Always Look Up

We often find ourselves scanning our surroundings on only one level.  We walk down the street, in a city or a park or in our own neighborhoods, we inherently focus on what is at eye level.  We nod to the passerby, we look in a storefront window, or we avoid the stationary trashcan located exactly where we are walking.  However, above all of this, there are experiences and moments that should not be missed.  There are landscaped gardens visible from tops of buildings, the occasional majestic, bald eagle flies overhead, or even sculptures that make your mind think twice about what’s going on in the sky.  Always look up.  You may miss something important.

Colorado Series:
Design for Reading

During our trip to Colorado Springs, we had the pleasure of actually staying in the house that we were hired to redesign.  After the first day and a half of preparing for and taking interior photographs, we then got a chance to slow down and relax.  After slipping on my Uggs and pulling out my latest Baldacci book, I was sitting in the living room and realized something.  Before this moment, I couldn’t figure out why this classic modern home with a true wood ceiling, heavy timber beams, concrete columns, eight foot tall glass windows and real concrete tile felt like such a warm, inviting space.  And then it hit me.  The space made you want to read a book.  All of those components; the oversized fireplace, the classic modern furniture, the wonderful scenery seen through the expanse of clear glass, were simply designed to encourage one to read.  And I realized that using the act of reading as a benchmark for design, forces us as architects and interior designers to create spaces that are proportioned, appropriately sized and finished in a way that provides comfort and satisfaction.

Colorado Series:
Design with Respect

It is not often that we, as architects and interior designers, get the opportunity to renovate a classically modern structure.  It is just as rare that we get the opportunity to meet the original architect of that building and even more rare that the original architect still lives in the house we are renovating.  We were lucky enough to have this exact opportunity in Colorado Springs.  We had two choices:  1. to design something representative of our own aesthetic to show off our own design style or 2. to respect the original design with the only goal to complement the existing aesthetic and ultimately hope for the original architect’s approval.  We chose the latter and got that approval.  By renovating with respect and admiration for the design, the results were both aesthetically pleasing for all involved, but more importantly, we enhanced the original architecture and space by giving it the respect it deserved.

Colorado Series:
Photos Should Tell a Story

Our website has morphed multiple times over the years, but the main purpose of any designer’s website is to express the visual success and achievements of that designer.  The photography gives us the channel to express our talent and specifically, what our buildings or spaces look and feel like.  Though always subjective in nature, our aesthetic and built form is our life and these photographs represent our careers.  They show the evolution of our designs and they can also tell the story of a project.  If photography is used properly, the photographs taken should allow the viewer to take themselves on a journey through the relationship between space, proportion, materials, the furniture and its context.  The images, organized properly, can explain the thought process of the architect or interior designer, expressing how they approached the project and ultimately, the project’s success.

Don Jones Photography

Don Jones Photography

Colorado Series:
Mix It Up

On a recent trip to Colorado Springs, Patty and I visited one of our residential projects renovating a classic modern home set at the base of Cheyenne Mountain.  While there, we experienced a most amazing climatic transformation over the two days we were in town.  As seen in the photos below, we went from a landscape covered in snow and clouds to beautiful green foliage, Cheyenne Mountain in the background and not a hint of snow or ice anywhere.  This brings up an interesting awareness to appreciate and take advantage of the photographic opportunities the climate provides when documenting our buildings for marketing purposes.  Don’t get stuck taking photos only when the project is complete.  Be patient and take photos at different times of the year in multiple environments.  It will only enhance the success of your project and help to tell your story.

