It is with wistful sadness for our loss, but with happiness and good wishes for Jennifer Connell on her retirement from Clark + Green. After working two decades as our colleague, she has helped to shape our office as a community of designers and architects. She exemplifies a constant striving for high quality design work and continually creates logical, understandable organization out of the perpetual chaos that naturally pervades a design office. She has strong opinions that were usually correct and she reminded us that great design ideas won't succeed without the incorporation of the necessary, practical components of a residence or business. She always applied her numerous skills and talents to the benefit of our office and our work. Her energy and buoyant humor has lifted the office mood and is infectious. Most times she made us feel like a family and encouraged us to treat each other as such. She was, at the end of the day, a friend to each of us, especially when we needed one. Life goes on, our office will always appreciate the time that Jennifer worked with us and we congratulate her on her well-deserved retirement after 20 years of dealing with a bunch of hooligans like us! Fortunately, she's tolerant and therefore with her strength and talent in area such as color design, commercial interior design and specifications, she has agreed to still work with us on a consulting basis. So our wistful sadness is thereby somewhat dissipated.
- Article originally written for the Berkshire Edge online publication -
Every residential design project is unique. Whether new construction or renovation, there are three interrelated components that govern the project outcome. They are – the client’s program, the design, and, of course, the budget. (William Randolph Hearst doesn’t come along every day and even less so since 2008). Each of these has an impact on the other and inevitably requires adjustment during the project life.
Mr. and Mrs. S. are folks I’ve known for years. Their house was built in the seventies – a kind of economical deck house with upside down organization – bedrooms below, living dining kitchen above. The S’s wanted to add a bedroom and bathroom. The existing building had two bedrooms, one full bath at the bedroom level and one half-bath at the upper level. S’s budget was tight, and they knew it.
Entering a building is a critical event necessary for its success. You do it every time you come home. Every guest experiences this event too. Even in a humble building, the entrance can be gracious, convenient, obvious and orienting. In the case of our project, the entrance was on the back side of the building and the stairway to arrive at the living level was either an exterior stair or inside a spiral stair. Neither were gracious, convenient, or obvious. And they were both a little disorienting. Resolving that was primary.
Since the budget was so tight, we decided to develop a scheme that only minimally disrupted the interior of the existing building. So our first approach was to develop an addition containing new bedroom and bath. It included a linear ramp that ascended to the upper level and provided a kind of ceremonial entrance. It was obvious, gave a sense of orientation and was gracious in that it avoided steps and depended on a gradually inclined path that could be easily maintained in the winter.
Mr. and Mrs. S. embraced the concept and were ecstatic. So we took the next vitally important step - evaluating the cost. We do this as early in the design process as possible and in particular with tightly budgeted projects. We sat down with a contractor, soon after developing these concept sketches. Along with an overall description of the project scope that we developed our contractor took some time and considered the process to build and obtained material estimates. Unfortunately, the cost exceeded the budget. Excessive sitework was blamed since the scheme required reorienting the driveway and parking area. A number of moderating adjustments were considered but ultimately this scheme fell by the wayside.
So next step – we generated a new scheme. This one eliminated the long linear entry, avoided reconfiguring the driveway and provided a more direct connection from the existing parking area.
Again, a review by the contractor determined that this too was a budget buster. So on to the next scheme. And this required a review of the program. The most effective way to cut budget is to reduce square footage. Therefore the program was edited; we eliminated the third bedroom and decided instead to expand one bedroom and focus efforts on improving the interior of the bedroom level.
Most importantly, we established a front entrance to the building located in relation to parking. And though one still needs to climb stairs to arrive at the main living level, the new stairs are designed to be gentle in slope and provide a comfortable ascension to the living level, inside the building instead of outside.
In summary, the process of meeting project goals first focused on the design. Several early attempts to alter the design and bring the project into budget fell short. The budget was increased somewhat but still did not meet the demands of the design. The only component left to adjust was the program. Therefore the new bedroom was eliminated. And as a result the project size was reduced and the budget constraints met.
And though the original program was not realized and one of the primary components eliminated, the essential needs of the Mr. and Mrs. S. were met. With a logical and inviting entrance the house functions more graciously. The existing bedrooms have been improved with soundproofing added between their walls. The bathrooms have been redone. The interior and exterior have been transformed with new finishes. Insulation and window upgrades have reduced heat-loss, resulting in a more comfortable interior.
Both husband and wife are writers and spend most of their time alone. Their refinished two-bedroom home works well for them. When they have guests, they are proud of their newly transformed home.
As a client over the years, Blue Q has frequently presented us with what could be 'bland' projects. But nothing done by the company is ever 'bland', the projects always move on a creative tangent that ends with an exciting design. A recent bathroom renovation at their manufacturing facility in Pittsfield was no different. The request was for a gender neutral bathroom with common sink area and separate toilet rooms. A great deal of thought was put into the layout so that we created a unique but practical space that also met code compliance for fixture requirements. The design features tile, steel, a poly-carbonate wall, a custom stainless steel sink, and reclaimed pallet wood accents to tie in with other areas of the building.