AKJ Architects LLC

Navigating a Home Remodel/Building Addition

A successful remodel or addition starts with hearing the client’s problems, creating design solutions that demonstrate a clear understanding of their goals, and developing a plan to execute the project successfully through a time-tested, full-service design process.

The first question I ask clients is: “Why do you want to remodel and/or build an addition to your home?” Responses vary – Fear of embarrassment about their outdated kitchen and bathrooms, needing more space for family gatherings, and frustration with spaces that aren’t working for their current lifestyle are common. Clients love their neighborhoods, feel it’s too expensive to move, their children don’t want to leave their friends, and sometimes they want to make changes to a newly purchased home before moving in. They’re excited – and there’s some angst about the entire design and construction process. I let clients know how much I care about the work I do, enjoy collaborating with them, and intend to help them navigate with confidence throughout their project. 

How? A successful remodel or addition starts with hearing the client’s problems, creating design solutions that demonstrate a clear understanding of their goals, and developing a plan to execute the project successfully through a time-tested, full-service design process.  

Specialization in Renovating, Remodeling, and Designing Home Additions

My focus is on renovating, remodeling, and designing home additions, helping clients get a clear understanding of the property, how the building is sited, the existing building itself, structural framework, and existing utilities before any design begins. Once existing conditions are documented, I collaborate with clients testing out concepts for remodeling, looking at locations where additions could meet a need, and seeing what impact any intervention(s) have on the overall building form. Also important is encouraging clients to hire a general contractor to evaluate the idea after preliminary architectural design concepts are developed. Building the team early is a huge benefit! Seeing the big picture together, harnessing the knowledge of complementary professionals, and working together to develop a budget within a comfortable range helps obtain a solid grasp on project costs during design – so clients feel less stress starting the project.



I’m guiding throughout the project, so clients are collaborating with a professional who’s educating them along the way. The scope of work includes problem solving, evaluating options, and space planning for those who know conceptually what they want AND don’t have the technical knowledge to do the work. Navigating along the path means providing clients with a design that meets their needs – Whether it’s modifying a floor plan, strategically moving walls, renovating bathrooms and kitchens, adding an upper floor, or building an addition to the home. It means recommending windows and doors, coordinating design concepts with structural engineers, helping to obtain building permits, and helping to select finishes. Whether we need special consultants, recommendations for general contractors, specialty artisans, or places to find new kitchen appliances or plumbing, I guide clients throughout the process with confidence. 

Project Cost Considerations

Total Project Cost equals all the hard and soft costs associated with the scope of work. There are separate agreements with one or all potential service providers. This can include the architect, surveyor, and structural engineer (there may be others). Appliances and furnishings are often purchased by the client. Permitting fees and State tax are smaller expenses to your total project cost.  

Additionally, there’s the agreement with the General Contractor. The construction fee represents the largest investment, and it’s worth understanding in detail before starting.

What drives cost? For all projects, labor is the most expensive. The quality of building materials – including exterior and interior finish materials, complexity of design, and required finishes greatly influence the final construction cost.    


Having an architect by your side is strategic. Once a project starts, I help clients go through the various steps involved while estimating how long each step will take to complete. We set realistic expectations and understanding of how the schedule may change or extend due to circumstances out of anyone’s control. It can become overwhelming for clients when a timeline is extended. As hard as it may be, flexibility throughout the project benefits the client.  

Customer Service

By choosing to work on a limited number of local projects, I provide “Custom” Customer Service for the unique needs of my clients during both design and construction. One of the many lessons I’ve learned over the years is that being available for my clients while they’re anxious or confused by what’s happening during the various phases and processes of a project is helpful for easing stress. Educating my clients helps them gain confidence in their decisions regarding their home design.  

Enjoyable Experience

Providing clients with an enjoyable experience through clear communication, keeping them up to date on progress, budget, and schedule along with our on-going collaboration throughout design and construction is my primary goal. I’m dedicated to the project, providing a good design and following up on final design approvals and field condition adjustments once construction work begins. 

A Project That Ends in success

At the end of a renovation or building addition, success is when my client feels the joy of a beautiful, finished home functioning to meet the unique needs and the client and their family. They’ve increased the value of the home – another value the architect brings to the table. 

Whether it’s their first or second project, clients enjoy a tremendous feeling of confidence from all the knowledge they gain by actively collaborating with their architect throughout all steps of the design and construction process. Meetings take time and energy, but it’s worth it in the end. 

Thinking of You

Are ideas sparking for you about your design project? Reach out! 

Arlene Kisiel-Jermann

Arlene brings over twenty-five years of design experience to her company. As a professional who strives to provide exceptional customer service, creative design skills, and an eye for detail, AKJA has the experience and training to lead your residential project from concept through completion.

Arlene received her Master in Architecture Degree from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, her Master in Science in Interior Design from the University of Massachusetts and her Bachelor degree from Skidmore College with a major in Art & minor in Spanish. Arlene's combination of creative degrees in Architecture, Interior Design and Fine Art give her a holistic approach to residential design and enable her to quickly comprehend and efficiently collaborate with other professionals. At MIT, she coupled her studies with graduate courses at the MIT Center for Real Estate where she studied business. Since a young age, Arlene has had numerous academic opportunities to travel throughout America, Europe and Asia and learn about art and culture throughout the world.

Since 1987, Arlene has been privileged and trusted to work on residential and commercial projects with multi-million dollar budgets. She has managed all phases of residential design, architecture, and construction for well-established Seattle architecture firms such as Sullivan Conard Architects, NBBJ, and General Contractor Toth Construction, a Seattle based custom residential builder. Arlene launched her own firm in 2007 to design new and renovated homes, cabins and condominiums ranging in size from 500sf to 10,000sf. She brings passion, creativity, a commitment to succeed, and a powerful blend of skills, education and experience to every residential architecture project.

Stacey Lara

Stacey Lara has a wide range of experience specializing in efficiency and human wellness. She's a transformational coach with an administrative background in the medical, engineering, landscape architecture and architecture industries.

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