Photo taken on Feb. 3 from the front yard (can’t see the mountain)
Photo by Don Jones Photography

Photo taken on Feb. 4 from inside the house (there’s the mountain)
Taken with my Droid phone

 

Running your own business

They don’t teach you in school about running your own business. They may naively and ignorantly promote being on your own or starting your own firm, but they do not tell you how difficult it is to begin, and more importantly sustain, a company. Here are a few things to consider before jumping:

Employees – Hiring them, firing them, finding them, keeping them, befriending them, relating to them…

The Office – Should I lease, should I own, how much square footage, what location, what about signage, should I be downstairs or upstairs …

Technical Capabilities – How many and what kind of computers, how many and what kind of printers, how many and what kind of phone system, how many and what kind of cellular phones, how many and what kind of computer programs (there’s Autocad, Revit, Archicad, Sketch-up, Photoshop, InDesign, 3d Studio Max, Rhino …), should I video conference, should I back up on a server …

Insurance – Do I get general liability, professional liability, workman’s comp, auto, health, dental, eye, for my leased equipment, disability …

Projects – Should we focus on residential, commercial, renovations, new construction, locally, regionally, nationally, internationally, small ones, large ones, municipal ones, industrial ones …

Accounting – Am I a corporation, a partnership, should I use Quickbooks, what about a bank, payroll, sales tax, unemployment, 941s, W-9s, K-1s …

And this is just the tip of the iceberg …

To Revit or not to Revit?

For the last 10 years or so, the question of whether or not we as an architectural firm should move into Revit or a similar program has been a consistent topic of discussion. Is Autocad or Sketchup sufficient or should we make the jump to Revit? One issue has always been whether our engineers are using the program or not. Until recently, the answer has always been a resounding “no,” however, even today, it is still not a given.  The BIM (Building Information Modeling) programs are clearly the direction we are heading, but for smaller firms, I find that it still is a struggle to make the leap. And now, there’s Archicad, which seems to be gaining momentum and giving Revit a run for its money.  Just as in Hamlet, it is about questioning a decision and what to do. We must continue to ask ourselves regularly when it is time to Revit or not to Revit? (Or whatever BIM program you choose). That … is definitely the question.

Get Dirty

I’ve never understood how some architects prefer to only design projects and never see them built or only provide drawings for permitting, but do not provide construction administration to finish out the project.  The process of designing a building, both the exterior and the interior, is exactly that … a process.  It begins with a site, then initial sketches and ideas, then drawings and then, ultimately, it ends with construction.  During the construction period, design continues, details are resolved and puzzles are solved.  No matter how good a set of drawings are, existing conditions or even details that just can’t be foreseen due to the nature of the beast, are dealt with, but only during construction and not by oneself.  It allows the architect to work out details, but more importantly, it allows the architect to create and foster relationships with the men and women building the project.  These relationships create a team and that team creates a better project for the owner.  The feeling of putting on boots in the morning, rather than my Pradas, grounds our profession in what architecture is really about … getting dirty.  Because when you get dirty, it means it’s being built and you’re a true part of that accomplishment.

You never would have guessed

One thing architects strive for is to create new or updated architectural features. We look for opportunities for new shapes, materials, forms or even entire systems. The challenge is often related to modern technology, modern day desires or even the architect’s or client’s wish to simply be different.  However, in a recent project, we found an ironic twist to this “new age” challenge of being beyond creative.  For the renovation of the Mar Vista restaurant, an old fishing shack turned popular Florida restaurant, we chose to match the existing weathered cypress siding rather than create some new material.  Those new features happen in the interior and in other ways throughout the exterior.  But … in the process of determining how to go about recreating weathered wood, the contractor had an extremely creative and simple solution.  Vinegar and steel wool pads.  New material … old look … way simple solution.  Sometimes, you just never would have guessed.

Away from Home

The opportunity to work outside of one’s home state is often eye opening.  No matter what field, expanding your knowledge to other parts of the country or world provides the ability to:

  • Meet new people
  • Witness physical or natural differences like mountains, lakes, oceans or plains
  • Experience climatic changes like snow, dry heat or balmy tropical weather

… and for us as architects and interior designers, we get exposed to new aesthetic and architectural styles.  We find the ability to broaden our comfort zone and design with new materials, new colors and new environments.  Don’t be afraid to venture out into the world.  Whether a plane ride or a road trip, the benefits outweigh any possible concerns.

Renovated home designed by the Schimberg Group in Colorado Springs, CO