Timeless Design: It’s All in the Details

John Ruskin, the leading English art critic of the late 19th century, said   When love and skill work together, expect a masterpiece. Masterpieces express a sense of grandeur and unity, but the building blocks of a masterpiece are thoughtful, finely crafted details. And, like masterpieces, details don’t come easy. The design, craftsmanship and planning it takes to execute fine details are often unseen and uncelebrated tasks—this is why paying full attention to the process of detail creation takes not only skill, but also commitment, integrity and passion. Even architects are often too preoccupied with schedules and screens to pay attention to the finer points of the buildings we walk through every day. But when we slow down, the rich…

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Staircases in Architectural Design

We believe every element of a home is worth our attention. I like to think of the experience of entering a home and moving through it for the first time. Later on, we might experience it daily and routinely just like an old and familiar friend. It’s worth considering how elements such as entries, greeting spaces, transitions between spaces and the outdoors, and stair access between floor levels can affect the day to day life of a home and the memories we build over time. Stair cases are often overlooked and designed as an afterthought. They are designed to be moved through and perceived as transitional spaces not destinations in themselves. But the act of climbing or descending the stairs…

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Entry Elements: Doorway Design

Passageways and doors were so revered by the ancient Romans that they established Janus, god of beginnings, doorways, transitions and endings. He was usually depicted as having two faces, since he looks to the future and the past. Throughout history doors provided protection and invitation as they do today and can tell stories, evoke mood and create mystique. They frequently provide a strong first impression as an entrance to a building and mark transitions between spaces and connect the exterior and interior. They can be humble and unadorned providing a subtle change and draw minor attention or make a major statement demanding attention to an important entrance or transition. Often design solutions depend on both to provide a hierarchy of…

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Sound as Influence in Architectural Design

What does sound have to do with the design of a home? Architectural inspiration can come from unusual and surprising sources. Staying attuned to these elusive clues is at the heart of meaningful design. There is a family lodge in the Bitterroot Mountains of Western Montana that was designed around the sound of a creek cascading through a remote pine forest. As I walked the remote forested property with the clients and took notice of the various views, tree locations, rock outcroppings, and sun access, the one constant that was unique to this site was the mesmerizing sound of cascading water as it flowed around boulders in its trek toward the Bitterroot river a few miles downstream. The sound was…

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Integrating Site and Structure: Our Architecture Philosophy

Frank Lloyd Wright often said a building should be “of the site,” and this ethos was further promoted by his pupil and my own mentor, E. Fay Jones. In all of our architectural projects and designs, I strive for a symbiotic relationship between the site and building with the intention of making both greater. Most buildings that are constructed today don’t honor their sites or contexts. We are so used to seeing buildings out of harmony with their site that we can forget the site has its own character that can inspire a unique vision for the building or home. Popular “model” homes offer several plans repeated throughout developments with slight color or material changes, each more or less like…

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