I was recently invited to a party celebrating 25 years in business. It was wonderful to be able to meet with other folks in the industry in a relaxed environment and raise a glass or two to commemorate the dedication and commitment to a colleague and his success.

It got me thinking…

We never seem to take the time to enjoy our accomplishments big and small. I for one, seem to run from one project to the next with the thrill of a new design with happy clients.

Throughout my career, I have been fortunate to have won many awards and been featured in both local and national magazines. It still surprises me to see my designs in print and I always feel it is an honour to be recognized by your peers. Every project is a collaboration between the family, designer and builder – you honestly can’t have one without the other for the project to be successful. Celebrating as a team is another form of thank you!

At our firm, when we complete a project, we thank the builder and their trades for a job well done. We take our team out for lunch for all the work that is done behind the scenes and usually organize a tour before the house is move in ready.

It is exhilarating and satisfying to see each design come to life!

What is the best part of any celebration? It always leaves me with a smile is when the family says “I love my house” and you know that it will be enjoyed for many years and generations.

This party, was to celebrate with Frank Bandiera, someone who I have known for many years. It was heartwarming to meet with his family, friends and colleagues and participate in this special commemorative occasion.

I would like to congratulate Frank on all of his accomplishments as both a designer, father and friend. He demonstrates the dedication and professionalism to the industry that paves the way for future generations of success. I’m sure he will celebrate many more projects with smiles, accolades and accomplishments.

It was an honour to be invited and it has left me with a new perspective on the “art of celebrating.”

Enjoy not only your accomplishments but those of your friends and colleagues! It is a great way to recognize success – celebrate!

Residential Design. A boutique firm with 48 years of experience.
“Designing houses is not only what I do for a living…it is what I love to do”
Visit John @williamsresidentialdesign.ca

Finding the Magic!…Who is Your Ideal Client?

There is something to be said for the “profession of architecture.”
I recently read a book entitled The Art of Classical Details II An Ideal Collaboration by Phillip James Dodd. There is an interesting chapter in the book called “Fortune Favours the Friendly” by Francis Terry and it has started a dialogue in our office about the magic that occurs when working with your ideal client.

Let me start by saying that throughout my 47 year career, I have been blessed to work with many amazing families, and I have received referrals from 3 generations of happy clients. “Designing houses is not only what I do for a living; but it is what I love to do.” However, there have been a few clients along the way that have left me sitting at the board wondering why we were engaged? We lost the magic!

Like you, I take a tremendous amount of pride in my work and there is always that little extra something in each and every house that makes the relationship unique. So when you find a project has lost the magic you wonder what went wrong?

I was encouraged to read the comment by Francis Terry that just seems to answer that question “at other times a client will not listen and I end up designing something which I know, could be better, but the happiness of the client is the goal of every project.” We ultimately compromise and in the process, loose the magic!

Now, I understand that we cannot be all things to all people and every designer has a unique style that becomes recognizable within the community. I have designed over 1,000 homes in my career and it is very heartwarming when someone says that they are interested in working with the firm because they “just love my work.”

It starts a conversation about the magic and leads us to the question:
How do we ensure that we are the right firm for that prospective client?

At our last meeting, I decided to pose this question to my team. We analyzed the projects that we have enjoyed in recent years and began to see a pattern, which lead to a great suggestion:… if the project excites everyone in the office, then we will move to the second stage in the process, interviewing the client with a specific list of questions to ensure that we have a similar vision. Laying the foundation for the magic!

If not, we are happy to refer families to another firm. We are not, by any means, being arrogant, but, we feel we have a professional responsibility to ensure that we are the right firm for the right client.

We developed a questionnaire that starts a conversation taking a look at all the design elements and throughout that discussion we are able to identify some of the characteristics for our ideal client.

They are: open to suggestions, excited about the design process, interested in collaboration, respectful of our expertise and honest about not only their budget but how they see themselves living in the house!
The foundation of trust, honesty and collaboration.

This simple process gives us the opportunity to interview families and begin to establish that special connection.

Our objective remains the same: the happiness of the client is still our primary goal, and now when I think about who is our ideal client….
When we are able to find the magic!

“Designing houses is not only what I do for a living, but it is what I love to do.”

Williams Residential Design. A boutique firm with 47 years of experience.
“Designing houses is not only what I do for a living…it is what I love to do”

Visit John @williamsresidentialdesign.ca

Have you ever had one of those “perfect” clients?  You know, the one’s that give you the creative freedom to design their dream house!

