champagne wishes and caviar dreams

“Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” – loved this show!

Robert Swinburne, someone who I like to think is one of “those architects” doing the kind of work I am clawing my way towards with ever ounce of strength in my being – simple, honest and quality work – in a recent blog post about the length of time spent on design, concluded with this statement that struck a huge cord with me:

“…the majority of my clients came to me because they had limited budgets and lofty goals and needed someone to help them through the decision making process to get the best possible end result given the limited amount of money available.”

This statement is so amazingly powerful in it’s simplicity and offers a paramount reason to hire a architect to help create your project – whether that project is a marvel of modern design ready to grace the cover of every design magazine on the planet or a modest kitchen/bath remodel that will never be seen by anyone outside the client’s own family, the client will always have much loftier goals than their wallet can handle. By putting some of your budget towards hiring a qualified designer, someone who will search tirelessly to create a finished product as close to those goals as possible while keeping your wallet intact, is money more than well spent. It’s much like shopping around for a new car. You don’t just head out to the nearest car lot, wave your hand around and say “eeny, meeny, miny, moe”, nor do you choose one based on color, tire size or the availability of heated seats (though, lets be honest, a toasty rump is quite nice). You choose a new car, which is a substantial investment of money, based on performance, value, longevity, and most importantly based on the opinions and reviews of experts who specialize in the ins and outs of the automobile industry.

Remodeling your bathroom, or renovating your master suite, or adding a new kitchen or guest house is no different. You want quality, efficiency, longevity and a reasonable return on investment for your money. Joe Blow contractor from the Yellow Pages….probably not the guy you want to talk to first. Don’t get me wrong, I have known a number of incredibly talented contractors and carpenters. But design is still not going to be the strongest item in their wheelhouse. Architects and designers on the other hand are the industry professionals who specialize in the ins and outs of the design and building industry that you want to consult with before investing in your existing and/or new home. It will save you time, heartache, money and time. Did I mention time and money will be saved? Not to mention the headaches you won’t suffer by having a architect on the job site making sure everything is going according to your plan.

From top to bottom the level of service and attention your project will get by an architect from design through to construction is going to be worth far more than the monetary investment that is our fee. Don’t believe me? Ask around. Ask an architect. As their clients. Ask me. 🙂




Man. Don’t even get me started on the testing process for Architects. Seriously….just don’t. :-\
I’ll be following this blog closely over the next several months…or years. You should too.

the artichoke's guide

I’m starting this blog as a personal study tool for the A.R.E. with the hopes that others will stumble upon it and find it useful/share their wisdom/voice their frustration/celebrate their victories. I’ve only just begun the marathon that is the A.R.E. which I’ve decided to embrace after months and months spent thinking about how I wasn’t going to take it (even though I continued to track my IDP hours).

What changed, you ask?

1. After 5 years in the real world, I feel like my brain has finally recovered (I hope) from the insanity that is/was architecture school.
2. 4+2 years of school (read: debt) means that I feel the need to make those degrees (read: the money I’ve spent/am paying until 2023) worthwhile aka I didn’t go to school for 6 grueling years to have someone else with the same degrees stamp my drawings.
3. I’m a competitive person…

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a leap of faith, or “aaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!! *splat*”

I do a lot of reading and about half of it is blogs. So, by extension I get a lot of emails. I don’t always read all of them (ok…most, but who’s keeping track), but the title of this post caught my eye and I was intrigued enough to read it’s contents. The title “leap of faith” is something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately, especially as I continue down this path of perpetual moonlighting. Eventually I know that I will have to make one of two choices:

a) take on less projects and keep chugging along with the day job as an Intern-soon-to-be-Architect


b) take the proverbial Leap of Faith and “hang my shingle”, as the old saying goes

The easy course of action, is obviously the first choice. The not-so-easy and mind numbingly terrifying option is “b” – to formally strike out on my own. But ironically enough, about a week or two after starting to write this post I got a push towards option b. It was not planned, though it had been on the horizon as a possibility for a while. The fateful event?

