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Choosing the Right Architect: An Interview with Kelly Gale of KLG Architecture

By Kelly Gale

Tell us a little bit about your company and its foundation.

I have worked for three prominent NH architectural firms, as well as the Lowell Historic Preservation Commission and MEG asset Management Company in the Architectural Division.

I've been the instrument person and draftsman for a Civil, well two Civil Engineers/ Surveyors.

Kept tax maps up to date, done subdivisions, designed septic fields, turned the points to lay out roads before the dozers, dump trucks and pavers get their go at it.

Been a mason tender who loved doing the finish work when my 'Boss' was enjoying his hard cider too much to lay a level course of bricks.

My passion started much earlier than all that. My dad was a Finish Carpenter and then later a Construction Foreman. He created custom cabinets for the kitchens of Fancy Showcase Homes, worked on Car Dealerships, Office Buildings, Schools, water treatment plants and Malls. I always enjoyed listening to his stories of how the jobs progressed each day. What surprises they had, what worked out particularly well, what to avoid at all cost.

One year we helped tear down house that had been condemned after a fire destroyed part of it. The family that owned it could not afford to have a construction company come to do the work. The dad had been hurt his getting his family to safety. He was out of work. My parents had known, not on a personal basis, but a wave and say hi when your paths cross type of known the parents. My sisters and I went to the same school as the three kids. My dad offered to take the house down for them. The dad could not help. Chris did though. The son that was my age. It made me so proud that my dad was willing to give up/ postpone his cutting the wood time, his weeding/ caring for the 3 acre garden time, his golf time to help others in need. The three older of us girls helped to. It was actually very educational in a how- a- building- goes ? together kind of way.

When I was thirteen, my dad let me go each weekend to prospect for treasures at his sites while he got caught up on paperwork. I salvaged all the plywood, nails, 2x's, and various other items a diligent construction site dumpster diver can come up with. I built my three story tree house I had been doodling over the past year, complete with two means of egress, plexi windows and a sloped translucent skylight. It featured a public floor, a sleeping floor and the hang out on the top floor. I chipped mortar off bricks from a demo project for money for the floating structure that supported the tree house while allowing the trees to still grow and move with the breezes. Dad helped a lot with the structural stuff. It is a treasure to have a dad that is not too busy to help his kids flourish. The bricks were to be used for an addition to another of his projects that was having a hard time finding bricks that matched their existing building. I did not know anything about LEED (of which I am certified now) back then, but still could see the value of reusing what can be salvaged. Maybe I heard the old Yankee "waste not, want not' tune often enough for it to sink in.

Years later, my twin sister and I used to be laborers for him in the summer. I loved being, all-be-it minutely, part of creating places people enjoyed occupying. I liked working with the trades people and absorbing all that they were willing to 'teach' a lanky freckle faced, poke her nose into anything new, teenage girl.

Well, that is much of the foundation, then you have formal schooling. I started out in Civil Engineering at UNH, having let my guidance counselor convince my parents, and reluctantly me, to forgo architecture, which he claimed would be hard fitting in for a girl, and major in engineering, known he said for being more accepting of bright young women. I cannot say it was a waste of 2 years, because I took several really great classes and I got to take surveying too. I also met my future husband, though it took us another 5 ½ years to tie the knot. I was good at Civil Engineering, as I had excelled at woodworking, graphic design, electrical design, and mechanical design in middle & high school. But I was never passionate about Civil Engineering like I expected I would be for Architecture. I applied to and was accepted at NHTI in Concord, NH. I would have loved to go to RISD or one of the other more prominent Architectural Colleges, but by this time, my bank account was not looking to.....well, let's say there were not many 0's after the first number when you got down to the account balance line.

