Architects and Designers: Spot the Difference

Residential Architect or Residential Designer?

A fellow Chamber member was surprised when I told her that Texas does not require an architectural seal for residential projects. (And I say that broadly, as I’m sure some jurisdictions might, depending on the type of project. I know Dallas would be fine if I left my seal off the drawings.) She simply assumed to design houses you needed to be a licensed architect.

Nope.

I cannot tell you the number of times I’ve seen project drawings from designers, design associates, designs studios, etc. Some good. Some not so good. Some really not so good.

Not to disparage designers. I know several people who despite having an architecture degree simply do not have a license for one reason or another. One person, in particular, was designing very high-end homes in Dallas and California when I was still in high school and could draw circles around some of the best. However, because he never completed his exams, he spent his career unlicensed.

Except after 40 years of practice, I still considered him an architect.

A licensed architect will typically possess a master’s degree in architecture; have completed a multi-year internship; and sat for and passed a series of exams administered by their state architecture board.

To be a residential designer, you simply call yourself that. You can have zero education. Or a degree. Or simply experience in one drafting class and you can hang out your shingle.

For the residential client, one must hope that the designer they hire is cognizant of building codes and various ordinances. That they understand structure and how buildings really go together. Know what an energy review requires. Or just have insurance should something go wrong.

Which means any client must do their homework and not be afraid to ask some basic questions:

  • Where did you graduate from?
  • Are you licensed and what’s your license number? (Any architect should be able to rattle that off in their sleep!)
  • How long have you been working in residential design? (Important to ask because not all architects are comfortable with residential projects. The head of one of the largest commercial practices in Dallas hired a residential architect for his home because he only knew commercial design.)
  • Are you insured?

And if there are any doubts about any of those answers, there’s always Google and the Texas Board of Architectural Examiners.

Because, as I told my fellow Chamber member, anyone can call themselves a residential designer.

Literally.

Anyone.

 

 

A19 Conference Experience

A’19 in Review

There are two things I try to do every year as an architect, professional, and firm owner: 1) speak at an architecture conference; and 2) attend the American Institute of Architect’s (AIA) annual conference.

Since 2010, I’ve been a session presenter at conferences in the Midwest, South, and along the East Coast. And since starting my career, I have attended numerous incarnations of the AIA’s Conference on Architecture. Unfortunately, I did not make the 2018 event in New York, which some helpful wag managed to schedule the same week as the Pride celebration in Manhattan.

However, in the last nine years, speaking and attending have occurred exclusive of one another. Until this year.

For the A’19 Conference on Architecture, I had the pleasure of moderating a panel discussion on LGBTQ+ presence in architecture titled The Silent Minority: LGBTQ+ Voices in Architecture.

And like every session before this one, I had the usual moments of panic and doubt:

Will I be able to remember what I’m talking about?

Will anyone attend? (I’ve had attendance as low as 10 people. Surprisingly, that turned out to be on of the better sessions.)

Who will attend? Particularly for this session. Would people be willing to attend and potentially out themselves to their colleagues?

Will the audience participate in the discussion?

And like every session before, the presentation went well.

We had a larger than expected turnout and a more diverse group than anticipated. We made the straight architects stand up and be recognized, and a surprising number did so.

The panelists were well-spoken and engaging as was the audience. I’ve sat in numerous panel discussions where the panelists talked – and no one else got a word in. However, we were able to engage the audience members and take in their perspective on the subject.

And we even received a nice write-up on the AIA’s website: https://www.aia.org/articles/6161023-raising-lgbtq-voices-in-architecture?tools=true

Perhaps this year being the 50th anniversary of Stonewall and the conference occurring at the start of Pride had some influence on attendance and even acceptance of the program by AIA’s review committee. That’s hard to say. However, no matter the reason, we were able to present the session and have a positive experience.

Would I do it again? Yes. Will I continue to speak if given the opportunity? Yes. Will I continue to attend the national conference? Of course.

And hopefully moving forward, those won’t continue to be separate experiences.

 

Big Gay Architect Podcast

What good are plans for renovation when you don’t have a home constructed yet? Well – that’s a good question! As you’ll come to find out, construction and renovation go hand in hand. On this week’s episode, Stephan Sardone and Larry Paschall talk first-time industry experiences, construction, and the difference between kitchens and bathrooms!

Stephan Sardone, founder and owner of Sardone Construction, has been in the construction industry for almost two decades. In 2010, he formed Sardone Construction, a design-build firm located in Dallas, Texas where he has built a reputation for efficient designs, high-quality craftsmanship, and great customer service.

