Parent Q&A

Architect for Albany Project Nov 3, 2021 (3 responses below)
Architect for addition in Albany Apr 3, 2021 (4 responses below)
Architect for addition to house Jan 12, 2021 (2 responses below)
Architect to help plan an ADU May 6, 2020 (7 responses below)
Any experience with New Avenue Homes design/build Feb 1, 2020 (2 responses below)
Architect for kitchen and bath remodel Nov 21, 2019 (3 responses below)
Need an architect for bath/kitchen remodel Aug 23, 2019 (8 responses below)
Architect plans only Oct 24, 2018 (4 responses below)
Is it hard to make initial contact with an architect? Mar 14, 2018 (9 responses below)
Looking for an Architect Feb 11, 2018 (2 responses below)
Talented & not so busy Architect Nov 13, 2017 (2 responses below)
ISO Mediterranean-style Architect for full home remodel Apr 26, 2017 (0 responses below)
Seeking an architect for a full house remodel Nov 2, 2016 (2 responses below)
Architect recommendations? Sep 26, 2016 (3 responses below)
Architect for Granny Flat in Berkeley Aug 26, 2016 (1 responses below)
  • Architect for Albany Project

    (3 replies)

    Seeking recommendations for architects with experience doing projects in Albany. Thank you!

    RE: Architect for Albany Project ()

    We used and they were incredibly professional, timely, wonderful to work with and super innovative. Could not recommend them further!

    RE: Architect for Albany Project ()

    Jason Kaldis is the absolute best in the area! He did a fantastic job on our Albany house, and 10 years later, we are still very happy with his work. He was easy to work, great communicator, and helped us tremendously!

    RE: Architect for Albany Project ()

    I can recommend Andus Brandt at Blackbird Designs.   He has lots of experience and is very knowledgeable about Berkeley and Oakland and Albany. His business office is in Berkeley.

    Andus is thoughtful and will listen carefully to what you want and will bring his extensive experience to create your dream space. He is very straightforward and honest. He charges reasonable fees and has knowledge of how to get your project approved.  Andus brings his experience working with one of the most notoriously difficult Berkeley's Building Dept..   Andus can bring his negotiation skills and his recommendations for each step of the process and get your project approved. Blackbird Designs will have recommendations for every part of this process from Contractors to Design Choices, Esthetics , Materials etc.  You will be in good hands having Andus as your guide.

    Here is his email; Andus [at] and Phone Contact: 510 967 2081

  • Architect for addition in Albany

    (4 replies)

    Hello, we are planning an addition to our home, as well as significant remodeling of the existing footprint. Looking for an excellent architect who can create a beautiful design for our somewhat specific needs. We'd like someone who works with 3D modeling as we are very bad at visualizing and want to make sure we understand what is being built. Any recommendations appreciated. Our home is in Albany. 

    We used for our apartment. His website has visualizations for some apartment remodels he's done.

    We added a bath and bed to our existing house in Richmond and used
    markarian.kevin [at]
    He is young and had all the latest 3D technology and the like
    And used Troy Construction for the build.
    Both were amazing and would totally recommend!

    From our own personal experience, I would go with a highly competent designer and then get a structural engineer for the structural part.  We got burned badly in the beginning by insisting on an fancy CA licensed architect, but I've found that didn't ensure that our design was truly beautiful and space use optimal.

    If you are willing to go the designer + structural engineer route, which is what we ended up finally doing after the architect debacle, we worked with Kibum Kim.  He is amazing - if I had to do this allllll over again, I would work with him again in a heartbeat and also save ourselves lost time, money, many many tears from the first architect experience.

    Kibum Kim -  773.354.7406

    Also happy to talk more offline if you'd like.

  • Architect for addition to house

    (2 replies)

    Looking to add a bedroom to house for older person or caretaker.  Has anyone had experience with Lorraine Mitchell, architect?

    I have not had experience with Lorraine Mitchell but I can highly recommend Susanne Stadler, Susanne designed our ADU in West Berkeley and she specializes in designing age supportive environments for aging individuals. 

    Gary Parsons did a superb job for our remodel and addition.

  • Architect to help plan an ADU

    (7 replies)

    We are looking to build an ADU on our property. We have a license contractor and have an idea of how it would look, but would like to hire an architect to draw up plans only.

    Can anyone recommend someone who could do this?

    I can recommend Jay Castle of Meshwork Planning and Design.  We are in Berkeley, working on ADU, and have hired Jay.  He's been a great communicator (even during quarantine), understands Berkeley codes, etc., and very open to collaboration with homeowners.

    We used the best architect for our ADU. He was professional, super reasonable and super experienced. He has done multiple ADU’s in the east bay already so it was helpful with someone who had experience and didn’t look clueless. Highly recommend. 
    his website is and he is located in Berkeley. 

    good luck! 

    I have worked with Erick from Innovative Construction & Design before and highly recommend him for your architectural needs. You may reach him at 510-289-5516 or email: archdrafter [at] Good luck on your project! You can let him know Elizabeth from El Cerrito referred you. 

  • Hi- Has anyone had any experience with New Avenue Homes design/build firm?  It seems like an interesting model but perhaps too good to be true?  Does anyone have a sense of the quality of their work and if their prices are in line with other contractor bids?  Thanks!

    Hi I’m an actual, current New Avenue client. We’re doing a pretty major renovation and a bit of new construction on our house in North Oakland. With full time jobs we don’t have the time to do much of what it likely takes to project manage at this level so that’s one of the first ways New Avenue has been an incredible partner - the software and the way the project is managed is intuitive and easy to keep all stakeholders on the same page, keep all docs in the same place, simple billing, and probably more that I haven’t needed to use yet. Another was working with New Avenue has been a huge help to us is that our designer and builder are both extremely vetted and we don’t worry for a second about their respective experience and expertise. I don’t know that we’d find them without tapping into New Avenue’s network and I take a lot of comfort in knowing I’m working with people and a system, combined, that are going to be transparent and consistent- informed by lots of data - and keep the surprises to a bare minimum. It’s a LOT of trust to literally tear your home up with someone and while I can’t say it’s as cheap as piecing everything together yourself if you have the time for that (and managed to get good people) it’s actually cheaper than another architect/builder quote we got and I’m very happy with the trade offs that leave us feeling very confident in our bids and schedules.

    I am a designer with my own residential design practice since 2015, and I have been a New Avenue design partner since 2016, as part of my independent architectural practice. I can say that from my own experience, New Avenue does not charge more for my design services than I charge my own clients that are not introduced to me through New Avenue. So I disagree with this person’s assessment that New Avenue prices are higher; New Avenue prices are competitive.  New Avenue is not a "middle man". New Avenue is a network of architects, designers and builders who offer clients a design-build team to deliver a quality design and finished end product, on budget and on time, much like any other design/ build firm works. The team is integrated and collaborative which makes the design and construction process as smooth as possible.  I tell my clients that part of the New Avenue service is having access to reliable construction cost comps, and access to the New Avenue builder network who will provide construction cost estimates early on in the design stage. Too often when designers and architects design without builder cost feedback during the preliminary stages, they get so far into the process, or even complete the Construction Documents, only to find out that the construction cost kills the project altogether. I know this from first hand experience working in architecture firms that did not collaborate with builders early enough in the design phase. Beyond having access to builder cost feedback at any point in the design phase, the New Avenue builders with whom I have worked do excellent work. The builders are professional, care greatly about the end product and that care shows in their high level of craftsmanship. I think it would be worth giving them a call and talk with some of their designers and builders. I cautiously tested the New Avenue system for several years before switching all of my projects over to New Avenue. I now use New Avenue's web-based application exclusively for all of my projects, because it is more efficient for both me and my clients. New Avenue’s Bay Area team is made up of talented and community minded professionals, who are interested in helping create beautiful, livable spaces and are committed to addressing our state’s housing crisis, one ADU at a time.   

  • Architect for kitchen and bath remodel

    (3 replies)

    My wife and I live in a craftsman bungalow in Oakland with a very old kitchen and bath which we would like to update. As a result we would like to hire an architect who would be able to draw up new design plans for the two rooms so that we can undertake a complete remodel. Ideally the person should be very familiar and have experience working with the craftsman style and be able to incorporate that type of feeling into the spaces as we are interested in keeping the whole house with that type of look. We would much appreciate recommendations of architects who are friendly, creative, easy to work with and prioritize the clients' wishes over their own. Many thanks.

    I recommend Susanne Stadler, Susanne designed an accessory dwelling unit for us, she did a wonderful job. She's done all kinds of remodels and is very thoughtful about client needs and desires. You can tell her that Rebecca on Chestnut in Berkeley gave you her name. 

    She's a bit busy now based on years of glowing recommendations on BPN and houses showcased on the Rockridge Kitchen tour, but Rebecca Amato ( is the best -- she did our kitchen, our neighbors', and dozens of others in the area. Ours involved reconfiguring other rooms for more efficiency, our neighbors also moved an interior staircase and completely remodeled their upstairs along with 50% of their downstairs. We both have craftsman-era houses, and Rebecca is masterful at working with your vision as well as maximizing space. Check out her website to see her work. I just can't say enough positive things, although like I said, she's pretty busy these days.

    Architect here (non-residential, so this is not a pitch), however I thought I might share some resources that might be helpful for you (or other families looking into renovations.) The AIA (national professional organization) maintains lists of member architects: Below is the East Bay Chapter, but you can also check out the SF chapter listings as well.

    They also have some publications about what to expect from a design process, and will provide referrals if you email them. Note that not all architecture firms are AIA members, but it's not a bad place to start. I'd recommend talking to a number of different people because how different offices approach projects will vary. There are also some excellent design-build firms in the area (providing both design and construction services) which can give projects a bit more predictability early on. The current construction climate in the Bay Area is intense right now, and both architects and builders are very busy. It may take more attempts than you'd like to connect with someone, but don't give up!

  • Need an architect for bath/kitchen remodel

    (8 replies)

    My wife and I are planning to completely remodel our old kitchen and nearby bathroom next year and would very much appreciate any recommendations for an architect who is talented in this type of project. He/she should be friendly, reliable, creative, have a positive attitude and put the clients preferences first without being "pushy" for their own. We would prefer someone who is self-employed or with a very small firm rather than a large office and would charge by the hour in the range of $100-$150/ hour. Our house is in Oakland so it would require a knowledge of the local building codes. Many thanks for your assistance as it is appreciated.


    We’ve worked with Ian MacLeod- MacLeod Design and Construction in Berkeley for a large scale remodel of our home and strongly recommend him to all of our friends and families in the Bay Area looking to remodel.  

    Best of luck, 


    I don't recall her exact rate, but I think it's in your range, and I can't recommend Rebecca Amato highly enough. We remodeled the back portion of our downstairs, which included kitchen, bathroom, and study, and we are absolutely thrilled with the result (we're in the Rockridge neighborhood of Oakland and our kitchen was on the Rockridge Kitchen Tour shortly after the remodel, to much acclaim). Rebecca lives in Oakland and her office is in Emeryville. (ours is the 61st St. kitchen). She's pretty busy because she's so good, but it's worth it because she has such an amazing talent for utilizing space in a beautiful way.

    We've been using Andrew Lee ( for our bathroom remodel needs and he's been great. Not pushy at all and had a lot of creative ideas for our odd sized space. The remodel hasn't been started yet but we have all of the drawings ready to go (so I can't speak to completed work just yet). 

  • Architect plans only

    (4 replies)

    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.       

    RE: Architect plans only ()

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

    RE: Architect plans only ()

    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.

    RE: Architect plans only ()

    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:

  • Looking for advice from those who have done recent remodels. We just bought a home in Berkeley but it needs some extensive renovation. 

    I've called and left messages for atleast 4 architects recommended here or otherwise through friends, but no one has called me back. Is this normal? Are architects really slow to respond at every stage of the process? Or should I be emailing instead of calling?

    Any advice would be much appreciated. 

    For what it's worth, I heard recently that architects/contractors in the Bay Area are currently busier than usual, and may be for awhile, due to the recent Santa Rosa fires (e.g., re-building homes that burned down). It's just a guess - but it may explain why folks aren't able to get back you.

    We used architectural designer, Ann Maria Celona, in Berkeley, and have recommended her to others. We were very happy with her responsiveness and design work. Ann Maria Celona, Custom Homes, 510 420-1128

    It's possible they are all busy. Email is probably best

  • Looking for an Architect

    (2 replies)

    Hi! We are thinking about doing an extensive remodel on our South Berkeley Bungalow (moving walls, adding bedrooms etc.). We're looking for an architect that is innovative, affordable and fun to work with. We would love some recommendations - thank you! 

    RE: Looking for an Architect ()

    I am currently working with Laura Natkins, Architect on a major home remodel that includes the conversion of a basement into living space that is connected to a new dining room upstairs. I cannot recommend Laura highly enough. I was drawn to Laura's philsophy of "just enough" design, as I was not looking to turn my modest 850 square foot 1906 bungalow into a sprawling mansion that did not match the original character of my house. Once I hired Laura, I knew that I was in good hands. We met regularly for many months to discuss my family's space needs -- taking into consideration the way we use the rooms in the house -- and worked together to create a livable design that flows beautiful and creates light-filled and versatile new spaces. Laura listens carefully and offers design solutions that are both beautiful and pragmatic. She also communicates clearly and works efficiently with my general contractor. Now that my house project is well into the construction phase, I could not be more thrilled with the new spaces that will enhance my home. - Tara

    RE: Looking for an Architect ()

    When we bought our East Bay house we didn’t think we’d need an architect (“We’re creative! We’ll do it ourselves!”) but on the recommendation of friends we met with Hiromi Ogawa (, and it was clear within minutes that she had *so many* brilliant solutions to our house’s problems! When we were trying to figure out how to open up the kitchen she’s came up with three totally unique ideas, and we hired her on the spot. (Best. Decision. Ever.) She was brilliant and flexible and thoughtful throughout the entire process, worked exceptionally well with our contractor, and made so many smart and lovely changes to our home that I literally walk around saying “thank you Hiromi”! If we ever move, I would hire her again in a heartbeat for the sheer pleasure and fun of working with her.

  • Talented & not so busy Architect

    (2 replies)


    We are looking for a talented architect who has time for additional client(s). This may be an oxymoron in today's crazy housing market & building frenzy. Someone who will respond quickly to inquiries and turn work around in a timely manner. And who has done some excellent work.

    The project will touch many rooms, including:

    * redoing kitchen & space to backyard

    * adding a master bath.

    Thank you!

    We recently wanted to hire Nana Kaomi for a project We didn't in the end because the building cost turned out to be more than what we naively thought, but she seemed to have time for additional clients and she responded quickly and came out to see the location also very promptly. You can contact her via her website - she looks talented to me based on her previous projects, and she was recommended to us because she is apparently creative and comes up with solutions that are guided by the clients' wishes.

    I can't speak to how busy he is, but we were extremely happy with our experience with our architect, Jason Kaldis ( Jason had great ideas, he had an unusually accurate ability to estimate construction costs, and he worked quickly and efficiently through the design process with us. We are so happy with how our addition turned out.

  • Hi -- I'm looking for an architect interested in doing a full remodel on a Mediterranean/ Spanish Colonial Revival home in Oakland. I've scoured through all the BPN recommendations and searched online but haven't found anyone who specializes in this style. Any help would be appreciated!

  • I'd love some suggestions on architects that have worked on full house remodels, modernizing the craftsman style home in the East Bay. We'd prefer a non full service architect, one with close relationships with skilled and professional contractors. Thanks for the guidance! 

    We just finished building a backyard studio and our architect was Susanne Stadler, at She was great to work with, came up with a beautiful plan, and is very thoughtful about the client's needs. She works on small spaces and big, highly recommend.


    Levitch Associates. I have known them for 30+ years and they have worked on two of our houses. Excellent work and attention to detail. 

  • Architect recommendations?

    (3 replies)

    We'd like to redesign the porch/entryway and possible build an addition to our house. Could anyone please recommend a talented local architect? 

    RE: Architect recommendations? ()

    We just finished building a backyard studio and our architect was Susanne Stadler, at She was great to work with, came up with a beautiful plan, and is very thoughtful about the client's needs. She works on small spaces and big, highly recommend.


    RE: Architect recommendations? ()

    Jace Levinson did a spectacular design for a master suite addition to our house in SF. When we eventually sold the place we got 500 over asking, in no small part due to his work!

    He is attentive, responsible, and tuned in to what YOU want, not what he thinks is best. Oh, and did I mention -- talented?

