But be open to letting him/her give you the house you deserve, not just the one you know you can build on your own.

    4. Keep saving your money for the beach house. It will all come together sooner than you think.

    I have friends (3 couples) that bought a shack near a lake about 10 years ago. Two of the couples were happy fixing up the shack, the 3rd pushed the group to tear it down and build a house. Needless to say people were resistant, but the one couple could see that they were going to out grow the shack and persevered in convincing the others to reluctantly build something they did not think they afford.

    This week there are 9 adults and 6 kids (12 years-4 weeks old) staying there. It is beautiful and can accommodate that many people comfortably. They use the house year round and one family lived there for 6 months when there was a problem with their house. None of that would have been possible with the shack and somehow the money worked itself out for everyone.

    Your dream house will be built, you'll find the money to do it. Hang in there.

  10. Thanks DEO. That makes sense - the part that's really hard is accepting that things aren't going to happen as soon as I'd like.

    Oh - and I never built anything out of bubble gum! lol

  11. Here you go. Think about what you really want in your lovely beach cottage. Do you truly need a garage now? Nope! Do you need a foundation? Yes. Pour the foundation of your dreams. Wire and plumb for your dream house. Do you need a kitchen and bathroom? Yes. The kitchen can have a working sink (the antique sink!) and a mini-fridge for now. Go simple on the bathroom. You can sleep on air mattresses, or make/purchase some cozy cushions that can be used for sitting, too. Use the Lego concept. Start with the basics and as you accumulate some cash, add on. The journey can be the best part of a destination. Living simply rocks. When the kids are in there 20's, you will have one fabulous beach cottage, but on the way you and the kids will have more fun that you can shake a stick at. Keep it real. Keep it simple. Have fun. Love ya!

  12. I don't think there's anything wrong with you pulling back on the reins, it sounds like the guy was happy in his work. There are some things to consider, lots of them were listed off by DEO but specific things that you wanted, like the sink, shouldn't have been ignored. Go back, tell him it's beautiful but it's not what you want. If he's smart and good he'll listen to you.

  13. Katy,

    No need to flip out here. It's not like you're under a time crunch and have to start pouring the foundation tomorrow. Give it some time and let it sink in. Compile some questions for the architect. Where can costs be cut? Does the roof need to be so complex? Why did he select forced air? Which would be better long term. etc. etc.

    Chill baby, chill. :-)

    P.S. Go with the french doors.

  14. I haven't read back enough to find out what the genesis of this house building story is, but just based on this post alone and your comment above, I'm going to say build what you HAVE to have, and stay in your budget... you don't want to spend the next ten years scraping by and not being able to have good times with your kids... what will they remember with fondness when they ARE in their 20s? That pricey glass tile backsplash, or the trip they took when they laid on the beach watching a meteor shower??


Welcome to my three ring circus. thanks for stopping by!