He believes that remodeling a home begins with a commitment to customer service before, during and after construction and he strives to exceed customer expectations in every facet of the construction process.

Stephan achieves this by helping clients realize the vision for their home and make wise decisions during all phases of design, development, and construction.

“I’m here to help advise and consult. With a lot of listening, discernment, and asking good questions… we can help our clients focus their thinking and prioritize. what they desire most.”

–Stephan

 

LISTEN here:

 

All Things Gay – All Things Architecture

There is something to be said for new beginnings, and I am thrilled to launch this next chapter for myself, and for Spotted Dog Architecture.

There is something to be said for new beginnings, and I am thrilled to launch this next chapter for myself, and for Spotted Dog Architecture. Throughout my career, friends and family have asked me questions that while I may not find that interesting, they do. That taught me something: folks must really dig what I do. So having podcasted in the past, I revisited  the idea of creating a new, fresh approach to chatting about all things architecture, through the eyes of the gay architect.

When we were in the development stages of the podcast, I really had only one request: it isn’t dry. I, myself, have listened to a number of architecture podcasts, and have snoozed a few minutes in. I really wanted to create something that people both inside and outside of the industry would enjoy listening to, and find it both informative and interesting.

We have lined up a phenomenal guest list of folks that will join me every other week that are in some way related to architecture – both directly and indirectly. Realtors? Yup. Interior designers? For sure. We’ve got window folks and lighting gurus, contractors, photographers and students.

And so it begins.

For this first episode, I thought it would a good idea to lay the foundation for why I wanted to start the podcast. So I invited on Waylon Tate, my publicist, who continued to push me to launch.

Check out our chat below & provide some positive feedback. Be nice. 😃

The shameless promotion stuff discussed in this episode.

My publicist: Waylon Tate of J. Waylon & Associates

Waylon’s realtor: Hunter Dehn of Hunter Dehn Realty.

Travel through a different lens

As much as architects photograph buildings, I think we tend to live our lives in more detail than most.

I am not what you would call a world-weary traveler. James and I tend to visit the same locations again and again, and I can count the times I’ve been out of the country on two hands – possibly one. And some of those have been on ships, so I don’t know that they really count. Can you immerse yourself in another country in a few hours of walking around?

However, looking back at the traveling I have done, I often wonder if I’m seeing the places I’m visiting as other travelers would see it. Or only as an architect would see it.

As much as architects photograph buildings, I think we tend to live our lives in more detail than most. And if you go back and look through our photos, architects will have a lot of detail shots most people wouldn’t take or wouldn’t notice.

When James was in London for work, his apartment could not have been better just short of being inside Buckingham Palace. Just off Fleet Street, you could walk out the door and go left to St. Paul’s and the Tower. Or turn right and head to Trafalgar Square, The National Gallery, and Westminster Abbey.

Naturally I came in for a quick visit. And yes, I got all of the requisite shots. The Tower. St. Paul’s. Buckingham Palace. However, what really caught my eye wasn’t the bigger pictures.

Instead, it was the inside of an ATM lobby.

That’s right. An ATM lobby.

Double volume space. Ornate columns. Wood coffered ceiling. Oval windows with carved wood trim. And incredibly detailed hand-thrown tile everywhere. Everywhere. Walls. Naves. Ceilings. Even the columns had tile applied. Absolutely stunning. How could that not catch my eye?

I even did this while touring the Hemingway House in Key West. Not a single photo of the exterior of the house. What I kept snapping shots of were the details. Bathroom tile. Ceiling medallions. Fireplace surrounds.

Photos taken at the Hemingway House in Key West.

After 20 years of moments like this, James is completely unfazed. I think it started on our first trip to Vegas when I made him stand on a hot sidewalk while I snapped photos of the naked steel structure being erected for the new Aria hotel.

For everyone else – bank employees, other tourists, locals – I probably look pretty odd. Why is this guy so interested in the lobby? Or so close to the bathroom tile? Or in the case of one friend, laying in the middle of the sidewalk in NY?

But for the other architects around me, they’ll know exactly what I’m doing because they’ve been there themselves. Yes, I’m enjoying touring the city. Yes, it is fun being in a new place. And yes, the buildings are really cool.

But at the end of the day, it’s all about the details. Even if the regular traveler doesn’t see it.

Really Unreal

Wouldn’t it be nice though to open a copy of Architectural Record and see a home photographed the way the owners really use it?

Turn on HGTV’s Property Brothers with an architect in the room, and you’ll hear: “Seven weeks my ass.” (Just ask my husband.) Because we know full well that renovation isn’t taking seven weeks. Seventeen maybe, but not seven.

