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From the Architect's Desk



In From the Architect's Desk

By lthomas

Happy Space

On 14, Feb 2018 | In From the Architect's Desk | By lthomas

Recently I was contacted by a prospective client who wanted to discuss a proposed, new beach house project. Then she said, “I’m not a beach person.”



As I began to ask more questions, she revealed that she loved the mountains, yet her family wanted a vacation getaway closer to home base. And she loved the sense of this little beach community, only a short drive from Baltimore.

I continued to ask questions. Not necessarily the kind of questions that one may think they need to have answered before contacting an Architect. I did not ask how many square feet, or how many bedrooms or even about the budget. We’d get to that oh-so soon enough. Instead, I asked her about her favorite happy place, the mountains. What was it about that place that she loved? Was it sitting on a porch, or a view, or the sound of the wind in the trees? What was the “flavor” of the place that made her so comfortable? Lots of light and openness, or that it was more enclosed and cozy? Did it have a particular style that made her happy – contemporary, Cape Cod, shingle, stone?

We talked on the phone for a half hour, and I took lots of notes in my notebook and made little doodles and sketches. I asked her if she had been collecting images (“glimpses” as I call them) of things she liked and even things she did not. She had, which was good. I wanted to see them.

This conversation is the beginning of the process of design. It’s what puts the “custom” in custom design. Here’s what custom design is not: it is not an existing plan tweaked. It is not an internet house design adjusted a little for this family. It is the fundamental understanding of what the client is looking for in their home, their “happy” space.

Oh yes, we will get to the number of bedrooms, allowable lot coverage, setback requirements, proposed cost and schedule. We will get to that soon enough. For now, I will go see her lot and stay overnight in this small beach community. While I’m there, I will see the trees that she says make the building lot special for her and the trees that remind her of the forest in the mountains she loves. It may not be the mountains, but that doesn’t mean I can’t create the sense of place she loves in the woods here in her ocean community.


Then I can begin the work part.