Starting a Design Project

When you are educated in a particular topic, it’s easy to forget that not everyone else in the world knows what you are talking about. I’m guilty of using architectural jargon when talking to clients. It can be difficult to remember that what I’m paid to do for a living is because I am highly educated and skilled in areas of space, design, and building. I’m learning more and more when working with new clients who might have never engaged in a building project before to break down exactly how this collaborative process will unfold.

In light of this revelation, I’m going to be bringing you updates from one of my current projects over the next few months to better illustrate the different phases of design and what it is like to work with a designer or architect. I’ll be using a current remodel project which I’ve just named Midnight Midcentury. (More on the importance of project naming in a future story)

Photo by Courtney Paige Ray

Photo by Courtney Paige Ray

Today’s topic: How the project begins

Step one is an initial meeting with your potential designer or architect. I described this in detail a few weeks ago, check it out here.

After your initial meeting, if both you and the Design Professional want to move forward with working together, the designer will prepare a proposal with scope of work and contract for you to review and sign. I do this all online with Dubsado so no in-person signatures or delivery of contracts is required. This makes for a seamless start! If you sign a contract with your Design Professional, they will invoice you for a retainer or deposit and once that is paid, the project gets started!

Concept is Crucial

If you don’t have a concept, you don’t have a project. This beginning phase can look a little different depending on the type of project. If yours is a new-build or a commercial project, it will likely involve more steps such as a feasibility study and permit research. If it’s interior design with no architecture, it may involve less. Since I’m taking you through the process on Midnight Midcentury which is a remodel with interior design, that’s the type of project I’ll be discussing here.

Data Collection

The first thing I do once a contract is signed is to set up a site visit where I will take photos and measurements of the space to be designed. This step goes a long way. After that initial meeting is over, I immediately draw up floorplans of the space and utilize the photos frequently to refer back to the existing and surround spaces. In the case of Midnight Midcentury, I’m redesigning the front entry rooms of the home which have pocket doors closed off to the rest of the house, a hallway that attaches to the other living space, and big sliding doors that visually connect it to the newly re-designed backyard. I was also told that the curtains in the dining room had to stay as well as one piece of art.

At this initial site meeting I will also gauge the client’s desires for the space and go over their Pinterest board to determine a style direction.

Concept Imagery + Space Planning

Now that I have gathered all the information, it’s time to sit in front of my computer and pull together imagery that will help my client more specifically determine the visual concept we will develop for their space. These are the concept mood boards that I put together for this project.

At the same time, I am drawing up space plan options. These are crucial to begin to determine size and location of furniture, fixtures, and equipment. Here are the three planning options that were presented to the client.

floorplan 1.jpg
floorplan 2.jpg
floorplan 3.jpg

Meeting Time!

I try to ensure that all my presentations happen face to face - whether that is an in person meeting or a video conference - it’s critical for me to be the one walking the client through the boards so they understand the concepts, the reason why something is sized or placed where it is, as well as the the clear difference in the various schemes.

Client Feedback is Critical

After this meeting, I generally have some pretty good feedback and an idea of how to move forward, but I also send the pdf to the client and ask them to give me written feedback. This is important to give them additional time to review the details of what has been presented as well as show it to their spouse or partner if they weren’t able to be at the meeting. Then, the client will send back the pdf within a set amount of time, marking out things they don’t like and circling things they love. This feedback loop is critical for my next step which is taking the desires from the concept phase into the design development phase.

Stay tuned as I walk you through that process next week!

Various Shades of Grey

I have had a grey obsession for many years now. In architecture school, you learn that architects all wear black. While this is probably 90% true, and I definitely own key black architectural attire, I often dress in all grey. Additionally, my house is about 90% grey, hence the instagram photo that may have led you to this post. But I recognize that I am not alone in this grey obsession. Researching a variety of interiors these days, the color grey is abound, and it looks fabulous! Whereas many buildings have long been grey, thanks to concrete, limestone, and steel being key exterior architectural materials.

The thing about grey as an interior design element is that you can use just about any color as an accent and it will be perfect every time! That's why I am a huge advocate for selecting grey major pieces, such as sofas, chairs, even rugs. Then whenever you need a style change, you can change out pillows, arts, and accessories as you wish. Of course, in my own home, my pillows and accessories are all mostly grey too. But, hey, I already let you know that I'm obsessed!

I should also point out that yes, I spell it with an "e" GREY... Most Americans spell it GRAY. I think it's much prettier with the "e," and I feel that it makes it that much more mine.

Here's my round up of some stunning greys that I think are doing a great job at doing what they do:

1. A dark grey wall helps makes the white art, linens, and Louis Poulsen lamp pop.

source unknown

source unknown

2. Color blocks of grey. A definite favorite of mine, just like I did in one of my favorite interior projects, LA Home Office. And yes to West Elm's Saddle Swivel Chair.

source unknown

source unknown

3. A medium-light grey linen sofa will never go out of style. How awesome is that large scale ombre art?

Interior Addict, via Instagram

Interior Addict, via Instagram

4. A lovely grey, muted bathroom is the perfect place to relax in the tub/shower after a long, hard workout.

Lubelso Hawthorne Home by Canny, via designmilk

Lubelso Hawthorne Home by Canny, via designmilk

5. An all exposed concrete building is more than alright with me. It's one of my favorite things!

Bundner Kunst Museum by Barozzi Veiga, via Dezeen

Bundner Kunst Museum by Barozzi Veiga, via Dezeen

Minimal Monday

Any good architect will tell you that they don't have one particular "style." While it is true that a great architect or designer can design a space in just about any style out there, we all have our favorites. For me, that is Modern. Within the Modern design sensibility lives a multitude of subcategories, of which I will get into in future articles. Minimalism is what I'm going to focus on today because it is my ultimate favorite!

