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Architect reviews in Alameda

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    AT SIX ARCHITECTURE
    At-Six was recommended to us by a friend in the industry when we were looking to do an extensive renovation on an older home in Alameda. Jason���s pitch was that they are bit more expensive than other contractors, but they handle projects down to the last detail. Sounded good to us. He let us know he was pretty booked up but would be able to start design in January with construction slated for early summer. In January, Jason introduced us to Michael, who he said was our project manager. As Michael started communicating with us, it became clear that Michael would actually be the architect on the project. This had not been clear to us from any previous conversation, but Michael seemed competent, so we started working with him on conceptual drawings over the next few months. Some unexpected issues came up during this time, including a foundation problem, but we worked through them and understood that we were still moving along on the project. Around June we were expecting to hear some noise about starting construction and realized the team had been pretty quiet. When we reached out, Jason told us that they had started another build that week and would not be able to start ours until September. We thought they had been working on permits, but they had not made any progress on this. We were, honestly, shocked. Not at the delay���delays are inevitable���but that nobody had thought to mention this to us. Jason and Michael apologized, and at any rate we were about to leave for the summer, so the only thing we could realistically do was leave the project in their hands and hope that we were now on the same page. Fast forward to mid-August when we got an email saying they were ready to submit for planning permission. Doing the math (6 weeks for a planning permit and then 6 weeks for a building permit) I pointed out that this didn���t seem to bode well for a September start date. Jason then told us that they had had a busy summer, had not submitted for permits on time, and could now start building in November. We had been in touch all summer and, again, nobody had mentioned to us that they were running behind. Around this time we started to look more closely at costs, as we were still getting bills in the thousands each month, despite what seemed like little progress. I went back and checked the initial proposal Jason had given us, which estimated fees for design at $8,000. By now he had billed us about $28,000. I asked him about the discrepancy, and he answered that they had done work beyond the proposal, but that the design was now complete and we wouldn���t see any more invoices until the construction phase. A couple weeks later we got another bill for $6,000. By this point we were fed up, and there was frankly no way we were going to proceed to the construction phase with a firm that appeared to be delivering everything behind schedule, over budget, and with zero proactive communication. We started interviewing other pros to take over the project. Then, the clincher. We talked to two contractors, three architects, and the head of an upscale design/build firm, and every single one was shocked at how much we had paid for the drawings we had. All 3 architects estimated they would have charged about $18-20k for the same work (by now we had been billed $34k). The head of the design/build firm suggested we take legal action. Also a surprise to us was the fact that the drawings we had were nowhere near what was needed to start construction. One contractor said he couldn���t even provide a firm bid based on them, as we lacked electrical, mechanical, and structural plans. I realize this is a very negative review. My intention is not to slam Jason or Michael, and it does seem they have delivered quality work for other people. Unfortunately, we had a level of trust when we started with them, which was misplaced. If you are considering working with them, you should be prepared to carefully watch spending, question every invoice, and check up on them frequently to make sure they are making the progress they have promised. Ideally you would also have someone else in the industry (like a contractor friend) to check in with if anything starts to seem fishy. We realize now that some of the stuff Jason told us was pretty far off base. In the end, it was kind of a blessing that they screwed up the design process badly enough that we had to let them go. We could absorb the unexpected costs for the design, but if they had handled the much costlier construction phase with the same level of (cough) care and attention, we would have been absolutely screwed. If you are educated about the process and able to watch it closely, I think you could potentially get good work out of these guys, although I���m not sure why you���d pay a premium for their services only to have to micromanage them. Unfortunately, for us, working with At-Six was a monumental waste of both time and money.
    - Molly O.
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    TANGERINEdesign
    Jill and I spoke on the phone about the different services she offered and how we might structure our first meeting.  We decided on a basic consultation that could extend out to the "Angie's List Special" that she had at the time if she felt should could get a good understanding on our thoughts and find some synergy with our house and the space we wanted to discuss.  We felt that it was a good fit fairly quickly, liked her personality, energy and ideas.  She was very clear in explaining the process that we would follow if we moved forward with a full design all the way through construction. 
