The short version is: highly recommended. If you’d like more detail on what might be a substantial investment for you, read on.
You rarely remember your internet searches, and even fewer are ones you’ll remember forever. In my case “engawa los angeles architect” will be one I remember forever. I was planning a renovation of my mid-century California rancher and had discovered this Japanese term for a feature I wanted. That search brought me to the Colega-LA website.
Colega was a young firm specializing in modern design. I’d been researching and interviewing a lot of architects, and I’d learned that some firms do all sorts of styles, while others specialize. I wanted modern, so Colega was a possible fit. They’d already won design awards, and their website showed a lot of work that appealed to me. I decided to call them and set up a meeting.
I liked Bogdan and Tarek from the start. Sitting over my dining table, they described their philosophy and approach. They were professional, warm, and open. It was clear both had a deep knowledge and appreciation for modern and midcentury architecture. They had a lot of detail about materials and other options to balance design vision with budget. We scheduled a visit to one of their finished projects, which demonstrated to me their ability to deliver on a compelling vision. I was far along on selecting an architect at this point, but I decided to change course to Colega.
The initial design process started with site specific issues and basic decisions about what part of the renovation to retain, in my case the foundation and exterior walls. Colega prepared a lot of design options on floorplan layout and exterior massing implications. While I’m sure Bogdan would have enjoyed laying in the grass and pointing out which cloud looked more like a Neutra and which a Schindler, he kept me from cloud-gazing and focused on key decisions to move the process forward. We went around a lot of ideas, most of them my unworkable ones, to settle on a great design - which also turned out to be pretty close to their initial suggestions.
I opted to extend the contract for them to do interior design services, and they brought in more of their team to help. The communication and exchange of ideas was great, and the process to review options and make decisions was explicit and straightforward. We met a few times at their office where they presented recommendations, let us review sample materials, and make key decisions. We went with most of their recommendations, but they also gave us some choices and time to do our own research and shopping, both for esthetic and budget reasons. We were very happy with the finished design, which they helped us visualize with photo-realistic renderings. Overall, I can say they were always collaborative, but also kept the process moving.
It was time to move into construction, and I restarted the research and interview process to select a general contractor. Colega was an option, as they were expanding their “Build” capability, but I went through a due diligence process to see options and gauge costs. It didn’t take long though, as Colega did a good job with competitive estimates on total costs, and their new construction manager, John, was a great addition to the team. I’d had a good experience with the design phase, and wouldn’t you rather have someone building to a shared vision rather than a plan?
Building a new house is a long, arduous journey. As we moved into construction, John took the lead, but the rest of the Colega team stayed engaged. They were very diligent about keeping me informed and highlighting options and tradeoffs along the way. Like any construction project, there have been challenges from material cost increases, job site thefts, picky inspectors, and the like, but Colega has helped manage them. They’ve tried to mitigate any issues for me and have kept a firm focus on the budget, while not sacrificing quality or the vision. The subcontractors within their network have also been professional and very competent. I’ve had many other professionals stop by over the course of construction and comment on the apparent quality – from rough framing to drywall to finished product.
We have completed construction and moved into the house, and I can say I enjoyed the journey – not something everyone says about construction! Bogdan, Tarek, and John, along with the rest of the team, have been great guides through the process. I’m very happy with our design and the construction yielded a fantastic final result. I’m a pretty hands-on, detail-oriented client, which is to say probably the worst, but they’ve managed with aplomb and good humor.
Most people have a doctor, many a lawyer, but few ever get to say, “my architects”. If you’re moving into that journey, you’ll be well served by the team at Colega. I was very fortunate in that one web search and not only have the house of my dreams, but life-long friends. Highly recommended.