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Who to hire first... Architect, Designer or Contractor?

One of the most common questions I hear from perspective clients when contemplating a remodel project is "Who should I hire first? An architect, interior designer or contractor?"

My answer is it depends on your project and the scope of work. There are a few different schools of thought on this, but here is my best advice.

Contractor First

Many people start by calling on a contractor to bounce ideas off of with the goal of nailing down some initial cost estimates. This is not a bad strategy for a general idea but know that it is exactly that... a very general idea. It's kind of like pricing a new car without knowing what model and features will go in it. This approach works well for more basic remodel jobs where the main footprint stays the same and materials are simply replaced. As the homeowner you can choose to make your own design and material selections based on your contractors schedule if you have the time and confidence.

Designer First

If you are considering changing the layout of a room and possibly moving non-loadbearing walls, I recommend contacting an interior designer first. An interior designer can help you think through a new space and draw interior floorplans with 2D and even 3D renderings. A good designer will see the potential and maximize your home for optimum function. Having drawings is so helpful to visualize exactly what your new space could look like and is a welcome guide for your contractor. From this point you can takeover and make all of your own design selections or hire your designer to make professional material recommendations. The advantage of hiring an interior designer early in the game before bringing on a contractor are three fold. First it creates more time to nail down the specifics of your project without being on a tight construction deadline, secondly it allows you to gather extremely accurate pricing for contractors you are interviewing and thirdly it allows you to relax during your project.

Architect First

Last but not least, the time to start with an architect for your project is when it includes moving significant interior load bearing walls or adding an addition to your home. An architect has the structural and engineering training to meet safety and code regulations. It's obvious that you need to work with an architect before hiring a contractor but sometimes confusing when it comes to deciding who to contact first between an architect and an interior designer. If you start with a designer they will tell you if an architect needs to be brought on board.

So what if you need all three professionals for your project? How much do all of these professionals typically charge? Here's a good estimate:

  • Architect Fees $75 - $200 per hour or 10-20% of project budget

  • Interior Designer $75 - $200 per hour or 10 - 20% of project budget

  • Contractor 10 - 20% cost plus basis generally

I hope this helps some of you determine who to hire first for your upcoming remodel projects because there a lot of them taking place!

If you are thinking of remodeling your kitchen, check out my 10 Step Kitchen Design Program where I teach you everything you need to know to pull off a beautiful and successful project without regret! Get it right the first time.


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