    We got back the designs in a few days using the remaining time that we had and were very pleased with what we saw.  We have a few other projects going on right now, but plan to get back with Jill to move forward with a formal design of our new kitchen.  I would recommend her based on this experience thus far and feel that you will get a lot regardless of using a special package as we did, or paying her regular rate.
    The only thing that I would mention that Jill was very up front about is that she is not a licensed architect.  But she has an architect in her network that she works with for anything that might require that type of work.  For us, doing a complete remodel of our kitchen most likely doesn't require this, so it's not an issue.
    - Erik J.
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    On The Beam Remodeling
    From the first day he set foot in our home, we have referred to Steve Schliff and the OTB team as our Contractors from Heaven! Proof positive: we have since hired them for several other projects, including extensive interior upgrades throughout our home. In the nearly 10 years we have been working with OTB, we've had nothing but excellent service, top-quality craftsmanship and respect for us and our home -- we have lived in our house during each remodeling project, and they made it as painless as possible. They did what they said, when they said the would do it, and when anything unexpected came up, as it does in remodeling, they communicated with us and worked it out to our complete satisfaction. When I called to get referrals for minor repairs several years after our bathroom remodel (e.g., cracking grout due to an earthquake) they insisted on taking care of it themselves to ensure it was done to their high standards. Because we weren't able to remodel our home fully upon move in, they have worked with us over the years to bring our vision for our home to reality. On our first job, we solicited competitive bids. On the Beam wasn't the least expensive -- though they were competitive -- but ,as a big believer in "you get what you pay for," we trusted our instincts and chose OTB. I rated their price excellent, because the quality was well worth the slightly higher price. We definitely made the right choice.
    - Kathryn C.
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    TANGERINEdesign
    Jill came to our house on time, fully prepared with brochures, samples of surface and flooring material, paint swatches, and everything else she'd need.  The interview lasted the full time, and I couldn't be happier with the services provided.  I got exactly what I needed in terms of guidance and new ideas, without any kind of hard sell for other services.  For me, this is the kind of initial visit that actually will lead to more business.  I'd be happy to recommend Jill to any Angie's List user.
    - Thomas M.
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    ANDREW MORRALL ARCHITECT
    We had been thinking about an addition for several years, then we became pregnant with our second child and it became apparent that we desperately needed more room. So we called Andy who had helped us remodel our kitchen a year earlier and started the process of designing a new master suite for our quaint 800sf home. We had Andy explore both a ground floor addition and a second story addition. We were pleased with both initial designs, and decided that a second story would work best with our existing floor plan and would transform our modest home into something much more exciting. Andy was great at listening to our requests and incorporating our ideas into his design. The final result is a beautiful, bright and open foyer with a curving staircase that leads up to a new 300sf master bedroom with a private bathroom, and a loft/office space. Andy has truly transformed our house into a beautiful home.
    - Nathan P.
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    ANDREW MORRALL ARCHITECT
    After the initial consultation, Andy returned with two design options, both of which were excellent. He listened closely to our needs and created a design that matched how we wanted to use the space. Andy was up-front with all the fees and has great attention to detail. He recommended some excellent contractors without any pressure to use them. The best part is that we got a top quality product for a reasonable cost. Initially, I was hesitant about using an architect, thinking I would leave the design to the general contractor. Now I realize it was the most important investment I've made for our renovations. I highly recommend Andy. I'll be using him again for the next two projects we have planned.
    - Sharon B.
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    ANDREW MORRALL ARCHITECT
    Andy's services as an architect made our project a great success. He was prompt, always available and always returned phone calls. He finished the drawings in a matter of weeks, and they passed through the city with no problems and no comments, I was able to get the permit the same day. We were impressed with his ability to look at things creatively and offer design ideas we hadn't though of. Our collaboration resulted in a design that filled all our needs and wishes. We were so pleased with Andy, that we hired him again for our next project! We are really excited with Andy's design solution for a second phase 550 square foot second story addition. He expertly designed the addition to create a dramatic two story foyer with staircase and a master bedroom. The exterior of the house is really well designed and dramatic. He took extra care to design the addition with the existing structure in mind. The design was just approved by the city and we are off and running on phase two!
    - Nathan P.
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