Work with us

Every House Needs an Architect

At Open Door Architecture, we believe every house needs an architect. Whether you’re reconfiguring a dysfunctional bathroom or designing a new home and trying to figure out what floorplan could possibly capture all the highlights from your extensive Pinterest image collection, an architect can take your vision to the next level.

At Open Door Architecture, we’re obsessed with two things:

If we had to add a third item to our “obsessions” list, it would be old houses. Whether you’re in a 200 year old farmhouse, a frilly 1890’s Victorian, a 1920’s Craftsman (like our own!), or a 1950’s modern rancher, we love harmonizing with historic home styles. Just because “they don’t build them like they used to” doesn’t mean you can’t. We love helping homeowners figure out how to renovate while preserving character and charm. And we love sharing our ever-growing knowledgebase of how to renovate older homes so they can continue to look great 100 years from now.

“My kitchen renovation was not going to be easy. Limited space, unique design challenges, and my insistence in keeping the ambiance of my century-old home. Sean and Sara listened, embraced, and transformed my vision into reality; coaching each step of the way while keeping a close eye on my well defined budget. To do this without the help of an architect, one who loves old homes, is a fundamental and costly mistake. ”
Bill Myers

How we serve our clients

We offer a range of services so homeowners can access the amount of design help that’s right for them. From one-hour consultations to weeks of in-depth design, we have a service for any project size. Here are some of the ways we serve our clients:
Note: We’ve also included example fees for each service. Our billing method is simple -- we charge $175/hr and provide estimates in advance. If you’d like to know more about how design fees are calculated, keep reading (or click here) for more details.

This is a 1-3 hour consultation that is great for discussing renovation feasibility. Clients often hire us to walk through a house they’re considering buying. Or, they simply want a small dose of expert input before they consider moving forward with a renovation.

For projects that involve one or two rooms, we offer an on-site design day. One of our project architects will arrive in the morning to discuss the scope (for example, a screen porch, an attic master suite, a kitchen renovation, a finished basement, or a new layout for a master bathroom). They’ll take key measurements, show you some schematic ideas, incorporate your feedback, and leave you that afternoon with a PDF floorplan.
8-12 hours x $175/hr = $1,400 – $2,100

We often get calls from homeowners who have tons of renovation ideas, but no idea where or how to start. They want guidance on which improvements will be the best investment and in what order to tackle projects. For these houses, we usually do full measurements, several floor plan options, and sometimes 3-D modeling to determine the best path forward.

10-80 hours x $175/hr = $1,750 – $14,000 (depending on the size and extents of improvements)

Once you’ve decided a renovation and/or addition makes sense and you’re ready to hit the ground running, we provide all the design services you may require. With schematic floor plans, 3-D models and other drawings, we help you establish the scope and design. Then, we produce all of the drawings you (and/or your general contractor) will need to build it, including assistance during construction. We can also provide interior design services, shopping and selections, color planning, furniture advice, and whatever other details may be needed.

When we’re doing “full services” for a renovation, our fees are typically 10-15% of construction costs. For most of our clients, that ranges between 30-350 hours x $175/hr = $5,250 – $61,250.

When we’re starting from scratch, there are two basic phases of our work — design drawings and construction drawings. The design drawings typically include floor plan options, 3-D models and/or elevations, and extras like lighting plans, cabinet design, and other details. Once the design is established, the rest of our time is spent on construction drawings so your vision can be permitted and built.

Architectural services for a new house typically land around 10-15% of the construction cost of the house. For most of our clients, that has fallen within the $50,000 – $200,000 range.

Often, clients will hire us for help creating the drawings required for approval by zoning boards, design review committees, or homeowners’ associations. Sometimes clients need a plan to get their construction loan approved. We’ve also provided general project management help when you have a small project that never seems to move forward.
Sara & Sean are the ultimate professionals. They provide not only design but also all the extras - advice on construction, choosing a contractor, helping to figure out how much I can feasibly do as the homeowner...... the list goes on. They do not do cookie-cutter. Each design is built with the homeowner. And they are just such a pleasure to be around!
Lisa Thomas

Our Design Process

Before we started our residential practice, we spent the first decade of our careers designing commercial and institutional projects. When you’re designing a laboratory, school, or warehouse, the architect takes the lead on design. Our commercial clients often relied on us to obsess about every functional and aesthetic aspect of the building.