    He now lives in Oakland, so this might work well for you.

    Jace Levinson 510 452 2800

    RE: Architect recommendations? ()

     I've worked with Sarah Deeds of Deeds Design in Berkeley and Had a good experience- she is a good listener, easy to work with and has great design sense. 

  • Architect for Granny Flat in Berkeley

    (1 reply)

    Looking for architect for detached "granny flat" addition in Berkeley -- any suggestions?

    Thanks -

    Please call Stuart Sidells at 510-548-0684. We hired him to design an addition exactly like the one you are proposing. He is friendly, courteous, has lots of creative ideas and holds the client's interests and wishes in first place. Great person to work with and he lives in Berkeley so knows all the building codes and permit processes. The project was a resounding success and admired by many.

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Reviews Related Pages See Also

2011 - 2012 Reviews

Architect or Design/BUild Firm?

Dec 2012

Small space (250sf) - design/build or architect?

I would like to convert a free-standing 250sf art studio into livable space for my elderly mother. I plan to do the work with permits, so need someone who is familiar with permitting in Albany. I'm looking for suggestions about (1) whether to go with a design/build firm or architect + contractor, (2) recommendations of local people who have experience and success with designing micro-apartment-type spaces, and (3) ballpark figures for expenses.

Here are the parameters. The space is in the back of a free-standing garage and was converted with permits. Right now the space has finished walls, hardwood floor, electricity and running water, but would need to hook up to main house sewer line and we would have to figure what to do about heating (i.e. maybe should run a gas line). The cooking and living areas would be in the main 250sf space, but the bathroom could project into the garage. I will want a built-in twin-sized loft bed and a full-sized murphy bed.

**Very important: I need someone who has a history of sticking to budget. I can't embark on this project and then learn that it will cost significantly more than the original estimate. If you are a design-build firm or architect yourself, can you send links to your portfolio -- particular design work for small spaces?

It was almost 6 years ago, but we used More Than a Carpenter (based in El Cerrito) for a significant home remodel. They did good work, were pleasant to work with, and were mindful of our needs and concerns (around pets/children/etc.). They stuck quite well to budget. Good luck and enjoy!
Hi, I'm a Realtor and believe in architects. I see so many homes that have no sense, design in a cheap way but I do have a great contractor who is creative and resourceful with lots of experience and very competitive prices. It is easy to work with him and make decisions his name is Piotr Krasnowski (510) 333-1566 I use him myself fro closet, bathroon,windows and small projects as well. All my neighbors have been using him and are very happy. Good luck! Mariedda
Start with architect Susi Stadler (stadlerarch [at], who specializes in planning for small spaces AND senior housing. She's local, near Ashby BART. Check out the 'Apartment A' project on her website: . . Good luck! SP
You might want to talk to Laura Natkins. She is an architect who has done apartment building designs as well as residential projects. I have seen her portfolio. She is talented. I'm amazed to see how she transformed a small space into multi functional living space. Hope she can help you as well. Her number (415) 519-4302. Email: laura [at] Lan

architect for a Berkeley flat

April 2012

We are planning on redesigning our living space and would like to receive recent recommendations on professional help. We are not just looking for someone who will rearrange the existing set up, but are envisioning a project on a grander scale. We would like to add a lot of built in storage to maximize space. Looking for someone with excellent space planning skills and interesting ideas about using unusual/green materials.

We have enjoyed working with architect Sarah Deeds on plans to improve the layout and curb appeal of our small house. She has always listened to our ideas closely and then makes very thoughtful suggestions that demonstrate she understands the way we use our space. Her entire approach is grounded in environmentally sensitive solutions; we've worked with her heavily on window and exterior upgrades to make our home more energy efficient. Her website is Cindy

Wizard Architect to find space for a half-bath

April 2012

My 2 BR, 1 BA 1915 cottage is small (under 900 sq ft). I would love to find an amazingly creative architect who has found space in small houses to add on at least a half-bath. It would really save my sanity, as I am sharing the one bathroom with a teenage daughter. The other hitch: the lot is extremely small also -- probably would be non-conforming by today's standards. (When the house was built it had more land, but newer house lots on perpendicular street ate into it in the mid-30s.) So I don't think there's room to move out. Anyone know such a wizard? I'm not Snow White

My wife and I have had great luck working with Alex Chiappetta Architecture (510-798-5502 for several stages of remodeling our 1911 Berkeley home. He is local, specializes in residential work, and does great bathrooms and kitchens. Plus he is a wizard with getting the Berkeley building permits. David
I highly recommend Laura Natkins who is a very creative architect with make- overs. She's definitely worth talking to. Laura is located in Berkeley; her phone is 415-519-4302 or email lauranatkins [at] David
My wife and I moved into a 1 bed, 1 bath 820 SF 1912 cottage before the real estate boom and bust. As our family grew we couldn't afford to move and needed to use our resources strategically. We've worked with architect, Scott Galka on 2 projects. He was very easy to work with and has helped us to colonize every square inch of our house. Scott can be reached at (510) 610- 6602 or by email at scottgalka [at] Good luck! Jason
I know an architect with an amazing ability to find solutions. You could easily schedule a consultation with him where he would come out to your place and look at your space and give you some ideas/options. If it is possible, I'm sure he will find a way. His name is Alex Korn, with Catamount Design. 1913 Addison St. Suite 301. 510-551-3384. email: catamount [at] He has solved problems for me where I didn't see an answer. And I've seen some of the homes and remodels he has designed. Good luck. Sharon
Dear looking for a great architect, Berkeley architect Laura Natkins would be the perfect small space wizard for your project. She specializes in the 'just enough house' principle and has extensive expertise in creating functional and stylish rooms and living environments. Laura values collaboration and will work with budgets of any size to lead you through the design/build process. We are extremely happy with our Oakland remodel and could not have done it without Laura Natkins. cubajanet

Architect for basement remodel

March 2012

Hi We would like to remodel our basement that includes two rooms, laundry room and a bathroom, and we would live ideas on how to best deign the space. We would very much appreciate any recommendations. Thanks Lesbeth

I am very impressed with the architecture done by Berkeley-based In addition to houses, they work on spiritual spaces, such as Spirit Rock. SP
Laura Natkins is the architect for you. She loves to do designs like yours and she's very talented. She got her architecture degree at Harvard and it shows. She's very practical and keeps it simple but gorgeous. She'll do a great job for you! She's in Berkeley, but her number is: 415-519-4302. Cynthia
We recently had our home remodeled which included a substantial excavation to create a much larger downstairs with a completely new foundation. We used Studio G from Berkeley and they we're great. Ed was able to anticipate our prefrences and recommended many extra architectural additions/changes without adding to our budget. Ed was a pleasure to work with and is a very skilled architect. In addition to the architectural work, Ed was invaluable when selecting fixtures and furnishings both in terms of sub contractor selection as well as asthetic design. We were totally impressed with his design skills as well as his architectual skills. It was a very positive experience and I highly recommend them. Feel free to contact me for further questions or if you want to view a sample of their work. David
In response to Lesbeth's March 22 question about a designer to help with a remodel of a basement: I would like to recommend Timothy Clark of 'Home and Temple' (Timothy Clark, timothy [at], 800-853-2010). Timothy helped us with our extensive remodel of our North Berkeley home, and prepared all of the plans for submission to the City of Berkeley. He was thoughtful, responsive, knowledgeable, and creative, and he charges very reasonable rates. Mark
A very good and creative architect is Stuart Sidells in Berkeley. He has been our architect on several remodel and room addition projects for us and has always done a thorough and complete job with a artistic eye for details. He does not push his ideas on the owners but rather works with them to incorporate their wishes and ideas into the project. He is very personable and easy to work with. Stuart can be reached at:548-0684. Roger

Architect experienced in modern residential & commercial?

Dec 2011

Can anyone recommend an Architect experienced in modern residential and commercial design? I've got two small projects, and I would like to try to use the same Architect. anon

I have used William Coburn, who works out of Oakland, but covers the entire area. He is a Harvard trained Architect, is a father of two kids at my children's previous school and is knowledgeable, affordable and easy to work with. His info: William Coburn, Wk ph: 510 893-8826 Cell: 510 757-4085 Lexine
I highly recommend Turk Kauffman: He designed the modern-ish split-level addition to our California Bungalow home and really made it work. He also designed an amazing kitchen/living room which opened up our whole front room. We love it and get compliments all the time! Laurel
I would like to recommend a local architect, Tom Beil. His office no. is (510) 848-0895, and his cell is (510) 220-4947. He is located in Berkeley, works in Berkeley, and his office is also in Berkeley. We worked together on several occasions from small projects (residential) to large (commercial). I highly recommend him; he is very easy to work with. Tom is very affordable and his price is easy to adjust in different situations. His office is well known at the City Hall planning divisions. It was (and still is) a pleasure to work with him. Marius
I recommend Alan Cross at PROTOinc. Alan did some work on our office space in San Francisco and his firm has done a lot of contemporary residential and commercial projects throughout the Bay Area. Alan and his business partner, Hugh, are both talented, easy to get along with, but also understand construction and are technically savvy. You can see their work at www.proto- and you can contact Alan at 510.282.4648. Former Client
We used Cathy Schwabe for our kitchen and basement remodel, and she was terrific. She specializes in residential and green design, and has the patience of Job, considering what is involved in all the decision making related to such projects. Here is her information, including her website: Cathy Schwabe AIA Cathy Schwabe Architecture 5332 Shafter Avenue Oakland, CA 94618 T: 510.658.3651 C: 510.306.0264 Charlotte
Without reservation I'd recommend Alex Jermyn of Atelier West Architecture. He has impeccable taste, having worked internationally including designing Marc Jacobs stores. His sublime aesthetic is refined and elegant in an understated way. I will warn you to research an architect well, because there are a lot out there that turn out awkward products. He is very accessible and a true pleasure to work with. He is attentive and receptive, and committed to have the project come in on time and on budget. Renovation/building is a very trying process in the end, and I really urge you to find someone you know will pay off with something that you will love, and someone who can make the experience as easy as possible. His firm's website is anon
I would like to recommend Jason Kaldis Architect Inc. I have worked with Jason for a couple of years now and have a high regard for both he and his team. They are all extremely competent and efficient. Jason and his team have a specific skillset that is valuable to both builder and homeowner alike. Jason Kaldis Architect Inc. 1250 Addison St. #210 Berkeley, CA 510.549.3584 sqs
I recommend Pierluigi Serraino Architect. He only does modern homes he actually published books on northern California mid century homes. So easy to work with. 415-902-2595. Jill

Residential Designer for Remodel

Oct 2011

We are looking for a residential designer to produce drawings to submit to the city for our remodel. Can anyone tell us how to find one? Karen

We loved working with Kathryn Rogers at Sogno Design Group. We saw how she so smoothly transformed our friend's one story home into a 2-story home -- and it looked like it should have been that way all along. So when it was time for us to put a large addition on our home, we hired her. We love her taste, and found it was so easy to work with her and her staff. She was very knowledgeable about the bureaucratic aspect of getting a remodel done, too (i.e. submissions to the city, permits, etc.) and helped facilitate the process. The new part of our home is our favorite place to hang out. We hope to remodel our kitchen in the future, and plan to hire her back! Her email is kathy
I would strongly recommend Kathy Rogers and her team from Sognos Design Group Kathy Roger and Debbie (from her team) designed the remodeling project of our Queen Ann house in SF (kitchen remodeling + new B= bath + new masterbath + basement remodeling into a living area) . She designed the layout, produced the masterplans, helped choose the right material and lighting with great taste and after carefully listening to our own preferences and taste. She was opinioned in a good way, meaning leaving ample room for our participation (ex: we did not want customized kitchen cabinets, did not want to break too many walls, wanted modern into a classic house, but not too much etc.....) while guiding us with professionalism and sure taste. She was constructive and efficient, from the structural part (I believe she was a carpenter before so she knows what she is talking about) to the more decorative aspect. We could tell she was experienced and that was reassuring. She let us choose our contractor over her usual ones. Even though I could tell that it would not have been her first choice, she collaborated with our contractor (that we highly recommend too by the way, his name is Serge Colombeau) in a highly efficient way, so that the project went smoothly with no delays, and both the contractor (and us!) were extremely satisfied. It was such a success that at the end she was even interested in collaborating with him on other projects, which tells a lot about her open mindess and flexibility. They formed a great complementary team and she and her team were available for any question in a timely manner. She overviewed the construction site a few times, with precise remarks, and made a few additional drawings to make sure it was performed properly. She knew where to focus her time, but was also able to work with a more cost conscious budget in less important areas. I donC,bt regret having followed any of her recommendations at the end. They were always thoughtful and right. Lastly, she submitted the plans to the city to get the permit, and I was impressed that we got it so fast (over the counter with only one attempt) while this was not a given (complex remodeling, a few structural changes) and which saved us 6 months and a lot of paperwork. One year after the end of the work, we are thrilled by the results. The house looks gorgeous, respects the original bones, our own taste and the 'san Francisco spirit'! Finally, both Kathy and Debbie are delightful persons to work with, always smiling and enthusiastic. And always supportive. I again highly recommend you to choose them if you have a remodeling project. Dorothee
We hired Kathy Rogers of Sogno Designs ( for our home remodel (basement room addition, kitchen expansion and redesign, added a deck) and I can't say enough good things about her. Our space is gorgeous - Kathy has such talent for designing functional space with lovely details. She was responsive to our ideas and concerns (esp. $$ concerns), but also knew when to push us. She and her crew were very easy to work with and very knowledgable about the city of Berkeley permitting process. Heather C

Architect with modern sensibility for Lamorinda remodel

Sept 2011

looking for an architect for a lamorinda remodel - need someone with experience in lamorinda, with a modern sensibility, good at making a small space seem appropriately large. does this person exist? seems hard to find anyone who has a somewhat modern style and does smaller projects on this side of the tunnel. would appreciate any contractor recs also. lamorinda modern - oxymoron?

You should speak with Vit Salvo of Arcistruct. He works primarily in Lamorinda and Berkeley. He will give you a free consultation. He can be reached at 510- 517-7151. He has worked extensively on my home as well as many others I have seen. You won't regret it. At the very least, you will come away from your conversation with some interesting ideas. At best, a new architect/builder for your project. amrit
I can think of a few modern houses in Lafayette that you could drive by and ask the homeowners who their architect was. People usually love to talk about their houses. There are two on Glenside Dr. between St. Mary's Rd and Reliez Station Rd, and another on Freeman Rd after you turn right from Bridgefield Rd. Good luck! Christina
I would like to recommend an Oakland based design-build firm called Building Lab. They had done residential projects on both sides of the tunnel. They do have a modern sensibility and they apply it well in renovating mid-century modern residences. My own house is of a rather confused mix of styles but they did a modern kitchen and baths which tie everything together seamlessly and give the interior a timeless beauty. Visit their website: happy client
Give Allen Sayles a call. He's a great architect in Walnut Creek 925 937-3986. Used him on our house and kitchen renovation. Also try Wendy Zampino 925 283 6638 of home systems, she's the designer who got us our cabinets. And Rolander Construction did the work 510 339- 3655. It all came out great, opened up walls and changed the whole feel of the house. I love it! Sandy
Dorrice Pyle is the gal for you ( out of Albany, CA. She is awesome! She has a great eye. She brings a huge background of experience. She listened to my needs and turned a very small space into a fully functioning room that took into account the need to make the space functional and appealing. She is a real professional. You will not be disappointed. Randy

Architect for low budget addition

June 2011

Does anyone have a recommendation for an architect who will work on a low budget second story addition to a small house (it will be a small addition, too- one or two bedrooms and a bath). The house is on a relatively level lot in Berkeley, and foundation work is in progress.

You should talk to Ethan over at Drafting Cafe. I know several people that have used him for their projects, and he did a great job and is very affordable.

A good, inexpensive architect for home addition?

