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Design Rx for Your Home Remodel: An Interview with John Lum of John Lum Architecture

By John Lum

Please tell us a little bit about your company and the services you offer.

John Lum Architecture was established in 1993 and is known for contemporary livable residential projects (new and remodels) and high-image commercial interiors. Our company has grown from just myself and an assistant to a staff of 14 people.

How common is it to for homeowners to hire an architect for a remodeling project? What are the benefits of this compared with some of the other options?

It is quite common, especially given how complex the planning process can be for most Bay Area communities. Also, one cannot rely on a contractor to make design decisions as they are not educated in this field. Knowing the permitting process, coordinating the structural engineer and other consultants, and also representing the client during construction are important roles of the architect.

What are some important questions to ask an architect before beginning the design process?

One of the primary benefits of hiring an architect is their knowledge of planning and permitting. Clients should ask about their experience in working in the locale that you are considering remodeling/building. Having an architect that knows the ins and outs of the permitting process and can efficiently move the project along can save clients money. It's important to check references to understand how the architect performed.

How do you suggest that people approach the remodeling process so they'll end up with a home they love?

Collect images of projects that they respond to and communicate what they like about them. Is it the color pallette, the flow of the space, the texture of the finishes etc? Communicate clearly with the architect, as in being as specific as possible. Recognize that design is a process that is not linear, but is iterative. Be open to all ideas. Understand that there are many people working to make the project happen on time and on budget. It's really important to make timely decisions or delays can occur, and that ultimately impacts the budget. Also for a remodel, there can be unexpected and unseen conditions that don't become apparent until demolition. It's important to anticipate that they may occur.

What are some of the biggest issues that architects and homeowners face when it comes to remodeling a house?

Realistic budgets and time schedules regarding the planning process. Similar to real estate prices, costs have escalated substantially in the Bay Area. Making decisions quickly and being emotionally prepared for unexpected field and market conditions that may impact the budget can help alleviate some of this. Making changes after critical design and construction timelines will impact the budget significantly.

What advice do you have for homeowners to help make sure their remodel goes as smoothly as possible?

Trust in your professionals' abilities to get the project done. A remodel can be a lengthy process and we understand that it's your home. We take that very seriously, and it's important that mutual trust and respect be established. We're going to be honest and forthright from the beginning and we appreciate the same. It's important that you recognize your decision process/style and be able to articulate that to the architect so that we can be attuned to your needs.

What's the best way for people to contact your company?

Via email or phone 415.558.9550. In our initial discussion, we'd like to know what the client's desire is for their home, what do they need in terms of additional space/upgrade to existing space, their desired budget and timeline.

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