NHTI was a very good technical place to begin an education in Architecture. I did not say it was easy. The first week the Architectural Director asked myself and the other female in the class to join him in his office. I believe his name was Melvin Studley. He said he did not think girls belonged in his course. They belonged at home taking care of home and hearth. (1986- yeah) He was not going to make it easy on us so if that is what we thought, we could just turn in our books right now. Cathy left before the week was out. I was on the dean's list both years. I did not want it to be easy, it would not be easy being a girl once I graduated. What I did want is to be the best or very near the best in every one of my classes. I remember once in concrete design, Mr. Studleys class, that his pet, Joe (won't give you the last name, sorry) and I had the same problem. We came up with different answers. Mr. Studley should have really gone through the answers before he did this, but, he asked Joe to go up to the board and run through the problem to show me and the rest of the class where I went wrong. Bet you can see where this is going.... I am not normally a small or peevish person, but I split my gaze between Joe on the board and the teacher, waiting for the moment I was pretty sure was coming. To see the smug look drop from Mr. Studley's face as he realized Joe missed the proper additive for the concrete mix to have the desired result, priceless. He stopped, Joe a few moments later and asked the class if they could see where he had made a mistake. No takers, Then he asked me to go finish the problem on the board, which I did. It cost him, but I think he broke through his prejudice against girls that day. My senior project was done on senior housing and was 5 attached single floor units that stepped down a site. Think technical. The wall sections, stepped concrete plans and clearances were all accurate but the people factor was for the most part- not designed into the project. I thank my grandmother for her insight into the life of an aging American. I dreamed of making a better place for people to grow old in that they did not have to rely on family and strangers to help out all the time.

After I graduated with my Associates, I went to work for Team Design Inc in Londonderry NH. It was a great 2 ½ years. The three main principals were an Architect, A Civil Engineer and A Designer (mostly pretty presentation graphics). I learned a lot and was encouraged to continue my schooling, for which the office pledged to pay for a lion's share if I got C's or better. No brainer.....never been satisfied with C effort. You learn so much more if you strive for the A. The chief Architect, Daniel Bission, was a great, person to work for, I think of him and his architectural style often. Shortly before I left, the firm hit rough times. Dan even put up his house as collateral to help save the company. Eventually most of the bottom tier of designers were let go. I sent out wedding invitations on Monday, got my acceptance to BAC letter on Wednesday and got brought into the conference room and let go on Friday. So, not only did I not have a job, I was going to be paying for all my tuition at Boston Architectural College. I love my husband or fiancé at that point, I guess, my best friend for sure. You know how some people always look for the good and can lift people's spirits by just being there, that's Kevin. He had graduated from UNH, Computer Engineering and had a good paying job. We put the wedding off for a year, found a cheap apartment that we could share instead of keeping up two places. Yes, my parents freaked, and did not talk to me for months, but we scrapped enough together for the first semester and I was off to Boston.

BAC is a work in the field during the day, go to school half the night kind of school. The idea is you work in an Architectural Company during the day, but given the crash in work for our sector and people being laid off right and left, we were allowed a certain percentage credit of the 5 years to work within fields that worked closely with architects. This was some of the surveying I did, the 3 year stint at Lowell Historic Preservation Commission (actually under an Architect so it counted full), the civil engineering firm and a few odd jobs spec writing and doing code reviews and the likes when between finding the next place to fill in the gaps to make me a well rounded Architect when I got done at BAC.

I was there for the creation of the Boston Architectural Research Center. We delved into panelized building, demountable structures and living in a smaller footprint. Once designed I built a scaled model of it and we started giving presentations to get the money to build the prototype. We built a (not sure of the size) 16x20 ish panelized home with a sleeping loft in the lobby of the college so everyone that passed by on Boylston Street could see it. We then took it apart and put it up at Build Boston. Gave tours and answered questions to tons of curious people for three days. Then we auctioned it off for start up money for the next project to explore Architecture through. Totally Cool. I wish it had started before my last year at BAC, I would have liked to have been involved in other projects.