Feb 2011

I am looking for a good, inexpensive architect for an addition to our home. Ideally, we would like to work with someone who can be both a good draftsman and a experienced architect/designer at the same time. We have ideas, but not exactly sure how to start the process, so we need someone a bit more knowledgeable then a draftsman, but don't want to pay the price for a large or midsize architecture firm. anon

I want to recommend Ethan at Drafting Cafe, They are in Oakland, super responsive, professional, and personable, And their services are really affordable. Can't speak highly enough about him. jaibee
'Inexpensive' is a relative term....We've used Angela Klein for our attic addition. She did the design and drawings, but we had to go elsewhere for structural engineering. We found her hourly rate to be reasonable- she charges on a time and materials basis, an approach we appreciate since other architects we spoke with wanted a percentage of the construction cost, which didn't let us stagger the timing of the project as we wished. She's been very easy to work with, and we've been very happy with her designs and the way she incorporates 'green' principles. Her suggestions on fixtures and suppliers have been very helpful. Her website is if you want to see examples of her work. Rachael
Laura Riggs has worked as a residential architect for over twenty years. She's completed numerous home additions, remodelings and new residences in communities all over the Bay Area. She's experienced in hillside construction, drainage issues, tight budgets, kitchen and bath design, septic systems, swimming pool design, sauna installation--just about anything you can think of pertaining to home design. And although highly experienced, she does all her drafting herself. I think she might be what you are looking for. Laura Riggs 510.525.1383 home 267.664.2415 cell Melanie
we would highly recommend stacy eisenmann of eisenmann architecture. she is wonderful to work with and understands that a collaboration is a key to a successful project. she is comfortable working in design languages ranging from craftsman to modern, and has extensive experience with kitchen remodels, especially those that open onto other areas of the house. but she also provides architectural services such as bathroom remodels, second story additions, etc. when designing she is thoughtful of the circulation patterns of daily life and puts much thought into how the family will actually live in the new space. she offers a complimentary first meeting to see if it's a good fit, and is open to a barter. check out her beautiful work on her website. 510 409 4426 emily
We would like to recommend Howard McNenny as an architect. He produces quality work at a reasonable price. Howard recently worked on our 2 story addition in Albany, adding about 900 square feet, as well as remodeling the rear of our house, including the kitchen. He is very knowledgeable, responsive to feedback, patient, timely, and pays attention to detail. Howard was very willing to work around our busy schedule and meet with us later in the evening, as well as on weekends. He is located in Albany, and can be reached at 510.705.1671 or hmcnenny [at] Good luck! Bob
We had a great architect who was very affordable and clever. He helped us with our addition and then he helped us with our office building. He held our hand step by step. I can't recommend him enough. His name is Pierluigi Serraino, pierluigi [at] You can also reach him at 415-902-2595. Judy

2009 - 2010 Reviews

Great architect for Orinda home?

Oct 2010

We live in Orinda and want to add a 4th bedroom and re- conceptualize the living spaces and kitchen, probably adding @ 700 sq feet. We want someone who can listen to and integrate our ideas and focus on creating a great floor plan and beautiful spaces. Ideally this architect has designed multiple homes in Orinda so has experience with the Planning Commission here. We have referrals for great contractors but it is proving harder to find a great architect! Any referrals greatly appreciated. Anon

I am an interior designer working with Rebecca Amato of Rebecca Amato Architecture in Oakland on a client's project right now and we love her. I'm guessing she has done work in Orinda since she is an east bay architect but can't guarantee. I would highly recommend contacting her to explore if you would be a good fit for eachother. She is a great listener and has an eye for creating beauty, a great blend of left and right brain skills. ADDRESS AMATO ARCHITECTURE 688 FAIRMOUNT AVE. 4 OAKLAND CA 94611 PHONE 510.420.0210 EMAIL INFO [at] AMATOARCHITECTURE.COM Laura
Jeff Supran is a great architect who lives in Orinda and has designed multiple homes and remodels there. He is also a contractor with a great crew. I was married to one of his carpenters and I have seen many of their projects. Really beautiful stuff. Jeff's phone number is 925-253-2104. Anne
Adam Barton is a great architect. I have done 4 projects with him, including a sizable master bed/bath and kitchen reconfiguration and remodel. If you can't picture it, his computer generated idea drawings will help you- from every perspective. He also builds on a regular basis, so his sense of design-to- build feasibility is current. He is flexible in the look, scale and cost-scaling of a project, based on what is asked for. And, he is easy to work with, a good listener and determined to get the final look right. All documents went through the Berkeley Planning Department without issue, and I was uninvolved in this process. 510-541-6400 Feel free to contact me: akimbough [at] Kimbo
I used Fred Hyer of Hyer Architecture and am thrilled with the end result! We not only added space in our Orinda home, but reconfigured current space. His services are top of the line and he really delivers a beautiful product! His planning and hands on advice helped me stay on budget and avoid change orders. HIs contact info is fred [at] or (510)527-1915 . I personally know of 4 homes he has recently done in Orinda and all of them highly recommended him! Susan
I realized that this may be a little late, but we just finished an addition with Shawn Smith of Fargo Farnesi Architecture and I am very pleased with their work. Our project was an addition and kitchen remodel of a Berkeley craftsman. Shawn was extremely knowlegdable in both the design and construction process/costs. He was responsive to our many requests and changes. He also explained everything (sometimes in too much detail for me), he asked my husband and I questions that we had never thought of. He also worked well with our contractor. I highly recommend him. Shawn's phone number is 510-486-0353. Dani

Architect for remodel

June 2010

We are planning a remodel and already have plans that were done several years ago. We're not 100% happy with them. We would like to find an architect to consult with and go forward from here. Recomendations would be appreciated. beverly

We were very happy with our architect, Richard Janzen.. He is very reasonably priced, and is just really nice to work with. He is creative and was very patient with us. His website is: Good luck! Dan
Finn-Laczko is well versed in residential remodels ranging from small low cost one room projects to large high end homes. Having worked with both David and Brian on several projects, they are in tune with the budget and costs of the project, understand construction and codes, and offer brilliant solutions to residential design. They can be reached at 510-649-9299 or at brian [at] David
We are in the middle of a remodel architected by Travis Van Brasch (Fong/Brasch Design). The guy really has an eye for what will look good, and was very creative in imagining new possibilities for us. He's based in SF but seems to have a lot of East Bay clients. His email is gooddogsnapper [at] I never did ask the reason for the email address. tv
I highly recommend Toby Long of Toby Long Design. We worked with him on two major remodels over the course of three years and it was a very positive experience. He is committed to getting to know you, your priorities, and how you use (or would someday like to use!) your living space. His firm came up with a few different designs, not just minor tweaks of the same basic design, and he helped us think about the pros and cons of each. He guided us through the permit process, evaluated contractor bids with his knowledge of the costs of local labor and materials, came up with solutions for problems that emerged along the way, and remained attentive and accessible from beginning to end. If you have any specific questions or just want to hear more details, feel free to contact me. Jen
I can recommend Gary Struthers at Struthers - Dias - Architects: He is very personable and I am sure he can help you. Good luck! Susanne
I heartily recommend Sunny Grewal at Studio GS Architects, 510-548-7448, sunny [at], or view their website Sunny worked on my neighbors remodel and I was very impressed. I have also seen a lot of his designs and presentations and I am very confident in his work. Good luck! Ernie
I would like to highly recommend Andrew Mann Architecture for residential remodels and additions. His website is I worked for Andrew for three years before I left to be a stay at home mom. His work is clean, modern, classic, and simple and he works beautifully with light. While I was there, we worked on many projects throughout the bay area including new residences, large and small additions, and interior remodels. All of them turned out stunning and the clients were incredibly satisfied. Andrew is not only a fantastic designer, but also a fantastic guy and easy to work with. Sarah
We used Ron Shattil, AIA. We are tough customers, very picky and I dare say demanding, and he was outstanding in every way. He listens and is responsive to feedback, and has tremendous integrity. And his final design for our remodel was right on; we love it. Ron Shattil can be reached at 510 482 0340. erica
We've done two re-models with John Kinstle, Design & Build, and now he's designed and is building a house for us. The first re-model was a 2-story addition. It went very well even though the re-model was quite extensive. Part of the reason it went well was John's ability to hire and keep some very good workmen. I felt comfortable with the people who came to work in our home because they were courteous (no loud music or turned it down or off when we were around), tidy and trustworthy. John told us when the noisy parts would be in advance and always kept his appointments and answered or returned our calls. John was very conscious of our need to keep costs down and because he is a builder as well as an architect, he could design for cost effectiveness and still give us something nice. This was true for the re-model of our bathroom, too. He gave us advice on what to do to save costs and maximize space. He's very conscious of re-using perfectly good things (both green and saves $s) and updating around them. He is also a painter so he has a very good eye for color and design - a big plus for a couple with very little knowledge about color and decor. For our new house, John really listened to how we live and designed to suit our needs within our budget. As with any relationship, there is give and take. We have been pleased with John's results and his approach. Peggy
I want to highly recommend our architect, Kerstin Hellmann for your project. (I did not see the original post). We are just finishing up a big project (adding second floor, kitchen remodel, upgrading systems) and we feel very positive about our work with her. She has a great eye for detail and was very involved in our project, assisting with finish details and helping us with design features and materials. Our addition works well with the original design of the house and the neighborhood. We implemented many energy and water saving features in our project, as well as green materials, and she was helpful in that area as well. her number is 706-4527. Berkeley homeowners

Experience with Amato Architecture?

June 2010

We recently interviewed Rebecca Amato of Amato Architecture out of Oakland for an addition we are planning on doing to our house. We really enjoyed her style of work, but wanted to hear from the community out there and get specific feedback. Has anyone worked with Rebecca in the past and can you comment on your experience, both positive and negative? Thanks! Heather

We're in the middle of a project with Amato Architecture -- renovating our 1912 home -- and can report that Rebecca Amato has been terrific to work with. We hired her after seeing the excellent work she'd done for friends of ours. In fact, we liked her work (and her, personally) so much that we chose not to interview other architects, figuring that if it didn't work out, we could always do the rounds later. Happily, that has not been necessary.

Rebecca is skilled at reconfiguring old spaces in ways that are both creative and efficient, and reflect the way we now live in houses, while still being faithful to the history of the house. She's also been a terrific resource for us in finding sources for various finishes and supplies. For a variety of reasons, we did run well beyond the hours that were estimated in her first proposal to us, but Rebecca has been conscientious in working with us to make sure the project is completed the right way, without breaking our budget.

She has also forged a great relationship with our contractor, someone she'd never worked with before.

So, we're not done yet, but so far we're really happy and don't anticipate ending the project otherwise. I'd be happy to field more specific questions offline, if you'd like. Good luck with your project. polly

Architect with modern sensibility for Piedmont renovation

April 2010

We're taking the first baby steps toward figuring out if our half-finished basement in our small home can be converted into a living space and would like to find an architect to talk with about the remodel. It would be great to talk to someone familiar with the planning process in Piedmont as I've heard this can be somewhat arduous.

Definitely would like to know if this idea is even feasible and cost-efficient -- the half-finished space is about 6 feet high in addition to sections 1-4 feet in height on the slight slope the house is on. When we bought the house a structural engineer inspecting it said it would be really expensive to dig out the basement...

The house is around a century old with some mid-century-era (or slightly older) remodeling and we'd like to retain architectural continuity in the design. But we have a modern sensibility too and aren't so into the fussiness of some arts & crafts houses.

If planning allows it, it would be great to add a bedroom in the basement and interior stairs as well as a live/play space. There is already a half-bathroom there. Anon

We had a great architect for our recent remodel, Fred Hyer of Hyer Architecture. We had seen what he did for some friends of ours, and then saw a remodel he'd done for a contractor. Both projects reflected creativity and sensitivity to space. Fred is a good listener and communicator, as well as conscientious, hard-working and prompt. His background in carpentry also helps him understand and translate his designs into a 3-d product.While he has a great design sense, he's open to the client's ideas, and can incorporate them into his work. We loved how he made our small spaces look bigger, as well as transforming our bland rancher into a unique, modern and very livable home. We highly recommend Hyer Architecture. (510)527-1915 cd

Architect Needed for 1960's Kitchen & Entryway Remodel

Jan 2010

Looking for an architect to help us with a kitchen remodel that includes eat-in dining room, huge two-sided fireplace and new entry way. We want to keep the 1960's vibe of the house intact too. Eileen

try dan dunaway 510-435-5344. he did a great job with our house. oaksmoke
Hi I'm posting this message for your question and the question below: I was on Piedmont's Planning Commission for seven years and saw consistently wonderful work done by Greir Graf Architecture of Emeryville. Good Luck, Patty
I highly recommend Gary Parsons - we recently completed a massive remodel, and he completely redesigned our house, while at the same time maintaining the original design and integrity of the house. He was great to work with! Tel: 510-527-9272 Nicki
You should give Carlene Anderson a call. She's been a great designer/architect in the east bay for 20 years. Her number is 510 339-2530 Brad
I would highly recommend my gifted architect, David Yama. He designed the kitchen/multi-purpose room remodel and expansion of my mid-century home in the Berkeley Hills. His experience, knowledge, and professionalism, combined with his superb sense of aesthetics - devoid of cliches and gimmicks, but distilled to the essence of architectural integrity ? made him a joy to work with. Three years after the completion of the project, I'm still amazed at the timeless and serene spaces he created. I have referred him to friends and colleagues, to equally enthusiastic responses. David can be reached at 510-541-0556 or yama [at] Nancy
Lillian Mitchell of HOM Structures in Berkeley did a phenomenal job on our remodel, which basically took the entire interior out of our house and reimagined the whole thing. She listened and was responsive to our needs, came up with endless great ideas, and was happy to work through as many iterations as it took to get where we wanted. She's done remodels and new builds in virtually every East Bay city, and understands the processes and codes. I unequivocally recommend her. lmitchell [at] Jason
Andus Brandt, Blackbird Designs was wonderful...he really listened to us and our house is exactly what we wanted. He advocated for us when our first contractor DOUBLED the original bid he'd given us after digging a huge hole in our yard and tearing off the back of our house (no way to change our minds at that point!). Dan Daigle (Berkeley Construction), took over the job and was spot on with his perfect estimate and did great work, he's now remodeling at my work and doing a great job there too. Andus and Dan amazing. dralex
For both this and the following item: I highly recommend David Avila from Avila Design, an architectural office located in downtown Berkeley. The company completed various residential projects throughout Bay Area from modern custom homes to traditional houses and additions/remodels. Feel free to look at their website to see their capabilities and sense of design. The website is and his phone number is: 510-548-2000. Good Luck Sally
Recommended for both this and the following request: Hi! As a card-carrying member of the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Society, when I needed an architect to design a garage with 2d floor loft in the rear of my bungalow I looked for an architect who would respect the beauty and charm of the original building and the streetscape.

On my daily runs I took note of projects around town, and found Andus Brandt of Blackbird Designs(510-601-1150)- andus [at]

I had noted a ''seamless addition'' he designed, where the lien of demarcation between the old building and the new wing was very, very hard to spot.

Andus is a lovely fellow, gentle, and very nice to work with. Contact me off list if you would like to see my pictures. Lynn

Architect for remodel and possible addition to 1920s bungalow

Jan 2010

Has anyone worked with an architect they'd recommend for a remodel and possible addition to a 1920s bungalow in Montclair, Oakland? tony

I highly recommend Gary Parsons - we recently completed a massive remodel, and he completely redesigned our house, while at the same time maintaining the original design and integrity of the house. He was great to work with! Tel: 510-527-9272 Nicki
We recently worked with Rebecca Amato of Amato Architecture in Oakland (510) 420-0210, for a total remodel of our 1925 home. My husband and I are not great at articulating our style, but somehow she was able to get us what we wanted. Rebecca came into our project after it had already started and immediately started making necessary architectural changes that we couldn?t be happier with today. . She is able to collaborate with other team players and was incredibly sensitive to our wishes as well as the needs of our other contractors. She is extremely responsive, creative and easy to work with. She also has a lot of 'green building' knowledge, and makes 'green' suggestions but leaves it up to the client. Rebecca's pricing is very fair and she was conscious of our budget. We used Rebecca as a designer as well as. My husband and I would highly recommend her. Jill

Architect and/or contractor for serious interior work?

Nov 2009

I am wondering if anyone has a recommendation for an architect and/or contractor to look at a house that we are thinking about purchasing. This estimate would greatly impact our decision to bid in a couple weeks! The tasks involve a kitchen remodel and new stairway (probably needs a new location) to the attic. I greatly appreciate any info! Sarah

Highly recommend Archistruct, owner Vit Salvo, 517-7151. They did a major major renovation on our house, including all the issues you are looking at. Feel free to contact me if you like. 510-421-5888. satisfied client
My husband and I had great experience with Berkeley architect Joanne Koch . She helped us on our single family home addition that involved five months of major interior and exterior work. Joanne is a great listener, is knowledgable about technical issues, has a wonderful aesthetic, and gave great suggestions. We enjoyed all our interactions with Joanne and her assistants. Her website is Berkeley homeowner
I would highly recommend Gary Parsons as an architect for your project. Gary Parsons is an outstanding architect - great listener, creative, very responsive, highly regarded by contractors, great knowledge of the building code. I would recommend him without hesitation. He is also a calming influence on a construction project which is always helpful...

