On Site Consulting:
An ON-SITE CONSULTING is when I come to your town and meet with you in person. This is a face-to-face meeting in your home. The design process is performed right there with you involved.
Before I arrive, the decision makers in the home prepare their own Priority Lists indicating what is most important for them to end up with, without worrying about how to get there.
If you don’t have existing drawings (1/4” scale) of your house, I can produce a proportionally correct drawing. I’ll use that, and tissue overlays to show you options to solve the problems. We interact and I work to make sure you can visualize what we are talking about. I work this ‘complicate puzzle’ and the result is conceptual design, hand drawn, which will explain the scope of your project clearly. You will need to add information in list form to accompany the drawings, in order to establish a ‘quality level’.
You can use these drawings with contractors to get competitive bids, which will let you know what your project should really cost
If I am already coming to your area, I usually absorb my travel expenses. If you need me to come for your project and I’m not scheduled, I will charge my travel expenses. Check the Tour Calendar to see where I’ll be. Call or email for the flat fee. The balance is due at the time of the meeting.
If you are interested in booking an appointment, you will need to submit the form under Contact Marcia to give me your location and general information. Then check my Tour Calendar to see if I have a trip booked to your area. Even if your city is not currently listed, a trip may be in the planning stages.
You may call me at 515-991-1300 with questions or to book an appointment, or send an email. Appointments for On Site Consultings are booked in advance and a deposit is required when the appointment is made. This deposit can be made on-line with PayPal, or mailed to:
528 36th Street
Des Moines, IA 50312
Once the appointment date and time are sent, you will then mail in your deposit to secure the appointment, and the balance of the fee will be due at the time of the meeting.
Send your fan mail in, We love to read them!
I don’t know if you remember me or my home – I live in the Atlanta area (Marietta) and you came over and did a Consulting for us. The past February the last contractor left my remodeled home after five months! I implemented your design and the results are awesome!
I LOVE MY NEW HOME.
If you ever get back to Atlanta, please come by and see it, it will knock your socks off.
Thanks for the great re-design!!!
We are subscribers to the Ann Arbor News and wanted you to know that I can’t wait to get the Saturday paper to see what you have done to improve livability of homes. I just enjoy studying the new spaces you have created, imagining what they look like and comparing the ‘old’ with the ‘new’. I am taken with your “To Go” shelf and wish I had one. Keep up the great work
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Fortunately for me, I will almost always buy a house that needs change or updates. Hopefully this time I will be moving into an area that carries your column in the newspaper.
I think it will be a great reference and look forward to being able to read it more regularly.
Buffalo, New York
[Note to Marcia]
I don’t understand why your column is not in the Free Press anymore. They may have opted for more advertising space instead of your articles. I will bet that is their reasoning. My husband and I feel that the newspapers and TV stations have inundated us with more and more advertising and we don’t like it. I hope my one little voice might have some impact. I’ll let you know if I hear any positive feedback.
Thank you, Dawn Murray
I just wanted you to know how much I enjoy your feature. It’s my favorite part of the paper. I love playing around with floor plans myself, so I really appreciate how practical and creative your designs are. It is amazing what a difference moving a couple of walls can make.
I especially love the “To Go” shelves. What a great idea! I think I need a “To Go” room.
I hope that you continue to write this feature for a long time.
Saint Paul, Minnesota
Dear Sally Tato Snell
(Detroit Free Press Real Estate editor),
Can you tell me why I can’t find the articles by Marcia Lyon (Creating Spaces) that used to be published in every Sunday Detroit Free Press?
I really enjoyed her articles.
I haven’t seen them in months.
Have a few questions? Give these a shot!
If you don't see your questions listed below, submit a new question HERE
Is your column a weekly feature? I really love it and we only get it occasionally in our paper
It is supposed to appear weekly, and is designed to be read every week. If it is not in your paper every week, please contact your paper and complain. I send each paper a month’s worth of weekly columns in advance, and some papers bump it in favor of advertising space, or they are saving their funds budgeted for editorial content. If you want to see it regularly, demand it!!!!!
You can always read my column on line here on my website or in my blog.
What career path did you take to become a Remodeling Designer?
The only real way to get to do what I do is to get an architectural degree, spend a bunch of time at construction sites, and specialize in residential remodeling. Just having a ‘knack’ for space doesn’t get it.
