Architect for Drawings Only

Parent Q&A

Select any title to view the full question and replies.

  • Hi BPN,

    My husband and I want to make some updates to our home but we need someone to come in and give us some ideas on what is possible. I’m very clear on our overall  aesthetic but I can’t visualize a new layout. We have a strange living/dining area (overcrowded and the space isn’t maximized), two front doors, a wrap around deck we don’t use due to awkward access, plus we need to carve out an extra room in our home either through a connecting ADU or by adding a wall to our family room. What I think we need are architectural renderings, computer generated would be fine, that show us our options. If I see it visually I would be able to make a decision but I’m not clear enough to go all in with architectural drawings when we aren’t even sure what we want/what would work. It seems like there should be a simple, not too expensive way to do this but we aren’t sure where to look for this service.  Do we need an architect?  Is there another professional that offers this? Does anyone have a recommendation for someone who could do these types of drawings or computer renderings? How have others managed their design confusion? I will be very decisive once I see our options but right now I’m just confused on how to proceed. Any suggestions/feedback is welcome. Thanks!

    I've never had much luck with architects. On our last remodel, after spending $75K for elaborate architectural drawings, we scrapped it all and let our home designer take over.  She did drawings for us at a fraction of the price and was much more creative in her ideas of how to handle some tricky spaces.  I highly recommend her-- Sherry-Hope Kennedy/ Studio SHK (  She worked hand-in-hand with my contractor, Ben Radutiu, Euro American Construction (he also builds custom furniture on the side). Between Ben and Sherry, we made lots of big and small changes, sometimes on the fly and other times with drawings.  They transformed our entire house, top to bottom, every single room.  They worked beautifully together and with us. We loved them and highly recommend them.

    I can recommend Zac Rymland, who did the architectural drawings for our current remodeling project. He specializes in ADUs but does all sorts of projects locally. He can do 3D renderings, is an excellent communicator, and is pretty much ego-free, meaning he will make clear suggestions but also roll with your own ideas. (I think we did something like 18 versions of our current remodel before arriving at the final plan! He was professional and very patient with all our iterations.) He's a nice guy and more affordable than some of the other options we found. You can see some of his ADU work here:  And here's his website: 

    Also, if you don't yet have a current floor plan and need someone to do the "as-built" measurements (this is the first step in any remodel), we used a company called PPM, which was more affordable than other options we found:

    Take care and best of luck,


    Hi there!  I would suggest finding a draftsperson.  It is a cheaper alternative to hiring an architect. Good luck!


    Are you thinking of permitting the work with the city? Would you need foundation or structural work of any kind? If yes, you will need drawings and possibly the help of an architect or structural engineer (or both). If the work doesn't involve any structural work or foundation work you might be okay with the help of an interior designer that can also provide the renderings and help you visualize the space with finishes and furnishings. You can start by hiring a designer that can help with this initial part and if you decide to move forward with the work then get the other professionals involved that can provide plans for permitting and construction.  

    Hope this is helpful! 

    Hi. We just had this done with Gehl Design Build ( Michael charges $8500 for unlimited deigns and renderings. We preferred this to other architects who charge by the hour because the flat fee allows you to explore every idea and possibility and price point without limiting yourself because of the hourly cost. In total we ended up with 8 schemes. He has decades of experience in the Bay Area, particularly East Bay. He is very knowledgable about what adds value to the house and what’s a good use of resources, etc. We have been very satisfied. He can also apply for permits and gobe you a bid for the work if you want to take it forward with him. Otherwise you can take the plans to other contractors. 

    Hi there,

    Are you able to read floor plans? Or do you need to see the spaces as photo-like/"perspective" images? It would take more effort to create 3D renderings if you feel you need to see photorealistic visualizations. Amount of effort to model of course depends on the nature of the space, however there are some easy to use DIY modeling tools (I think some free ones) you can find online. Feel free to reach out directly if you'd like to discuss further.

  • Hi,

    We want to convert our patio into a greenhouse and had already put the frame in when we got a violation notice from the city.  Now we need to find someone to draw a plan that we can submit to the city for a permit.  It's an extremely simple job...all the architecture firms we could find online seemed like overkill for this, with their portfolio of sleek modern homes.  Can anyone recommend someone who would be willing to do a small drawing job like this?