We found Gary by speaking to several highly regarded contractors in the Berkeley area (many of whom we found through other architects) - all of them rated Gary most highly and described how they loved working with him.

We worked with Gary on the remodel of our 100 year old Berkeley Craftsman in late 2008. We conducted an extensive remodel - new kitchen, 2 bathrooms, powder room, master bedroom, laundry room and structural changes. Our house has extensive period details (quarter sawn oak wood panelling, lots of trim etc) and the final product was consistent with the house's aesthetic whilst also being fresh and updated. Everyone who has seen the house since the remodel is very complimentary (and we love it).

We were under significant time pressure to complete the project before the arrival of our 2nd baby. Gary and Ariana turned around the plans in record time and they were approved with zero changes by the city. This is clearly pretty rare.

One final word - Gary is a lovely guy to have around. He is not pushy at all and does not have a huge ego. He clearly defers to the client but lets you know in a subtle way if he thinks you might be heading down the wrong track.

You can't go wrong. Ken C

Architect for craftsman style house

Oct 2009

Hi we are looking for an architect to help with our house. We have had some work done, including preliminary drawings. We are looking for someone who is available to work (ie fairly responsive) as well as practical (both cost wise as well as knowledgeable in terms of what can get done construction wise). Ideally the architect has experience with craftsman style homes. anon

Hello anon, If you have preliminary drawings you have already gotten the most important work the architect will offer. Once you have a set of developed prelims your next step is to launch into working drawings, engineering, energy compliance, etc. If you want an architect for this next phase, it is best to use the same one who developed the prelims. If you did not have an architect for the prelims but want one now, that is a little reversed but still workable. AB
We give the architect, Shawn Smith at Fargo Farnesi Inc, our highest recommendation for any restoration or renovation project for a Brown Shingle or Arts and Crafts styled residence. We have seen Shawn's work for residences of other periods, including a historic restoration of the oldest house (1890s or earlier) in a tract in Berkeley on Garber Street, and it is excellent. Shawn has worked with our family toward a historic restoration project (Brown Shingle/Art and Craft historic landmark -- 1908) that has taken some time to work through the City process, but we are on our way, now. Shawn is an architect who has both experience in the construction field and an architect's knowledge to execute a project well. He is thorough and explains things very well so you can give yourself an opportunity to make the many informed decisions required to do a project the ''right way'' as you see fit. Fargo Farnesi Inc is located in Berkeley on West Street. Shawn's office number is 510 486-0353.
I highly recommend an architectural office Avila Design from Berkeley. The firm has completed several custom homes and residential remodels in the Bay Area as well as in other parts of Northern California. The firm Principal remodeled his own craftsman style home in Alameda a few years ago and added a craftsman inspired dining room to a friend's home in Concord. Other projects included an addition of master bath to a bedroom for a family member with Parkinsons as well as full house remodels for others. You can view their work on the firm's website: I am sure that they will gladly meet with you at the project location to formally introduce them self and discuss this project in greater detail. Fell free to contact directly the firm Principal David Avila. His contact information is: AVILA DESIGN 2471 Shattuck Ave. Berkeley, CA 94704 T: 510-548-2000 F: 510-548-2300 Good Luck with your project. Sally
I recommend Milton Tong, Architect. He's working on design drawings for my house addition in Albany. We found him from another recommendation on the Berkeley Parents Network.

We interviewed several architects for our project. Milton stands out because of his ability to listen to the client's goals and then tailor his design to fit those goals, whereas other architects had basically told us that our project would not be feasible from a cost standpoint (even though our addition is very modest by most standards) or tried to scare us with horror stories to justify their services.

Milton listened to us, asked a lot of questions to get a firm understanding of our goals, and provided great input on space maximization/utilization for our addition. He also let us know what we might consider to reduce costs so that the project could fit our budget.

I have found Milton to be very easy to talk to, responsive, and thorough in his approach, especially in making sure City and code requirements are met. His hourly rate is reasonable because he works from his home office in Richmond.

Although our house is not a Craftsman (it is a Spanish-revival style house), I know that Milton has worked on many craftsman houses. His phone number is (510) 234-4088. Ken

Architect for Piedmont Mid-century Modern

Aug 2009

We would like recommendations for Architects to expand our mid-century modern home in Piedmont. We are looking for a very experienced, professional with vision and inspiration to enhance our unique, small home. LS

I recently completed a house renovation and used Lindy Small as my architect ( 510-910-0186. She did an absolutely fabulous job! She listened to our concerns, our ideas, and our constraints (budget). She is very talented and creative, and recommended terrific consultants (contractor, cabinet maker, etc.).Our project is everything we asked for and much much more. We love our new house! SS
We're in the midst of a major remodel our our 1940 Piedmont home and have been very happy with our architect, Richard Janzen. We found Richard to be wonderful to work with. He'll be great for a mid-century modern. He helped us through various issues with the Piedmont planning department and preparing for the planning commission meeting, and had a lot of patience with us as we made a variety of changes. He's creative, honest, and also very reasonable in what he charges. 510.339.7380 Dan H.
I can recommend Steve Rankin Architecture as a professional with incredibly creative vision, attention to detail, and responsive to his client's needs. I have viewed a number of projects he has completed in the Bay Area and spoken with owners all of whom were very pleased and impressed. Much of his work is repeat business or word of mouth. He is based in Oakland and can be contacted at (415) 608-9530 or steverankin54 [at] aj
Alexandra Odabachian is a wonderful architect who has done amazing remodel designs for several of my neighbors in Alameda (these are all midcentury modern homes who've added stories or bumped out, but she also has a genius with small spaces). Alexandra's designs are beautiful, livable, and mesh well with the pre-existing architecture. I think she's also green certified; if not she's definitely green-oriented! I'd say that the four families I know who've hired her are 100% satisfied with the results. Alexandra is listed online. A google-search also reveals a nice article in Alameda Magazine about her own cottage remodel. jonesing to keep up
I highly recommend Rebecca Amato for your project. Not only is she capable and very creative with a great eye, but she is also very friendly and personable. Her website is Claudia
I would highly recommend David Yama for mid-century modern architect. He designed the kitchen/family room remodel & expansion of my mid-century Berkeley Hills home. His sense of aesthetics and attention to details, along with professionalism made him a joy to work with. He is very experienced and knowledgeable. Three years after the completion of the work, I'm still amazed at what he created. I am happy to show my remodel or talk to you. David can be reached at 510-541-0556, yama [at] Signed: Nancy
I highly recommend Mark Creedon of M2 Studio. His office is in Berkeley and they also have an office in St. Helena. A friend of mine had her house designed by him and it is outstanding. He is totally attentive to details and is amazing at interpreting people's visions. A mid century remodel is totally his thing I am planning on using him for mine. Good luck! anon
We hired Lindy Small Architecture for an addition/ renovation we did to our 1950s house in Piedmont a few years ago. We feel extremely pleased to have found Lindy - her designs are timeless (we did not want to be stuck in the '50s), she is an excellent listener, and completely enjoyable to work with. Light, air, and joy now fill our house - we will never move! I highly encourage anyone to use her - 510-910-0186. SS

Architect for El Cerrito house additions/remodel

July 2009

I would like some recommendations for Architects to help with the remodel/expansion of our little home in El Cerrito. I know what I want done, I just need someone to make sure everything meets permitting requirements, can draw the plans and get them approved by the City of El Cerrito. Thanks! Verna

I can recommend Milton Tong, who lives in Richmond but has done a project for us in El Cerrito (and some others as well, I believe) and thus is familiar with the El Cerrito process and lives close by as well. Ingrid
I highly recommend Andus Brandt and Blackbird designs...he's a delight to work with and executed what I wanted and then's always better to add another set of eyes. andus [at] (510) 601-1150 Marguerite
Please give Jim Wallen, of UnCommon Spaces, a call at 925-209- 6209 (cell phone). His firm is design/build, which means he will design it then build it! We had our entire house remodeled and added 300 square feet. He presented several designs and when we settled on one, he pulled the permits and began the transformation of our home. The construction work is solid and well-built. He is meticulous, is very attuned to the owner's needs and desires, and came in on budget and on time. He is very sensitive to what would work for you, and he even offered thoughtful touches that we would not have even thought of! Our house was stripped down to the studs and he finished everything in seven short months! My mom's kitchen remodel took nine months - and it was just for the kitchen! Please call him - you will like him. He is very easy to work with. Happy Berkeley hills remodel

Architect for remodel of 1950's house

June 2009

I am looking for a reasonably priced architect to design plans for a remodel of a 2-bedroom/1 bath home built in the 1950s. We'd like to modernize it, including making better use of the space. We'd also like to explore the possibility of an addition. Thanks for any suggestions. Vicki

We would like to recommend Gary Alan Hill. Gary developed plans for us for a remodel of our Montclair home. Gary is the perfect balance of creativity, artistry, and practicality. He really listened to our needs and made recommendations about what was realistic given our budget and also the limitations of the existing house. We loved the final plans. They really retained the character of the house and gave us a more open floor plan with more living space. His price was extremely reasonable and he even came in under budget. He is very down to earth, personable, and a pleasure to work with. We recommend him without hesitation. Gary can be reached at garyalanhill [at] or 510-681-9096. Good luck! Dara
I highly recommend Milton Tong, Architect at 234-4088. He does excellent work and is thoughtful in his dealings with people. He listens very well and is willing to spend a lot of time with you to figure out what your needs are. He also has a lot of experience in the East Bay, so he's not new to the permitting process. Sue
Vicki- We just underwent a major home remodel in which we took an old bungalow from 1908 & added on as well as modernizing. I interviewed multiple architects but ended out choosing to work with Jen Dikeman-(jd [at] a house designer that we found to be wonderful and helpful. One of the best decisions we made. She is knowledgeable about all aspects of home design- helped us to get our permits through the city of oakland with relative ease. She has also worked with Berkeley and San Francisco. She has become very knowledgeable about a contemporary/ ''dwell'' style look that we created in our home, and some friends have used her for theirs. Beyond all of her abilities, she is kind, caring, and prompt. I'm sure you will get many recommendations for this one as the economic slowdown has hit most architects, but I would include her in your interviewing process- we couldn't have done any better. Feel free to contact me with questions. to see our completed (pending) home: john
I can highly recommend Struthers/Dias Architects for your remodel. They came up with a beautiful design for our craftsman, converting from a 2 BDR, 1 bath to a 3 BDR, 2 bath all within the existing footprint. Our friends can't believe that we didn't add on, because the new design is so spacious. We originally were thinking to do an addition, and they had some lovely ideas for that too- but this solution gave us maximum bang for the buck and unlocked all of the graciousness of the original design. They'll work within your budget and really listen to what you want out of your space and how you actually use your space. Definitely, give them a call! Gary Struthers: 510-205-7535, gstruthers [at] Kris
I'd like to recommend Bill Engelhardt for your project. Bill was the architect for our kitchen remodel, and he was great to work with. He provided us with great plans to maximize the space of our small kitchen. He also listened to what we wanted, and provided plans that incorporated our ideas and needs. Give him a call at 415-572-8895 (he is based in Oakland but has worked all over the Bay Area). Jen
Hi. I am happy to recommend architect Joanne Koch for your project. She is Berkeley based, a small practice with a lot of experience. One of her passions is ''mid-century'' homes and she has done many projects of all styles in this area and in the Napa Valley, where she formerly had a practice. She is extremely flexible, professional, attentive, creative and a wonderful person to spend a year or two with (you go on a journey with your architect - good to like your companion!) making your home into all you want it to be for you and your family. Her website: Happy Client
I'd like to HIGHLY recommend Joanne Koch of Koch Architects, 510.558.8280. Joanne worked with us on our mid-century remodel, including additions. She is nothing short of brilliant as an architect and especially familiar with mid-century architecture. But, on top of being incredibly creative and resourceful, (and hard working), she stands out as a rare exception when it comes to service. Joanne was committed to creating a well-designed, beautiful final product, but was also deeply committed to making sure we were happy with the outcome -- following through all the way and working very well with our contractor. She was curious and responsive to our needs, enjoying the process of working with us on the project as much as anything else. She was a pleasure to work with in this way, seeing the task as a relational undertaking as much as a technical and aesthetic challenge. Honestly, I can't say enough good things about her. It makes such a difference when doing a remodel to be working with people you really like! We also had a really great contractor, James Terrell (510.845.4420) of Terrell Construction. K.S. 415.425.2769
Oakland architect Jeff Wood helped us remodel our 1949 2br/1ba 2 years ago, and we are so pleased with the results. Jeff did a great job extending and modernizing our space while still keeping in the spirit of the house and neighborhood. (In fact our neighbors were so impressed they're about to start construction on an addition he designed for them.) He uses a lot of natural light, is easy to talk to and able to make intelligent recommendations about budget, permitting, etc. -- I could go on and on. His phone is 510-531-1624. JP
I highly recommend talking with Geoff Holton (geoff [at], especially if you are interested in being green. He's done a great job modernizing and adding onto our 1950's ranch-style home. We just moved back in and we love the space. suzie
I had a great experience with Andus Brandt, Blackbird Designs, phone: 510-601-1150 e-mail: andus [at] a few years back. He charges a fixed rate, really works to keep you on budget, and has good skills in communicating with contractors to be flexible during the construction process. Karin his colleague is equally wonderful and easy to work with especially in the back and forth of the design process. We did almost a full house remodel (kitchen, bath, bigger bedrooms) and small addition with deck. All of it flows so well and has dramatically increased the livability of our still small bungalow. Updated but still in keeping with the 1918 original build date of our house. Marguerite
I'd like to recommend Andus Brandt at Blackbird Designs. Andus helped us with a kitchen project in our 1908 brown shingle a couple of years ago and was fantastic. We ended up with a design that complements the style of the house and achieved every single one of our objectives. We originally hired Andus just on an hourly basis to come over and talk about some of the ideas we were having. This was a great way to get started, as he was able to give us some input about the feasibility of our ideas and we got a chance to get to know Andus and his style. I generally go out of my way to avoid hiring friends for large projects because I don't want to have to sacrifice a friendship or a project. But in the case of Andus, we actually went into the project as strangers and came out as friends. That's got to be pretty rare! Email andus [at] or 510-601-1150. John
I highly recommend the architect I worked with after consulting with several others. Her name is Laura Hamlin, and she did a lovely remodel of my horrible little kitchen. We explored a few different ways to go, with varying costs, and also spoke about future plans for further work. I,too have a 2 bedroom , one bath. She is very bright, very reasonably priced, and easy to work with. I don't have a very good ability to visualize possibilities, and she was great at describing options and providing drawings. She's also worked alot in the Bay area, so is familiar with many resources and contractors. Her phone number is: 415-453-5615 good luck, Phylis

Architect/Contractor needed for 2nd floor add-on

April 2009

We have a 1924 Craftsman bungalow, and with a growing family, we'd like a little more space. We're very interested in adding a 2nd floor to our current home. Can you recommend an architect and/or contractor to help us with the design and construction? Also, if anyone has done this and has advice for us, we'd love to hear your thoughts. Thank you. -Katie

We just finished adding a master bedroom/bathroom suite to our Arts and Crafts Bungalow and we couldn't be happier. We used Andrew Fischer of Fischer Architecture ( 510 204 9250) His designs are elegant and he is really personable and reliable. In fact, this is the third time he has done work for us. He also designed my painting studio and a truly unique fence for our home. You can also see some of his work in the April issue of Metropolitan Home. Gordon Olson ( Olson Brothers contracters 414 468 6719) was our contractor and he is also amazing and reliable. whitney
Kathy Rogers/Sogno Design - she is the BEST!!! We did a remodel of half of our 1st floor and added a 2nd floor (2 bed rms and 1 bat). I should say she and her wonderful crew and contractors (Tom Lawrence and Beth Quade) did the remodel while we were living in Europe - yes we were 5000 miles away and did everything via email and the web. She ''sees'' things like creating a little shelf here or there, a little storage area under the staircase etc. Just very creative and ''practical''. Stefanie
We recently did a major remodel on our 1920's home in Albany. Jason & his staff did an amazing job at designing our home and were all a pleasure to work with. He has a knack for being able to evolve varying ideas from what my husband & I had in mind and transforming that into a working model. We both are extremely pleased with the design. There's a lot of great talent in his office. We highly recommend working with them. His office is in Berkeley & can be reached at 510-549-3584 uner