When I graduated, my thesis project was the one they put right inside the auditorium door. Where everyone stops and really looks at it. It gave me tingles. My project, Randolph Hearthside Haven. It was an age in place, assisted living project, but so much more. It had three floors of totally accessible units that wrapped around several atriums, common areas, dining areas and the likes. It had transition spaces built into the design, public to semi-public to semi-private to private. It had parking and drop off areas under the building so if the snow or weather was bad, you just get in your car or on the bus and go. There was a WMCA type facility that was also open to the public. It had a daycare for kids and local elderly, residents could participate in the projects and activities too. It had doctors offices and exercise rooms, a pool. There was a library annex to help with the overflow from the local library. A café that the residents held cooking seminars to share their family recipes with people who were excited to try them out. The site I chose currently housed an under used self storage facility with a depressed railroad track running along one side. What made the site perfect was location, location, location and need. There was a grocery store, several churches, banks, dentist, attorney, book shops, salons, all the places a still mobile person might want to go to all within very close proximity, or walking distance as I was told. It also gave me the chance to do a little master planning to help the community as well. As part of the project I had the defunct gully of a train bed filled in and brought up to grade. No more garbage and tangled carriages at the bottom. No more teenagers and shady adults lurking in the dark under the road. No more hazard of someone falling down the steep slope unawares. Sounds simple, but what this did, was also alleviated much of the congestion at the lights on Main Street (one lane each direction with no room to expand) because cars could travel down this new road with a dedicated turn lane, and take a right very easily without backing up the traffic. We also made a public park with a plaque about this particular branch of the train tracks, when it flourished and tid bits of stories that came out of the woodwork during the meetings with the town. It was a great project, one I wish I had the 9 million dollars, I was told it would cost to purchase the land and build.

Once I had my degree in hand I started working at MEG Asset Management Company. I got to work on the Georgetown Country Club house.....swanky. It was a great project because if was intentionally phased. They did not have enough money to build the whole project outright so we needed to design the Wow effects first that got the new member buy in, then complete the other parts as monies were available. It was a study in egress choreography. Each phase needed to provide top level of safety and egress for the occupants, we were constantly monitoring the site to insure the safety measures and egress paths were being maintained. I also worked on office tower buildings, and many other cool places I had not had a chance to do yet. It is also where I was working when I found out we were having twin daughters. My bosses wife had her twins about 5 weeks before I had mine. They joked about not drinking the water..... sad to say, they shut down the Architectural department just as I was due back from my maternity leave. Cup half full kind of person here. I got to spend the first 9 months snuggling, cleaning, feeding and playing with my kids. Then the next 3 years playing every week day with my girls. My husband got to take care of them two evenings and all day Saturday and Sunday while I waitressed to help keep the bills under control. It was hard working opposite each other so much but it gave each of us one on one...well one on two time to bond with the kids. How many dads do you know that work two jobs to pay the bills and never get a chance to KNOW their kids.

When the girls started preschool I went back to work in my profession. I was not idle in architecture completely during this time, I was ticking away at my Architectural registration exams, of which there were 9 at that time. Sheerr McCrystal Palson Architecture caught my eye, or more to the point, its owner, Eric Palson did. He did several projects that intrigued me and also was known for giving back to society as a whole as well as those less fortunate. Before I knew it, I was moving the family to North Sutton, less than 10 minutes to the office. My Husband was telecommuting at the time, so the where we lived was flexible.

