Monday, June 15, 2009

Inside-Out Design

Because of my interior design background, I have always noticed and appreciated the finer points of - obviously - the interior aesthetic. You know when you walk into a space and all the colors, textures, and proportions just 'feel good'? Great design inherently just exudes this 'feeling' and we often don't know how or why. In design school, I learned how to create a floor plan and lay out spaces. I also learned how to blend construction materials with paint, furnishings, and accessories. But until I began working in an architectural office, I don't think I fully understood the importance of good inside-out design.

I call it 'inside-out' design because I have learned that what is planned for the outside (exterior) of your home can be just as important as what goes on inside. Sure, you may want a family room with a fireplace and that opens into the kitchen. But subtleties like window placement, room symmetry, ceiling heights, and architectural details are the integral framework that interior design relies on. Good architecture is the foundation for an interior worthy of the pages of Home and Garden magazine.

Before working for an architect, it was relatively easy for me to lay out a floor plan that met all interior needs…the kitchen near an eating area…a bathroom near a guest suite. Now I realize that on the inside of a home, every wall, every tray or vaulted ceiling, every jog and turn in a hallway affects 101 different things on the exterior. Without an architect to consider such ramifications, a house starts to look quite lost and disjointed on the outside. Part of the beauty of a well-designed home is its seamless integration of the inside and outside elements. Without careful consideration of both of these crucial aspects of your home, that 'feel good' feeling of good design won't quite be accomplished.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

My Hat it Has Three Corners, Three Corners has my Hat.

I take my job seriously, but have fun doing it. How could you not enjoy having people pay you to spend their money! Whoa! that’s a lot of responsibility, so I better take it seriously.

Being an Architect, I get to wear a proverbial Three Cornered Hat. Each corner represents the roles I play as a Designer, a Broker and a Technician.

My role as a designer is all about being creative and thinking outside of the box. Great fun, no restrictions...the sky’s the limit! The extents of my imagination are my only boundaries…

Then, the Broker role says, “Hey, wait a minute, there are budgets to meet!” Each line I draw represents money my clients have worked hard for. It is extremely important to maximize the investment value of each and every line because in the end, as one my clients aptly expressed to me, “I am living in my portfolio.” That statement speaks volumes.

I thank Jack Breaks for making that comment because it altered my way of thinking. It is vitally important that I create spaces that become more valuable than the cost it took to build them, so the return on the investment can be positive.

My final role is being a Technician. Although this role is tedious, it is vital to the success of each project. Drawing a thorough set of plans gives me the opportunity to solve problems before they happen on site. These discoveries eliminate the costly surprises, and on-the-fly field decisions that always occur with incomplete and inadequate drawings.

My hat is has three corners, three corners has my hat, and had it not three corners, I would not be an architect worth much of anything!

I’m ALL Ears!!

Have you ever seen Star Trek, Deep Space Nine? There is a bar on this remote station and the bartender’s name is Quark. He is not a human, but a Ferengi, an odd looking species, with gigantic ears. Not a bad quality to have, if people always want you listen to and solve their problems. The great thing about my job is that I don’t have to listen to people’s troubles! I get to listen to their dreams. Listening is a key element to a successful design. In order to listen effectively, I must listen with my eyes, as well as my ears. Watching someone's body language often communicates information that is vitally important to the design process.

Listening is more than just hearing. It’s also attempting to understand what drives each comment, and deciphering the unspoken codes.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Why Must We Have Straight Walls?

I often wonder why it is that despite the fact that there are basically no squares found in nature, we force ourselves to live and work in them. It is just not natural! Curved walls create dynamic, flowing spaces. Although they do cause contractors to get migraines, every time that I have incorporated them into a home, the results have added interest, and created a better flow.

I guess that we live in boxes simply because they were easier to build... and that just doesn’t seem right.

Puzzled by Design

Designing a home, or anything for that matter, is in itself a daunting task. When the process begins, the relevant data sits there in a pile in front of me, much like a 1,200 piece puzzle that has just been dumped out for assembly. The individual pieces of information are small and have a specific role to play. Like a puzzle, the key to successfully completing a design project means having all of the pieces on the table when you start.

Over the years, I have developed a process of making a puzzle that works very well. It begins by getting all the pieces situated so the picture faces up, and then I set out to find those elusive side pieces. Once these are mostly together, I start sorting the pieces that are similar in color. This makes it easier for me to begin filling in the puzzle’s center.

As each piece gets placed into the puzzle, the next one becomes slightly easier to find until only one spot remains. The main difference between assembling the puzzle that sat on my parent’s dining room table at Christmas and creating a home from a stack of papers, is the picture on the front of the puzzle box. Even though I don’t know what each final design will become, I do know a process of how to get one competed--the process provides a framework for design.

What do I love about design?   I can do the same process over and over again and still come up with unique solutions, each and every time.