2007 - 2008 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

Architect for addition/remodel

Nov 2008

Does anyone have a referral for an Architect who could help with our addition/remodel? We need someone experienced but cost conscious. We would also like to explore more than one option - possibly even raising the house. Thanks for any help. anon

I have a great architect that I hired to design my master suite addition in El Sobrante. She is based in Alameda but was great at researching what was allowed in unincorporated Contra Costa County. Her ideas for details like toilets, skylights, fixtures, etc. were always well thought-out and energy efficient. Her name is Angela Klein ( and she can be reached at 510-205-2594 or angieklein [at] psyspy
A few of my friends in Berkeley and Oakland have used Doug Coe. He can work with your budget, and he is really good at matching both your existing house as well as your needs as a family: Berkeley Home Owner
We used Scott Donahue, RS Donahue & Associates, 510-653-2245, and he was great. Very helpful, excellent work and great ideas. Lynne
I've got the architects for you! We just finished a remodel that turned out beautifully- thanks to our fabulous architects and contractor. We worked w/Struthers/Dias Architects. Gary and Theresa do a great job at listening to what you want, finding out about how you use your space, and come up with great design options. After exploring going up or pushing out back, they actually came up with a beautiful design within our existing footprint. Our friends just used them to do plans for an expansion to their place and they did a lovely job for them as well. Additionally, they had great communication w/our contractor to refine the plans so there were no challenges in the building process. Call Gary at 510-205-7535 or email : gstruthers [at] Then when you're ready to build, use our contractor Tom Judt. He delivered our project on time and in budget and was a delight to work with. 510-852-4560 Best of Luck, have fun! Kris
We have used and have continued to use Joanne Koch both for my house remodel as well as my office remodel. Joanne and her team are incredible; meticulous and detail-oriented, highly creative, cost-conscious and most importantly, really great to work with! I highly recommend her. Contact Joanne: joanne [at] Maria
We can wholeheartedly recommend Andus Brandt at Blackbird Designs. When we got started with our project, we weren't exactly sure which of several ideas we had made sense. So we hired Andus for a couple of hours to come over and talk about our options (attic expansion, reconfiguration, etc.). He gave us a ton of feedback on the structural and cost ramifications of each option, then helped us get to an solution that we really got excited about. We have an older bungalow, and he introduced some creative touches that allowed us to introduce some more modern conveniences while maintaining the integrity of our house. As an aside, we were simultaneously working on our deck and back yard, and Andus not only worked effectively with our landscape architect, he gave several suggestions that ensured we got exactly what we were looking for out of the combined project. But perhaps the best endorsement is that we still get together for coffee or lunch every now and then. I figure any house remodel project that ends that way is a pretty good one. Andus' email is andus [at], and his phone number is 510-601- 1150. Feel free to get in touch if you'd like to hear more. John
I'd like to recommend James Gwise (510-526-1996, jgwise [at], an architect with many years of experience working on small and large projects in the Bay Area. James helped us design a complex deck with a framed canopy, rather like a lanai addition to our house. The design combines traditional features such as redwood decking while also extending the design style of the rest of the house within the canopy, creating an interior feeling. The design creates a combination of exterior and interior space, for an inviting and comfortable place for sitting, talking, and dining. We had a very good experience working with James. He is smart, kind, patient, and responsible with very reasonable pricing. He listens very well and worked hard to reflect our ideas in his design. He also is a hands-on architect, with several years of experience as a carpenter, and he expanded his own house, adding a kitchen and an entire second floor. He noticed a lot of details in the building process and worked closely with the builder to stick with the design. We actually went on a month-long summer vacation, and had James monitor the project. He is posted the project progress photos on web for us to view from abroad. I highly recommend him. If you are interested, you can come to see our deck/lanai by e-mailing me. James's website is:; the site also includes pictures of our project. shaolan
We'd enthusiastically recommend Joanne Koch of Koch Architects in Berkeley (510.558.8280, She managed a major remodel for us that included the addition of a new room and literally everything in the house from roof to foundation. She was great at everything from the initial architectural design to making sure the final paint colors and wood stains came out just right, and was always a delight to work with and responsive to our concerns over cost and other factors, and a great help in negotiating with contractors. She's excellent at coming up with creative solutions to architectural problems and attention to detail, and we'll definitely give her a call if we have more work to do in the future. Robert
We had a similar situation, and a friend recommended Andus Brandt of Blackbird Designs. He was a pleasure to work with, and he came over to our house several times to get to know us, our needs, and our home before he created several different options. They were MUCH better than what I had envisioned and less expensive. Then he was very flexible with the details--we wanted to mix and match a few ''green'' elements of each--and he quickly drew up alternate plans with estimates very close to what the contractors provided. He also dealt with the City of Berkeley, introduced us to potential landscape architects, and knew which contractors would be best-suited and available for our specific needs. His experience shows! phone: 510-601-1150 e-mail: andus [at] Would definitely use him again, eli
Andus Brandt (Blackbird Designs, 510-601-1150) has done a number of house raises and teaches a class on this subject. You might consider calling him and/or enrolling in his class (taught through the Building Education Center in Berkeley). Leah
Andus Brandt at Blackbird Designs has been great. The house is almost finished (a three story 4 room addition) and it's lovely, it looks original to our 100 year old victorian. He was easy to work with, as was his partner Karen. We had a terrible time with our first contractor, and had to fire him, and Andus was very helpful, advocating for us throughout the entire ordeal. Berkeley Construction took over the project and has been wonderful... Please feel free to email if you have any questions. dralex

Architect for addition- on the cheap?

Oct 2008

Hi. We're looking to do an addition on our house in Lafayette, but feel like we need the assistance of an architect. We've heard that this can be quite expensive and more than we can afford, however, we feel it necessary. We were wondering if there's an alternative out there. Are there students of architecture out there, or apprentices that might take us on. If not, are there any reccommendations for an architect who is not hugely expensive? If we're making a total faux pas- sorry, we're new to this and have no idea how it works. Thanks. gettin' a bit bigger

If you feel you need the services of an architect, then you need someone with experience. A good experienced architect can work within your budget. If you do the appropriate checking of references you will be able to determine if this is the case with anyone you are considering. I am an architect and I consider it part of my professional responsibility to work within a client's budget - as long as they are realistic about the cost of what they want. If not, I decline the job. I also always give my clients the option to do any tasks they can to minimize my fees - like running back and forth to the city offices, etc.

You might consider hiring an architect to do a basic design and then work with the contractor (if he or she is willing/qualified) to flesh out the details. You might also seek out a design/build firm. This can be cost effective - if they are good designers - but you lose the checks and balances of having an architect as your advocate. Good luck. You get what you pay for

I am an East Bay father of three young children and licenced architect.

There's lots of ways to approach doing an addition, depending on the complexity of the project and the kinds of services that you need. For something very simple you can certainly have a student or apprentice draft the construction documents for submittal to Planning and Building departments, as most contractors don't do these drawings. But you do get what you pay for, and you can wind up with shoddy construction or not what you expected should the contractor require very thorough construction drawings and the student not have the experience.

Your house is a valuable asset, and it makes sense to do some legwork first. Visit the Planning department and describe the kind of addition you have in mind. They'll tell you what setback and other requirements you project needs to follow. If the project is more complex than a same-day planning review, you may consider having an architect or contractor who can help you navigate the process smoothly. Lafayette can be very picky about having a design that blends well with the neighborhood and site.

You're not required to have a licenced architect, however an architect brings valuable expertise that can benefit your project. A good architect will insure the addition, whether modern or traditional, compliments the existing architecture of the house, increase resale value, provide the best and most cost-effective solutions, resolve difficult design issues, provide energy efficient and sustainable design, and create a well thought out addition that is custom suited to your lifestyle and needs.

Talk to both architects and contractors to see if your ideas and budget are feasible. I'd be happy to talk more about your project and possible approaches. My rates are very competitive since I'm a sole practitioner. I started my own practice 3 years ago after a dozen years in other firms. I'm working on a project in Lafayette currently. MT

You do have an alternative, a 'Residential Designer', which can cost much less than a licensed architect. The state of CA allows non-licensed professionals to design, draft, and obtain permits for residential design with a few caveats. The residence may not be more than 2-stories + a basement for both single family and multi-family (4 units or less in multi-family) and of wood- frame construction. This also includes garages, ranch buildings, non-structural, non-seismic storefronts, interior alterations, cabinetry, and some other minor work.

These residential designers can have five, 10, or even 20 years of experience in architecture -- so you'll still get quality design. But because they do not have the same overhead as a licensed architect, they can charge less. Basically, the designer takes the place of a licensed architect, and the licensed contractor takes on the liability of the project.

I would not recommend hiring students because they will not know codes. These aren't taught in school but are instead learned in the field, which will make obtaining a permit problematic.

I have been doing residential design for a number of years and would be happy to discuss your options further with no obligation. Jill

All the replies to this topic seemed appropriate. I would just like to add that I am an East Bay Architect with two children, recently joining BPN. There seem to be quite a number of Architects at BPN! I can provide less expensive services by limiting my time on your project (all time is billed at an hourly rate). There are various ways to do this, which we can discuss in an initial consultation or over the phone.

Architect for Bathroom addition in Albany

Aug 2008

Hi, We are looking for your recommendation (or warnings) regarding your experience with an architect doing similar work to a residential bathroom addition in Albany. We don't need Frank Lloyd Wright, but we do need someone who can provide quality, affordable work with experience in Albany. Thanks ! Pondering Albany Bathroom Addition

David Finn, architect, just helped us re-do our bathroom, and had previously done an extensive kitchen remodel with us. He really listened to what we wanted, had great idea about how to best use space, and does understand costs. He's also a pleasure to work with. He's in Berkeley, and his number is (510) 649-9299. karen
When we had our kitchen remodeled a few years ago our architect was Doug Coe and he was great. I wanted to see a bunch of different layouts to see what would work best and he was very creative in his design ideas. He is a good listener and has dealt with the City of Albany a number of times. He's at arch [at] or 540-5029 drew
I highly recommend Kathy Rogers of Sogno Design group in Albany. She has done some stunning bathrooms among other beautifully done remodeling projects through out the east bay. Her work is featured in a Sunset design guide: Bathrooms that came out this spring and a Sunset Before and After bathroom makeover book. You have to check out her website to see her work or call her at 510-526-2720. She is a really upbeat architect to work with and is great at making remodeling FUN! Alex

Architect needed for backyard studio

Aug 2008

Hi there - We are demolishing our ancient garage in the backyard, and would like to build an art studio/office in its place. Can anyone recommend a good (and affordable) architect or builder for this kind of project? We're not really sure where to start. Samantha

You should definetely all Anne and Erin from TierneyConner Design Studio @ 510-531-0540. They specialize in residential architecture & landscape with emphasis on indoor/outdoor spaces, connecting the house to the garden and maximizing small living spaces. Their asthetic is amazing, they totaly get their client's needs and expecatations and are wonderful to work with. They are creative, resourceful and help you get amazing results within your budget. meghan
Run to the phone and call Gary Struthers and Theresa Dias for your project right now! Seriously, these two just did a beautiful design for our remodel, they were affordable, and great to work with. After working for a large firm (whom I encounter through my work, that's how I got hooked up with them), they've started their own firm specializing in remodels, additions, and single family homes. They worked with my very limited budget to remodel my home using the existing footprint to get a new bath and bedroom. The design of the house is much nicer than what it was. I originally had thought to do an addition, but their design solution allowed me to get much more bang for my buck. They are great at listening to what you want and presenting several options. They also respect what is important to you and how you will use the space, instead of going off on what they think would be nice design- really crucial in architects. As a bonus, they introduced me to my contractor who has been an absolute dream to work with. This project sounds great for them. I can't recommend them more highly. Gary's nbr: 510-205-7535 ; Theresa's email: tbdias [at] Feel free to contact me if you'd like more info. Kris twkfeck [at]
Kathy Rogers, at Sogno Design in Albany, is fantastic. Her design sense is wonderful, her projects are beautiful, and she's great to work with. Here's her website: Feel free to email me for more info: jf
Hi- I have two designers for you, either would be great. Rich Soenksen is very creative and we've built one garage/studio with him and are in the middle of a second garage/studio project. Really wonderful guy, hard working, will make your project fit with your home and garden. He is also an amazing carpenter, which is great when designing something as he knows how it will be built. His phone numbers are: 415.828.0570 and 415.584.7384. The other designer is Jennifer Cooper. I've seen her work and it is really well done- beautiful. Her phone number is 510.652.5036. Good luck. We love our studio. Michelle
You may want to interview architect Thornton Weiler. He has experience with accessory dwelling units (ADUs) such as backyard studios, granny flats, backyard offices and garage apartments. He is a green architect who is working toward his LEED certification. He is also the fastest bike rider I know. He is now designing a backyard studio to be built of structural insulated panels (SIPs) which, compared to stick building, are stronger (for earthquakes), insulate better (super low energy bills) and go up quicker. He can be reached at 510 381 4829 or thorntonweiler [at] george

Architect-Mid Century Modern meets Post Ranch Inn

May 2008

Looking for an architect-I know this question has been asked a number of times but I'm looking for a specific type of architect. We are looking at remodeling our Mid Century Modern. We want to keep some of the look of it but want the natural look and feel of The Post Ranch Inn from Big Sur mixed into the look. If we could also add a twist of fun or unexpected added into the design that would be great. I know certain architects specialize in certain designs, if anyone could suggest someone who might specialize in this design look, that would be great. We are in the East Bay.

I would recommend that you talk with Geoffrey Holton and see his portfolio: 663-9797. heidi
We worked with a *wonderful* architect when we remodeled our home - Hiromi Ogawa. She totally understood our little packet of inspirations (everything from Dwell magazine clippings to a bright orange mid-century Dansk pitcher) and worked with us to hone ideas and stay within our budget. I literally can't say enough good stuff about Hiromi, every phase of our process was a pleasure and we are giddy in love with our home. Several of our friends have since worked with her and everyone is happy. I wish I had something else to remodel so I could hire her again! You can see some of her work on her website Thanks to her incredible, creative ideas our bathroom has been featured in two magazines, including Sunset. I think she'd be a terrific choice to work with you on your mid- century ranch. Feel free to contact us with any questions. izzy
I would HIGHLY recommend the architect we used for our Berkeley mid-century modern renovation. She is a brilliant architect with great vision and an astute understanding of mid-century architecture. She's also wonderful to work with and I could not recommend anyone more highly. Her name is Joanne Koch at Koch Architects. Her number is: 510.558.8280 and email is: joanne [at] Good luck! 415.425.2769 Karin
I have a terrific architect to recommend. We are just finishing a major remodel (adding a family room, office, bath, deck upstairs). His specialty is modern with putting, as you said, ''a twist of fun or unexpected'' into things. Our house, however, is a craftsman bungalow, and while this may not be his ''specialty'' he did a wonderful job of listening to what we wanted and creatively designing something that fit what we were looking for in the limited space we had -- plus adding some great elements we hadn't thought about. It has exceeded our expectations. So I am totally confident that he could put together whatever combination of styles you are interested in. He is also a pleasure to work with and will help you down to all the little details. He also works really closely with the contractor to make sure everything is going according to plan. He stopped by our construction frequently and could answer all the contractor questions that come up-- which made the whole process as stress free as possible. (He'll also help you negotiate with/evaluate contractors - which made that whole process easier too). He is also very environmentally conscious and is very knowledgeable about alternative materials, solar etc. His name is Henry Gutman. web site is Office is 547-3972; cell is 205-6592. email is henry [at] karen

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 forseeing 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

Recommendations for an Architect near Piedmont

Sept 2007

We are looking for a good, reasonable priced architect, preferable someone who has worked with the Piedmont city and has experience in working on garages with in-law units. Also any advice from those who have built a garage or in-law unit will be appreciated. Thanks Maisy

I'd like to recommend Mike Pond and his firm, Berkeley Design/Build. Mike did both design and building of our house and we are impressed with the quality of architecture and workmanship. (He can do both phases or just the design, if you like.) He and his partner Chris Linville are talented and dedicated architects and builders, and they have done jobs in Piedmont. Feel free to email me if you have questions, or give him a call: 547-7196, J.
I suggest you contact Melander Architects. They are located in San Francisco but do work all over the Bay Area. They just finished a small remodel in Piedmont for our friends who couldn't be happier. Tel: 415 981 7087 WEB: martin

Lamorinda Architect?

