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Taos Kitchen William S. Briggs, architect, p.l.l.c.

In one way or another, all projects begin and end with one simple concern: cost.  No matter the size, the budget allotted to a project is either near or at the heart of all design decisions. When allocating funds to a new construction or home renovation project, it is important that sufficient money be dedicated to ensuring the functionality of the home. As I’ve said many times before, good design must be both beautiful and livable. 

I understand why homeowners come to me ready to dive into the details of their project. Truly, there are many fun and exciting decisions to be made about cabinets, appliances, materials, fixtures, and finishes. But, there is little joy in designing a perfect kitchen on paper only to realize it will not fit within the homeowner’s budget. This is why I have a specific design process that I like to follow for each project.

When I’m working on a design, I find myself less concerned with the final details at the start and rather more concerned with how many linear feet of cabinets or square feet of flooring are required. I like to look at multiple levels of appliance packages and lighting qualities. A kitchen could be beautifully decorated, but if it does not provide the cook enough space to work in it is useless. I also take into account how the space serves its homeowners. Hallways must be wide enough to maneuver in, the flow of the rooms in the home must be in order, and the materials should stand up to their intended uses and the space in which they are located. Once the floor plan is clear, we can revisit the budget to see what appliance package makes sense for the kitchen and what kind of flooring is both affordable and attractive. 

By deciding on the budget before and during the design process, homeowners save themselves time, frustration, and money. As I work with clients during the drawing process, we start with the big issues and overall vision and work down to the minutiae. This ensures that all key components of good design are examined and decided on before the project begins. Seeing renovations come into being can be fun, not a stress.

214.696.1988

William@WilliamsBriggs.com
http://www.williamsbriggs.com

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Taos Project William S. Briggs, Architect, p.l.l.c.

As an architect, I regularly design projects that utilize luxury materials like Carrara marble, travertine tile, and high-end appliances. While it’s enjoyable to anoint a space with the finest finishes, a client does not need to have an endless budget in order to achieve good design. When designing a new project, I lavish the same attention to detail, scale, and proportion on it regardless of the size or scope. A well designed home or project should be born from the notion that form and function must work seamlessly together.

During a project in a neighborhood near our Dallas office, we used rather mundane exterior materials to great aesthetic effect. Off-the-shelf cementitious siding was transformed into an interesting and patterned façade. Doric columns set off the front door. A pergola over the front porch adds depth, while a small shed roof and balcony on the second floor add yet more dimension and visual interest. Rather than use regular shingles for the entire roof, metal roofing was added to set off select areas like the entryway and a few other windows.

It is always important for us to find a willing partner in such a process. We were able to work with a contractor who shared, even drove, our vision and they were able to execute this project at the highest level. The Greenwells’ ability to craft the materials chosen for the home’s exterior brought our vision to life.

When working with ordinary materials or a limited budget, some homeowners may feel like their options are limited. I’m glad that I can share this project with them as an example of the kind of extraordinary project that can be achieved when good design is the priority. 

William S. Briggs, Architect, PLLC
214.696.1988

William@WilliamsBriggs.com
http://www.williamsbriggs.com

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Conservatory at Rosewood Mansion William S. Briggs, architect

When it comes to new home construction, or renovations, homeowners naturally focus on the aesthetic aspects of the project such as fixtures, colors, and finish materials. There are also a number of practical areas that need attention during the drawing process. Structure, safety, and security all demand special attention. In fact, comprehensive drawings should include details and information on the visible and invisible aspects of your house. Thoughtful design can actually reduce your insurance costs.

I’ve worked with insurance agents over the last thirty years to better understand how to incorporate both obvious and latent elements into every home we build so that we can reduce a homeowner’s insurance liability. There are a surprising number of smart tweaks that we can include in your blueprints that protect you and your home. For example, in tornado-prone Texas, we design homes with windows and framing that are prepared to accept a higher wind load. We look closely to Miami Dade’s wind resistance code. Since they are established for hurricane winds, we can build a stouter house.

Other less obvious measures include using gas and water flow detectors; whole house shut off valves for gas, water, and electrical; detectors for smoke and water in crawl spaces; and maximum hail protection for your roof. You can even reduce risk to the home during the construction process by prohibiting welding after 3 pm.

Home security is also an important consideration during the drawing process. Any entrances to the home should be alarmed, including garage doors and gates. This can be set up with the local fire department so they would have access to the home in the event of an emergency. Alarm systems can also be connected with local police departments and alarm panels can be placed in conspicuous locations around the home and made easily accessible.

With Texas’s penchant for dramatic weather changes and our need for safe and secure homes, it’s easy to understand why any homeowner is glad to see these precautions put in place. While all of these enhancements to your drawings do come with minor expenses during construction, they will pay for themselves many times over throughout the years. 

