our house is home

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House versus home. What is the difference? I’m not going to answer that – I’m not interested into delving into telling someone that answer. Let’s not work at separating these two things, but talk about how they are connected. Can one contribute to the other?

As architects, we design houses which occupants make their home. The question is – can our design contribute to how the homeowners make a house their home? I wish I had time to interview past clients and get their take on this; that would be a great interview. For this post, I interviewed myself and my wife to describe a few architectural decisions we made in the house we built for ourselves almost 10 years ago, that contribute to how we have made it our home as a family.

Frugality: I believe our decision to be prudent and careful in what expenses we incurred in the making of the house allowed us to create something that was affordable, so in our overall budget we still had the ability to do things together as a family and do things for and with other families. Building too much house would have pushed us to our financial limit, begin to invade other parts of our lives, and negatively influence important decisions. Some decisions were a no, some were a not now. This many years later, I’m trying to find time to plan some of those “not now” decisions. Our house is small.

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Windows and Views: We designed the placement of windows to allow for certain views, but Amy recalls one specific, late addition window. One of the dining room windows overlooks the driveway and for years allowed us to watch our son play in the yard. I can’t recall why it wasn’t part of the original design, but it seems so obviously critical to the interior views and external composition. Funny, that decision was made on Valentine’s Day, 2007 – a useful gift.

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look for the middle window above the garage door

Kitchen: Saying that one has an island, sounds like a pretentious move to one-up our friends or at best a residual effect of too much HGTV. However, in our case, we talked at great lengths about how our kitchen should work – especially with a blank slate. We discovered that an L-shaped kitchen with an island accomplished several things. Most importantly, it allows for one of us to be in the kitchen (Amy cooks better than I do), while our guests are buffeted by the island. Friends or family can communicate with us in the kitchen, but politely stay out of the way – yet be together.

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Openness: I prefer to go beyond the term open-plan since it has been reduced to a pedestrian buzzword. There is not enough definition to it to permit people to use it correctly. Based on our own childhoods (mainly mine), we made a conscious decision to arrange the main living spaces to still see each other no matter where we are. This has a huge benefit to allow togetherness while still permitting individual activities that can evolve into group activities. We carefully molded these spaces to allow for multiple activities (and we didn’t build other activity rooms). Moreover, we had several conversations on the relationships of these rooms to one another. The dining room for instance bridges between the kitchen and the living room; activities there can relate to either or both spaces. I might be in the living room typing this blog, while our son may be at the dining room table doing homework. Amy could be in any of these rooms as she is generally working the hardest moving about all these spaces keeping us going. The key is being together

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after all these years, I’m considering changing the wall color

I have heard that some architects could never build their own house due to decision paralysis. Perhaps it causes too many arguments. Budget will reduce the selection options quickly too – a good thing. None of our choices are arbitrary, but then we weren’t afraid to make decisions. We did find the house is just a building, but because of the design, it helped make a house our home.

photos: Ron Lutz II

Please read what my friends’ perspective are – it might change your mind…or mine. #Architalks

Keith Palma – Architect’s Trace (@cogitatedesign)
I don’t design homes

Marica McKeel – Studio MM (@ArchitectMM)
ArchiTalks: House or Home?

Bob Borson – Life of An Architect (@bobborson)
The Designation between House and Home

Jeff Echols – Architect Of The Internet (@Jeff_Echols)
House or Home? The Answer to Everything

Mark R. LePage – EntreArchitect (@EntreArchitect)
Emotional Marketing for Architects: House or Home?

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
House or Home? It’s in the story.

Collier Ward – One More Story (@BuildingContent)
House or Home? A Choice of Terms

Jeremiah Russell, AIA – ROGUE Architecture (@rogue_architect)
house or home: #architalks

Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)
“house” or “home”?