Sept 2007

Hi everyone, just bought a house in Lafayette and we need to add on a master bedroom and a study to a cottage that was originally built in the 30's. The place is a bit of a Frankenstein monster, has been added onto before, and badly. Am looking for recommendations for a good architect, one that is creative and flexible and FAST, and can re-envision this place so that it looks like something more than a box with some extra boxes glommed onto it. Preferably someone with expereince in Lafayette dealing w/ planners, etc. Thanks for your help. Christine

Rick Kattenburg, in Orinda, did the remodel/addition for our 1950's home, and 10 years later,we are still extremely happy with his design. My dad said ''He turned a sow's ear into a silk purse!'' Plus Rick's a very nice guy. He went with us to the Lafayette Planning Commission when we needed a variance for our deck and helped us all the way through the project. Barbara
I highly recommend Kenny Goodman of Trademark Architecture and Interiors. I know he has done houses in Lafayette. (His office is in San Ramon.) We live in Moraga and are in the middle of a kitchen/family room remodel he designed. He was extremely fast and good. He got our desires and needs immediately. In some cases it was like he was reading my mind! It was a very pleasant experience. My friend worked with him on a complete gut and redo of her Moraga home and loved working with him. He is truly an artist and can custom design whatever you want for your home: cabinets, stained glass, carved fireplace mantels, etc. (Our project isn't so high-end, but boy I wish it were because his design skills are off the charts.) Also, my contractor and cabinet maker keep exclaiming that they have never seen an architect with such detailed plans and attention to every little detail. So, that is a nice endorsement as well. His info: Kenny Goodman Trademark Architecture and Interiors 2551 San Ramon Valley Blvd., Suite 229 San Ramon CA 94583 tel. 925-743-9217 -- Mary

2005 - 2006 Reviews

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

Architect to artfully expand a small home

September 2006

We are looking to expand our 1000 sq. ft. Walnut Creek home and I'd like to collect some architects' names to speak to. We are looking for someone who can artfully expand a small home on a small lot so that it doesn't look like a blatant addition (i.e. no rectangular box stuck on) and which maximizes our lot so that it is not 'all house'. Someone with a Rockridge/Berkeley design sensibility would be ideal, not a modernist. The architect should also be strong in structural expertise since we may want to add a second story but don't know how that will work with our foundation. Also, has anyone done work with Bill Mastin recently? There is one very old recommendation for him. I saw a house in Fine Homebuilding that he designed that is exactly what I'm looking for Erin

For a very knowledgeable architect who is very easy to talk to, give Sunny Grewal a call at (510) 548-7448. E-mail: sunny[at]
Larry L
You might want to try Scott McGlashan with McGlashan Architecture. He is in Berkeley. Scott[at] or 510-549-2102.
Kimberly W
Try Levitch and Associates in Berkeley. Ask for Maurice.
Aug 2006

I highly recommend Ron Bogley in Berkeley who has carried out three jobs on our house over the last eight years. The last was a full second-storey addition that we're very pleased with. Ron is a great person - very friendly, good-natured, reliable and honest. His crew is excellent and I would recommend going with his suggestions for subs as much as possible. (I'll post seperately on each of these.) John

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

More Architect Reviews from 2006

December 2006

I own a 4 unit apartment building in Berkeley's Elmwood District that burned down in August. The exterior walls will remain, but the entire interior must be rebuilt. The property was built in 1921. Can anyone recommend a builder or architect who has experience with this architectural era and knows how to deal with fire restoration? THANKS ida

I know an excellent architect and builder who work together and can help you with your restoration. The architect's name is Sunny Grewal (510) 548-7448 and the builder is Frank Silver (510) 547-6111. They are very professional and will be able to take care of it for you. Larry L.
Sunny Grewal in Berkeley is an excellent architect and easy to talk with. 510.548.7448 or sunny[at]
Scott McGlashan of McGlashan Architecture does great work. He did a lot of the work, both design and construction, on the building at MLK and Dwight. (The building that has the sign for Hugh Groman Catering.) You can reach him at: 510 549-2102 or scott[at]
December 2006

Hi we are doing a large addition to our house in el cerrito. I would like to have any recommendations for an architect. We already have our design and my husband who is a mechanical engineer has and can draft on autocad and solidworks. But we may need an architect to do the final drafting with all the details etc or better yet someone who we can pay to consult with us as to what details need to be included and my husband can do the actual drafting work. Any recommendations would be greatly appreciated

We used Jarvis Architect. They are located at 5278 College Avenue Oakland, CA 94618. 510-654-6755 tel. There website is info[at] They were great, staff wonderful...but not inexpensive. Our neighbors also recently used them for a job and were very happy. good luck
December 2006

Hello, Does anybody have a great architect recommendation? This would be for new home construction. We'd like a house style that is traditional with some Craftsman and maybe some Asian influence, so experience in these styles would be a plus! Thank you in advance! Maggie

Try Jarvis Architects located at 5278 College Avenue Oakland, CA 94618. 510-654-6755 tel info[at] good luck
Nick Noyes Architecture is a small firm located in San Francisco. He's been published numerous times in Sunset Magazine, Architectural Record, House Beautiful etc. From a beautiful addition he did for my mom on the eats coast to his most recent projects, (two new ocean-view houses up at Sea Ranch), his work is exquisite. Check out the website.
August 2006

I just wanted BPN members to be aware of Doug Wolff AIBC. I have a remodeling project in Berkeley that I need plans drawn for. I called Doug Wolff based on his ad and briefly explained my project. After barely a minute of conversation, he said I'm not going to get involved in this type of project. click. I would not recommend using someone with such poor business skills. Tanya

May 2006

Hi, Richard Worthy, Worthy Designs, 665-4573 is a licensed architect with a lot of experience with home remodeling (among other things), and the local planning offices here in the East Bay. He's helped several people on the Parent's Network in previous years and is now available again. He's a friend of mine. Very reliable, friendly, cost-effective. Betsy

May 2006

We are currently working with a start-up architecture firm called Arcsine. They are based out of Oakland. There are only two architects in the firm. We needed to remodel a home we purchased: remodel entire kitchen, effectively add a whole story to our home, remodel master bedroom, etc. Arcsine has been good with the planning and design ideas. Our contractors have liked working with Arcsine, too (big plus!). Arcsine's number is 510-444-2410. Anon

May 2006

I would recommend Sunny Grewal of G Architects. He will help you navigate through the whole process of design, permits and building. He has a real passion for his work. 510-548-7448

May 2006

To the member looking for a current recommendation for an architect: my vote goes to Mahmoud Poursand (510-333-3524) gehldesignbuild[at] I've recently retired from 27 years as a contractor and he's the best I've ever worked with. Talented and extremely honest and straightforward. Larry G.

May 2006

We used Chet Zebroski of Erickson Zebroski Design group for a remodel several years ago, and highly recommend him and his partner, Laurie Erickson. We interviewed a number of architects after our home burned in the Oakland Hills firestorm, and ultimately chose to buy an existing house and remodel it. Chet had been the project architect for a neighborms reconstruction and got high praise from their very experienced and respected local contractor. This recommendation carried a lot of weight with us, because we wanted an architect who was realistic about construction costs and issues and easy for both us and our contractor to work with. Chet was all of these and more. Not only did he help me to articulate my ideas and translate them into wonderful living space, but I also consider him one of the most ethical professionals Imve ever met. I hope to have the opportunity to work with him again. Although EZDGms office is in San Francisco, they have considerable East Bay experience. You can contact them at 415-487-8660, via email at ezdg[at] or check out their web site

May 2006

Scott McGlashan, McGlashan Architecture, 510 549-2102. Check out his work on the web:

May 2006

I can wholeheartedly recommend Geoff Holton as an architect to consider. He designed a new home for us and has been a real pleasure to work with. He is a good communicator and a good listener, very reliable. He's interested and knowledgeable about green construction, if that's something you want. He works well with contractors, has lots of good ideas, and is a genuinely nice person. He can be reached at 663-9797. His office is in Oakland. happy customer

May 2006

We have used Peter Brock in Berkeley with his partner, Marina Rubina, to design the Berkeley house we expect to begin in July. Previously, we had a difficult experience with an architectural team, wasting a year of precious time and were both discouraged and disillusioned. A neighbor who is the president of a contracting firm recommended Peter and Marina, who stepped in and we began anew. In a short time, they recognized our needs, our lifestyle and our architectural taste, working to produce what we wanted and needed for our large extended family. With three grandchildren we take care of for two days a week, we wanted someone who understood the dynamics of childcare and an entraining schedule that included 11 of us on a regular basis. As we're seniors (I have a site,, we also wanted a house that incorporated 'aging in place' features. Peter and Marina were sensitive and responsive to our needs. We couldn't recommend them more highly:

More Architect Reviews from 2005

October 2005

We recently did a major remodel that included knocking down walls, building a staircase to the basement and creating an entire floor with three bedrooms and a bath in the basement. Our contractor recommended an architect who had recently moved to Oakland from the East Coast where he had been doing a combination of commercial and residential.

His name is Bill Engelhardt. We instantly hit it off with him. He was thoroughly professional but has a great sense of humor and a very clear and easy way of explaining what he thinks should be done and why.

Our first clue that he was the right guy was that he instantly saw where we could build the staircase after several other people had been confounded by the problem, considering our relatively compact floorplan. His idea was bold and surprising - and it totally works. He is a fast and reliable worker and his rates seem completely in line with local standards. Most important, we really liked working with him and found his ideas to be tasteful and intelligent.

Highest recommendation.

HIs email is: bill[at] phone: 415-572-8895

September 2005

I highly recommend Hiromi Ogawa as an architect. We had her design the remodel of our small Albany house and couldn't be happier with her creative and thoughtful design for us. 510 205 8683

August 2005

Re: Great Architect in Albany
You should check out Robert A. Wolf in Albany. He does a great job adding on to older homes while maintaining the original character. He has a website: Anon

August 2005

Re: Architect Needed
I would like to recommend Antonio Robles, who is very thoughtful, creative, reasonable, and takes the time to really understand what you're trying to accomplish. He's got nearly 20 years of extensive residential experience of all kinds. He has a fairly full schedule, but always makes time for his clients. Give him a call at 510-717-2796-- you'll be glad you did. lauren

June 2005

RE: Architect recommendation for front decks
To the person needing an architect to design a set of decks on the front of their house: I could recommend the architect we used: Lori Bockholdt. She designed a beautiful major remodel for us, including a deck, and handled the permits for our project. She also worked with a structural engineer for our project. We are very happy with her work. Her e-mail address is lbockholt[at] Kim

Feb 2005

We're doing a small remodel of our garage and would like to work with a contractor/builder (and perhaps architect) that has experience and knowledge of green building methods and materials (e.g., cellulose insulation, cork flooring, low VOC paints, energy efficiency, etc.) It's also a pretty small and simple job, so we'd like someone who's reasonably (low) priced and prompt. thanks! Jamie

A great eco/green architect in Berkeley is Todd Jersey. His web site is or phone is 510.524.5666. Susan
Feb 2005

We are looking for an architect for a major remodel including adding square footage to the existing foundation footprint, reworking interior space and adding a garage in the Oakland hills. We first need to decide if this is feasible with our slope and underground culvert. An architect with experience building in the hills is essential. Nancy

I would like to recommend Orjala Architects for a major remodel in the Oakland hills. Jim Orjala is a very creative architect and has done many major remodels and complete house projects in the steep areas of Oakland . One of his houses, which was recently featured in the Chronicle, was built on the edge of a cliff. For our house addition, he was very respectful to the original design of the house and very creative in incorporating his own ideas. In the past he has been a mediator for the City of Oakland regarding building problems, as he also is a very diplomatic person and was a pleasure to work with. Chris
To Nancy who was looking for an architect w/ hills experience. I highly recommend Rebecca Schnier, an architect we've been working with for a few months. She has experience with hills and in fact, her home was built on culvert so she knows all about those issues. She's professional, friendly, very detailed oriented, has helped us through our major remodel and. Good luck! Christine
Try Joanne Koch at 558-8280. She can provide a number of references in the Bay Area for large remodeling projects. I only know Joanne personally but can recommend her wholeheartedly as a person who would be a pleasure to work with and who goes above and beyond for her clients. Maria
RE: Oakland Remodel Request from Nancy Mark Hajjar has done extensive residential design and remodels in the Oakland/Berkeley hills. He is well versed in the inherent problems of hillside remodels with difficult site conditions as well as working with building dept issues. His solutions are well designed and always sensitive to light and comfortable living styles. His number is 925 683-7645. I'd definitely recommend him.
January 2005

We just wanted to take a moment to recommend the architect we've been working with on our remodel. His name is Eric Dumican (415.828.9037, ericdumican[at] We're doing fairly extensive work with a complete kitchen, master suite, master bath, stair well, attic remodel and a deck addition. All in we're adding about 500 SF of living space. We are on a tight budget and want to get a lot done but Eric was very attentive to our needs throughout the whole process. He's a great listener and very easy to work with, not one of these big ego types. He was creative in minimzing costs and also from a design perspective. The final design is really fantastic and we're very pleased with it. Give him a ring or drop him a line if you're looking for an architect! See his website at Jean

2003 - 2004 Reviews

Architect for modern/contemporary design

October 2004

We are planning a staged remodel of our house in Berkeley and would appreciate recommendations for an architect/designer with modern/ contemporary projects in their portfolio. Judy

I highly recommend Kathy Rogers of Sogno Design. I've seen 2 of her remodels and this year 1 of her kitchen remodels was featured in the Rockridge Kitchen Tour. Plus she's got a great attitude and is fun and easy to work with. Kathy Rogers, Sogno Design 526-5750; sognodesign[at]
I'd like to recommend my brother, Jacek Ostoya, as a terrific architect with a modern/contemporary sensibility. He recently completed a total remodel (interior and exterior) of his Edwardian in the inner Richmond, which serves as a wonderful example of his work that you can see. He was able to seemlessly update a classic house/style with contemporary updates and remodeling. He was able to retain the integrity of the home as it was originally intended but absolutely ended up with an exciting and beautiful home. As background, he has worked for the past 13 years at H.O.K., Studios, and Gensler before venturing out on his own. You can reach him at 415.379.8689. Feel free to contact me also, if you'd like some more info. Good luck with your project.
I highly recommend Richard Parker who is the co-founder of 450 Architects in San Francisco. Richard helped us with a major re-build of our Berkeley home. Richard can design a space that would exceed your expectations of a modern/contemporary space. He can forsee and avoid problems with construction, material procurement and design. And he's such a diplomatic and helpful person in any situation -- he always looks out for the client first and foremost which can be such a relief to you when working with contractors and vendors. His number is (415) 546-0450 and his web site is If you would like to ask me more about working with Richard, feel free to call me. Nikki
I want to recommend a wonderful, modern innovative and talented architect named Douglas Burnham. He lives in Berkeley and has an office in Oakland. He owns his own firm, is quite brilliant and has won many awards for his work, and is the hardest working person I know. He was featured in a SF Chronicle Examiner magazine profile of hot young architects in the past year. He's also a warm, smart and reliable person. He can be reached at 510 839- 1040. Good luck. Sarah
I would strongly recommend Joanne Koch, who oversaw an extensive remodel of our 1970s-modernist house in the Berkeley hills. She has an intuitive feel for contemporary aesthetics, excellent training and extensive work experience. She was able to imagine the spirit our exciting home had had when it was built nearly 40 years ago and help us bring it back to life. Joanne is an honest, sensible, flexible person who is a pleasure to work with. Her phone number is (510) 601-8156. Michele
Jim Orjala, with an office in Oakland, is a brilliant architect who can do any genre of architecture but has a special flair/interest for the modern. His stuff is sensual and singular, and he is one of the few architects who knows about function and engineering, as well. A few weeks ago, a very modern home that he cleaved to the side of a mountain in Oakland was featured on the cover of the Sunday Chronicle's real estate section. Jim is not only gifted but also personable, so the act of creation is a pleasurable experience.
Aesthetics Enthusiast
I would like to recommend Jacek Ostoya, of Ostoya A+D who is a wonderful modern architect. After extensive experience working at large firms, including HOK, Studios and Gensler, he has opened his own practice in S.F. His own home, an Edwardian in the Inner Richmond is the best calling card, as it where he lives and work. This was a total remodel of the home and his assimilating of a modern esthetic into a classic style was seamless and exciting. Even better is that he is an amiable guy who is easy to work with and opening to discussing your ideas and goals, guiding you through the process. You can reach him at 415.379.8689.