I delved once again into code books to get the Concord Community Music School and the Capitol Center for the Art Projects to pass Concords exacting standards. I volunteered to help paint the high ceiling in the auditorium, my twin sister did too. Cool to look up before a Ballet or other program and know I did that. I helped make that beautiful for the next generations to adore. In my mind architects need to be the creative person, the person who knows how all the parts must go and function together, but also be the bridge to the public, the people building it and those responsible for caring for it afterwards. I prepared boards and flyers for get out the vote campaigns for schools, fire stations, police stations, worked on Laboratories, finishing church lower levels to make classes and fellowship rooms, showers for people who do not have access to them. I was project manager for the wonderful community of Canterbury, NH. Helped them through three projects, the library, the combined fire, highway and police center and the addition to the town hall that made it so they could once again have town functions there. Each of the projects had their own hurdles. The library was to use the buildings that the highway, fire and police departments were vacating. Because of the center of town location, the Library made sense to occupy the site. The students could walk to it from the school, or over from the country store next door. The historical society got to keep the history part alive (complete with restoring the original air horn) and the library trustees got a larger building than they thought the town would buy into. The parking got to be shared by the church, the library and the town hall, allowing for more green space to be preserved. The Library staff in Canterbury is exceptional. They really go above and beyond. It was a pleasure working with them and the whole building committee over the course of three years.

I got to work of a host of great projects from schools to houses, really fancy multimillion dollar ones, tract housing for builders to pound out and smaller well thought out ones. I worked on two high hazard storage facilities, where we had to put together folders for the first responders and get them up to speed on what to do IF.... I got to do the kindergartens for all the elementary schools in our school district. My girls got to go the year after they were finished. Great opportunity to get feedback from the teachers and the people who had to maintain the spaces. This was 5 properties, four elementary schools and one town office building, 5 playgrounds and 6 classrooms and support areas. Each school needed a new entry, a separate drop off/ pick up area (parents drove-no bussing) and playground for the kindergartners. One of the sites did not even know that the deed was encumbered by a right of way that wrapped around the edge of the original building to access a lot behind the school. My Surveying experience and deed research time I had put in years ago paid off. We were able to negotiate a relocated safer place on the property for the adjacent site to use. We were part of a very big, diverse community that did not want anyone to get better than they had, but also did not want to fork over too much money for the Project as the State did not yet mandate a requirement for towns to provide the service.

Along with all the good was a bit of bad. I did not see eye to eye with one of my 'mentors'. It mad me sad, and frustrated, Eric, the one I looked up to in many ways was doing less and less Architectural projects, focusing his time doing managerial and project seeking efforts to try to keep the rest of us busy. It was a great 6 years. I would never have bailed on them. Getting let go was liberating. Cup half full.

Next I worked at Banwell Architects in Lebanon NH just a hop from the Vermont border. I did a lot of early schematic planning for schools, both public and private. It was somewhere about here that I passed the last registration exam- I was officially a registered Architect! I had my own stamp! My first project was to pick up the pieces and salvage the Thetford Academy project in Vermont. It also prompted my getting my Vermont License. The person that had spearheaded the project had just died tragically in a skiing accident. Horrible, I know, but also a full on slap in the face (or should have been) wake-up call for the rest of the office to take notes, keep files, print progress and keep project files in a manner that another person could, with minimal effort see where the project was, where it had been and what was the next thing that needed to be done. I started the project with no existing conditions plans, a few concept sketches with no dates or notes to indicate what was a keeper or not and a few names of who he was meeting with on the campus. This was a private high school, completely renovating two of its major buildings and significantly adding onto and rearranging program spaces for?both. They were also adding a huge gym, locker area and a new state of the art kitchen, delivery, cold storage and cafeteria commons as part of the scope they had been working with the company I just signed on to, for the past ten years.

