Contemporary renovations and beautiful, modern residential architecture

Contemporary renovations and beautiful, modern residential architecture

Integrated Design Offers You Better Value, Performance and Aesthetics


Integrated design offers you better value, performance and aesthetics.

How EXACTLY can it serve you better?

Let's take the LightBox.

It looks simple, but there's much going on. We had a $160,000 budget. Storage was lacking and we created a wall of cabinets. The wall of cabinets was going to be floor-to-ceiling with a space at the top for art work. I sent them out for bid and the lowest was about $50,000 or a third of our budget. There was no way that this was going to work. (When FL Wright designed the Darwin Martin house compound in Buffalo, New York, he was given a budget of $170,000. He advised his client to build the pergola, garage and the green house first. Wright had the contractor finish them and returned to the client with the message, "We finished the garage, pergola and the greenhouse. It's beautiful! But we spent the whole $170,000. Should we stop or will you give us more money to begin construction of the new house?" What was poor Darwin Martin left to do?)

What to do?

Abandon the storage wall?

Go to Home Depot and buy something shamefully ugly that is full of added formaldehyde?

No, we had another option that was both affordable and sustainable.

We got formaldehyde-free-core boxes from one of our favorite sources and had the doors locally made. $7000 for the boxes, $6000 for the doors and another $2000 for the installation brings a grand total of $15,000. 

We think it looks great.

Next, the addition is within the fire limits. What does that mean? As you recall we had a fire once in Chicago and this experience molded our building code. You cannot have unprotected combustible construction less than 6 feet from the property line. In fact one of our exterior walls was 2 feet from the property at the Zoning setback. It therefore had to be 3 hour non-combustible. Wood frame was out of the question, masonry involved bringing in a trade that we wanted to be without. The millworker building the job was well-versed in light gauge metal frame construction. The metal studs are generally screwed together. These connections are less than rigid and, in fact, rotate quite freely. When I pulled up to the jobsite in the Honda Fit to inspect the progress of the framing, the contractor would greet me standing on the dais. He would place one hand on the vertical wall of framing and the other rock the whole building back and forth like it was tall blade of grass.

"Hey William, who's your structural engineer?" 

Umm. I was.

"Just wait." I replied. "When the light shelf is welded in place, it will be the gusset that braces the frame on the east elevation. You will no longer be able to do that."

"Sure." He replied skeptically. Little did he know that Jerry, the Man of Steel, would soon be at the job site welding the light shelf into place. 

What's a light shelf?


It bounces light deep into the interior making it bright and wonderful. The illumination is more uniform and falls off more gradually. The top and bottom surfaces are reflective. The space above the shelf has a clerestory window that can be kept open when the terrace door below is locked and the shade pulled down. The shelf's third function is structural. The outward swinging terrace door can be kept open during a rain. That's a four-for-one!

Also, we are BPI (Building Performance Institute) certified. What does that mean? We are an expert on building envelopes. We can tell you how leaky or, hopefully, not leaky, your building enclosure is. We can advise you on hazards like mold and lead paint. We can draw from our academic and professional backgrounds and create a forward-looking strategy to make a environment that is free of contaminants like lead, asbestos and mold. A healthy environment is what we want and makeArchitecture can help with.

Performance and value work together.  That's the advantage of working with makeArchitecture.