“What’s your signature style?” is a question I get a couple times a year, usually in the form of an innocent query from a new, casual acquaintance just trying to make conversation, i.e. cocktail party chit-chat. “Have I seen any of your work” is another harmless, albeit less-frequently asked question. To that particular query I always have to restrain myself from replying with George Castanza’s (the wanna-be architect character on Seinfeld) classic response of, “Have you seen the new addition to the Guggenheim?… Yeah, I did that… It didn’t take that long either.”
Since you are reading this post on our website, unlike a cocktail party acquaintance, you have the advantage of reviewing our portfolio first-hand. What you may have noticed is that we have designed custom homes for clients over the years that fall into several different categories of residential architectural style.
I have joked in the past that the only style I’m not interested in working within is Victorian, with all its bric-a-brac and often overly-ornate, applied detailing. This late 19th-century style frequently had poorly lit interiors and a lot of closed-off, smaller rooms. Sounds great, right? No, not so great. In fact, our fundamental design approach is essentially the opposite of Victorian.
Incorporating client’s lifestyles & personal preferences is where we begin with the design of every new project. It is the only way to create a truly custom home. Establishing a concept for the design, not just selecting a style, is the ideal outcome of this inital process and it is an essential step in the architectural design of any building.
Solidifying an initial concept does not have to be an overly indulgent, extended exercise in navel gazing. While concepts can have poetic aspirations, they are more-often-than-not simple and easy and expressed through words, pictures, sketches, etc. Its source and complexity is not critical to the process. However, it will be something that I frequently refer back to while designing the home, so it should be accurate, and most importantly, reflect your wishes.
If the concept embraces a particular historical architectural style, our primary concern in addressing this aspect of the design will be that we detail the home accurately. No watered-down versions of the classics. Certain established architectural styles have survived, and continue to flourish today, because of the time-tested beauty of their massing and detailing. Getting these right is essential. That said, of equal importance is integrating the historical detailing with an artful design/layout that flows and is clean, warm and relaxed.
Frequently the concept for a new project does not address a specific historical style. Often when this is the case we look to the vernacular of our southern California environment for inspiration. Integrating specific materials, playing with the adjacency of spaces, embracing indoor/outdoor living, etc., are all examples of jumping-off points for overall concepts, as well as specific aspects of the design.
Anchoring the project to its site, as well as respecting the adjacent urban fabric, are key elements in the initial layout. Understanding the proximity, size and height of adjacent buildings, as well as identifying opportunities for views and maximizing light and air, are all important aspects of the initial design.
Getting back to the original, straight-forward question initially asked by my new acquaintance in the first paragraph above, can you imagine the look on their face when I finish articulating all of the above info. in response to their simple question? With completely glazed-over eyes, I imagine them mumbling something about “needing a refill” and fading into the night.
So, in the spirit of brevity and out of respect for future cocktail party companion’s time and patience (also assuming they might actually know who designed the addition to the Guggenheim) our signature style is timeless, memorable architectural design.