The neighbors on one side were very much against the expansion and vocal about their displeasure. I, as project architect pulled the school, the abutters and the town officials together and after several meetings we were all on the same page. The main bur under the neighbors skin was that they felt they had no say in what was going on and this huge new gym facility was going to get plunked right in their backyard. The gym was huge and was sunk in the ground by a whole floor level to help minimize this. A significant woodland buffer as well as one of the existing three story buildings was shielding the worried property owners site from the brunt of the bulk. Egress paths were designed and the noisy activities were programmed to be toward the interior of the site. I have found over the years if you talk to people, and really listen to what they are saying, most situations can be resolved. Everyone gets to feel important and you get a better project in the end. You get buy in and contentment, not hostility. My time at Banwell was coming to an end. My direct boss was another of the do not take meeting notes, keep no files, do not call customers when they have been emailing you for weeks of what is up with their project kind of person. I had to put out a lot of 'fires' that were caused by his managerial style. If he did not have anything good to tell them, he did not call them. If he used up most of the project budget doing schematic design, we were told 'X' amount of hours, that's what they get. Where ever you are at that point you are done the project. My little voice in my head kept saying if you took on a project to bring it to completion, the client needed to get a completed project in the end. That is probably WAY over simplified, but that is what it felt like at the time. He would do things like joke about his deleting the 1500 emails he got when he returned from vacation, saying " If it is important, they'll get back to me." Toward the end he was doing personal things during the day more and more. Cup half full. The economy fluctuated, and the City of Lebanon put a freeze on all 5 of the projects our firm was working on. Three were mine. One was a LEED project and prompted me to get LEED certified so I could best serve the project. LEED is leadership in energy and environmental design if you were curious. I am LEED BD & C certified. The BD & C part is building design and construction. The city could not could not tell them when the spending freeze would be lifted and Banwell did not have any other projects to keep me busy. I got let go. Banwell is still producing great projects. Ingrid took the rains. They pared down their size a bit, eliminating my boss and a few others after I was gone. I am glad to say they have made it through where many firms did not.

The dilemma, I was overqualified for many of the openings available at that time, and there weren't many. It was October 2008. The gentleman at the unemployment office told me he could keep me on unemployment for close to 2 years so do not sweat it so much. He was trying to be kind. In my head I knew I could not be out of the field for two years. The codes change, the whole recovery act, 2009 code series was introduced during that time. New products were being developed every day. Not to mention I lived breathed and dreamt Architecture. I hit the pavement hard. Firms were not really looking to hire middle management, they were hiring graduates. They are cheaper and meld into companies better. They know all the latest software that they can teach to others. It makes sense, in many ways as long as you have the Architectural knowledge base above them to direct the show.

My husband....Remember that awesome guy I mentioned before? Well, we watched my retirement account get nailed by the bad economy again. One day he says to me, " Why don't you start your own firm, it's what you have dreamed about for years." I said no, I need to get a real ( yeah I said it) Job with a paycheck that I can depend on to pay the bills. Well to make a long story short, I filed the first business day of 2009 and started KLG Architecture, pllc. I wanted a name that said I was proud of everything I did. KLG, Kelly Lee Gale, no wiggle room there. Architecture for everything the business is. Then it comes to the PLLC. Many people do not realize the pllc stands for professional limited liability company. You have to be a licensed professional to have the pllc in your name, else wise you are just an llc. You cannot just be a person with a software program and no idea of what Architecture is truly about. The term designer is often very misleading as to the person's abilities and formal education.

KLG Architecture was born. Now I could treat my customers with the care and respect that they deserve. Design buildings that are beautiful and functional as well as a joy to be in. I could keep my workload flexible to adjust for family needs and I could incorporate green, healthy details and standards into my projects, not as an afterthought, but as the essence, the basis or foundation of the project. I could choose the projects I wanted to attach my name to. I have declined jobs, one in particular the prospective client was violating Zoning and State regulations and would not desist, so I wrote a formal letter to him and his wife explaining why I would not take on his project. Why what he was doing was so wrong and endangered the water body his home was on. He waited for his neighbor to go home out of state and then proceeded to cut trees down. I told him he could not do that without getting the proper permits. He told me he neither had the time or care. He bought the house cheap, was going to fix it up fast and sell it to make enough money to retire on. He did not plan on being around long enough to be affected if the land and water around him was spoiled. He suggested I wait until he cut all the trees down, demolished part of the project and slapped up a quick addition before I signed on the dotted line to become his architect for the interior renovations. I declined. I also told him as an architect in NH I am bound to protect the health safety and welfare of the community. Because of this I was also sending a copy of the letter to the New London building Department so that they knew what was going on. Another project in Wilmot wanted to get plans to add on square footage to apartments on three floors of a wooden building. The code would not allow the building as it stands to be built, adding on it was not allowed by code. He told me that they have no building inspector, no one would know. He said thanks for the code review and the list of what he would need to do to be able to do the additions he planned, but he did not intend to waste money doing them. He said he would pay me for the plans, just draw them. I would know. I declined the job. His parting comment was he would get some college student or other person to do the drawings, by not taking the job, I could not stop it. I had a conversation with the town, the fire chief and the fire marshal at the time. I gave them a copy of the code review and the existing conditions drawings. They would know if he made those apartment more dangerous than they already are.