I should begin by saying that Minimalism is not just a style, it's a whole way of being. For more in-depth information about how to live a Minimal life, you should check out The Minimalists blog and podcast as well as read Marie Kondo's method on Japanese tidying. Both highly recommended by me.

But this is my architecture and design blog, so that's what I'm going to show you now. I would like to share a few slides from a Pechu Kucha I recently presented that represents what I find beautiful in architecture. (all of which happen to express my Minimal design sensibility)

House in Litoral Alentejano by Aires Mateus. Photos copyrighted by Daniel Malhao. Courtesy of ArchDaily.

House in Litoral Alentejano by Aires Mateus. Photos copyrighted by Daniel Malhao. Courtesy of ArchDaily.

1. One big move that provides multiple options

I think there is such a beauty in the utter simplicity and economy of things. Such as when something as simplistic as this sliding wood wall that Aires Mateus puts on this blank white facade can do so much in adding visual tension, texture, and geometry, while at the same time providing a way to close the opening into the house. And in case you didn't notice that single white step in front? Perfectly executed with the exact right amount of distance between it and the facade so that the sliding wall has a home and can go from roof to ground without interruption. 

House in Alentejo Coast by Aires Mateus. Photos copyrighted by Juan Rodriguez. Courtesy of ArchDaily.

House in Alentejo Coast by Aires Mateus. Photos copyrighted by Juan Rodriguez. Courtesy of ArchDaily.

2. The Unexpected

When I see the first photo here of this house by Aires Mateus, I am blown away. I wonder, how can this piece of architecture stand with such a paper thin vertical member? How was this wall constructed, what is it made from, how can it work? Then the second photo reveals the knife edge of a wall which thickens as it moves back toward the house. This is the "ah-ha" moment, but it doesn't ruin the architecture like learning the trick of magic might ruin a magic show. Instead it makes me appreciate the piece of architecture even more, as the fine piece of art and structure that it is.

House in Azeitao by Aires Mateus. Photo copyrighted by Daniel Malhao. Courtesy of ArchDaily.

House in Azeitao by Aires Mateus. Photo copyrighted by Daniel Malhao. Courtesy of ArchDaily.

3. Pure Geometry

Nothing gets me more than pure geometric forms extruded into a space in which to live, work, or play. This photo takes a new view of the house from the floor looking up into the sectional objects which really make the house unique and beautiful. Pure geometries have always been a source of inspiration for me and also that which I have created many past projects, such as The Blank House.

House in Alcobaca by Aires Mateus. Photography by Fernando Guerra. Courtesy of Dezeen.

House in Alcobaca by Aires Mateus. Photography by Fernando Guerra. Courtesy of Dezeen.

4. Using what Architecture gives you

What is more Minimal that using what you already have? Design wise, a stair is a stair is a stair. Stairs have a standard tread and riser dimension, and they have remained relatively the same all throughout architectural history. But what an architect does to express the stair as something else - here a ceiling, and also a set of storage closest underneath - is how an architect can speak their unique language to the world. Architects can use other elements

Cabanas in Rio by Aires Mateus. Photo copyrighted by Nelson Garrido. Courtesy of ArchDaily.

Cabanas in Rio by Aires Mateus. Photo copyrighted by Nelson Garrido. Courtesy of ArchDaily.

5. Simple Silhouettes

So striking to me is a building form so pure that its silhouette speaks as an icon of the project. In the case of these two Cabanas by Aires Mateus (are you seeing a theme here yet?) the silhouette(s) not only is strong on its own, but it is made stronger due to its relation to the mountains beyond. Architecture mimicking nature in such a way is beautiful to me.

Peter Zumthor's Therme Vals photographed by Fernando Guerra

Peter Zumthor's Therme Vals photographed by Fernando Guerra

6. Utilizing similar materials to the landscape

I love when a building use the materials similar to their landscape. Of course this is a cornerstone of sustainable design practices which all architects should be trying their best to maintain. Here, Peter Zumthor's Therme Vals in Switzerland showcase the locally quarried quartzite stone as both exterior and interior, for a fully immersive sensory experience within the local material. I also love how in this image, the architecture contrasts with the snow, but blends in with the mountain range in the background.

Haus Meister by HDPF. Photography by Valentin Jeck. Courtesy of Dezeen.

Haus Meister by HDPF. Photography by Valentin Jeck. Courtesy of Dezeen.

7. Slight variation in materiality to create difference

I absolutely love when something so simple such as concrete is used to show subtle variations, like the way HDPF has ground the concrete down to show the aggregate at different densities to create window and door frames.

So that's some of what I find beautiful in Architecture as well a taste of my Minimal design sensibility. Stay tuned for more blog posts in 2017!