Bathroom Renovation: Architects vs. Interior Designers vs. Builders vs. Design Build – Who Should I Hire?
You’re renovating your bathroom in Chicago and you’re wondering do I need an interior designer, an architect, a design/build firm or just a good builder to guide me through the process. It’s the first question to ask when doing any renovation and the answer is not one size fits all. Much depends on your budget, the size and complexity of your renovation, and the choice professionals available to you that you might hire.
Let’s start with your budget. If you’re looking to spend 5 to 12 thousand on a small bathroom in Chicago, then finding a good builder is the likely choice. At this level, there’s not enough in the budget to hire a dedicated design pro. But that doesn’t mean your bathroom has to be blah. There are still ways to bring professional design help in to guide you.
The first step is to have your builder pay a visit to your home and give you a labor only price. He should also let you know the materials you need such as the amount of tile for floors and walls, the size of the vanity, the fixtures you will need and the like. With your list in hand, you can head to your local supply store and pick up finish materials.
At many stores, there will be designers to help you through their stock and make selections that work together. At the Tile Shop in Chicago, interior designers on staff assist the sales force to help you pull your selections together. They even have entire bathrooms set up in their showroom, so if you like what you see, you can just order it to fit your space.
When you have a little more to spend, a design-build firm can be a good choice. Design-build firms are often more competitive than starting with architects or interior designers. Since they have a hand in building, they often know pricing better than interior designers and architects. They’re also often focused on delivering a product at a competitive price.
To do this, they’ll often have a designer on staff to help you make selections but from a limited array of choices. This makes the process speedy and less expensive and because there are few choices, which are very familiar to firm, their cost controlling can be very good.
The results can be excellent but will be less unique or tailored to your needs than if done by an interior designer or architect. Having both design and construction under one roof often means things will run smoothly and more predictably from start to finish.
If your budget is above 18K for a small bathroom in Chicago, then architects and interior designers provide more wide-ranging design options.
In general, I have found interior designers are superior when walls do not have to move. In my experience, it’s the rare architect who cares deeply about finishes such as fixtures and tile. These are the interior designer’s domains.
Architects, however, understand what’s behind the walls better than most designers, so when it comes to moving walls and relocating fixtures, they have an advantage. The larger and more complicated the project the more this advantage makes a difference. For smaller projects, a designer with good support from an able contractor can manage moving fixtures around in a room or relocating a wall to capture more space in the bathroom.
I think architects are the superior choice when entire portions of a house have to be reorganized. In other words, when 3 bedrooms and a bathroom have to become 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms. A designer can sometimes handle it but they will need a lot of support. If permits are required an architect will be needed to draw up the plans.
Regarding the need for permits for a bathroom in Chicago: All significant construction work in Chicago requires a permit. If fixtures and finishes are exchanged then a “repair and replace permit” which does not require an architect’s plans is sufficient. If fixtures need to move, then a “full” permit is needed. This permit requires architectural plans and mechanical inspections by the City that can add thousands of dollars in cost to a project and weeks of delay.
These are the laws, which if you know Chicago are quite arduously and meticulously followed by all its citizens and government officials.
Another advantage designers often have over architects is their design programs. Architects often design in a version of CAD, which doesn’t render well in 3 D. It’s a great program to build from as it is very precise and builders are trained to read plans. Clients however can have a hard time visualizing the finished product from the line drawings.
Kitchen project shown in CAD
Our preferred program is 3D Google sketch-up that creates images that help the client’s easily visualize the final product from different perspectives. This creates the opportunity for clients to thoughtfully critique the design and more precisely see the impact of changes. The program also allows furnishings to be added to see how the space will look when finished. 2020 is another designer program that provides equivalent rendering capability.