I call myself a “Remodeling Designer” because there is a law that states unless you are a REGISTERED architect; you are not allowed to use the title architect. I have all the background necessary, but I didn’t get all of my apprentice time signed for, therefore, I didn’t qualify to take the registration exam. It truly is a catch 22. In college, they don’t teach residential. It is primarily conceptual design theory and preparation to design commercial projects.
I worked for various architects after college and spent as much time on the construction site as possible, learning quite a lot from the contractors. I worked for a firm in Chicago that did residential restoration and remodeling design, and I got hooked.
When I opened my own firm, in 1977, I started out to specialize in residential remodeling. I had virtually no competition because there s very little money to be made doing this. My colleagues were focusing on big projects with bigger fees because standard architectural fees are from 10 to 12% of construction costs. I chose this specialty because it is so rewarding.
I did a lot of freelance work for Better Homes and Gardens magazine and other magazines, but it wasn’t until I started the column and self syndicated it that I began to get enough work to earn a decent living. It is important to keep the fees reasonable for average people, because that is my market. I travel to the cities my column appears in and do consulting for the people there. So, to sum up, it takes an unusual set of talents and plenty of dues paying to get to where I am. I am extremely happy with what I do, and feel that I do a lot of good for a lot of people.
What do you mean by Conceptual Design?
Conceptual Design is essentially the “concept” or the ideas. It shows in general terms the scope of the project. This does not include any architectural details or specifications, but the overall concept.
What I produce in a consulting session is conceptual design. I feel that most remodeling projects don’t need complete working drawings, however if it is a particularly complex project, it might. My designs are fully worked plans, not just a grab bag of ideas. I solve the problem(s) like a completed Rubik’s Cube. My name and phone number will appear on the drawings, so if a contractor says “it doesn’t work”, just ask him to call me.
Generally my drawings are used to get bids from contractors, and often they use those same drawings to obtain their building permit. If your municipality requires drafted plans, many contractors use draftspersons to produce the drawings. You, as the homeowner( and client for the contractor), need to add information to the drawings in the form of a list making the job more specific and establishing a quality level, so the contractor won’t guess on materials and products.
I’ve never done this before and am a bit overwhelmed. Where do I start?” Where do you start?
Well, start by making a priority list. Determine WHAT you want to end up with, and don’t worry at this point how it is going to happen.
Determining the problems is most important.
Most people start by calling in contractors, and put the burden of design on someone who is not trained in design and may have questionable taste. Many contractors don’t even return calls or show up for appointments because they spend so much time with people trying to get something specific to put a price to. Naturally, the homeowners want a price, and it is a frustrating deal for everybody. Remodeling should NOT be priced on a per square foot basis. There are existing foundations or structures, or if you add a room, you will still be changing the existing house to accommodate access; therefore, square footage pricing doesn’t work.
To design your project is usually a problem, too. Registered Architects usually charge a percentage (usually around 10 to 12%) of the cost of construction. Naturally, they would rather work on projects where people have a substantial budget, which is not the average homeowner. Some contractors feel that they are qualified to design. They are usually qualified to tell you what CAN and cannot be built. But even if they have a draftsman, or student architect, the experience and sensitivity is rarely there. This leads you to me, because I don’t know of any other architecturally trained designer who specializes in remodeling. I have been in private practice for over 30 years doing this, and inspecting my construction sites as well.
There isn’t much money for a remodeling designer, however, since I have started the column (and presently in several major cities); I have changed my practice to doing only the conceptual design. I do this in a single session for a flat fee, regardless of scope (for one house only, please!). This is comfortable for everyone. The homeowner knows what they are going to pay, and I am ready to take on any space problems they have.
In this consulting session, I work with you to help you to determine your true needs, and incorporate your wants. I will walk through your house and create a “Before” drawing of your existing floor plan. Then we sit down and using tracing paper for overlays, I will show you your options. You are actively involved with this process. I am always successful because I get immediate feedback. If you aren’t comfortable with the direction I’m going, I’ll back up and go in another direction. At the end of the session, you will have your own “Before” and “After” that you will agree on, fully understand, and be able to use to communicate to contractors what you want. In the session, I will also talk about products and materials if needed, and about how to find, qualify and work with contractors.