Architect Reviews from 2004

July 2004

Re: Designer/architect, San Francisco
My husband and I are working with Richard Parker of 450 Architects right now on a pretty major remodel of our house. We haven't even gotten our building permits yet, so I can't tell you how the project will wind up, but the drawings he's produced for us are terrific, and he's already proven himself to be very responsive, budget-minded, ''green,'' etc. You should definitely give him a call. SF Remodeller

July 2004

Re: Looking for Architect in 925 area code
I've seen a nice remodel of a ranch style house ''across the hill'' by Gary Samonsky of Samonsky, Pometta Architects. Maybe they could help you? Mombo

July 2004

I do know of two good architects, Robert Wolf and Andre Rothblatt. They both have a lot of experience. Andre has a more contemporary style and Robertms style is more traditional. Robert does a great job in making homes with additions look like they have always been a part of the home. I have worked with Robert and he was great in helping us understand the costs of the project. My suggestions to you are: know what you want to do, make decisions in a timely manner and stick to them, be realistic, and patient.
Robert Wolf 510-525-0211 Andre Rothblatt 415-626-5112
Good Luck! Anon

I live in the Oakland Hills and had two houses remodeled by now. Looking back on the experience, I would greatly recommend Peter Soldat Architecture (510)655-1608. Peter's approach helped us to get what we wanted, stay within our budget and timeframe and end up with a house we love now. His design is beautiful and his ability to understand what is important to you and implement it in the design is wonderful. He is very direct, has integrity and he is great to work with. Also because of his architecture and engineering background he is able to make suggestions and work closely with the contractors to avoid many potential problems that other architects just were not able to do. His approach is to spend more time upfront to ensure that the plans are very clear and include the contractor in the overall plan early. Because we did this the process was much smoother and the outcome was fantastic. He was also excellent at helping us to come up with compromises as needed to keep our budget and still have us get the looks we wanted. We had done complete reconfiguration of the layout of the house, full kitchen, bathrooms, bedrooms remodel with some small addition. If you wish you can come to see our house. He has also completed other houses in the Oakland Hills. Good luck. Alena
Hi, Robert Alan Wolf of R.A.W. Concepts is a very creative Architect who has completed many projects in Albany. He is very familiar with all the planning, zoning and permit requirements in Albany, which can be very strict. Albany planning and zoning has even been known to recommend him! My advice is to be patient and flexible. In the long run you will be happy with your transformed home. Good Luck! Anon
May 2004

This is in reply to an inquiry by Mary for an architecture firm. I live in the Oakland Hills and had my whole house remodeled (most of it was completely gutted out and some of the rooms were enlarged, etc.) I used Peter Soldat Architecture. 510-655-1608 Peter Soldat ( the architect) was excellent. His approach, his advice, his design and implementation were exceptional. His advice and approach helped me to keep my original budget without compromising the desing and quality of remodel. He has done other homes in the Oakland Hills and Alamo. If you wish to contact me or see my house, please feel free to do so. Alena

May 2004

This is in response to a request for Architect. I used Robert Wolf for my architect for a second story addition in Berkeley. Robert is extremely knowledgeable about structural requirements and excellent working knowledge of all the planning and zoning requirements. He is also very creative. He did a great job in helping us find a contractor and make decisions that keeped our costs down. His phone number is 510-525-0211. Anon

May 2004

My wife and I have met Glen Jarvis through fund raising house tours featuring the homes he has worked with. While we have not actually worked with him, we find him a very personable and responsible person who would appear to be easy to work with. The homes he has remodeled, often of the time period you mention, never show signs of the remodel, seamlessly moving from old space to new. But is it also clear that he has created remarkably comfortable and easy to live in modern spaces that cater to our current lifestyles. The clients we have met over the years always seemed very pleased with Glen and were still friendly. If we were in your position, we'd certainly consider Glen Jarvis for our project. Sean

April 2004

My husband and I were planning on a project that would create a playroom. I posted my request for an architect on the ADPSR listserv and got back over 20 responses. I meet with two people with whom I was very impressed. Rinna Flohr - she was on time, very informative, listened well and was very easy to talk to. She listened to my ideas and my budget and was quickly able to see a few problems...she made some good suggestions of how to make the project much smaller and less costly...AND told me that I did not need to hire her for such a small job. So, she actually helped me plan a new project - much better bang for the buck - and talked her way out of a job. She was great about it all - when we do a larger project, and I actually get to hire someone, I will contact her...510.849.3111

Gregory Proefrock - he was on time, very informative, listened well, took excellent notes and was generally very pleasant. By the end of our meeting, it was obvious that what we wanted was not going to happen for the budget we had in mind. We discussed a smaller, less involved, much cheaper alternative and he too suggested that was the better route and said for such a small project, I did not need plans other that my own. He seemed to understand permits and their implicationsVvery helpful. Again, in the future, I hope I get to call him for a projectV 415.225.5606

Both of them had a free first meeting (I do not know if that is always true)and neither acted at all put out that the result of the meeting was that we would not be able to do the project. I would recommend both of them for a project - just from what I experienced, both would be the type of person I would want to work with on an addition. As a side note, if I had done the project, both had very reasonable per hour rates! Wendy

Mar 2004

We have a 1927 home designed in the Julia Morgan studio. The original kitchen was remodeled long ago, and we need to remodel the entire, very large kitchen. We are looking for an architect who can help return the kitchen design to the original craftsmanship in the house. Does any have a recommendation on someone for this?

We have a 1921 Julia Morgan house. We used architect David Finn to remodel our kitchen. I wouldn't say we returned it to the orignal (There was a coal stove, etc.), the redesign looks like part of the house. You are welcome to come see it if you like. David Finn is in Berkeley at (510) 649-9299. Karen
Hi there, My good friend is an excellent architect. You can reach her at 510.527.5470 or alexandravon AT She's done a wonderful job remodelling rooms. Maria
A husband/wife team of architects who are friendly, creative, and PRACTICAL with your budget (work well with a range of styles)--are Ivor Brown and Alison Keene 652-2184. They're experienced in remodels and ground up work. They can do a complete suite of construction drawings and assist with on site decisions, or get you on the way to your permits and make contractor suggestions. Designed our art studios and house addition. I find with architects, someone who really listens to YOUR style and especially budget is essential. Carol
A great architect for a craftsman kitchen remodel is Angie Klein 510-864-8884 2622 Lincoln Ave. Alameda, Ca. 94501 She's experienced, has a great eye and high integrity... Sue
Carlene Anderson has done a lot of work in the area and has had some of her work in magazines like Sunset. We used her to assist in the design of our kitchen and bathrooms and were really happy. She is very efficient, has practical ideas, knows the products that are out there, listens to your preferences, and can work either in a limited capacity or do it all. Vera
I can recommend Joe Farrell. Before moving back to the east bay, we owned a home in San Carlos that was built in the 1920's and was on the list of historical sites of that city because it was designed by a famous architect. It had a very unusual roof line and we needed to make an addition to the home. Mr. Farrell was able to add a bedroom and bath to the home that seemed as if it should have been there all along. He has a tremendous appreciation for honoring the authenticity of a home. He works mostly in Marin and San Francisco on remodels, but has come to the east bay, as far as Lafayette, in the past. His email is jfarrell AT and his website is Good luck. jenny
We are happy with a major remodel of our 1905 house, completed a year ago. We used the Emeryville-based architect Bob Remiker (510-644-8099) for all phases of the project, from conceptualizing the design to choosing the materials to ensuring a fine finished product. Bob has good judgement, pays a lot of attention to detail, and works with the architecture of the house and the owner's wishes. His assistant helped and we were less pleased with her, even though he supervised her work.
Bennett Christopherson is well known in this area for excellent remodels, working with older houses to preserve their original character. We enjoyed working with them. c Richards
Mar 2004

Help! We need to supersize our old, tiny Albany home. Should we add on a new second floor, or raise the house and build a new first? Do we hire an architect or a contractor? Help! Any/all advice gratefully accepted.

We have always been very happy with a local architect: Ann Maria Celona 510-420-1128 She's smart, competent, reliable, good design sense, and works well with the contractor we have used: Jesse Young 510-527- 8153 I don't know if she knows Albany as well as Berkeley, but she was excellent at handling the city permit office. Sherry

Coverting garage to painting studio

Sept. 2003

My husband is a painter and we would like to convert our detached 2-car garage into a suitable painting studio. We would like to hire an architect or someone who does design/build. We are specifically looking for someone who is sensitive to the craftsman style of our house and can make the studio coherent with that design but also include some of the more modern accountrements you would expect in a studio such as high quality lighting. We want someone to do a top notch job and aren't necessarily looking for the cheapest. roxanne

I'd like to recommend Rob Stiles for the project. He has a great aesthetic and is a pleasure to work with. You can view his website for more info and contact information it's Good luck with your project! dg

Bungalow-friendly architect

July 2003

Can anyone recommend an architect that you think might work well with the bungalow style (a 1920's house built in the Crocker Highlands area of Oakland). We are looking to possibly add on to our house, and want to find someone whose style might work well with the period of our house. And who of course, is great to work with! Thanks. Hilary

I would like to recommend Andrew Fecskes. He has done a large variety of work, but included are residential projects. He is nice, easy to work with and does great work. He has not worked on an historic bungalow per se, but did a house in Woodside several years ago which was based on bungalow design and used a lot of bungalow details. You do not need someone who specializes in only bungalows to get a great job done. A good architect can understand that style and keep within it. More important is someone who listens to you and is good to work with. Andrew's work number: 415 499 0661
Why not give Barry Wagner a call? Though I have no personal experience with him as an architect, I have taken the class Barry teach on bungalows at the Building Education Center and the Piedmont Adult School, and he really seems to know his stuff. He's a licensed architect, contractor, and bungalow owner. Good luck. Leah
We met a local architect who specializes in bunglows at a course he teaches on the subject (through Piedmont Adult School and the Building Education Center--has a class coming up there on Aug 24). He seemed knowledgeable and the slides of his work looked good. We just bought our first house and he's been really helpful with referrals, even though we haven't worked with him yet. We haven't talked with anyone who's hired him, though. His name is Barry Wagner and his number is: 841-4040. Bene
I am working on mostly residential remodel projects in Berkeley and Oakland. Although I am not specialized in Bungalow style, I work with clients who want to stay within the style of their house. I usually work on an hourly basis and guide through Schematic Design, Pricing, Permit drawings and if desired also Working drawings and Construction Administration. With small projects, the contractor often takes it from the completion of the permit set and I only get invovled if there are specific questions or special areas that need to be detailed. I came to the Bay Area from Stuttgart, Germany five years ago and worked for several offices in San Francisco (residential and commercial projects) and started my own practice one year ago after my son was born. Until now I used to work from home, but will be moving into an office in Oakland downtown as my home office started to take over too much space. Please e-mail me if you are interested in meeting and discussing your ideas.
anne-catrin schultz acschultz at

Design for bungalow addition

April 2003

My husband and I want to add a second story to our one-story Craftsman bungalow (built in the 1910's) in North Oakland. Any recommendations for an architect/designer/builder who is able to: 1) work within the Craftsman style and Oakland building codes; and 2) provide budget estimates that turn out to be feasible? The latter seems to be the tough criterion; we keep hearing things like ''So and so gave us wonderful designs, but everything cost 4 times what he/she predicted!'' Thanks for any suggestions. Madeline

Typically any residential remodel will cost $200-$250/per square foot. I work for a firm in Emeryville and am not sure that I am supposed to use UCB network to tout my employer, but I wanted to write in to let both the bungalow remodel and the kitchen renovation queries know the basics. Costs go up depending on finishes chosen and the contractor you select. Check out our firm: We don't force a pre-determined style on to our clients and only design for within your reach. Good luck. Shawn
Madeline in north Oakland asked about a architect that was good with Bungalow style houses for an addition she was planning. I have worked with an architect Morgan Smith who work out of his Berkeley office but does projects all around the bay .He has considerable experience with residences of this kind and does projects anywhere from a kitchen remodel to a new building. He is reliable and easy to work with. If you cannot find him listed I'd be happy to give you his number. Tansy
In response to several different people looking for a architect/contract firm; I would highly recommend the design/build firm of Levitch Associates. We were very pleased with a remodel they did for our Berkeley House in the summer of 2001. It was such an advantage to have Levitch Assoc. handle both the design and build phase. Working with Ed and Maurice Levitch, there were absolutely no hassles negotiating with subcontractors and other firms; they handled it all for us! They gave us frequent updates about the project and they were always available. While their bid was slightly higher than others, their attention to detail and reliability were well worth the expense. Plus there were no surprises and we wound up paying exactly what we had negotiated for in our budget. (It seems I keep hearing stories about contractors with lower rates who wind up being more expensive in the end and take way longer than stated.) Not so with Levitch Associates: They finished on time and in budget. They do beautiful work. The phone number for Levitch is 510-845-6941 Jena
This is in response to posting from Madeline: I am very happy with my architect who remodeled my whole house in the Oakland Hills. He was very pragmatic and at the same time was able to come up with a beautiful design. He helped me to establish realistic budget before I started. From the beginning he was very clear about the process and also pointed out to me the areas which potentially could increase the overall cost or cause potential problems in my house. It was very helpful to me because my budget did not include items like ''discovering dry rot'', ''structural upgrades'', or ''design review fees''. Also I was unrealistic about the various costs associated with my project (permits, measuring and drafting existing space, etc.) when I was doing my budget. He suggested involving the contractor early in the process, before final design and final drawings were finished to obtain an accurate estimate of the cost. I was very happy that I followed his process because I was able to keep my final design and control my costs better. I managed to stay within my final (more realistic) budget. He was excellent at coming up with different trade offs to ensure that we stayed within the budget before we finalized everything. It was a long process but it was definitly worth doing it correctly. I love my house now. If you wish to contact my architect, his name is Peter Soldat, 510-886-4241. I know that he has done various home remodels in the Oakland Hills. He has also done a 1929 bungalow in Oakland. Alena

Architect with structural expertise

April 2003

We are doing a kitchen remodel on a limited budget, and need recommendations/advice on having plans drawn. Because we will be moving a bearing wall, we probably need to have professional plans. Given our budget, however, we do not want to pay $5000+ for an architect who will give us lots of great ideas that we will then have to eliminate one by one because we cannot afford them. Also, the architects we met so far have been primarily focused on design, and not so verse in structural issues. Any recommendations on how, and from whom (structural engineer? architect? contractor?), to get a good set of plans from someone with expertise in structural and spacial issues, and with sensitivity to those on a limited budget? (If I have to talk to another architect who tells me that the average kitchen remodel costs $60-$100k, I think I will cry.) xia

We are working with architect Gary Parsons on a seismic upgrade that includes tearing out a couple of walls in our kitchen, so we'll be doing some kitchen work too. Gary is an experienced and talented architect and we've been very happy working with him and his company. One of the great things about working with him is the structural engineer he works with, Juri Komendant. Juri is a very knowledgeable engineer who has done a lot of work in the Berkeley area, but he's also sensitive to design issues. Our old house has so many windows that there are not many continuous walls to hold the house stiff during shaking. Juri has been able to figure out how to strengthen the walls without messing with the wood paneling and old leaded glass windows. If you need a great architect who works with a great structural engineer then I can highly recommend Gary Parsons in Berkeley. Ginger
I cannot give you a recco on an architect well versed in structural issues, but I can tell you that some contractors can do drawings, mine did for my foundation. So maybe you can ask your contractor if he or an engineer that he knows can do it.

Also, please be aware that with a kitchen remodel in Berkeley/Oakland area (houses that are old) that once you start removing plaster and the like, you are bound to find problems (dry rot, structural issues, etc.) that have to be addressed and can drive your costs through the roof. I started out with a 50,000 dollar kitchen remodel and ended up with a 20,000 dollar foundation and a 70,000 dollar kitchen. They basically had to remove the whole south side of my house! The wood underneath was so rotten, it was like a corn husk. And the previous owner had done some shoddy work, and there were no wood support beams supporting the roof in my dining room! Good luck!