Eric T. Faulkner – Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
House or Home — Discover the Difference

Meghana Joshi – IRA Consultants, LLC (@MeghanaIRA)
Architalks #24 : House or Home

Brian Paletz – The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
House or Home? – Depends

Michael LaValley – Evolving Architect (@archivalley)
House or Home? Train for One, Design for Another

Jarod Hall – di’velept (@divelept)
A Rose by Any Other Name…

Greg Croft – Sage Leaf Group (@croft_gregory)
House or Home

Jeffrey Pelletier – Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
Designing a House into a Home

Samantha R. Markham – The Aspiring Architect (@TheAspiringArch)
6 Ways to Make your Architecture Studio feel like Home

Kyu Young Kim – J&K Atelier (@sokokyu)
Making a House a Home

Nisha Kandiah – ArchiDragon (@ArchiDragon)
Dwelling on a Macro scale

Jim Mehaffey – Yeoman Architect (@jamesmehaffey)
House or Home: One’s a Place, the Other a Feeling.

Tim Ung – Journey of an Architect (@timothy_ung)
Architalks – A House is not a home

Mark Stephens – Mark Stephens Architects (@architectmark)
#ArchiTalks #24 House or Home? #RefugeeCrisis @GrainneHassett mentioned

our house is home

good client, good architecture

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Behind every good architect is a good client; good clients are necessary to good architecture. Don’t take the wanted poster too far, we need living clients. We want good clients; we have good clients.

After all these years of practicing architecture, one conclusion that I am comfortable making (and I hope other architects agree) is that good projects require good clients. Good architecture follows along. I acknowledge that the absence of said person doesn’t preclude good architecture, but it makes it quite difficult and near impossible in most situations. This goes for residential or commercial projects, from doghouses to skyscrapers.

Read enough about architecture and one will typically find in the story where the client was active and involved; that client was likely a good client. It is true that we can find colorful stories and tumultuous relationships, even adversarial partings between the client and the architect occurring at times. Nevertheless, the client who paid for the building must have positive contributions that extend beyond merely writing a check.

We could talk all day about the different types of clients that we’ve had, but that could prove endless and divert our attention to fruitless areas. It can be established that there are experienced clients and inexperienced clients. Experienced clients have worked with architects on multiple occasions, they understand the process, they navigate through proposals, contracts and the startup process well. Getting to the “meat” of the project is something they’re generally eager to do as the rest is familiar. Inexperienced clients have never worked with an architect, or perhaps they did on one occasion with varied results. I guide my prospective clients to educate themselves quickly on basic matters so they can be informed and make decisions early on that they’ll not regret later in the process. Educated (and empowered) consumers are great people with which to work.

Aside from the level of experience, three categories came to mind as I considered this topic, but there are limitless versions and hybrids. I move forward carefully as I dare not insult any of my clients or potential clients either intentionally or accidentally. Respect and appreciation is something that should always come to their mind as they consider their relationship with me. For the most part, I’ve been extremely fortunate.

  1. Indifferent client – Unfortunately, this client may not see the architect as a volitional choice, but as a dictate beyond their control. They tend not to value or care about the contributions or the input of the professional, but perceive it merely as a mandated governmental stepping stone to get to their goal of having a structure where they can conduct their business. In other words, they’re told they must hire an architect, therefore they (grudgingly) move forward. They’re not hostile, they’re just not interested. I have found there is often a lack of understanding of value available and the fee paid is merely an expense rather than an investment in a service and a relationship that can yield not only shelter, but lend branding, increased productivity and health to their business. I may have thickened my hyperbole for the sake of a point, but one must be careful when an inquiry comes in from this type of client.
  2. Frugal cheerleader – This client often has limited resources, but seeks the best value with the best fitted architect for the best architecture that that they can get for their investment. They tacitly or overtly challenge their architect despite a limited budget, often suffering through cuts and compromises, yet remain passionate enough to trust their architect to make the best of their limited resources. If this client lends appropriate freedom, unexpected positive results can ensue within great constraints. Good results can occur if expectations are managed well, disappointment can come when the root of the idea is lost when the money is not there.
  3. Indulgent artists – This might be the client most architects think they want; however, that’s not always true. This client is willing to pay to get what they want – at any cost. They afford tremendous latitude, demand the highest quality which often leads to the deepest of exploration. Frequently, these projects appear on the cover of our favorite magazines. This is certainly something to celebrate if this occurs, but my caution is with no limits to budget, there is no limit to expectations. As both parties agonize over the details to achieve a unique work of art, tumultuous struggles occur which may have unfortunate consequences. This could go either way. Tread carefully.

