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Architect reviews in Barrington

  • F
    Trent's team remodeled a shower in our home this year and the result was extremely disappointing. The work was exceedingly sloppy. Grout was left all over the tile, pencil markings made for measurement were left in dozens of places throughout the ceiling and walls, cuts were not precise leaving a lot of imperfections that were filled with grout and are very obvious. In addition, after just 3 months the grout on the floor started to disintegrate leaving empty gaps between the tiles. I called Trent to have someone come out and address the issue, and someone came out to fix the problems a few days later. The individual that showed up spent all of 15 minutes "repairing" the grout before rushing out the door to another job. I literally chased after him doubting that he could fix such a large problem in 15 minutes and he said "if it's not fixed we will just come back, it's not like we are going to just disappear we have been in business a long time". Well no surprise, he did not fix the problem and the grout is washing away again. Ironically both Trent and the man who "fixed" the grout have also disappeared as I have left several voice messages and no one has called me back. Do not hire these guys, they obviously take no pride in their work, and are just out to collect a paycheck.
    - Carolyn M.
  • A
    DESIGNfirst Builders LLC
    I was VERY pleased with Design First!  I had found them via Angie's List - I read every single review that was on the list at that time.  So going in I had some concerns based on previous customer's experience - primarily communication issues - which I voiced in our early interactions.  I felt all of my concerns were listened to and attended to 100%.  
    • *Project Manager.  I was SO fortunate - the project manager I had, Gary Polcyn, was AMAZING!  He was one of the two people who totally made this project shine.  He is highly talented - used to run his own construction company and can do much work himself.  I'm an IT project manager so I know what a well run project is like - and Gary exceeded even my expectations.  GREAT communicator, kept project on or ahead of schedule most of the time - and when there were weather or other delays he tightened things up - we finished slightly ahead of schedule thanks to Gary.  He was gracious and explained things to me in a friendly, non-condescending way (trust me, I am NOT good at things like construction!). Gary suggested improvements that really made a difference and yet was not pushy, respecting my budget.  He actively looked for ways to save time and money (and found them!).  Design First has many fine professionals, but it was Gary Polcyn who made this project shine!
    • *Design.  They named the company aptly- a lot of effort is put up front to get a good design before anything happens in the physical world.  The initial sales guy, Sean Kelly (who is no longer with the company) worked closely with me to come up with a design.  He came up with the overall architectural plan and with one exception (see below) it was very good indeed.  He added my very favorite part of the project - the book nook (I'm a major reader) and lots of interesting details.  The interior designer, Megan Sokolowske (also no longer with the company) was phenomenal!! She was the other super-star, along with Gary. Her bathroom and kitchen designs are truly what makes the house.  She was innovative, creative, respectful.  I felt like she "got me" even though I suspect our tastes were not similar.  She made lots of concrete suggestions, and again helped me save money on things that weren't crucial so I could do the splurges I wanted to do.  She left after the original design was done (not having to do with my project) and her assistant Kathryn Gaines Hoffman took over.  Kathryn did a great job on helping us with color selection.  Design First doesn't do painting, so this was really a value-add to have the help of a good designer with colors.
    • *Process.  They have a clearly articulated process and back office systems to enable a smooth process.  I spent 30 years doing IT management and I know the importance of having a structure and a back office that works.  The process was explained to me at one of the first meetings and the software they use allowed me to clearly see where I was in terms of the timeline (a detailed calendar is provided), budget (totals are provided), change orders (in software - tracking the changes I'd requested and signed off on with cost), etc.  There were some hiccups as they transitioned from one software system to another, but none that impacted me negatively.
    • *Quality. Pleasant people and well organized companies are nicer to work with, but at the end of the day, what I was paying for was a new house (for that's what I got - a very changed and improved house such that it feels brand new!).  Design First subs out most of the trades and with one exception (see below) the crews they had were great.  The quality of workmanship was superior.  Design First had several guys out that are in-house who were particularly good -  Marchin and Stanley (work as a team) and Jacek and Ted.  Marchin and Jacek both did many extra things and were truly 'jack of all trades'. The trades worked well together overall (from friends in the trades I know this is not always the case).  The house is stunningly gorgeous.  There was GREAT attention to detail.  Several of the trades were outstandingly good - the floor guy, tile, and while I struggled with the drywall guys my painter told me they were exceptionally good.  The siding guy was also extremely good, providing several extra touches.  
    • *Stand by their work:  There were a few loose ends (which is what they are doing today) but also a few things that happened - as things do - during the project and they have fixed what needs fixing with no hassles.  For instance, I wanted a faucet from my old kitchen re-used. They broke it in demolition and gave me a credit for the entire thing.  I am confident that should I encounter issues post-construction that they will stand by their work
    • *ORDERING. There were several misses in the ordering process.  Gary told me today that they got backup guys for the guy who does the ordering and that he had been swamped.  This didn't cost me any money, but it cause some delays and compared to how air tight the other processes were this area seemed weak.
    • *ONE DESIGN FLAW.  I repeatedly told Sean, the original architectural designer that I am not a visual person - like at all.  When we were working together on the master bedroom I told him I wanted a lot of light.  He had one window facing east and I wanted 3.  So he designed it with 3 double hung windows.  The problem is that that looks out over my roof. In my mind, sitting in the showroom, not being visually oriented, I was looking at his design which basically showed a view of my back yard.  Now I have 3 big windows looking out on a roof. Sean should have suggested clerestory windows.
    • *BUILT IN BOOKCASE. The bookcase is beautiful. that's not the problem. I think it was overpriced ($1400) but a friend in the industry said that sounded about right.  The problem was that it took FOREVER to get a design and pricing on this.  I was befuddled at the long delay. I had repeatedly mentioned that I was spending $200K and most excited about the book nook - this was important to me and more attention ought to have been paid - I felt like it was almost an afterthought. Perhaps it doesn't matter as it turned out great, but it was one of my major annoyances.
    • *ELECTRICIAN.  As noted above, most of the trades were great. I passed electric inspection so I'm sure the important part is working - but man this guy was not great.  His name was Eddy - make sure you DON'T get Eddy.  Some of the issues - receptacles put on willy-nilly - some vertical, some horizontal (corrected - but even ***I*** know not to do that).  Sconces put up very visibly not even (come on!!).  But the two big ones:  Didn't put in electric for the A/C int he panel (seriously???).  And took a U-pipe out from under the sink to do something, didn't tell the other trades working that day he had done it, didn't replace it. But it gets worse - one of the other guys turned on the sink and when it made a huge mess, the painters jumped in and fixed it and Eddy just shrugged it off. I was standing right there (by chance) and he had a real "F-you" attitude.  It DOES make me worry about what is behind the walls.

    I know this is wordy, but this is the most money i have ever spent in my life and I wanted to provide useful feedback. I am VERY pleased with the beautiful results.  Wish I could post pictures here - the design just shines.  I highly recommend Design First. If you can, get Gary Polcyn for your project manager - he's not only the nicest guy you'll meet but also incredibly talented!  The whole project was a great success!
    - DIANE S.
  • A
    Seasonal Landscape Solutions
    I like what they presented to us. We have not gone along with this project as of yet. We may go through with different areas of this project at different times. They were punctual, professional, and also presented a well put together plan.
    - Carolyn C.
  • A
    Chi Renovation & Design
    - David D.
  • D
    ABM Construction & Son
    - Mary H.
  • A
    He is really good. He is definitely skilled in his field. He was always prompt and very professional. He was really good to work with. He wasn't cheap-but you get what you pay for.
    - Jeannine F.
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Building Architects in Barrington

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