Architecture and designing your new home on the Beaches

If you’re looking to renovate your home or build a new one, one of the first things you’ll need to decide is whether to use an architect or a draftsperson. Both are skilled in drawing up house plans, but which one is right for your project? With different skill sets and fee levels, it’s important to choose the right one. 

In this interview, we speak with Northern Beaches architect Andrea Costi from Just Architects about the role of an architect in designing a seamless home from inside to out. Find out exactly what architects do, how to choose one and how to keep costs down on your build. 

What does an architect do and how does this differ to a draftsperson?

It sounds cliché but an architect is someone who turns your dream into a reality. The architect serves as both the creative mind and the skilled hand in the process, guiding the client from imagination through to a tangible design. 

The main difference between an architect and a draftsperson lies in their skill set and experience. Architects have a more extensive educational background, having spent additional years in university. They are also required to engage in continuous professional development through schemes such as the one offered by the New South Wales registration board. 

A draftsperson, on the other hand, is a professional who assists clients in translating their ideas into visual drafts. The key distinction is that while the architect aims to extract and expand upon the client’s vision, the draftsperson simply executes the client’s wishes. 

When do you think an architect should be used versus a draftsperson?

If the project is relatively small or simple, and if the alternation is not a significant concern compared to its impact on the rest of the house, then hiring a draftsperson can be a cost-effective option. 

When it comes to making design changes in prominent areas of the home like the lounge, dining room, or kitchen, things become more complicated. Any alteration to these spaces will have ripple effects elsewhere in the house. 

Having an architect can be beneficial in these situations to ensure the flow of the home is maintained and the functionality enhanced. Major changes that aren’t thought through properly can potentially impact the property’s value so it’s important to get it right.

Do architects design both the internal and external features of a building?

Absolutely, we are involved in both the external and internal aspects of the building. We consider the overall appeal of the structure, including its design, materials, and external aesthetics. At the same time, we meticulously plan and design the internal layouts, down to details such as kitchen cupboards and other elements. 

We approach a house from two perspectives, starting from the outside and working our way inside, as well as starting from the inside and considering how it connects to the outside. 

In our practice, we are architects who also engaged in interior design. Our process encompasses all aspects, from conceptual design to 3D visualization, planning approvals, construction drawings, and even the selection of materials and finishes. Achieving the perfect balance between the external and internal elements is a challenging yet essential task. It is this balance that ultimately makes a house truly livable and enjoyable.

Is there an advantage in choosing an architect who has experience with your local council’s planning rules?

If you opt for a Complying Development, then the rules are consistent across New South Wales, regardless of your location so you could use any architect for this.

However, when it comes to development applications (DAs), there can be advantages in engaging an architect familiar with the local area. This proximity can allow for better understanding of the local council’s requirements and attracts professionals who are well-versed in navigating the specific regulations.

That said, we have successfully worked with clients outside our immediate region as well. For instance, we recently completed a project in Melbourne and the process was incredibly smooth. 

Do clients need to know their budget before meeting with an architect?

Before proceeding with a project, I always enquire about budget to ensure realistic expectations. I prefer to avoid giving false hopes.

For example, if a client envisions a three-bedroom additional floor with a new kitchen for $500,000, I will emphasise that such a project may not be achievable within that budget. The client needs to know that trying to deliver the project for this price would likely compromise the desired outcome. In such cases, it may be necessary to explore alternatives with a draftsperson or seek cost-cutting measures. 

When a client has a specific budget in mind, it means we can work within those constraints and make adjustments throughout the process. We often review costs, sometimes obtaining estimates from builders or utilising different programs to help manage expenses effectively.

Why do some renovations end up so over budget?

One of the main reasons renovations end up significantly exceeding the initial budget is the omission of comprehensive drawings and specifications during the tendering process. 

When you only provide a basic design without detailed construction or interior drawings, it leaves room for assumptions. Builders may assume that you intend to use inexpensive materials for certain elements, such as the benchtop or tiles, when you actually have higher-quality preferences. These assumptions can lead to cost discrepancies. 

Additionally, the cost of internal finishes, including bathroom fittings and fixtures, can quickly accumulate, as they are closely tied to specific trades involved in the project. 

Do architects have their own style? Is this something to consider when choosing an architect for your project?

Some architects have their own distinct style, which is often referred to as a “footprint.” For example, some architects gravitate towards heritage work, while others lean towards modern or contemporary designs. 

At our firm, we accommodate our clients’ preferences rather than imposing a particular style. We have experience in designing a range of projects, including the refurbishment of century-old houses, as well as the creation of contemporary and modernist structures. We find joy in the diversity of our work and the absence of a rigid style. While we may have personal preferences, we strive to keep our options open and embrace different architectural approaches.

Want to get in touch with Andrea? Head to 

Bathroom elements


Bathroom elements