William S. Briggs, Architect, PLLC
214.696.1988

William@WilliamsBriggs.com
http://www.williamsbriggs.com

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As an architect, I’m often asked about what I think is good design. Now, what people are really asking is what styles I prefer- modern, traditional, ornate, minimalist. But good design is not bound by style so much as it is by broader, more classic issues. Good design means that a home is built in proper proportion and order with well defined spaces.

Let me use two examples to illustrate my point. The first is a hand-carved walnut paneling heavily wrought with detail meant for a new construction traditional style home. The second is a modern contemporary home. How can these opposing styles both be rooted in good design?

When I work with clients who want design rich with detail and depth, I always stay rooted in tradition. For me that means maintaining scale and proportion- more, in fact, is not always more. Looking at the hand-carved walnut paneling, you will columns and intricate scrollwork. You will also see plenty of blank, i.e. non-carved space, where we have allowed for depth in an in-laid part of the panel. This blank space serves as a much-needed foil to the sophisticated carving that borders the top and bottom of the paneling. Without some blank space to bring order and proportion to the carving, it would look busy and distracting rather than elegant and refined.

Many clients are looking for the wide-open spaces offered by a modern, contemporary home. They want a plethora of natural light and open concept living throughout the home. Both of these objectives can be achieved while still maintaining good design practices. The desire for natural light must be balanced with the need for privacy and intimacy in the home. Floor to ceiling windows in public spaces in the home are utilized in this property, while on the second floor you’ll notice that there are still many windows, but they are smaller in scale. This lets in light while preserving private space.

To achieve the openness and airiness that accompanies modern homes, we used stand-alone walls to divide rooms into their various sections, rather than full walls with doorways. This way we have defined the spaces for their intended uses, like the kitchen and dining space, but have still cultivated a sense of flow throughout the house. Without some definition, modern homes become impossible to furnish and live in. 

For every project and client, we try to set aside our preferential notions of style and instead focus on good design, no matter what. Styles will come and go and fads will drift in and out of favor. But like a great painting, a well designed home will remain relevant and beautiful for a lifetime. 

William S. Briggs, Architect, PLLC
214.696.1988

William@WilliamsBriggs.com
http://www.williamsbriggs.com

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Built-In Office Desk William S. Briggs, Architect, Dallas, TX

I’ve always enjoyed tackling any kind of project, as long as good design was at the heart of it. From an 8,500 square foot home to a porch- there is no difference is the level of detail and skill that we bring to the table when crafting drawings. 

Recently, we received a request for a desk. This client, whose home we had worked on years ago, was going on sabbatical doing research and wanted to create a built-in desk to keep his work in order. Working within only an 8-foot space, we drafted drawings to meet his exact specifications. The planning included moving electrical outlets, relocating a wall, and adding sconce lights. When finished, this desk will become an integral part of the home and serve our client for years to come

William S. Briggs, Architect, PLLC
214.696.1988

William@WilliamsBriggs.com
http://www.williamsbriggs.com

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Traditional French New Construction Home Preston Hollow, Dallas, TX

If you’ve decided to build a new home- congratulations and welcome to one of the most challenging and exciting projects of your life! The “to do” feels long right now, but in the end, living in your custom designed home will bring you years of joy. 

Set The Budget

With any home project, the step is finalizing a budget. How much money you have available for your new home will determine not only the size and layout of the home, but also the finishes, appliances, and character elements. Generally speaking, new construction homes cost more per square foot than a home renovation but that doesn’t tell the whole story. It’s virtually impossible to come up with a neat and tidy square footage price that includes all elements of the price from materials to labor.

Sharpen Your Pencils

Once we have a good handle on the budget, it’s time to start designing. Beyond knowing the number of bedrooms and square footage desired, I like to ask my clients questions about themselves. Often I ask them to think back to their childhood and write a paragraph that describes a meaningful space to them. Whether they write about a bright pink bedroom or a wood-paneled rumpus room, I’m able to glean a lot of information about the kinds of house and spaces they want to build. Personality has a lot to do with design and architecture so it’s important that I know my clients well and understand what makes them tick. Photographs from past or present homes or other sources of inspiration can also be helpful during this process. After the drawings are done, we may want to revisit the budget to make sure that what we’ve dreamed is actually possible. Often it’s helpful to consult with a builder to run construction costs so that there won’t be any surprises after groundbreaking.

Often clients ask how long the new construction process will take. It should take the exactly X amount of time. Not very helpful, I know. I wish I could tell you the timeline, but truly it’s important to both take your time during the drawing process to make sure you’ve examined all the alternatives. Taking too long has its drawbacks, though. As time passes, clients can find themselves second-guessing their decisions and changing their minds. This only leads to confusion and delay.