Kitchen and bath remodel for small craftsman

February 2003

Can someone recommend 1) an architect, and/or 2) a design/build firm, for a remodel/addition to a small Berkeley craftsman home. This will be minimally re-doing the current kitchen and bath plus adding a laundry/storage room and a 2nd bath, to maximally (ideally) all of the above plus an ''extra room'' addition. (Then, of course, there's the deck building for the backyard but that might wait...) Can you recommend someone for this type of work? How recently was your remodel or addition done? How did your budget for the job end up covering things? Looking forward to recent recommendations, tips, advice, etc. etc.! Thanks. Needing a little more space

In response to a posting looking for an architect, I can very confidently recommend Joanne Koch of Koch Architects. She's based out of Emeryville, 510-601-8156. We worked with Joanne on our kitchen remodel and we are so thrilled with the results. She comes with a lot of experience working on very high-end homes in Napa/Sonoma, but she also has a great sensibility for working with older, more modest homes (like our little 2bd bungalow in Westbrae). I think it was that versatility that really made the difference on our kitchen. I appreciate the time she spent making sure the layout was functional and her great suggestions for little details that really make the space special. She made sure the new space integrates well with the older parts of the house and she was great with the contractor, especially when it came to solving all those little issues that inevitably come up. Best of all, she was great to work with. Good luck! Monica
There is a book out there on remodeling bungalow kitchens. The title is something obvious like Bungalow Kitchens, and you can pick it up at Builders' Booksource down on 4th Street in Berkeley. It's by a woman, I think her name is Jane Powell. Gives great advice for bungalow purists and non-purists alike. Amy
Web forum: A few people were asking for resources regarding flooring/kitchen remodels. I've been doing research on a kitchen remodel and have found the following web forums to be terrific resources:

Addition to Glenview home

January 2003

We are thinking about putting an addition (bedroom and bathroom) on our home in the Glenview neighborhood of Oakland. We would very much welcome recommendations for architects and/or contractors with a strong design background. Looking for someone who is efficient, reliable, honest, and talented. Any leads would be appreciated. Christy

Unsolicited recommendation for an artist/ designer/ builder based in North Oakland. Brian Canevari, owner of BC FRaME Functional Research and Mechanical Experimentation is a friend from college who has owned and operated a professional studio for the past 5 years. He has completed following projects for me: Programs and Sculptures for our wedding; watercolors for our home, design conultation for remodeling-including CADD drawings). He has a Bachelor of architecture degree, yet is not yet licensed as an architect. Brian also does really interesting custom tables: His tables range from small to large, for the entry, kitchen, dining room, or conference area. He uses a mixture of wood, metal, glass and leather. For more info. call Brian D. Canevari B. C. FRaME 1-877-223-7263 bcsculptor AT Jennifer

Kitchen and bedroom remodel 7/02

January 2003

We are looking for an architect to design a kitchen and master bedroom remodel. Adam

I am currently working with Gary Parson's on a kitchen/bath remodel. I have found him to be very creative, patient and pleasant to work with. He is probably not the least expensive architect around but so far I think that he is worth it. He can be reached at 510.527.9272. He has a web site - Amy
We LOVED working with Gary Parsons in Berkeley. We know of others who had good experiences too. Laurie

Budget kitchen remodel

January 2003

Hi - We are ready to remodel our 1920 bungalow kitchen and we need help! We have no idea where to start. We're hoping a budget of $15k is reasonable for a small, eat in kitchen. We will have a friend do the actual construction work for us so we can save on labor costs.

Since we are total novices, we had thought of hiring a designer/architect to help us with ideas and draw up a plan. Any recommendations? Is $1000 a reasonable cost for this service??

The only showrooms we know about are Ikea and Home Depot. Any suggestions on books, magazines or showrooms we can look at to get ideas? Also, any tips from other kitchen remodel survivors? Such as what to do first, how to proceed from there, things you learned, things you overlooked or would do differently next time or ??? Thanks in advance with this overwhelming project! Julie

For an architect/home remodel designer - I recommend my friend Richard Worthy again (MArch/MCP from Cal). He's honest, reliable, accurate, reasonably priced and has done at least a hundred plans for home remodels (and other stuff from luxury homes to grocery stores). He can tell you whether $1000 will work for the plans of your project. He can also shepherd your plans through any permits required by the city or explain what needs doing to you. He can be a project manager and/or put you in touch with some crafts people/engineers/laborers/contractors to make sure the job's done right. His number is 510/665-4573, or you can call me for a reference 549-8790. Someone on this list did get in touch, so you could ask around on their experience. He's currently advising me on changes in a new house I bought with my boyfriend. -- Betsy

More recommendations from 2003

December 2003

We are currently working with architect Bill Mastin. Our project is in its final phases (we hope!!); we too own a small Berkeley bungalow, which Bill enlarged somewhat with us: we extended the back of of house a bit, remodeled the kitchen and added a partial second story. We are incredibly happy with Bill, in fact, we nearly revere him. We have worked with him on this project for about 2 years now, though the construction phase has only been the past 8 months. He is extremely thorough, attentive to detail and knowledgeable about bungalow style. He has listened to us deeply and respectfully, and created a design for our house that incorporated all of our individual needs and personalities, but at the same time is respectful of the original house and its integrity. Regarding reliability, we see Bill as reliable to a fault--he is meticulous and determined to communicate clearly and to make decisions collaboratively (at the same time, he has opinions and makes them clear). We were recommended to him by friends whose small bungalow remodel was one of Bill's first projects, and it has held up beautifully--it's a lovely space. And we've seen other houses he's worked on, including his own, and found them each unique and full of wonderful, intimate details and light. For us, Bill has worked as both architect and project manager, and has been excellent, organized and responsible. We have found him to be respectful of our budget, and able to help us to make choices which kept our project from escalating beyond what we could afford. In short, we cannot recommend him highly enough. Working with him has been a delightful, educational and harmonious experience. We have the highest respect for his ideas, and we love our improved home. lianne

I would like to recommend an unusually gifted and creative architect who, for the past 10 years, has focused on straw bale construction. Bob Theis is currently in private practice, with an emphasis on helping people create rich, deeply satisfying environments for themselves, especially ones that integrate outdoor areas into everyday living-- perfect for our climate! If you are considering renovations, additions, or even new construction, he would be a good person with whom to confer. Bob Theis can be reached at 510-235-0616 or bob AT Nori

2002 & Earlier

Planning a 2nd story addition

December 2002

Hi My husband and I are planning on adding a second story to our small house in Albany - but need advice on how to proceed. He is planning on doing much of the work himself (along with our contractor friend). We have a good idea of the floor plan we want. Do we hire an architect to draw up the design - if so - does anyone have an inexpensive recommendation? then do we get an engineer to check it out and go get permits? Any help or advice appreciated. Julie

I'm an architect and here is some general info in response to the request from the family in Albany who were looking to add a second floor to their house.

You need the services of a structural engineer to design your second floor addition as well as checkout your foundations and first floor walls to ensure they can support a second floor (they probably can't). You don't necessarily need an architect, but either an architect or designer (an individual who is not licensed as an architect) may be helpful to you in developing your ideas and making sure the work is complete and well coordinated. Having a good set of drawings also helps smooth the design review and building permit process, as well as providing the basis for contractor pricing/bidding.

As an aside, I recently attended a seminar by a contractor who suggested that it is far less expensive and disruptive to raise an existing house and add a new floor underneath rather than adding a second floor.

Feel free to email me if you have further questions about the process. Lori, KlumbArcht AT

I'd like to recommend my favorite architect - my husband, Robert Akiyama, AIA. Bob has been an architect for over 20 years. He has worked at several large firms in the East Bay and San Francisco. His work has included residential, commercial, restaurant, and university projects. He is currently working as a sole practitioner specializing in home additions/remodels and commercial projects. Bob has also worked for the Cities of Berkeley and Piedmont building departments and is very experienced in helping clients successfully navigate the permit process. If you would like to know more about his services, please contact him at (510)527-0110. Carol
After having had a baby in november last year I started my own office working on small remodels and residential additions in the East Bay. I am a trained architect and worked for several well known firms in the East Bay during the last four years. I am currently collaborating with a contractor who does design built work in the East Bay. I have done projects in Berkeley and Oakland but don't know the building department in Albany - I am sure it is not that different though. E-mail me if you are interested and we can set up a date and time to meet, look at it and discuss what you would like to do. After that I can give you an idea about cost involved for as-built drawings, schematic design and permit drawings as well as supervising construction. anne-catrin, acschultz AT
Hi, I am responding to a person who was looking for an architect... We are working with Christopher Nutter to redesign our front steps. His rates are very reasonable, and we found him through my husband's office, who works with Chris professionally. He is very responsive and on the ball (especially about permits and the like). He can be reached at: Christopher L. Nutter tel 415.640.7580 fax 877.871.6227 nutter AT Shahana
This is to respond to the inquiry about stairs to large attic and seeking contractor and architect--We hopefully will start a second story addition and kitchen remodel next spring and we've made mistakes along the way and maybe others could avoid them. The current building codes require alot of structural work for second story(we replaced our entire foundation approx 9 years to meet the standard for second story--thinking we'd eventually add on- and the work we need to do now costs TWICE what we paid before --not including the engineer fees)The architect's estimate of the engineer's fees were also much lower than actual fees. I wish we'd been more insistent on what we wanted AND why it couldn't be done. 2 1/2 years later we are back to what we originally asked for after several less satisfactory plans and thousands of dollars of architect fees. Also, the architect owns the plans so if you have a disagreement, you need to start all over with a new person and more money. Good luck Denise
My husband is a general contractor who also specializes in stairbuilding. He works with Tom Lawerence and Associates, a Berkeley based company. They are wonderful people to work with, and I highly recommend them. They will let you know if they can do the job within your specified budget. They can be reached at 237-3421 or 237-3567. Good luck Geri

Architect for addition to too-small home

December 2002

I'm looking for both an architect, and a contractor, for an addition to a small ( 1000 SF) Berkeley home built in the 1910's. I want to keep as much of the ''Craftsman'' feel as possible, but need probably 500 additional square feet, as I have a school-age daughter. Does anyone have recent recommendations? Tips or advice? People (situations) to avoid? Any and all recommendations are welcome. Also, if you have had recent work done, would you comment on the approximate price. Thanks. Dreaming, in a small space

Architect for major rehab

October 2001

We just bought a huge old house in Berkeley and are planning a major rehabilitation (new kitchen, tear down some walls, new master bedroom, etc.). We're having a very hard time finding an available Architect- Does anyone know of a good, available Architect? Thank you.

I would recommend Berkeley architect Cathy Roha. She designed an addition for our 1920s Berkeley bungalow three years ago and we were very happy working with her. She is creative, flexible and good at listening to your ideas. She's professional and good at working with contractors (and grumbling neighbors). She has a love of old houses and can ensure that the new work you do is in keeping with the original architecture. And she's reasonably priced. I don't know how booked up she is, but give her a call: 845-1833. -Tyche
Hi, I wanted to pass on a recommendation to the person looking for an architect. My husband, Ivan Terry and his brother Alex have a small architecture firm in Berkeley and have lots of residential experience. Of course I'm biased, but they are very talented. As they are building a house themselves in the Berkeley hills they are very familiar with the Berkeley codes, etc. and have a great deal of first hand construction experience, which can be helpful in interacting with contractors. If you want to contact them they can be reached at 510-525-0504 or at terryandt AT Ellen
I have a recommendation Kerna Trottier. Kerna did the remodel design work for our Monclair home. She has been great. We explained what we wanted and she drew up several, very rough variations on our ideas. Asked us to review, choose, and comment so she could refine for us. She knows we are on a budget so she made several suggestions to save money, create more storage, and better esthetics. I can not recommend her highly enough. Our project will be constructed this spring. Kerna also did an extensive remodel (actually re-design) on my uncles home in Sunol. She designed it in a way that he could implement the plan over time. The finished home is absolutely stunning, perfect for the setting. Now that he is finding his family growing larger than planned he is considering adding on and he will ask Kerna to do the design again. Kerna is a Berkeley native, designed her own home in the hills, but unfortunately lost it in the fire. She really likes to do remodels in the Berkeley, Oakland area, is very responsive, and takes the time to double check everything. Because of our lot we had permiting issues and she took care of everything flawlessly. I can not say enough great things about Kerna. Best regards, Kara
Oct 2002

Re: Seeking kitchen designer
Angela Klein is a close personal friend of mine and a talented architect. Here is Angela's information: Angela Klein is a licensed architect with over 18 years experience in various commercial and residential projects. She is currently the principal of her own practice in Alameda, specializing in small commercial interior and residential projects. Small remodels including kitchen and bath remodels are her specialty. Current projects are various residential remodels in Alameda and Piedmont, College Avenue Presbyterian Church, Borel Middle School and Action Technologies.. Angela has worked for the firms including John Malick and Associates, Stephen Sooter Architect, Brayton and Hughes, The Woods Group and in the past.

As an architect with interior architecture experience, Angela is unique, in that she can provide complete design and execution services for your project from planning and construction detailing to inte lindamurphy

I just posted a recommendation a few weeks ago for the architect we used on our kitchen remodel. Her name is Joanne Koch at Koch Architects, 510-601-8156. She has an amazing design sense and also helped tremendously with getting contractor lined-up, making sure they kept to the plans, schedule, budget etc. We used Jamie Carlen as contractor (510-970-7977) and were more than pleased with their work. Good luck on your project. Monica
June 2000

We are seeking a recommendation for an architect to help us with a small remodeling design. We are interested in architecture students as well. Can anyone recommend someone (price?)? Susan

You may try DVA interior design group. They are interior designers, but did a plan drawing for our small residential remodel. They told us they have access to architects for drawings that require a stamp, but we didn't need one. They have done good work for us, and worked with our ideas (not pushing theirs on us or making us feel like we had no taste). DVA's phone number is 251-9382. MWishbone

You may want to contact ADPSR (Architects / Designers / Planners for Social Responsibility). You can send an announcement explaining what you're looking for to the organization's e-mail listserv: ADPSR at Your message will reach architecture and design professionals and students. You can also call or visit ADPSR's Green Resource Center (845-0472; 2000 Center Street, Suite 120, Berkeley) for a referral. The center also has a publications and building materials library, and volunteers to answer questions. hickman

May 1999

David Moffat at 841-1902 is terrific with maximizing space and making an simple elegant space out of limited space. His office is on 9th st. Wendy

I can recommend patrick kelly sheahan. He designed a house for us and we found him to be creative, receptive, and very generous with his time. His number is 510/849-3934. Sarah
May 1998

We are in the midst of a MAJOR remodel of our house (gutting the kitchen, three new bathrooms, work on the dining room, garage, laundry room and hallways). Our architect, Regan Bice, had been described to me as a prince of a man when I was checking references on the architects we considered. That description was absolutely on target. Regan has made a very stressful (and expensive) experience much less so. He is tremendously talented, but does not have a huge ego. He listens and suggests rather than imposing his vision. He has been able to come up with elegant solutions to our problems while trying to keep some sort of budget in mind. He has remained calm and accessible and caring during difficult periods (such as last week as we fell apart over the stress of moving out...walls come down tomorrow!)

Regan has built several firestorm area houses; (one was recently mentioned in a four page spread in the San Francisco Focus) in a variety of styles, but most tending toward what I suppose would be called minimalist. At the same time he is at home working in other vernaculars - our house is a Bay Tradition which is post-Craftsman, and I've seen a wonderful territorial style house he designed in New Mexico. I cannot say enough about him. He is not as expensive as Christofferson and Graff, and in fact I've been feeling guilty about how underpaid he is for the job he is doing for us. His associates, Chris and Andrew, are also superb. I feel very fortunate to be working with the office of Regan Bice Architects, and unreservedly recommend him to anyone contemplating new construction or major remodeling. Feel free to contact me with any questions. His office number is (510) 549-1499. Natasha

Congratulations! I can highly recommend Bennett Christopherson from Christopherson and Graff (653-4500). He is amazing -- technically talented and very nice to work with. He designed a major remodel of our downstairs recently and has designed several post-fire houses. If you do call him, tell him I said hello!

p.s. I recently saw a house for sale and their ad bragged kitchen designed by Bennett Christopherson. He has an outstanding reputation in this community. Sharon

We had one note about Bennett Christopherson. We really liked him when we hired him for a small job but didn't like him as much when the bill totaled more than three times the estimate he gave us. I would ask him to put his estimates in writing and maybe ask for a total bill will not exceed this amount type of estimate. Otherwise, he's lovely and his work is great. Ann