    You may not need an architect; we worked with designers for our project who use the CAD software to create designs, submit plans to the city for permitting, and help navigate that process.  Our designers were Dan and Charlotte at Hanomoco Design in Berkeley.  They may be willing to take on a smaller project.

    Hi. I would recommend Annette Diniz as your architect. She is great to work with and cost effective compared to other architects/firms. Here email address is dinizannette [at] Good luck!


    You might connect with the people at Drafting Cafe ( and 510-251-2511 in Oakland as they might be able to assist you. It is a small firm which deals only in residential design and can help you with drawings and the permit process if you wish.

    We worked with Christine Choi for our kitchen and bathroom remodels, she gave us the drawings and might be able to help with your project, she can be reached at christine [at] or 215-410-8537

  • Hi. My wife and I would like to renovate our living room (includes a bathroom) along with our laundry area. The renovation would include removing a wall between the living room and dining room, possibly converting a closet into a room/office space, and other items. If anyone can provide an idea of what it would cost to obtain as-built drawings, architectural designs (different renditions of how the final design will look), and finally a permit drawing to submit to the city. We reached out to one architect firm and they provided a proposal for $12K. Is this typical cost for architectural drawings or are they over charging for their services?

    Any help/guidance would be greatly appreciated. Thanks 

    That sounds typical, but also a lot! I talked to a few architects for a similar project and ended up going with Bay Area Design Consults and it was a bit less. I pretty much knew what I wanted and just needed the plans drawn and submitted to the city and the total came in at about 10k including the ~3k to the city for the permits. I’d recommend checking them out! 

    There's a variation of costs out there. As someone in the industry, it's important to shop around and make sure you understand what you need vs. what you are getting. It's wild how expensive it is. Wish you the best of luck.

    You might consider getting estimates from Design/build companies, rather than architects. They do the plans and permitting as part of the whole construction job and you would likely save a lot of money vs. getting these things separately, since you know what you want and it’s pretty straightforward.

    Hi, My husband is an architect in the Bay Area and I read your message to him. He thought that was in the ballpark. He said you might be able to find someone for a little less and there are probably a lot of places that would charge more. Hope that helps and best of luck with your renovation!

    After interviewing several local architects for a small house remodel project and found them too expensive we decided to hire Drafting Cafe Architects in Oakland. The staff who assisted us were knowledgeable, understanding and creative as well as taking our needs and ideas seriously. They offer an array of services including architectural and interior design. We had good success in using their drawings and are pleased with our newly remodeled home. Their number is: 510-251-2511.

    It was a few years ago that we started the process, but are doing a project larger than yours and it was about $9k I believe. Prices may have gone up (because hasn't everything?!). Our architect is great - check him out -

  • Architect plans only

    Oct 24, 2018

    I'm wondering if anyone can recommend an architect who charges by the hour to just draw up plans and deal with permitting process?  The couple I've talked to charge a percentage of the overall cost of the project, which includes supervising the construction.  But I'm a former contractor and will be buying most of the supplies at my reduced contractor rate, and my good friend who's still a general contractor will be doing the job, so I don't need someone to supervise the build.  I just need plans to submit to the city to get permits.  Any suggestions are appreciated.  Thanks.       

    You could ask Susanne Stadler, she was the architect for our backyard studio. Very talented, very nice. sstadler [at] stadlerarch.com ~Rebecca on Chestnut

    We have been working with Ann Maria Celona, who's based in Berkeley, and have been very happy with her work so far. She charges an hourly rate and bills monthly.

    Chez Santini did a great job for us doing exactly what you're looking for. He's not a licenced architect but his plans were easily approved by Berkeley, so he knows what he's doing:

    You could try my architect. I believe he would do that, no problem.

    Frederick at 510-390-2232

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Need architectural drawings for our house remodel

Dec 2008

Hello - we are thinking about doing some modification to our craftsman home and I've gotten a few recommendations for Dorrice Pyle from friends/co-workers who worked with her in past years. We wonder if anyone here can give me a recent recommendation for her? We were told she's creative and fun to work with and can help us imagine how it will all end up looking once we settle on our plan... thanks for your help... sm

Dorrice Pyle did the architectural drawings for our sunroom/addition. We have only just started construction, so can't speak from 'the other side' of a completed project. Dorrice was indeed fun and easy to work with, and has a long creative streak and a can-do attitude. Our budget was stressed from the start or we would have seen more, I'm sure! We are working with a design/build firm which was going through some restructuring, and as we began, we were not too clear on the roles and relationships of architect/designer/builder/engineers/sub-contractors, etc... to the firm. Dorrice helped us put the concept to paper and coordinated with structural and soils engineers who provided further details, specs and drawings. She also dogged the city for weeks and worked her way through several recent and major code modifications which necessitated a few plan revisions. Berkeley homeowner

Is this a fair price for drawings?