Trust Yourself

I do have one word of advice to anyone looking to build a new home- resist the armchair quarterbacking friends and family are wont to do. Certainly I encourage you to seek opinions and ideas from those you trust, but be wary of soliciting too much advice, only to lose track of your own wants and needs. 

After all the planning, it’s time to build. Your architect will be available during construction to make sure your designs are implemented correctly. While the process of building a new home requires a lot of organization and planning, it results in a one of a kind piece of architecture. Enjoy the process! 

William S. Briggs, Architect, PLLC
214.696.1988

William@WilliamsBriggs.com
http://www.williamsbriggs.com

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University Park | New Construction Brick Home William S. Briggs, PLLC, architect

Remember watching those old sitcoms where every house looked like it was stamped from the exact same cookie cutter? From the linoleum floors to the Formica counters, housing developments that sprung up in the 1950s and 1960s prized uniformity. Today the housing market seems to seek individuality at every turn, but new constructions homes can sometimes miss the mark when it comes to functional and beautiful design.

One Size Does Not Fit All

It turns out one floor plan really does not fit all sizes or styles of architecture. Often speculative homes, those you might find in a new development, take one floor plan and lay a veneer of French Country or Mediterranean design on top. This approach changes out colors and patterns, but fails to integrate the scale and proportions that are unique to each individual style. For example, a Mediterranean home values natural space and light. A Mediterranean home works to create a flow between indoor and outdoor living. Simply throwing some terracotta tiles on the hallway floor will not achieve this style.

But Sometimes One Size is What You Want 

Once your new home is built, you get to outfit it in the latest and greatest in appliance technology. Each year manufacturers come out with new stoves, dishwashers, and refrigerators and they often vary in sizes and capacity. While it may be tempting to purchase an extra large dishwasher, I always recommend sticking to the standard sizes. If you deviate from the standard sizes, you may find yourself faced with a full kitchen remodel when that new dishwasher quits unexpectedly. You will not be able to swap in a new dishwasher easily and will instead have to replace cabinets and countertops to accommodate a different one. 

If These Walls Could Talk

A new home also must be constructed with the flow of the family in mind. Where does the bulk of family life and interaction take place? What kinds of entertaining will you do in your new home? Do you have a need for extra storage at the entrance or exit of your home to accommodate sports equipment, book bags, etc.?  The choices can seem daunting and you may go to Pinterest or Houzz for inspiration. While these are good places to start, consulting with an architect is the best way to truly understand the elements of each architectural style and make the best choice of what kind of home you are looking for. Architects also tend to have a longer view of style and design, so they won’t be easily swayed by the trend of the moment. This can help you build a home that will remain timeless as you live in it for decades to come.

A new home is a blank slate for your own design choices and needs. Choose wisely and you will build a home that will serve your family well and retain its marketability in the future. Join me next month for an overview of how the new construction process differs from a home remodel. 

William S. Briggs, Architect, PLLC
214.696.1988

William@WilliamsBriggs.com
http://www.williamsbriggs.com

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North Dallas Soft Contemporary Home William S. Briggs, PLLC, architect

 With a new house, you can get exactly what you want. You won’t find yourself restricting your vision to an existing structure; rather you’ll be able to realize bigger and bolder dream when you build a new home. In many cases, you can even choose where the home sits on the plot of land, offering you options in outdoor entertainment and seating. 

They’re Called Classics for a Reason

New traditional homes incorporate a lot of open design concepts. Kitchens flow seamlessly into dining rooms and living areas. Parents want to be able to see their children from multiple vantage points. While this openness may seem desirable, it’s important to consider privacy as you design your new home. Closed kitchens keep smells contained and hide dirty dishes from dinner party guests. Don’t get so caught up in what’s trendy now that you make design choices that you won’t appreciate in the long-term. 

See the Future

Good homes don’t fall out of fashion. If you have worked with an architect to design a home that focuses on how people will live in the space, you won’t have to worry about future marketability. Even though we may have seen a plethora of Georgian and Tudor homes in the 1990s, and even more French Country homes popping up right now, if those homes were designed with proper scale and proportion then they will stand the test of time. The trouble really begins when builders try to apply a façade or style “veneer” to a home without truly integrating it throughout the home.

Built to Last

A less glamorous part of building a new home is the materials used. You may be tempted to overlook quality as the budget grows, but I would encourage you to remain committed to tried and true materials. You will be living with the same patio pavers for years to come, so it’s important that they be sturdy and break-resistant.  The location also plays a role. White carpet may work well in a bedroom, but it has no place in a busy hallway. 

In the following two articles in this series, I’m going to discuss the pros and cons to designing a new homes, as well as how the approach to this type of project differs from a regular remodel. I hope you’ll join me as we discover the seemingly limitless potential of a new construction home. 

