Doing Your Best: A Vision for Design is a Vision for Life

A friend, who is not an architect, wanted to see my house in the belief it would be the coolest house ever. I said, we’ve done what we can, but the priority over the past 20 years was making sure our children graduated from college. A lot of things were important, but if we had to choose one, and sometimes we did, funding their education was it. We told our children, “all you have to do is your best, whatever that is for you.” I shared this anecdote with someone recently and realized that’s also my vision for design at 2e Architects.

First, doing my best for a client means truly understanding their needs to design a house for them that is beautiful, with inspired design elements that create a sense of home and that is unique to them and their needs and has lasting integrity. To do this, I bring four essential focuses to every project.  The only way a project is successful is if each of these areas is fully realized.  If I miss on any one of these qualities, then the design is simply not complete.

  1. Truly understand my clients’ wants, needs, hopes, and dreams. Those needs that are spoken and those that they cannot quite articulate.  The goals is to find the right flow/circulation to suit their needs.A prospective client wanted to be able to see from kitchen to family room, but not really see from family room into kitchen. I said, “Sure, we can do that.” She replied, “Forgive me if I’m mistrustful, but you’re the fifth architect I’ve talked to who said that and no one else was even close.” We put in cabinets that she could see through from the kitchen side, then added a bar on the family room side, plus shutters that she could close anytime.

    It didn’t seem that hard and now she’s a champion of 2e Architects!  For more than 30 (gulp) years of working with people, delving deeper into their goals, I’ve learned that without having listened to her and asking all of the right questions, we would not have been able to design the perfect house for her and her family.  Every 2e project starts out like this and it is during the 2e Clarity Session that we uncover this information.

  2. Create magnificent spaces by using light to sculpt the rooms. After a lifetime of study, extensive travel all around the world, sketching and designing every day, and working with contractors and others to find new inspiration, I’ve developed this approach.Sculpting with light. What does this mean?  Everyone likes natural light—the more light filled spaces the better.  But we don’t live in glass houses, so determining how and when to best use light is essential.  A client wanted a wraparound porch but also rooms drenched with natural light. Those are opposites! We put dormer windows above the roof that go directly into the space, basically clerestory windows, all of them 2 feet by 2 feet. These will let in 90% of the light for the space. The doors on the porch let in the remaining amount. But the big windows onto the porch do almost nothing in terms of light, but they’ve created the setting the client wanted.
  3. Create a sense of home. A place you can’t wait to return to.  A space you miss when you are gone.  A space that fits you like a carefully tailored dress or suit.  A space that is highly individualized. A place that automatically brings a smile to your face.After finishing the design and construction, our clients move into their dream home.  We’ve succeeded.  We’ve defined what home means to them during the 2e Clarity Session and worked through creative ideas to achieve this for them.  I’m a big believer that you don’t have to have a big house with dozens of rooms, each with an individualized purpose.  I’ve found that most families and empty nesters can meet their dream home desires in a smaller footprint than they think.  With spaces that flow together naturally, and with flex spaces, where for example your dining room opens to the living room, through a foyer, that with some furniture moved around could accommodate a table for 50 people for a special celebration.

    Our clients achieved their dream home and then suddenly, the husband got a job offer in a different city that he simply couldn’t refuse.  They decide to relocate, but they were not going to sell their home.  They return every month and will return permanently when the “new” job is over.

  4. Design and build with a sense of integrity. Create a home that in 200 or more years people will want to save for future generations.I think about Williamsburg, Virginia.  We want to try to save those houses exactly as they were some 200 years later. They were well-designed, but also designed with integrity. If somebody said back then, “we have this fake stone, let’s use it,” the structures would have lost all integrity with one decision.

    We endeavor to design the kind of homes future generations will be looking to save in 100 or 200 years. This depends not only on the materials we choose but also on how the spaces work together. A big part of that is trying to create engaging spaces that people notice at the right times.  For everyday use a good foyer might feel cozy or utilitarian, with its powder room and coat room, maybe some artwork, but for guest it is a welcome into the space.  The main idea of a foyer is to move from that nice space into a much better space. The foyer has to be the “supporting actor” and the great room is the “best actor or actress.”

All of our design solutions are layered on the hopes, needs, wants and dreams of our clients. We all have things in common but the specifics can get pretty different. We have a process to find out what that is.  As an architect, I do my best so you can be your best.