Nov 2006

Can anyone out there help with determining whether I've been taken for a ride by an architect? She charged me 74 hours (almost $6000) for the design phase and all she had to show for that is a few drawings. Is that normal? I hope someone with architectural knowledge can help me. Also if you have a good architect, please recommend. We will definitely terminate with this present one. Just trying to figure out how to proceed and what to do next. Thanks in advance for any help anyone can offer

Paying $80+ an hour for a licensed, experienced architect is a good deal. I think what it sounds like she failed to do was warn you about how much time it takes to do the work that architects do and give you a sense of the magnitude of the cost you were taking on. Good design is not free or cheap and good design can occur on ''a couple of drawings.'' It sounds like she prepared schematic elevations and perhaps as floor plan. If so she had to spend time meeting with you to figure out what you wanted, perhaps measuring your house?, establishing a base, sketching through a couple of ideas and then finalizing her schematic designs to give to you. That should cost $6000. Architects are highly trained professionals and should be valued.

It sounds to me that you didn't do your homework on hiring an architect who's style matched yours. Most architects will give you a proposal for their work so you don't get sticker shock in the end -- and this proposal should detail exactly what you will get for your money (for example, 3 diagrammatic concept ideas, 4 schematic elevations, floor plan, etc.... depending on the job.) Make sure you get this before you hire your next architect. The AIA website has consumer information on this as well anon

Architects are NOT cheap. Do homeowners really think they can hired a licensed architect, licensed landscape architect, licensed structural engineer, electrical engineer or anyone else holding a professional degree and certification for next to nothing?

This architect you hired is essentially only billing you $6000/74 hrs = $81/hr. She is cheap! Principle architects charge $150/hr! Perhaps you should have hired her with lump sum payment instead?

I cannot attest to the quality of the drawings she gave you, but most homeowners don't seem to understand the complexities involved in designing a house.

With the fee includes consultations with other disciplines including but not limited to: structural engineers, mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, City planning staff (making sure she is designing something that will NOT get you into trouble with the planning department), landscape architects, HVAC, etc etc etc! Not to mention, sitting down and actually drawing the drawings.

She will also be signing her name to the drawings and attesting that she has followed all codes and regulations and that the building is structurally sound.

$81/hr is a small price to pay to be guaranteed that you are getting a set of drawings that are up to code and will not fall on your head.

Now, if you don't like HOW she designed the house, then you should be negotiating changes and costs.

And, when you signed the contract to hire her, you should have (if you did not), discuss design fees, design changes, and expectations! If you had done all of this, I am surprised you are surprised with her bill! Unless you had discussed a ''not to exceed'' cost, of course her design fees will change, especially if paid by the hour, with changes you request. Bewildered

Adding a floor - Architect who charges flat rate for design only?

Nov 2007

Can anyone recommend a local (Berkeley) architect who will meet with us, get a feel for the project/design goals, create a design consistent with the current style of the house (of course we would pay for revisions) and make drawings, charge their fee and be done with the project? We are going to add a floor (lift current house, and fill in a new first floor) to our typically small Berkeley bungalow (built in early 1900's), and want to find someone with experience doing this type of project. We are going to do this project on a small budget, and we don't have the money to pay the typical 20% charge of the entire project that it seems most architects charge. We would consider someone just starting out trying to build portfolio. Everywhere we look in our neighborhood, it seems like many people have taken on this type of project, so please, Anyone who has done this type of project please chime in on how your experience went, especially on timing, and how to get through the maze of city planning department/permitting issues, is it worth the strain on marriage, effects on property taxes, anything you learned during the project that you wished you knew when you were getting started, we would especially love that type of advice. bigger digs soon

Hello--we're owners of one of those everywhere-in-the-neighborhood bungalows that went through a lift the house/rebuild the first floor/add another floor on top remodels a few years ago. For what you're hoping to do with your home, I doubt you will find a capable architect who is willing to do this for a flat fee (but I could be wrong). And with all the complexity the project demands (city planning/permit roadblocks, structural design issues, strain on marriage, skyrocketing property taxes when you're done--all of which we experienced during our remodel), you don't really want someone who is just starting out trying to build portfolio, believe me. You want someone who has done this before and is a pro at foreseeing problems, troubleshooting, and navigating the system.