Regardless of what traits you might exhibit as a client, the one aspect that can make the most difference in the result is the client engagement and open relationship with the architect. Whether the project is large or small, I have found the best projects come from a client that is involved in the process, interested in the result and contributes their vision balanced with an unmistakable trust for their architect. When one first seeks a professional that best fits with their personality and needs, but is well suited with their project type, that sets them up for success and satisfaction. After having hired the architect and worked through the program and constraints, let the architect do their job. Don’t design for them, don’t hold their arm while they draw, but trust them to find the best solution within the context. There needs to be ongoing dialogue and continuing exchange during this process, but the worst thing one can do is tell the architect that they think they “have it all figured out”, then expect the architect to merely ‘draw it up’ to either reduce the fee or give a feeling of having designed it themselves.

This mode of thinking expands beyond hiring of design professionals. Be a good client (or customer) with whatever services you hire a professional for assistance. Once you’ve made the right choice, let them do their job – whether they are architects, accountants, graphic designers, photographers, computer repair persons, bakers or baristas. If you don’t get the result you want, perhaps the error wasn’t on the part of the professional but in your choice or your contributions (or lack of trust) to the one you hired in the first place. It’s something to think about today. Seek out good clients rather than good projects.

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Image 2 credit: By The U.S. Army (Searching for opposing forces) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

good client, good architecture

style…final words

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Sigh…thanks Brian Paletz for suggesting this. The very thought of addressing style and sorting through the customary arguments for or against things old, things new or somewhere in between feels exhausting. I’ve struggled to find time to write lately only to have our Architalks topic be focused on a word I work to avoid. If you’ve read my blog at all in the last seven years, you know I’ve addressed this often. So, forgive me for recounting the many earlier posts, but I hope the preponderance of evidence of past rants, rambles and rages should make my point, if I haven’t been clear until now.

Oh, Modernism Who Art Thou: For those who carelessly throw around the terms modern or contemporary, I share my doubts of really knowing what either of these mean. Nothing has changed in the past six years.

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Traditional Architecture: Feeling the need to address the obvious, I share my thoughts about traditional architecture dare someone criticize me of having a limited palate for only modern architecture (of course how can that be since I don’t know what means). I was still criticized. I’ll say it again, no architect dislikes traditional or classical architecture. We just hate (can I say that), strongly dislike false historic attempts and poorly executed traditional buildings. These are probably the hardest buildings to do well and one cannot “drape” classicism on most contemporary buildings without a painful result.

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Not just a Modernist: If someone didn’t get the point before, I came out and said it again.

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The Simple Foods: To steer the conversation away from “style”, I attempt to address the elements of architecture that inspire me and my approach to design – a focus on the simple things:  materials, textures, hardware, fixtures, form and most important, space. From there, style becomes unimportant.

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Today a bit of Yesterday, hopefully a Tomorrow: As an architect who largely works with existing buildings, a site visit inspired a few thoughts. “It is important to remember that architecture was here before us, and I certainly hope we make architecture to be here when we’re gone. let’s make good decisions and not borrow against tomorrow.”

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History Lesson Needed: Events in my own practice that involved style, history, present and past evoked this outburst where I began to finally see through people’s opinions about architectural style that has nothing to do with architectural superiority or quality. It is more shallow than that unfortunately.

