What makes a farmhouse

What makes a farmhouse

Traditionally farmhouses are simply homes built on agricultural lands to house and protect who owned or worked the land. The term Farmhouse isn't necessarily connected to a particular style identified by a fixed set of features, but a setting for a way of life. This is most likely why its appeal seems to be timeless.

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Why did I choose residential architecture?

The answer is obvious, it’s personal. Over the course of my relatively short career, I’ve had the opportunity to work on a range of residential projects from small renovations to large upper crust homes. Along the way, I’ve worked on commercial projects and even dabbled in some urban planning. Sure they were great for my resume and came with a bigger benefits package, but they lacked the humanity that residential work is guaranteed to come with.


I’ve had the honor to collaborate with wonderful people over the years. I’m fascinated by their stories and I hope to tell those stories through my work.  It’s not the overall style of the house that does the job; that’s the curb appeal. The stories are carried through in the details - the kegerator, the built-in pet accessories, the doors that give cats their freedom, the concrete floors to withstand skateboarding ollies, the niches that house heirloom furniture, and the closets specifically built for luggage of the frequent flyer club. These are what tell the story of these unique characters and their daily lives.

There’s a sweetness to the way our Clients describe their needs for living with their little ones (human, feline and canine). There’s the outdoor shower for dad and the boys to wash off their basketball residue before re-entering the house, the closed riser stairs so the family dog cannot fall through,  the sensory deprivation space for the child with special needs, the whole house vacuum to keep the cat hair under control, the built-in stage for the ballet performances, the lighting system that creates a pathway for the kids to find mommy and daddy in the middle of the night, and the large kitchen island for grandma to keep an endless buffet out for her 5 grandchildren as they go to and fro.  These aren’t items you would find in a production house to suit generic needs for a target customer base. These are specific qualities of a home to suit the specific needs of specific people.  

My favorite experience was with Ms. Melba. She had recently lost her home in a natural disaster and our team had the task of building her a new one...in 3 months.  When we were going through paint color selections, she chose “Eye of the Tiger”. Me: “You mean for an accent wall?” Ms. Melba, “No, all of it, the living room, kitchen and down the whole hallway. I’ll put purple in the bathroom.”  I admit, I was hesitant, but when she moved in, that orange color created an amazing backdrop to her beautiful dark skin tone. That’s the moment when I realized a home can affect how you look, it doesn’t just make you happy, it makes you radiant. When designing a home, consider yourself in that color, form and scale. It should fit you like a couture garment.

Ms. Melba also taught me that it’s not solely about the aesthetics of the end product, but how the end user feels in it. Her house was completed within a very tight timeframe and when I looked at it, I saw the visible flashing and gap-toothed battens. When she looked at it she told me, “I love it, it’s beautiful, it’s perfect. Thank you.” That’s when I knew I wanted to dedicate my career to this. In his op ed for the the New York Times, Steven Bingler wrote, “We’ve taught generations of architects to speak out as artists, but we haven’t taught them how to listen.” This single wonderful woman in the middle of a post-Katrina New Orleans taught me to start listening.

Jen Lo is a Gator/Longhorn alumnus, mother of a threenager and single-serving-size dessert enthusiast.


Which came first the Architect or the Builder?

Which came first the Chicken or the Egg?  Or in the Architect’s world, which came first the Architect or the Builder?

Your new home project can start in several different ways. First, you know you want to build a new home and have an idea of where you want it located - whether it’s a particular neighborhood, subdivision, or city, several things usually happen:

1.       You visit the area and see other homes being built and you check out the Builder of the homes you like.

2.       You visit some homes and find the Architect that designed the ones you like.

3.       You talk to friends about different Builders or Architects.

4.       You go online and discover a Builder or Architect and you like their work.

After this, you ask who do I contact first – the Builder or the Architect? If it’s the Builder of the home you like, he can introduce you to the Architect that designed the home. If the Architect is contacted first, he can introduce you to several Builders early in the design process.

If contacted first, the Architect can help you select the best lot for your new home by analyzing several lots to see which one will best suit the size and type of residence you want to build. If you are looking at city lots, the Architect can help determine which local ordinances may apply to your lot that would restrict the design in ways that may not let you reach your design goals.  In rural areas or lots outside of the city, the Architect can help determine possible HOA restrictions and other issues that may put unwanted restrictions on your project.  


 If the Architect is contacted first, he will be able to expand any design ideas you have and offer new ideas and direction that will help you realize every detail of your vision. The Builder will be able to help keep the project within your budget and will be a great help in bringing most, if not all, of your ideas into reality.  The Architect and the Builder have their strengths and weaknesses so the team approach will get the best from both and create the most successful outcome.

Our 12 Reasons why you should hire an architect might help clarifying as to how architects and builders typically work together.