We used Levitch and Associates (in Berkeley) to do the design of our home and get us through the permit process. They are very good--and are also not cheap, but you get what you pay for. I'm not a native Chinese speaker so I can't attest to the validity of this, but in my middle-school Mandarin language class, we learned a saying: ''Expensive things are not really expensive; and cheap things are not really cheap.''

BTW, we didn't have a boatload of money to fund our remodel either, but are glad we paid the money for Levitch and Associates to do the design work for us. Clarisse

I am in the middle of this type of project on my own house, the only difference being I am an architect so I didn't have to find one. My advice is to give yourself lots of time and patience to get through planning & building. It took us about a year and a half from start to finish for permits. We had a couple of special circumstances though - we have a creek on our property and we are in a landslide zone. It hasn't been a huge strain on the marriage (yet) and we have 2 children and are living in the house as it sits on cribs. What has saved us lots of money is being our own general contractor - probably about 30% in construction costs. Our neighbors are doing a large renovation and they wish they had done the same thing so they could have more control over the project. It was a little scary at first, but after talking to general contractors, we felt we knew as much as they did. They seriously charge a huge amount just for coordinating other contractors. If you want to save on architects fees, make sure you know exactly what you want and don't give the architect a lot of room for ''options'' - all of this will get billed. I know this is why people hire architects and I love doing it, but it really is a luxury. It may be a good idea to sketch out what you want, then a good architect will be able to refine that and make it work. I could recommend Daniel Morago who can be reached at dpmorago [at] We worked at the same office for a while and now he's on his own doing projects just like yours. d

Although you asked for a Berkeley architect, I would like to highly recommend our San Francisco architect who designed our 8- month Oakland remodel. Larry Friesen, with Friesen Architects (415-642-5520), was tremendous in all respects. He is very creative and designs to match the period/architecture of the house. We had a challenging project -- we gutted about two- thirds of the house, moved a staircase, moved our living quarters to what had been a carved-out basement -- and Larry developed the design in a very effective iterative process, taking into account our budget constraints.

You didn't ask for a contractor recommendation, but I'll throw in a recommendation. We worked with Martin Fink, House to Home Construction (925-935-3466). Martin and Larry have done many projects together, so we felt like we had a great team.

We completed our project over a year ago. The project was relatively pain free, and we love our remodeled house. norma

Architect to create master plan for future work

March 2006

We find ourselves in the situation of perhaps needing to remodel one bathroom (leaking problem) and realize that in order to feel we've spent wisely and are happy with the outcome, we need a master plan for remodeling other aspects of our house. We cannot afford right now to do all of the work we'd eventually like to do but don't want to have to redo in 2 or 5 or 10 years things we do now. You recommendations would be greatly appreciated! drl

We also wanted a thorough master plan before tackling a remodel of our mid-century modern home in Orinda. We had a lot of repairs to make (HVAC, electrical, roof, rats, oh my) but wanted to make sure all changes were made with the eventual goal in mind. We also wanted creative and rigorous design ideas to improve the house -- it had potential, but had been thoughtlessly remodeled for 40 years.

We hired Envelope Architecture + Design in Oakland in 2003 and they drew up an amazing, thoughtful, stylish master plan. We've been working with them on and off as we implement it in phases. They are great young guys with an incredible eye for design, creative solutions for problems, and kindness and patience (important with the inevitable stress of remodeling). If you admire modernism, I highly recommend them.

Envelope Architecture + Design 510-839-0140

-- Nicole R.

We recently had architectural drawings prepared for an addition to our Colonial Revival home in Berkeley. We used Milton Tong (510) 435-2303. Milton was extremely responsive to our requests and accurately matched the existing architecture. Milton explained everything that was necessary for the project, asked questions that we would not have thought of and was very timely in completing the project. Milton worked well with our contractor as well as the structural engineer that we needed for the project. Milton is also very conscious of costs related to the project.

Milton is very professional and very client orientated and I think is an excellent architect. I would highly recommend him for other for work. If we have another project or a friend were in need of an architect we would definitely use/refer Milton.

We would highly recommend Milton for architectural needs. Eddie