My day job went from full time to part time due to a lack of new work over an extended period of time. Same old story you hear everywhere – clients sitting on contracts waiting for *insert random excuse for why a project can’t move forward on time here*.  As a consequence of this, I’ve had to reach out to other architects and designers to offer my design/drafting/awesomeness services as a freelancer even heavier. This hasn’t completely been a bad thing. I still have several side projects that are nearing completion – the LA House is in for plan check, the kitchen remodel is being reviewed for contractor pricing and a few others are sprinkling in here and there.

Also, a new opportunity has sprung up in a very unlikely place – Little Rock, Arkansas. I’re thinking “say whaaa??!!” and that’s exactly what I thought too. I applied for a full time position almost on a whim, thinking I’d never actually get a call back. But then I did get a call back, and a phone interview, and now in just over a week I’ll be headed up there with my family to check the place out and have a face to face with the principal of the firm. To say I’m excited about this new prospect would be an understatement. My wife and I have talked about getting out of Jacksonville for a while and this seems to be the major push we needed – necessity.

Now, while this move would put my moonlighting on hold for the foreseeable future, it would open up new and interesting opportunities in formal day to day practice which makes it more than worth it. So, as the economy continues to chug along it is becoming increasingly evident that the future of the profession is going to have to be much more lean and mean than it currently is. Gone are the days of big box firms of 50 or 100 or more. The future of real architecture is going to be a network of individuals all working together in collaboration rather than in more conventional firm structures.

There simply isn’t enough room for business as usual. Architectural practice as we know it is changing by the day. We’re becoming increasingly connected via internet file sharing and other collaborative softwares. Some are even built-in to our drafting software like in the case of BIM integration between disciplines. It’s either time to rise with the changing tide or get swept away by it. Which will it be for you?

kitchen remodel – part III

The design process on any project, whether big or small, can simultaneously be one of the most rewarding and frustrating aspects of what we as architects and designers do. Usually when it starts to become a frustrating process is when every conversation with the client starts with “well, what if we….(insert your favorite statement that leads to major design changes here)”. When a client first comes to you, they typically have some kind of image in their head of what they “think” their project should look like. Then they get a look at the first conceptual sketches based on conversations with the client, programmatic requirements and just general “architect-ness” and suddenly there are all sorts of things they never thought of before that are suddenly very important to the success of the project. You know you’ve been there.

Well, this little kitchen remodel has been a little like that. It began as a little kitchen remodel – some new cabinets, perhaps opening up to the dining room, but not getting too crazy with the demo and put-back. Then of course started the “well, what if we…”, and now, 8 conceptual floor plans later, we’re down to 2 winning candidates (seen below). Both are identical with only one change between them – the entry closet. Having lived in older homes for the last near decade I’m not a huge fan of having closets and storage for the sake of having closets and storage. It’s really just a place to hide the crap you never use, so why incur the expense? But I digress.

In each plan, the laundry area has been pushed into a small addition to the rear of the home adjacent to a storage/mechanical room behind the garage, creating a larger mud room. By removing the door and wall between the old laundry room and kitchen, I’ve created an opportunity to enlarge the kitchen and create a more open and direct flow from the garage into the kitchen.

Conceptual Floor Plan No 7

Something new was to take the east wall, between Family Room and Sitting Room and shift it south to enlarge the Family Room. Again we also removed the two closets at the entry in favor of the single coat closet only. This keeps an open and free flow between entry, kitchen, dining and family room. By adding discreet built-ins at both the formal dining room and family room we can easily make up for any lost storage. The addition of the kitchen island will greatly add to the function and flow of the kitchen allowing for more informal family dining and entertaining.

Conceptual Floor Plan No 8

This final conceptual plan, with small closet removed, is my personal preference. The only difference I’d like to see is to move the Family Room to the Formal Dining space and allow dining access to the rear yard. A planned change to this plan is to enlarge the island and add column supports at the header creating a soft division between kitchen and dining.