How do you get your ideas for the articles you write?
Each article I write is a real project, generated from a consulting session with a homeowner considering a remodeling project. I show the Before and After drawings that I generate right there in their home. My goal is to feature good, practical design ideas, which incorporate the family’s particular needs and wishes.
What are your credentials?
I am not a registered architect, however my university and my professional experience has been architecture. It is not required to be registered to design residential projects, and I left the AIA (American Institute of Architects) years ago. It is now against the law to call yourself an architect unless you are registered. This is unfortunate because it takes away from what I am, as I am as skilled, and probably more skilled in my specialty than many registered architects. If you, or your city or township, require working drawings, a local architect or draftsman can follow up with my conceptual design. You may find a contractor with a draftsman on his staff.
It is unlikely that you will get a registered architect interested in your project unless your project is substantial, since the fee is based on a percentage of what you spend. I find that unfortunate, and attempt to make myself available to average people who want to make their dollars go into construction.
You can get estimates from the conceptual drawings to make the contractor selection, and then negotiate draftings if they are necessary. I used to produce complete working drawings for my clients, and work with them from concept to completion. I have a great deal of on-site construction experience. I have come to believe that much of that is over-kill for most remodeling projects, and many homeowners prefer to handle the project themselves.
Often the projects are done in stages. The final product that I produce in my consulting session is very much like what you see in my column. It is the conceptual design. Rarely will other architects let that go without doing complete drawings. The most important thing from the homeowner’s point of view is getting the direction, the concept, and having something with which to communicate with contractors. This is what I do.
Each project is different; each homeowner’s needs are different. I also impart advise on materials and products. I fill you in on how the process works with the construction process. This is a very unique service, and most people consider it just the amount of advise and direction they need, at the right moment, and also feel that the fee is a bargain.
Sometimes I disagree with the solutions in your column. I see things that I would have done differently, particularly details about a kitchen layout I saw recently.
Thank you for your input. Regarding the way YOU would have used the spaces, I need to explain one very major element that my readers are not privy to, and that is the wishes of the homeowner. Understand that all of the homes in these columns are real houses with real homeowner’s problems, and real solutions to those problems. Many of them I would do differently if there weren’t a client involved. Solutions would also be different if all houses were for resale, or every problem was simply used as a learning tool and I was attempting to “teach” via example. But they ARE real. Many things I do not change even though they could be improved because the homeowner said that’s not in the budget or that doesn’t really bother me. There are many constraints as well. I don’t recall the specific kitchen so I cannot go point by point to your comments about the kitchen. But I have written a lot of those guidelines in magazines such as Better Homes and Gardens and Remodeling Ideas. The books that Better Homes and Gardens put out are largely information reused from their magazines. A kitchen book or any other learning tool will suggest guidelines and ideal situations. Not everybody’s kitchen can be the ideal. I personally am a serious cook. and each time I lay out a kitchen I look for maximum counter space and ease in preparing food, and also I try to incorporate the “visitor” spot so there can be another person in the kitchen, but not necessarily two cooks. Please understand that I do not show the ideal, I show the best, most cost effective solution to that particular problem, with that particular budget, in that particular neighborhood
I wish you would include the price of the projects you feature in your column. It would be nice to get an idea of how much we are going to need to spend
Regarding the construction costs…….. I wish I could include pricing information, but it would become inaccurate in a hurry and then I would be misleading readers. These projects are done in a variety of regions of the US. Some are constructed by the homeowners and some are bid out. The one you see in the paper may have been done a year or so ago. Some people will do an addition with Champaign taste and it will cost much more than the minimum and the opposite is true. This format is to show REMODELING DESIGN IDEAS, not to say ” you can build this sun room for only $22,000.!” If you see a project that is similar to yours perhaps you could ask a local contractor. Also, the ideas in the articles will be valid for some time to come and are likely to be reprinted. If any prices or costs appear, they will soon be outdated and incorrect. Other readers have asked for the same information, so I know people want to know. I hope you understand that it is not an element I can include in my column.
How do you select your projects for your column?
All of the projects I feature are the result of real Consultings. The homeowners and their problems are real and the solutions are designed to meet their needs. This is why I don’t show ideal solutions to problems because of the specific family situation.