The Experience of Being Both the Architect and the Client
Situated in a community just outside of San Diego proper, my 1939 built home has simple interior detailing with Spanish Eclectic elements that were typical in this region for that era of home. Having a more modernist sensibility, I wanted to respect the era of the home and interiors while creating a more modern aesthetic. Keep in mind that “modern” is a scary word for many. Often people think it is devoid of warmth or comfort and thoughts wander to images of sterile and cold-feeling spaces; at Asquared Studios however, we believe that modern should really only be considered to be a current period in time. Everything was modern at one time, even my own home. Therefore, think of modern as taking advantage of current available material, technologies and products. So for sake of assigning it a style, let’s call my bathroom renovation a “modern Spanish Eclectic”. My intent was not to mimic a period in time but to respect the existing context or language of the house.
As my own client I did have a budget. However, I often had to remember the same advice we provide our own clients. When a client asks “can I do that”, we answer “we can do pretty much anything, but does it fit within the budget, and do you want to afford it”. When examining the design and execution of specific details or evaluating the merits of specific materials, costs can easily fluctuate. This is what we mean by “do you want to afford it”. Often the most visually clean and elegant detailing is the most time consuming to construct.
Though it has been one year now, the memories loom well in my mind. The constant dust around my house, the never ending questions presented by the contractor and the seemingly never-ending schedule changes due to product delays. As an architect, many of us hope to someday design for ourselves. I am fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to design a bathroom remodel for my own home and experience the architectural process both as the designer and the client.
We typically experience having to explain the value of our services and what we offer our clients. Is it for the design, our field experience, our professional advice, our listening ear, etc? Well, it’s really all of the above. Being emotionally invested offered a perspective which was a new experience. It is definitely easier for us to assist a client in making rational choices when we can separate emotions from the experience. Although we practice a heightened sense of empathy when it comes to navigating the emotional connections of a project with a client, my own personal experience has given me even a more intuitive sense of how to help our clients navigate a potentially stressful experience.
Now, having had the experience of being my own client, I believe I can be a more successful Architect. We believe there is always room for improvement, and we are continually evaluating our experiences so we can bring these lessons forward to our past, current, and future clients. We look forward to taking our evolving practice and applying it to your next dream.
What a Pandemic Can Reveal
We are writing our first journal entry in the wake of the COVID 19 pandemic. We have spent the last 2 months re-aligning our studio and business practices to the new pandemic climate in an effort to continue to serve our clients in the best way possible, while making sure that we successfully shelter in place and take care of our own health, safety, and welfare. In light of all of this we have given a lot of thought to what our typical design process means to us, and how this process serves to enhance the quality of life for our clients.
It is our goal and pleasure to help our clients plan for meaningful quality of life no matter the type or size of project we take on. Although we have no way of planning for unexpected circumstances such as the global impact of COVID-19, we are profoundly fulfilled when the rigor we apply to our design process yields rewarding results. Over the last 2 months we have heard from multiple clients that the work that we performed has proven to be beneficial to their lifestyle during this unprecedented and unexpected time in world history. It is our pleasure to share with you the words of one client who has found comfort and quality in their “new normal” life as a direct result of the remodel we recently completed of their home.
“When we made the decision a few years ago to remodel our house, we had to answer a lot of questions. We considered how to configure bedrooms and bathrooms, ceilings heights, window placement, and hundreds of tile and paint color options. We planned every little detail, right down to where the dog would sleep. But one question that never came up was: Will this design meet our needs in a global pandemic in which none of us leaves the house for days or weeks or …?
And yet, during this strange, frightening, slower-paced time, we often take a moment to be grateful that we renovated our house when we did. Every decision we made in that process helped turn our home from what previously could have felt confining and uncomfortable into a sanctuary that calms and accommodates us perfectly.
Nowhere is that more apparent than in our kitchen. Our new kitchen was made by combining three small rooms (dining room, breakfast nook and kitchen) with little storage, less counter space, ancient appliances and no dishwasher. It’s hard now to imagine how we would’ve coped with preparing, serving and cleaning up after three meals a day for all of us for months on end. And while—let’s be honest—we still miss going to our favorite restaurants, at least we are able to enjoy mealtimes together comfortably. Baking with our son has become a fun distraction, and making homemade pasta together for the first time while FaceTiming with friends in the midwest is an experience we will remember fondly. Also, having the storage space for several weeks’ worth of food is something we will never take for granted.
Another thing that has saved our sanity is the fact that we each have our own workspace. For my husband, on conference calls and video meetings perpetually, the garage office conversion has been a godsend. Our teenaged son has a built-in desk in his room which he currently uses for various building projects. And my desk, sitting in the kitchen, has become the internet, Zoom and distance learning hub. Adjusting to our “new normal,” means a lot of time staring at screens for most of us, but at least we aren’t annoying each other by having to do it in the same room. Even though we didn’t add square footage, the open design of the central living area feels more spacious, while still affording enough privacy that we can get away from one another when necessary.
It’s hard to know when this will all end; when we will be able to ditch the masks and hand sanitizer, run our normal errands, go out for meals with friends and walk down the sidewalk without recoiling in fear when someone comes too close. Someday our lives will go back to something resembling normal, but our home will continue to be our safe place.”
It seems that we have been facing one crisis after another on an annual basis in California, and that the “new normal” reaches beyond the face of this pandemic. One thing we are certain of, is that we learn from each crisis, and we strive to absorb each lesson into both our personal and professional lives so the we do what we do best – FOR YOU!
Cheers and stay safe! Jessie and Tony