7 Tips on ‘How to write a clear brief for your Architect’

By Rachel Moore, Architect, Archaus Architecture + Interior Design

Embarking on a home renovation or extension can be daunting. Especially when you don’t know where to begin or how to articulate your needs. Your brief is as important to the success of your project as your choice of architect and builder. Clients who bring a concise and considered brief to the initial consultation will always see a more fitting design presented to them by their architect. However, it can be difficult to nail down your requirements, especially if you are not exposed to “design language” in your day-to-day life.

As an architect working in residential and commercial projects for over 15 years, here are my tips on how to formulate a clear and effective brief and how to start thinking about the beginning of your project in a different way.

What are your priorities?

For some, a brief would look like a “wish list” where all their requirements are itemised and that is where they stop. I would urge you to think a little deeper about that list. How essential is each item to you and to the enjoyment of your daily life? Which of these are less important? Start to rank them. The process of doing this will lead to revealing conversations that should refine your requirements before you speak to an architect. It will also help to identify what type of architect or designer will be most suitable to your project. Include everyone who lives in the house in the conversation, even the kids. They might have a different perspective on things and its good to give them a stake in the project, as it helps them to understand what is coming down the line. 

Where is your comfort zone?

You might love to undertake a full home refurbishment and extension, but when you drill down into the process, you could realise that you don’t have the capacity (mental, time or budget) for a large project. But you might have scope for a smaller intervention or for interior redecoration. It is worth thinking about this now, before you engage a design team or make any commitments. This can save you money and stress. 

Or you might be looking to your architect to take you outside of your comfort zone, relying on their expertise and experience to lead you through the process and to a design that you might never have dreamed of. 

What is the feeling you would like to create?

A lot of people focus on adding additional space and believe that this will solve all of their problems. Often, however, you can be just as happy with less space as long as it “feels” right. For instance, the dining room that you never use because is too dark, could be perfect for a snug or TV area. In this case the darkness can be embraced to create a sense of cosiness. It’s about reimagining existing spaces and not getting hung up on their current use.

Educate yourself on the process!

Before setting out on a construction project, do some online research into the various processes involved. Such as: 

  • What is involved in hiring the right architect? What are the distinct types of architects?
  • What are the stages of a construction project and what fees are associated with each stage?
  • What other consultants are required for a project like yours?
  • What is the timeline for a planning application?
  • How does the tender or procurement process work?
  • What is expected of you as the client? 

You don’t have to be an expert by the end of your research, but you will be more knowledgeable, and you will be familiar with commonly used terms, so that you can ask more informed questions of your design team (and better understand their answers)! There are a lot of quality resources online, such as the RIAI website, a variety of great books and architect’ blogs for answers to some of these topics. Just make sure you are looking at Irish sources, as the processes are different in each country and information is not always transferrable.

Figure out WHY you like something!

The online world is filled with beautifully edited images of well-designed interiors and impressive exteriors. We absorb a lot of information from an image unconsciously, deciding in a split second whether we like it or not. Most people don’t pause to ask themselves WHY they like or dislike something. If you can, practice homing in on the part of the image that you like – it could be the style of windows, the open plan space, the colour of the kitchen units, the black taps at the bathroom sink or it could be the overall ambiance of the image – calm, bright, filled with light, colourful, warm/ cosy. You might already know why you are drawn to an image but being able to articulate what has caught your eye will give your architect/ designer a more concise steer towards your final goal.

Think about the details!

Details can make all the difference, but for some clients they can become an afterthought and a decision made under pressure while standing on site. Your architect will of course draw your attention to these in good time, but it is worth taking some time at the beginning of the process to think about the smaller details, such as the doors and door handles, the direction in which you would like a door to open, how many plug sockets are needed in your office, whether you like curtains or blinds. If your architect knows your preferences for details like this, they can be designed in at the beginning to give a more cohesive finished product. 

Make your budget work hard!

Think about which element of the design is going to have the most impact on you and spend your money on that. For instance, if your main goal of the renovation is to bring more light into your space, then the large rooflight is worth investing in. You could look at moving your budget from another area to achieve this – e.g. sourcing a less expensive bathroom tile or going with a laminate floor rather than a solid wood. If your budget is limited, explore alternative ways of creating more space. Sometimes your money is better used on excellent storage and quality finishes, rather than a substandard or unfinished extension.

If you would like help formulating your brief, I offer a 2-hour consultation, where I help clients go through these steps and write a brief based on our conversation. This brief can be emailed to prospective architects or designers to give them a full understanding of your requirements right from the start. Visit www.archaus.ie/2-hour-consultation to find out more.

On arrival to the Show, book your free 15 minute advice consultation with Rachel Moore at the PhoneWatch ‘Ask an Expert Hub’  close to the front entrance for either Friday 2pm-5pm, or Saturday, or Sunday 10am-1pm at the permanent tsb Ideal Home Show, 21st to 23rd April, RDS.

Rachel Moore is an RIAI Registered Architect and is the Director of Archaus Architecture + Interior Design based in Dublin.

Rachel has over 15 years’ experience in all stages of domestic, residential, commercial and fit-out projects. Her expertise lies in the early project stages from understanding the clients’ requirements, converting the clients brief into a compelling and functional design to delivering planning grants for a variety of different application types. She has a passion for interior design and a particular interest in problem solving and finding the right design solutions for her clients.

“I believe that great design can transform your space and how you live within it.”

About Archaus

Archaus was established to specialise in the design and planning stages of your project. By combining architecture and interior design, Archaus provides holistic advice to create functional and grounded spaces that respect the original style of your home. 

The aim is to offer a unique solution to your project through a highly personal, budget friendly and flexible design service. Archaus offers a variety of design packages depending on whether you would like to reconfigure, extend or renovate your home or space. Packages also include Planning Application packs and 2-hour consultations where you can draw on Rachel’s years of experience in both architecture and interior design to guide and advise you on starting or progressing your project with confidence.

Contact Details:

Website: www.archaus.ie

Phone Number: 086 1534189

Instagram: www.instagram.com/archaus.ie

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