There have been lots of great people and projects over the past 5 and a half years. One prospective client called me on a Thursday morning and explained that he had already contacted another local firm but was wondering if I could stop by the house he just bought on Little Lake Sunapee and talk to him about what he hoped to do. I had other projects that needed my attention, but I did not have any looming deadlines that day or the next and he sounded like he needed someone to be excited about his project. I agreed to see him Friday Mid morning. He gave me the address and thanked me for acting so quickly. I went to the New London town office later that day. Got the map and lot number, checked the files on record to see what they had on the property, got a copy of the Zoning and Building Regulations and what would be required for a building permit. Talked to the building inspector to see what his take on the property was, as it was about 1/3 within the 50 foot wetlands buffer zone. I took the regulations and the feedback I received home. Downloaded the state shoreland protection information that has separate guidelines for 50 foot, 150 foot and 250 foot zones along bodies of water in the state of NH. I took his site plan that I had gotten from the town hall and overlaid on it the places he would be allowed to add on, should that be his goal. I also read up on the other limitations the town placed on the property for it being on the edge of the lake. He told me that he basically bought the house with the idea if mostly gutting it and bringing it up to the level of many of the other lakefront properties. He wanted to raise the ceiling in the main living level and change the current ranch style more into a cape if possible. A deep energy retrofit was also in the cards. He asked if I was interested. I was. He said he had taken two members of another firm through the project several weeks ago and had heard nothing from them so the job was mine if I wanted it. I did. Over the next week I met with the planning board and zoning as well as the building inspector again. We hashed out what they thought was going to be allowed per regulations and what we could go through the zoning board to get as concessions if we were willing to jump through a few hoops and follow their guidelines to the tee. I went back to him, one week after our initial meeting and outlined what the battle plans were to get what he wanted accomplished. He looked at me kind of dazed, shook his head and said that the other Architectural Company that he had contacted first contacted him. Shook his head slightly and started again. He said they wrote him a letter informing him that they would not be taking his project on as he would not be allowed by zoning to do what he proposed. He thanked me for proving them wrong. It was a great project. The only neighbor that was initially against the project ended up thanking me for turning the ugly old red ranch into something worth being in his view of the lake.

Lois Dorrow, of New London was an 80 something year old woman that had recently put her love of her life in a dementia ward, gotten her knees operated on and wanted /needed extended help on her project. Hand holding as other Architects would shudder and say. She wanted a covered three season porch that spilled down to a formal patio at the lower level and gave her access to her garden without walking all the way around the house as she was required to do now. The trouble was, she had a feeder stream for Little Lake Sunapee that went through the woods behind her house. It required a 100 foot setback per New London requirements. One end of her house was about 103 feet, the other about 120 from the stream bank. The project had to be carefully crafted to save her rhododendron that her beloved husband had given her, fit within the buildable area allowed by regulations, be functional and fulfill the client's needs and be done for the budget she had allocated. The patio was the sticking point. It had to be within the 100' steam setback to function as required, or not be part of the complete project. Lois gave me the power to speak for her at the Zoning Board of Appeals as the meeting were long and often dragged late into the night. I designed a base below the patio that not only drank up the water landing directly on it but also processed all the existing water shedding off the roof angled towards the woodland stream. The board were able to understand that the end project was better that the existing circumstances as far as the environment was concerned and granted her permit to build. For many years after the project, I visited Lois, shared tea, listen to her stories. A truly extraordinary woman. She was tickled to hear that I gave her a discount for her project for her 35 years (cannot remember the exact number but that rings a bell) of service as a teacher.

