Seattle architect, member disagree on project

Seattle architect, member disagree on project

Back to the drawing board

COMPLAINT: Rob McMillen, Redmond

"My wife and I asked RGBJR Design to create drawings for a kitchen remodel. We told [Robert Bonner, the architect] we needed the room built, but nothing further. When I asked Robert why his quote was so high, he said, 'When you hire me, you get two for the price of one, because my partner is a structural engineer.' His contract states structural engineer fees are separate.

"We placed him on retainer and signed a contract. He showed us three designs. [His designs] drove the price above [our budget], but he said if we did some of the work ourselves, we could get the price down. We accepted, but [now] he continues to try to [do work] that isn't needed or wanted. We ask him to go back to the original design, and he says it would mean extra time and cost.

"Each set of drawings has changes he's added but hasn't asked about. I don't think the customer should have to pay to request unauthorized changes be removed. The work isn't finished, and Robert wants another $2,000. His partner wants another $2,500."

DESIRED RESOLUTION: "We'd like the result of what we've paid him for to date: completed drawings, material, dimension, everything needed to get a bid against, and being permit-ready. He doesn't need to get the permit."

RESPONSE: Robert Bonner, architect, RGBJR Design

"This client originally hired an architect to design a kitchen addition he said he wasn't happy with. The designed addition was 84 square feet. He paid me a similar amount, and I designed a 1,381-square-foot addition. In the end, I charged him for less than 2.5 percent of the estimated construction cost.

"Architects can charge at a minimum of 10 percent, so this project could've easily cost $24,000. I feel he got an excellent value. I understand the difficulty of deciding on an approach, so I give my clients three choices. There's always one design that has their budget in mind, but he picked the most expensive one. I didn't charge more for extra square footage or additional changes.

"I was finalizing the permitting set when he wanted to change the master bedroom roof area. I advised it would complicate the structure, since I'd talked with the engineer, who'd told the member it would be too complex, but he still wanted the change. I made it but warned him I'd charge since it would affect the roof plans and the majority of the elevations. He told me after the fact that he wouldn't pay for the changes."

STATUS: Stalemate

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Architect, homeowner disagree about Seattle design

Homeowner says the architect designed an addition that exceeds her budget, but architect says the customer won't respond to compromise.

Leave a Comment - 3


Robert Bonner


Thank you James! It's not easy doing what we do, especially when so many wished they could design the homes that we do.

James Caan, AIA


The Architect owes nothing to this client. If you looking for a deal go to Goodwill, nothing is free in this world. Want a good design?, Well cost money, time and effort. Just because the client is cheap doesn't mean the Architect has to work for free.

Lee Humes


Unless the client signed a contract revision for a 1381 ft.2 project, the A/E donated his time and money in designing something for which he had no contract, and still owes the client an 84 ft.2 design, plus permits if that was in the original contract.

And, if the contractor then demands change orders for building the 84 ft2 addition, not caused by the client's changing the project after the bids, the A/E owes the owner the cost of the change orders.

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