There are all sorts of projects for which you can hire an architect. There are the obvious ones, the commercial buildings, churches, large houses, or complex structures. There are less obvious ones where the tiny project only requires an architect due to legal restrictions of your Home Owners Association and state or county or city law doesn’t. Then there’s everything else, the vast majority of sunrooms and screened porches and inlaw suites that don’t require and are frankly too small for a lot of offices, or so you would think.
Obviously you’re not going to go to a 30-40 person firm with a project like this, and if you know construction or have a builder you trust (and I mean really trust as I’ve seen friends screw each other in construction, it’s even worse when the owner doesn’t realize while it’s happening) then small little 200-400 s.f. projects don’t really need an architect or even a draftsperson. However, they can benefit from one, espcially if you’re looking to do something that really adds some wow factor to your house. The benefit of a professional designer extends from getting best practices down on paper so your contractor uses the right materials and details to build it so it lasts to including new finish materials that will last and make the space unique to re-invisioning the space in a way that makes it even better.
Small firms will gladly take on these jobs for reasonable fees (disclaimer, I know I will do so, but I might be generalizing and definitely shop around and/or get references) for a few reasons. One, while not glamorous, these jobs are usually simple and quick and a decent inflow of bread and butter type work. Two, they will often lead to bigger jobs down the road, architecture is predominantly a word of mouth industry. Even if you don’t ever call them again, when a friend asks who you know who can design their next house, if you’ve had a good experience, we assume you will refer us. So don’t be afraid to contact an architect, make sure you have your budget and your goals up front so they don’t go crazy designing the most expensive tiny job ever, and let them help you out.