I was challenged early on in my company to give service men a discount. I expanded it from those in-service to the protection of our country, current and veterans to include their families which are often the ones that give the most. It got me thinking of how to give back. My twin sister's life was saved by a volunteer fire department, no questions asked. So I expanded it to fire and police as they put their lives and the wellbeing of their families on the line every day. I also included teachers as most of the great ones I have known put in several hours of their family time in every night and a lot of their own money into excelling at what they do. It is a very crucial job, yet underappreciated in many ways.....I give them a discount. I treasure the gift my husband gave me to realize my dream and enable me to help people, average every day, awesome people- get to have the places they want. This is what being an Architect means to me.

In your opinion, what are three qualities that every architect should possess?

Love of helping people way beyond the design of the actual plans. In many cases this is being a problem solver. Getting various players to the table. Not just saying you cannot do this, but explaining what would need to be done to achieve what they are trying to do. Not all things are possible, but most are. You need to be willing to go to bat for your client.

The ability to listen and truly caring that the end result meets the many levels of NEED they have asked for you to provide a solution for.

Not just x amount of rooms with so and so square footage but the adjacencies of the spaces, the flow needed by those using it to work most efficiently. Ask how they plan on using the spaces, what overlaps are there. Are there ways to make a smaller footprint and leave more money for details that make the spaces more spectacular.

Do the materials align with the way they plan on caring for the building?

Does the building have room for expansion if that was a concern. Did you check code wise if it will be allowed?

Flexibility. Your clients are people to. They have families, jobs, appointments. I am not a prima donna. I meet first thing in the morning, during lunch hours, after families have been fed....Saturday mornings before the hoards awake. Sometimes it is every other weekend when they are up at the vacation home. The internet is awesome for the distance clients as I am able to work through emails and creating PDF's of the works in progress to get their feedback without forcing them to come up here more often than they can comfortably do.

As an architect, how do you make sure you're understanding of what your client wants?

Listen. Then when I get back to the office, I write a "What I Heard" letter to highlight the major points of the meeting. It gives the clients a starting point to flesh out their projects and insures that I got the scope and timeline right.

What are at least three questions every homeowner should ask their architect before hiring them?

Who, exactly will be working on my project and what are their qualifications? In many firms the higher ups woo the clients to get the job but in reality never work on the project. I go get the new clients and do the work. It actually save the clients time/ money because inter-office meetings to review the project are not required.

When will you be able to complete this work? The owner needs to be both honest and realistic about this. Their project is important but more than likely not the only one vying for the Architects time/ devotion. Many times people will ask how long their project will take, and get the approximate number of billable hours the professional believes the project will takes, say two weeks. So be specific, when will it likely be done or how much time will it take. Know which answer they are giving.

How much is it going to cost? This is a tricky one and is driven by individual clients, the scope and complexity of the project and how prepared for the project the clients are. KLG Architecture usually bills hourly through the design phases then a set fee for construction drawings and specifications can be set once the design is done and the level of construction documents desired has been worked out. Throughout all the years that I worked for other firms, fixed fees were usually tacked on at least 15% above the calculated actual fee they thought they could do it for in an effort to cover anything that popped up.

What is your philosophy behind creating dynamic, yet practical homes for your clients?


Figure out how each member of the family uses the spaces and how interactions are desired or not.

i.e. the father does not want to be disturbed when in the study or his office.

Or, the mom wants visual control over the likely places the young kids will be while she is busy in the kitchen....

Or, the kids need a place to BE that is not directly underfoot.