But for houses, homeowners do that! When it’s the space you occupy every day, most people have tons of ideas, inspiration photos, and opinions about what’s not working and how to make it better.

We love working with homeowners for this reason — they care deeply about their homes. And we tailor our design services to respect and leverage this.

Yes, we still bring tons of guidance to the table and, yes, we can take the reins when a homeowner doesn’t want to overthink it. But we pride ourselves on a design process that combines the homeowners’ ideas with the architect’s vision and creates a beautiful home as a result.

Key Strategies:

  • Project narratives:  Before we begin design, we send you a simple form to fill out that describes the project in your own words. Also called “programming,” this first step helps make sure we understand your objectives.
  • Image sharing:  It’s great being an architect in the age of the internet. Many clients come to us with photo albums on Pinterest, Houzz, or Instagram (or even old-school magazine clippings!). We love this input because it is a quick way for us to easily see and understand the result you want. When clients don’t have an image collection, we often provide one by sending “precedent images” we think capture the spirit of the project to make sure we’re on the same page.
  • On-site design services:  We start many projects with an on-site “design day.” After we’ve measured your house and have as-built plans, we can schedule a day where we draw through our initial ideas and show you sketches every few hours for live revisions. For most small to medium renovations, this strategy saves a lot of time and gets to a winning floor plan easily. Even for very large and complex projects, we will sometimes schedule on-site services to work through a tricky part of the design. On-site design services are often the most direct path to a design you love and they save tons of back-and-forth communication.
  • Opportunities for input:  To keep our design process lean, we look for quick ways to get your input as we work. We often send screen capture videos to clients showing several options for a project detail, or simple screen shots of our drafting software so we can get your opinion on something without having to schedule a meeting. We also offer video conferencing so we can easily get your feedback on visual questions while saving travel time.
  • Old-fashioned customer service:  Above all, we want our clients to feel we added value to the project and did it with a smile. We strive to be responsive, communicate clearly, ask helpful questions, avoid focusing on unimportant details, and arrive at a design solution you love in as few steps as possible. We also spend time developing our professional skills so we can provide expert help and guidance through the complex process of construction. 
Sara and Sean are the consummate professionals. They are very approachable when discussing your concepts and they are able to produce cogent construction drawings, from the ramblings of a novice. They have a "yes" and "doable" attitude towards your project. They are very attentive and you feel like their only client. They are willing to meet with the contractors on site, and discuss any issues with the plans. This is extremely helpful. Outstanding service, thank you!
Christopher Manning and Jaybee Brennan

How We Charge

We have a simple billing structure that enables us to work on projects of all sizes -- we perform all services hourly at a rate of $175/hour. There’s no minimum service agreement and you only pay for the time we spend.

When we put together a proposal for services on your project, it will include an estimate of our fees to give you a general idea of how much our assistance will cost. The proposal helps ensure we’re on the same page from the beginning.

We invoice biweekly so you have frequent checkpoints on how much time we’ve spent and where we stand.

If things change during the design process and it seems you’ll need more or less help than originally projected, we can issue a revised fee estimate so there aren’t surprises down the road.

Open Door Architecture made the whole experience so easy. Their estimates and contracts were easy to understand and their communication is clear. We knew what to expect and got so much value from their design and guidance on our project.
Cat and Garriy Shteynberg

