Your Architect will cringe if you do these 5 things

by Sean Payne - Architect

As an architect I can assure you every project is different in some way whether it be what you see from the beginning or what you dig up along the way. This being said, there are a number of questionable decisions and approaches I see renovators make time and time again which leads to similar problems later down the line.

In this top 5, I will break down the 5 things that will make me cringe and probably make you cry if you decide to do them. I will also include how you can avoid these problems so that you are equipped with the best knowledge ahead of time.

Disclaimer - nobody’s perfect & taste is subjective

While some of these items may poke fun at projects and renovators. It is important to note this is intended as an educational exercise and not to discredit anyone’s efforts with their projects.

Everybody here is doing their best when it comes to their project and designing according to their own tastes and wants.

1 - No preparation, no homework

Many clients will come to me with the intention of managing and even self-building their own project which is a fantastic idea if you have experience or have done your homework and planned accordingly!

The minority in this category will often ask for the bare minimum they think they require before jumping straight into the build and then jumping straight back onto the phone with me. Normally with a discussion which requires me to carry out far more work than originally required!

Avoid the cringe by:

  • Using the professionals on your job - It may feel tempting to try to control everything but management on a construction project is often a shared effort.

  • Research and Prepare - Resources are plentiful, particularly here at Fifi Mcgee.

  • Seek Advice - Many professionals (including myself) are happy to chat over your project, give advice and even relevant design material to help you for no cost at all.

2 - No consistency in design

design consistency

When shopping for items and ideas for your project, it can be tempting to want to include everything you like without considering each item within each room. it can make for an uncomfortable feeling when visiting friends and family, only to be metaphorically slapped around the face but a chaotic and busy interior!

Avoid the cringe by:

  • Create a Material Palette - With around 3-4 materials.

  • Make a Mood Board - Try to identify 3-4 consistent themes throughout your mood board.

  • Less is More - Remember you can add more to your project over time, leave space so that you have the option to add anything you see and like later.

3 - Trying to be too cheap and too fast

Everybody wants their dream project on time and under-budget, however there are those that would push this a little too far.

Normally this causes problems meaning over-time and over-budget later down the line. The worst possible case of this is a serious problem when the building is in-use!

Avoid the cringe by:

  • Have as much confirmed as possible before starting on site - This may mean more time, but it pays its weight back in gold later on.

  • Accept certain items cost money - Structure is expensive, certain glazing and door systems are expensive. There is no use in trying to go cheap on items which may result on more serious loss than money!

4 - Too much budget on fixtures nobody sees


This will normally mean an unhealthy obsession with one or more expensive brands which when spread across the project. They become a huge expense which greatly limits the potential of the project as a whole:

Avoid the cringe by:

  • Designing to a barebones approach first - Get your major building work done first, the walls, roofs, structural work. Review your budget for fixtures afterwards once the major moves have been completed on your project.

  • Cheap items can be replaced later - Its much easier to replace a fixture than to build the additional two rooms later down the line, its all about priorities in the short term!

5 - Tiny windows with more frame than glazing

Why did these ever exist? Window such as these not only increase cost and provide no light, they actually compromise the thermal efficiency of your project greatly, they are a net loss in all areas, stay away!

Avoid the cringe by

  • Buying a larger window or leaving it altogether - even if it means having solid walls, this is a much better decision.

  • Use a different system - If the windows can be frameless this may justify their use, however if you can go bigger, this would be encouraged!

When In Rome…

While it can be tempting to try to break the rules, make sure you understand the rules and avoid these mistakes first. Many of the biggest issues that arrive on a project are a result of underestimating the try and tested formulas.