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Search for Authentic: A weekend trip involving a 1940’s diner inspired thoughts about my naïve idealism for creating architecture that is authentic rather than faking something that only fools our eyes. We find that it is perhaps impossible to achieve this; my opinions of most building construction today is revealed through my sarcastic diatribe fueled by the afterglow of a satisfying bacon and egg breakfast in one of my most favorite types of restaurants.

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Order off the Menu: Never being afraid to tackle architectural topics of controversy, I make a connection between searching for an architect much like one chooses a restaurant. I share my thoughts (and opinions – don’t worry), recommending one research the type(s) of work their architect of choice does and does well. Some architects claim to design “whatever” one wants with an air of confidence and proficiency in multiple representations. I posit an argument that better results come from ordering the type of food that is offered on their menu.

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What Are the Rules: Finally, I come right out and say what I thought I was saying all along. My biggest trouble with the design of traditional or classical architecture today stems from the failure of most designers ignore the foundation of why these structures of the past are so good. The architecture of the past is far more than copying and pasting details onto a simple box. I conflate thoughts about our architectural past with similar rules for contemporary architecture today.

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Well that was actually fun, but after so much senseless debate over visual superiority, I must concede that it will never end. I can apprehend why the architecturally uneducated American prefers what they like and ignore their own inconsistencies. I don’t believe it’s linked to a superior style any more than I believe most architects (currently practicing) prefer what is considered “modern” or contemporary due to a brain-washing process initiated in architectural education and perpetuated by the architectural media. These arguments are more complex and deeper but a resolution will likely evade the profession during my lifetime.

Does it really matter? Well, that’s one of the questions. Now you must start all over at the beginning.20170213_191501.jpg

Please take some time to read the posts of my friends and their take on style for this month’s topic on Architalks.

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
The AREsketches Style

Jeffrey Pelletier – Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
Should You Pick Your Architect Based on Style or Service?

Keith Palma – Architect’s Trace (@cogitatedesign)
Stylized Hatred

Collier Ward – One More Story (@BuildingContent)
Good Artists Copy; Great Artists Steal

Bob Borson – Life of An Architect (@bobborson)
http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com/style-do-i-have-any/

Eric T. Faulkner – Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
Name That Stile!

Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)
“style”

Meghana Joshi – IRA Consultants, LLC (@MeghanaIRA)
Architalks : Style

brady ernst – Soapbox Architect (@bradyernstAIA)
What Style Do You Build In?

Brian Paletz – The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
You do you

Jarod Hall – di’velept (@divelept)
What’s Your Style?

Greg Croft – Sage Leaf Group (@croft_gregory)
Architectural Style

Samantha R. Markham – The Aspiring Architect (@TheAspiringArch)
5 Styles of an Aspiring Architect

Kyu Young Kim – J&K Architects Atelier (@sokokyu)
Loaded With Style

Nisha Kandiah – ArchiDragon (@ArchiDragon)
Regression or Evolution : Style

Jim Mehaffey – Yeoman Architect (@jamesmehaffey)
What’s in a Style?

Mark Stephens – Mark Stephens Architects (@architectmark)
Architectalks 23 – Style

Michael LaValley – Evolving Architect (@archivalley)
Defining an Architect’s Style

Jeremiah Russell, AIA – ROGUE Architecture (@rogue_architect)
style: #architalks

style…final words

architects’ architect?

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***warning*** If you ask me to respond again to this question tomorrow, my answer will be different.

I read an interesting article recently, that was shared by a good friend of mine, where the author posits that there are architects, that are largely appreciated only by architects, whose architecture is primarily “about architecture.” Continue reading “architects’ architect?”

architects’ architect?

then and now

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second-year architecture student, February 1988
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today

I’ve been practicing architecture for 25 years (actually closer to 26 now). I started a YAF (young architects forum) and am no longer a “young” architect by that standard. Next year I’ll turn 50 years old and am told that is when things begin. I can’t wait…I think. Continue reading “then and now”

then and now