Whoever is contacted first, it’s a team effort to give you the best design within your budget that fulfills your design vision.

The Evolution of Architectural Visualization

Technology keeps evolving. And so do the ways architects reproduce reality and help people envision their new home. While we always need technical 2d drawings for all the steps of the architectural process – planning, design, and construction – the architecture/construction industry has demanded more realistic reflections of their imaginations and technology has progressed to make these dreams come true.  The different ways to represent the project express the technical evolution and, at the same time, it becomes the design phases as well.

 Freehand sketching -> 2d CAD drawings -> 3d b/w CAD drawings -> 3d Renderings -> Animations.


Freehand sketching: This is (or it should be) the first approach to the design of a new building. In this phase, the client is involved in discussions about size, requirements, and overall architecture. Because these kinds of drawings are immediate and intuitive, they are typically used as a real-time tool to get most of the initial decisions approved. These types of drawings are not restricted only to the early phases of the design process and should be integrated in the following phases as well.

Freehand sketches

Freehand sketches


2d CAD drawings: The next step towards turning the project into reality is to draw it using Computer Aided Design (CAD) software. These tools are crucial to verify that all dimensions and shapes initially sketched meet the client expectations and comply with local building codes and restrictions. An advanced version of these drawings will be used to obtain building permits and by the builder during construction.

CAD for construction drawings


3d Black & White drawings: The three-dimension drawings recently became a crucial phase of the design because it allows the architect to accurately verify that every architectural component fits perfectly in the construction according with real world building methods. For the client, it’s also a great way to have a first glance at what the house and the interior spaces will feel like - just like taking black & white sample pictures all around the outside and inside of the house. It’s too soon to apply colors and materials during this phase since more essential decisions must still be made, yet this is certainly a phase where the client can have a first realistic impression of their new house.

3d perspective views

3d perspective views


3d Renderings: Solid geometries just come to life once we add colors, materials, natural and artificial light, and vegetation. The drawings turn to realistic images that are used to give a comprehensive perspective of what the home will look like once it’s been built. This process is called rendering, which basically means extrapolating still images from a 3d model.  Renderings often take several hours to complete.

3d renderings

3d renderings


Animations: Instead of taking a single picture, what if we could shoot a movie of us walking around our new house? Animations let you do just that. All it is, exactly like a movie, is an incredibly high amount of single renderings assembled together. The designer can set up a path and let you walk through the building interiors. It takes many hours to get every single video completed, but the wait is definitely worth it!

3d renderings


Additionally, as the technology keeps going forward, we experience new cool ways to view our design like:

Real time project walkthrough and changes: Is it possible to walk around the project’s model without the use of a video, maybe in real time? Yes! A few of the latest 3D software allow you to literally explore the building as if you were in a first person video game. It is even possible to make small changes to materials and colors to find the right match on your facades or on your interiors…right in front of you!

 What amount of detail would you like to see while designing your new home?

Site Design 101

Where to start?  How about the root of all buildings – the natural site you have selected for your new home.  It may sound simple. You find a lot with a great view and lots of trees and you are ready to go. 

Doing some research on your lot may uncover many variables that can affect whether the lot will work for your future home. Environmental site issues, Home Owners Association guidelines, governmental regulations, and also the type of home you want designed may create limitations on what you can do with your lot.

If your site is in a neighborhood, do some research into any restrictions dealing with the design or even how your house sits on the lot. You may think that since you are not building in a gated community, but locating near downtown, this shouldn’t matter yet it does.  In some cases these neighborhoods have design restrictions as well. 

Restrictions could be anything from exterior materials, roof slopes, design styles, etc.  It could very well change your dream home from a modern style design to something that adheres to the rest of the development and may not be what you are wanting. 

Other issues could deal with the topography. Some of your property may lie in a flood plain area and thus restrict where your house can be placed.  Impervious coverage restrictions can also come into play for your site as well as other environmental issues including easements, which may not be initially apparent but can limit what portions of the lot you can use.

Natural elements such as existing trees and orientation of your lot in respect to sun angles will also play into how your new home works on your lot.  It is best to situate certain rooms toward certain directions to accommodate the solar gain and prevailing winds, if possible. 

 Another major consideration is the type of design itself.  If you have always wanted a large back yard for kids to play in and your site drops in slope, it may be costly to move the earth to build that flat play area.  If you always wanted a courtyard house yet your lot stands with great views to the back then maybe the courtyard style may not be best to take full advantage of the site.

All of these are just examples of issues to consider when selecting a lot.  It will be to your benefit to have a professional architect provide an analysis of your lot to see if it will suit your needs for your future residence.  With this first step in building your dream home, take your time and make the right decision. 

Site Design