But that’s the fun for architects – rolling our eyes at these programs (while still watching) and complaining about how difficult they make our jobs. And then sharing stories about how unreality TV has really screwed up our clients’ expectations.

But have you picked up a copy of Architectural Record, Architect, or Architectural Digest? Because HGTV isn’t the only one painting pretty pictures or setting unrealistic expectations.

I love picking up an architecture magazine, looking at the photos, and being wowed at the imagery. And there isn’t a building that’s not beautifully shot. Whether a high rise or a house, architects make sure their work is presented in the best possible light.

My favorites, however, are the celebrity spreads in places like Architectural Digest. Take Ricky Martin’s house in the February 2018 issue for example. Nice spread on his family’s home. Everything is perfect. Pillows in their places. Coffee table books expertly arranged. Bouquets of flowers.

Incredibly beautiful.

Incredibly unreal.

Because you can’t help noticing his two sons included in the family photos. And if you can’t remember how you were at 6 or 7, ask mom or dad. I don’t know if I can recall a time when our house was that put together. Or if it was, not for long. I can’t count the times my mother cussed because she had stepped on an errant Lego. By all accounts, Ricky’s house should have had toys scattered across the living room. Maybe an odd pair of underwear on the floor. Even the boys’ room in this shoot was flawless.

But as architects, we set that expectation and that unrealistic image. I can recall looking at proofs for a high-rise apartment project and being amazed at the awesome sunset outside the client’s 6th floor living room. Especially given that there’s really a multi-rise office building next door – close enough to wave at whoever’s working that day.

Wouldn’t it be nice though to open a copy of Architectural Record and see a home photographed the way the owners really use it? Dishes in the sink from the night before. Shoes taken off and left in the front hall. Maybe a muddy dog sprawled across the couch pillows.

Or better yet, open Architectural Digest and see a real celebrity spread? Maybe Mariah Carey’s bedroom with an unmade bed, pillows scattered, a TV remote next to a half-empty cocktail glass on the side table, and the remnants of some late-night Cheetos?

We had a client whose home would have been a perfect fit for Architectural Record. And the first time I walked through was just jaw-dropping. Incredible design. Uber-contemporary. The multi-floor plan that took complete advantage of the sloping site.

And not a thing out of place. As if someone came in to shoot the house for a magazine and just left the rooms that way. Absolutely unreal.

Until we went up to the wife’s private office. Then you realized just where all the clutter was in the house. But no one was ever going to see that room.

Perhaps that’s the reality at the Martins’. Beautifully shot, except you’ll never see the day before when everything was shoved into closets and under beds.

Except that’s what clients need to see – the reality behind the glam.

The really unreal.

Keep in touch on Facebook and Instagram to see all of the Spotted Dog Architecture action behind the scenes. 

How Honest is Too Honest?

Exactly how much are you supposed to admit to on a seller’s disclosure? Where do you draw the line?

Exactly how much are you supposed to admit to on a seller’s disclosure? Where do you draw the line?

During our last trip to New Orleans, I picked up a copy of The Last Madam by Christine Wiltz. And it’s exactly how it sounds – the life of the last madam running the last known house of prostitution in New Orleans. Very interesting to read. Some for the madam’s story. Some for the sheer amount of corruption during that time.

Norma Wallace. Source: Chris Wiltz.

While the author was nice enough to include a photo of the house from the 1940s, the architect nerd in me had to check out Google to see if the house still existed. Sure enough, there it was. Even better, I found some news links from when the house was purchased post-Katrina.

And discovered that the new owner didn’t know about the house’s history until he was about to close on the property.

Now I’ve been to NOLA enough times, and read about NOLA’s history enough times, to know that when it comes to the French Quarter, I can’t imagine there isn’t a house or building without a history. But this guy didn’t think to ask? And the seller didn’t disclose?

I know a couple whose home in East Texas is haunted. Not pretend haunted. Haunted. Nothing too terrible but just enough to give someone pause. But that’s one of those things I’d want to see on the disclosure form, maybe somewhere between when the roof was replaced, and the house rewired.

Which makes me wonder why it took this buyer so long to find out he was purchasing what was once a house of ill-repute. And as the seller, I think that type of history would add some cache to the home.

At least it would for me.

“Well when I bought the place there was a lot of damage from the hurricane. Wood rot. Holes in the roof. Oh, and did I mention it was a brothel? See? Right there on the disclosure form. Right below termite damage.”

Learn more about 1026 Conti Street.

Main photo: Chris Wiltz