Contemporary renovations and beautiful, modern residential architecture

Contemporary renovations and beautiful, modern residential architecture

Detail from a millwork project from last year

Here's some colors and material choices from a millwork project that spanned across two floors and had a structural component. The latter portion was a challenge as the previous owner had removed a great deal of structural material. The floors bounced up and down like a diving board. Do you like walnut countertops? We find them warm and inviting.The deep purple/almost black color goes well with it. The satin chrome pulls provide a nice contrast. What do you think?

We paint the back of the fence.

People ask us what is different about our approach to Architecture?

In a soundbite, we paint the back of the fence.

What does that mean?

There's great article on the website

Some people might not care. Like painting the back of the fence or finishing the underside of the cabinet, it's a detail that only people who take tremendous pride in craft really care about. And, of course, people who look for just exactly that kind of quality.

That's because it takes an incredible amount of time and resources to achieve it. It takes an incredible amount of planning and coordination as well. It also takes the willingness to not do something if you feel doing it right is important enough.

Our work at makeArchitecture lines up. Always has and always will.

The cedar trellis is aligned with the masonry. Note the native prairie grass lawn.

The cedar trellis is aligned with the masonry. Note the native prairie grass lawn.

Here the inside/outside effect is celebrated by the alignment of the bench.

Here the inside/outside effect is celebrated by the alignment of the bench.

And even more importantly is thought out at the beginning with diagrams so that it delivers maximum effect with ease and elegance.

The diagram of a house addition. See below for its final resolution and expression.

The diagram of a house addition. See below for its final resolution and expression.

Because as the author of the article says:

Because once you know the back of the fence wasn't painted, not only can you never un-know it, you can never stop wondering what else wasn't given that same care and consideration.

Here's our collaborative process that brings out the best possible solution.

Here's our collaborative process that brings out the best possible solution.

A house addition for privacy and natural light.

A house addition for privacy and natural light.

So if you care about details, then you will want us to be your Architect!

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly or Smithson's Parallel of the Orders experienced during a 10 minute walk

Peter Smithson in his seminal essay “A Parallel of the Orders,” argued that a construction system becomes an order and then evolves (or really devolves) into a decoration. He claims that this is the natural course of architectural development. He then argues that the first two steps are acceptable whereas the third is heretical

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Less, but BETTER (Updated)

We recently had two interviews with families about their houses. We really like both families: great people, savvy professionals, strong parents and good neighbors.

When it came to their existing buildings, one in the suburbs and the other in the city, the approach could not have been more different. The suburban family had lived in Japan and were in awe of Japanese land use and design. In that context, they thought their four bedroom house was actually too big. They had certain goals and dreams for their home. They were still open to making it bigger to achieve what they wanted but sticking with the same size or even making it smaller, they thought, was a reasonable approach.

The city family bought a row house and automatically wanted to make it bigger. "We know what we want and it's bigger."

"Why?" I asked.

"It's not big enough." They replied.

Compared to what? I thought. From their description, they wanted to make a loft space out an historic row house. Why not buy a loft instead? It would be cheaper, for starters, I thought.

We were challenged by both responses.

We found one to be more thoughtful and more in line with what we do than the other. (Look at our projects the House for the Dinner Party or the LightBox for confirmation.) This approach borrowed from Japan may fly in the face of what our culture values but the Japanese are today's sustainable leaders. The Japanese live beautifully in spaces that many Americans would initially reject but I think could learn and borrow a great deal from. It's foremost about quality over quantity. There is no Japanese expression for "Supersize me!" There's only the Americanism.

Please have a look at Columbia University's Vishaan Chakrabarti's talk (above) on land use and real estate in the United States. He compares Japan's tightly knit farm communities with the spread out, Jeffersonian ideal of the isolated farm houses surrounded by open fields. Which has a smaller carbon footprint? Which fosters more effective communities?

makeArchitecture believes that, sometimes, less, but BETTER can be a more productive strategy in answering the question:

"How do you want to live?"

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Oversharing and the importance of Architect's Role at Construction Project Inception

There's an old adage in the Construction Industry:

You can tell how well a project was designed and executed by the size of the change order binder.

What does that mean?

That means, that a well-planned and executed project has few changes. Where does this begin?

It begins with the relationship between the Architect and the Client.

You gotta OVERSHARE at the start of the process!

Some new clients underestimate the importance of the Architect and his/her expertise in the project delivery process. Their "blueprints" are a "necessary evil" toward the "real" work of construction.


We had a café client. She came to us AFTER signing an agreement for a commercial space without understanding how the Zoning or Building Permit process worked. (It is not the one with the zinc bar and the beautiful birch featured on the website.) The space was formerly a hair salon. She had been advised on a budget and had settled on this number. Changing the use to a cafe required bringing everything up to code including ADA and electrical.  (For instance, she was unaware that a 400 amp service was typical for the loads she was running. The existing was a 200 amp service.) She had not negotiated this into the lease and was on the hook for the whole thing. What was the solution? To hire the architect in the pre-leasing phase and negotiate any contingencies into the lease. If the owner balks, then the client understands that they maybe exposed to more work than they can afford or have time for.


In another case, we worked on a nursing home. The owner had worked with a large architecture firm and came to the table with a detailed set of drawings that were contrary to code. He told me that they had been rejected by the Village Building Authority. The client insisted that they the plans were sound. I took deep breath, smiled and then spent an hour with the client explaining why they were rejected. He was still skeptical. We made a conference call with the Building Official and he was able to convince the client that they needed to be rethought as you could no longer use a drop ceiling as a forced air plenum to heat patient rooms.

Once we got to that point, the project went smoothly. We got out our ductulator and went to work. (Have you ever seen one? Everyone should have one!!!!) The client got their loan and the building's HVAC system was brought up to code with our help.



Getting the advice of an expert architect is something that should happen sooner in a project than later as it can save time, money and make construction a more satisfying and happier process. A happy satisfied client is what we are all after. Next time, we will talk more about change orders that happen after a set of drawings has been approved and tactics and strategies that can help reduce and minimize them.