William S. Briggs, Architect, PLLC
214.696.1988

William@WilliamsBriggs.com
http://www.williamsbriggs.com

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As we conclude our series on older homes, I’d like to spend this time discussing ways to keep your older home both functional and beautiful as it ages. All older homes, even those that are not on a historic register, deserve to grow old gracefully. Even still, your home may have significance that you haven’t uncovered. If you’re living in an older home, research the house and the neighborhood to discover its hidden history. The local library or historic society often hold records on prior owners and detailed maps of a town’s previous layout. When you find out the context of your home, the significance of your street name, or previous owners, it not only can enhance the enjoyment of your home, but can also potentially increase the value of it. In Dallas, there are not a lot of homes that date back to before the First World War, which makes that small number of homes more rare and interesting. 

Thankfully, hiring experienced home inspectors, architects, and contractors can easily mitigate most problems that arise with older homes. Do your research when it comes to your home design team. Seek out professionals with prior experience with older homes and great references from homeowners. Despite educated guesses, it is truly hard to know what kind of shape the plumbing, electrical, and walls are in until sheetrock comes down. You should plan on including a financial safety net in your purchase or renovation budget  which will take the sting out of any unforeseen setbacks. Thankfully, lots of older homes were built with a crawl space underneath the home. This makes it easy to move plumbing, check ductwork, and even install or maintain air conditioning systems without disrupting the permanent structure.

Before you start thinking about knocking down walls in your older home to create an open floor plan, think carefully about the style of the home and why it was built in that particular way. For example, many Victorian homes were created with distinct separation between public and private space. Victorian homes were also built with the family in mind, such that any public space is designed to enhance social interaction. Instead of trying to mold the home to fit your ideals, think of ways that you can furnish and live in your home the way it was intended. Perhaps two smaller love seats and a set of comfortable armchairs could create a cozy sitting area for conversation better than a giant sectional sofa. 

Finally, let’s talk about your crooked little house. Perhaps your floors are bit uneven or your doorframes slanted. Resist the urge to try and level the house. Leveling a home can actually do more damage than good. Homes and their wooden frames harden as they settle. Any attempts at leveling may crack the existing sheetrock and set up a domino effect of problems. Best to chalk any crooked quirks up to charm and leave it at that unless the problem is extreme. 

I hope you truly enjoy your older home. It is anchored in your neighborhood, a stalwart of the community, standing time-tested among the years. Its walls are filled with memories, laughter, and life. 

William S. Briggs, Architect, PLLC
214.696.1988

William@WilliamsBriggs.com
http://www.williamsbriggs.com

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An older home is not a blank canvas waiting for your customization, but rather a rich portrait meant to be enjoyed by the right collector. The floors may creak and the electricity may need updating, but an older home offers a treasure trove of other features that the right kind of owner will appreciate.

What I often admire in older homes is the attention to scale and construction, which was used to maximize organic features like light. Not able to rely on technology, older homes included transom windows atop of doorways to let in air and light. Additionally, older homes usually have a distinct separation between public and private space. While this may mean smaller bedrooms, it also means that the public spaces have been designed specifically to foster community and togetherness for family and friends. 

Mature landscaping can add color and drama to an older home. Owners of a new house might have to wait for at least 10 years for a magnolia tree to reach it’s full size, but it’s heady blooms, perfect climbing limbs, and shady leaves are waiting for you at an older property. Consider for a moment the big pecan tree on Armstrong Parkway. At over 140 years old, it has become a landmark of the Highland Park community and the site of the oldest community tree lighting tradition in Dallas County. The sophisticated and lush greenery of the Park Cities are one of the key selling features of the area adding charm and ambiance throughout the neighborhood.

Benefits aside, older homes do have their own set of unique challenges. Possible health hazards like lead and asbestos must be mitigated before you can move in.  It’s also unlikely that you will find an older home with sufficient closet space or enough kitchen upgrades to suit modern tastes. Utilities like electrical and plumbing may need updates or complete overhauls depending on what has been done in the past- and how well it was done. You may find a leaky roof over your head or a sagging deck in the backyard. Not all older homes are maintained with the attention to detail and sustainability that is required.

Ultimately, if you find yourself annoyed rather than charmed by the quirks of your older home, than you should buy or build new construction. It’s always a shame to see an older home ruined with endless upgrades and attempts to modernize. Wondering if you are ready for the challenge of loving and living in an older home? Stay tuned for the last article in the series where I’ll talk about how you can protect and preserve your older home for generations to come. 

William S. Briggs, Architect, PLLC
214.696.1988

William@WilliamsBriggs.com
http://www.williamsbriggs.com