Frequently Asked Questions

We have a simple billing structure that enables us to work on projects of all sizes -- we perform all services hourly at a rate of $175/hour. There’s no minimum service agreement and you only pay for the time we spend.
For very simple projects (reconfiguring a bathroom, for example), design can take as little as a week or two. Most people spend 2-3 months working with us on plan options, product selections, details, and construction drawings. For very complex projects, it can take 4-6 months of design time before a client feels they’ve thought through all of the details and we’ve fully documented it. In short, it depends on your scope, the level of detail you want, and how quickly you make decisions.
Yes! We have worked with many contractors in Knoxville. For out-of-town projects, we can help you build a list of GC’s, check references and licenses, conduct interviews, and decide which team is the best fit for your job.
Yes. Most of our work is in and around Knoxville, TN. But we’ve done several out-of-state projects and are happy to discuss those opportunities as they arise.
Generally, yes. Since we work hourly, clients who are keeping their design fees low often take the reins during construction. But most clients want at least a little help. Our construction assistance ranges from as-needed input (you can text us photos or call with questions) to weekly job site meetings or checking in on progress while you’re out of town. Renovations often need more help than new construction because demolition can sometimes uncover surprises behind the walls. When that happens, we can redraw the design to work around obstacles.
We love shopping! We can assist online or in-person. We tailor our shopping assistance to each project and can provide suggestions for each product and finish in the design or simply answer questions about sizes, clearances, and details as required.
When we approached Open Door Architecture about our extensive kitchen remodel, Sara and Sean really listened. To how we live, and what we hoped to gain by going through the renovation process. Their guidance was gold!
Shawn Owens

Sometimes We’re Not the Right Fit

We strive to provide flexible, accessible services, but we’re not the right fit for every project. If you know exactly what you want, to the point where you could almost draw it yourself, then we’re probably above and beyond what you need. For projects where all you need is some drafting help, there are good alternatives to working with us:
  • Showrooms:  Especially for kitchen and bathroom renovations, showrooms often provide complimentary or low-cost design and layout services.

  • General contractors:  Some builders have designers and draftspeople on staff who can prepare straightforward construction drawings so you can get a permit and get underway.

  • Ready-made floorplans:  For new-build houses or outbuildings, there are thousands of floorplans available online. We particularly love Southern Living floorplans. But there are options available for everything from barns and backyard yoga studios to tiny houses, to mansions and modern luxury homes. Most floorplan providers also offer editing services if you need a few revisions.
We knew we had the space to do what we wanted but we didn't know how to make the space feel right. The team at Open Door Architecture thought of transitional spaces we didn't even consider before and I know the project will make so much more sense when complete! I cannot recommend working with them enough. I am so glad we made space in our budget for a proper plan. Our odd floorplan won't be odd much longer!
Lindsey Reagan

Why Now Is the Perfect Time to Hire an Architect

Improving or creating the home of your dreams is a worthwhile undertaking and can be very rewarding. But the experience requires vision, coordination, resources, and patience. And, let’s face it, we’ve all heard the horror stories (maybe you’ve lived one) of homeowners whose lives get hijacked by a renovation that consumed 3x more time and money than it should have, was constantly interrupted by failed inspections and red tape, and, in the end, didn’t feel worth it.

An architect’s skill set is designed to make the planning process fun and effective so you don’t suffer the same fate.

Victorian master bathroom renovation 01

At Open Door Architecture, we are constantly improving our abilities to help you visualize the design, narrow down the options, and think through construction in advance so you can win the game of construction and get the result you want.

When’s the right time to hire an architect?

It’s really never too soon. We can help answer big picture questions like whether it even makes sense to renovate given your home’s value, how long you plan to stay there, and home equity in the neighborhood. Sometimes shopping for a new house is the better choice.

Clients often call us about adding on to their homes, and, after an on-site visit with one of our architects, discover wasted space we can reconfigure to get the same extra room for much less money.

Or, sometimes the opposite happens and the “extra space” you hoped to finish in your basement or attic is actually riddled with costly structural and insulation issues that make an addition or a new home a much sounder choice.

Imagine how good it will feel to move forward with your renovation plans knowing you’ve considered all the options and made an informed decision about which is the best fit for your style, budget, and schedule. Enjoy the peace of mind you will have knowing you can reach out to us at any point in your project for input on paint colors, product selections, or what to do when demolition reveals a rotten foundation that requires a tweak to the plan. 

Hiring Open Door Architecture is like hiring a coach — someone who’s seen hundreds of renovations and construction projects and can be in your corner, helping you each step of the way.

Whether you need a few hours of help to fine-turn a bathroom floor plan, or an on-site design expert for a complex, long-term project, we’d love the opportunity to be your architect.

Let's turn your vision into a reality.

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