This project has been another in a series of interesting processes for me lately. As I continue taking on new clients in new and interesting places, the process of designing via remote (skype, phone, email, etc) can be challenging. It is always much preferred to be local and be able to physically inhabit a space to get a feel for how the design should take shape. But I think in an increasingly digital age, as with all things, we must find new ways to approach our clients and market our services. This is one way that has been fairly successful for me. Now if I can just keep the “well, what if we” emails and phone calls to a minimum. 😛

kitchen remodel – cont.

Yesterday I posted some images of a kitchen remodel I’m working on. And, as a friend pointed out in his comment, these posts are much less about putting my work out there for posterity and much more to do with the process that a architect and/or designer goes through to craft the best solution to your project needs. And it is just that – a process. A process of putting ourselves in the client’s shoes and drawing on our knowledge of building, psychology, sociology and technology to arrive at a solution that will function in the desired way, be sensitive to budget, materials and color, and will even be adaptable in later years as life and circumstance may change.

Now, I’m not making big bucks off this project. I’m charging a small design fee, by the hour and making every minute count. This project won’t make it into the magazines and more than likely will not be noticed by anyone outside of the client’s own small circle of friends and family. What this project will be is the end product of the process I described above.

With that, here are Conceptual Floor Plans in succession.

Conceptual Floor Plan No. 1

As I mentioned in my previous post, Conceptual Plan No. 1 is mostly in keeping with the existing interior configuration. Only the Kitchen and adjacent living space are considerably altered by removing a wall and door opening. But even in these simple, mostly cosmetic, moves we have created a space that is more open, functional and adaptable to changing lifestyles.

Conceptual Floor Plan No. 2

Conceptual Plan No. 2 involves a considerable amount of demolition and remodel. First, you’ll notice the large closet at the entry is removed to make a more grand entry and open formal dining space for entertaining. Moving into the kitchen, things are much the same though the island was reduced and a breakfast bar added. The laundry room is also remodeled in this scheme to allow for a high counter with base and upper cabinet storage.

Also, the client has a desire not to have the bathroom open onto the formal dining room (I completely agree), so we’ve relocated the door and mirrored the fixtures. This will require slab demo and plumbing work, which will drive up project costs and time, but the client is aware and willing to make that sacrifice to relocate the bathroom entry.

Conceptual Floor Plan No. 3

Conceptual Plan No. 3 is similar to No. 2, but with a few interesting changes. First, the large entry closet is reduced to a small coat closet and the remaining space converted to a counter with bar sink. The Kitchen, though similar, is now extended into the laundry space by removing the wall and door and adding a pantry cabinet, counter and stacked washer/dryer. The bathroom also retains it’s reversed position.

These three designs, while they appear to be variations on the same themes, represent a good deal of work and thought into the client’s wants, needs and desires for his project, how the spaces should and can function within a defined building envelope, and finally keeping in mind the remodel process and how that will relate to the budget and the experience of a family living in this home during construction.




Kitchen Remodel

Sometimes quick and dirty projects can be the most fun. They don’t require a lot of time, typically have very low fees/budgets and are almost 100% design in nature. This can be both a positive and a negative in terms of a architects flexibility.

With this kitchen remodel, the client asked me to first model the existing kitchen and adjoining spaces in SketchUp, and then propose a conceptual design. There is an existing formal dining space and living space left and right of the main entry hall and stair. This hall leads straight to the kitchen with a large closet to the left. The kitchen itself is fairly small for the amount of square footage in the home, but it was most likely built in the late 80s or early 90s by the looks of the photos.

existing kitchen – sketchup model view

The program is simple. The family eats together, informally, most days in the kitchen by way of a small round table. Adjacent the kitchen is a family room seldom used and a family room adjacent to that. They’d like an eat-in kitchen that is more open and more functional while still allowing for family gatherings in the formal dining room. This is accomplished by removing the wall between kitchen and existing family room to create a large open kitchen and dining space with island and bar seating.

conceptual floor plan no. 1 – hand sketch

As you can see with just a little demolition we’ve considerably opened the floor plan allowing for a more free circulation. Future iterations are to follow as the plan is developed. Additional scope is already being talked about with regard to the 1/2 bath and laundry area. I’ll update this post as more sketches are developed and refined.