Control of the comings and goings of teenagers from their rooms or convenience of them coming and going at all hours.

Be able to have mom making diner with maybe one of the older kids as help or maybe the dad, kids doing home work at the counter with adequate lighting, another child on the computer doing a paper close by, the younger kids watching a Disney movie across the room. Dad might be working on the bills at the table if he is not helping with the kids or getting food on the table, everyone has their space, the lighting is designed for their needs or adjustable to fit the changing needs of the spaces. Some people crave family together like this.

Others want to not be within hearing of the rest of the family most of the time. Again, ask questions and Listen.

In the case where the members of the household are amicable toward the idea of using spaces for multiple purposes, more money can be put toward the details that make homes special. Built-ins, niches, variations in the ceiling plane, textures, lighting, natural framed views, sight lines, flowing indoor spaces to the outdoors, creating a sense of transition from space to space while also tying it all together. A lot of this takes time to do and someone that cares enough to do it.

Ask questions. Get a wish list (from everyone). The five year old may not get the pony or the huge playroom but she might get a built in play house under the stairs, cubbies for putting toys away and a fairy land painted on her wall. The teenage boys might not get the gaming room they asked for but they might get doors that can close off the end of the family room so they have 'their space' from time to time. Get what a project has to have and why list. Get a where they want to be 5 years from now, 10.... Not every question applies to every family.

What are a few minor building renovations that can really improve the appearance of my home?

Painting, integrated plantings, keep up on the yard work, trim the trees, wash the windows, new crisp curtains, if you are just looking for curb appeal without spending much money.

Adding a formal entry or vestibule element to the front of a boring box can add interest and give you a semi private place to greet your guests, put jackets and boots and give a sense of arrival.

New countertops in the kitchen is a very cost effective way to breathe life into a space you are tired with.

Add a chair rail trim piece about three feet up and finish the walls different above and below.

Change out the contractor cheap trim most houses get built with around the windows and doors, the base at the floor and maybe add a cove or cornice molding to punch the ceiling up a notch.

Change out the doors for ones that have character. If you have hollow core wood doors maybe go for a classic 6 panel or a more eye catching 5 panel stacked variety.

Use the vertical space that you already own or incorporate ways to use it if you are building. Integrated shelving near the ceiling can help define spaces and add interest without adding a lot of cost.

Good quality skylights can flood a dark gloomy interior room and turn it into the place everyone wants to be.

Even something like a gas fireplace can make a room warm and inviting for little effort.

Outside you are looking at getting rid of shutters if they are like most and beyond repair. Put new ones on if that is what you really want.

Break up the mass of the home. Give it a base, a middle ground and punch the gables with a contrasting color or material. Add details like dentils, or change railings or columns to a porch.

Change out splintery wood decks for man made materials that hold up better and look much more inviting to spend time on.

Add a connector, a mudroom and a garage if you are interested in going that far.

It really depends on your goal or reason for wanting to improve the appearance. Is it for you, your desire to make what you have appeal to others more or to interest buyers. Is it for projects you can do in your spare time to make your home more to fit your personality? The scope of what I would suggest would be different for each reason.

What's the best way for people to get in contact with you or your company?

Email : or It is great because everyone has a record of what has been said, to look back on at a later time. It also insures that I have a way to contact you. I check my emails constantly during the day, often before I get my coffee in the morning up until just before I call it quits for the night. If you have an epiphany at 9pm and realize you need a drawing tweaked for a 3pm meeting the next day, call me at 9pm. If I am home or have my cell phone with me (and it is safe to answer it) I will answer it and do my best to accommodate. Obviously better planning is the goal and helps make a project successful, but hoops were made to be jumped through sometimes and great things can be achieved.

The phone works as well, but I am often out of the office at various sites or other work related meetings, research or errands.

My office number is (603)865-7181.

My cell phone is (603)315-1494, both can have a message left on them should I be unavailable to answer them.

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