Throughout my career, I have had many what would fit that description and with some, I have designed a number of houses throughout their lifetime. 

I recently met a husband and wife team that were not only a pleasure to work with, but, design for…What has been different about this experience is that it took me outside my comfort zone and into something I would describe as a “passion project.”

Let me first explain, I am a classicist, with a Masters in Architecture. I’ve been in a creative business my entire career, 47 years to be exact.  If you visit my web site you will notice a very distinct design style – one that I have not only become known for but truly enjoy. 

This project, has opened a door that I didn’t think I’d revisit with a style that combines both Arts and Crafts with Modern.  It is my interpretation of a new way of living to meet the needs of today’s families. The key components are light, proportion and scale – not uncommon in all of the houses I design, but for this project when you combine it with a new set of materials you end up with something “new.” The feeling is organic, the site is unique and we have been able to connect this house to the ground with many unique outdoor features.

As with all projects, it was a collaborative effort, not only with a builder (Andy Jonkman Construction) but Landscape Architect (Virginia Burt Designs) and I thank them both for the expertise they brought to the project and what I think is now a whole new design style for my firm.  To everyone who worked on the project “thank you” for building a home that has this comment from not only the homeowners but the neighbours: 

“I LOVE It!”

I’m looking forward to the next “passion project.”

“Designing houses is not only what I do for a living,

but it is what I love to do.” 

 

John Williams is the principle architectural designer for Williams Residential Design. A boutique firm with over 47 years of experience.
Visit John @williamsresidentialdesign.ca

After 47 years in business you establish a work ethic that attracts other like-minded individuals.  This house begins a new design style for our firm, one that stared with a client who was interested in something unique and different for this rebuild.  Along the journey, we’ve had the pleasure of recommending Virginia Burt of Virginia Burt Designs and Andy Jonkman from Andy Jonkman Construction as part of the design team.

Not only do we share the same commitment to collaboration, innovation and design but we have a mutual respect and admiration for each others talent.

We recently completed a house tour, inviting our teams to the site so that we may learn from each other and share stories about the experience.

I discussed my inspiration, Andy the importance of his trades and Virginia the unique site that contributed to this amazing new design.  We all thanked everyone who contributed to the project because we understand that collaboration is not always as easy as it looks!

How would I describe this new design style?  A combination of arts and crafts and modern that has blended together to create a house that will become a home for a wonderful family.

It is when the house becomes “move-in ready” that we may truly appreciate the “scribbles on the paper” that leads to the bricks and motor with a house that blends with the landscape in a neighbourhood that have given us the “thumbs up” throughout the entire process.

I’d like to thank everyone who worked on the project for creating the energy that leaves us all with a smile and I look forward to working with this team again in the future!

 

John Williams is the principle architectural designer for Williams Residential Design. A boutique firm with over 47 years of experience.
Visit John @williamsresidentialdesign.ca

The business of architectural design has changed many times in 46 years of business, but, one thing that does not change is the process for design. Jenny and I have worked together for over 14 years. A collaborative relationship based on a platform of mentorship.

As an architectural technologist, Jenny takes my hand drawings and brings them to life in AutoCAD. A computer program that provides what we used to call blueprints, that are used for building permit and construction.

We have established not only a strategic partnership but friendship over the years that is based on mutual respect and loyalty.

As with any business relationship, you build a foundation of trust and respect not only for each other but for the work. The expertise we share leads to developing an attitude of loyalty that encourages confidence.

We have shared a lot of laughs and my business has grown into a boutique firm known for its attention to detail with a final set of drawings that sets us apart from the competition. Jenny has played a part in contributing to that reputation.

In today’s fast paced business environment, loyalty is an important ingredient to success. The other component is trust. I have designed over 1,000 homes in my career and protecting copyright is part of our ongoing business relationship. Ensuring that as a team we protect my designs which have become recognizable in the community is important to the reputation of the firm.

Our age of technology has created the importance of securing the designs and when you dig a little deeper; my firm owns the rights for 50 years after I decide to retire. Jenny has been an integral part of that security, cataloguing the electronic files for many years.

I have won many awards in Ontario, Canada and the United States and as a firm we are proud our reputation. Our clients give us the privilege of building homes that are enjoyed for many generations.

There are a few things that I have learned throughout the years about success:

1) Choose your strategic partners with care – skill and personality go hand in hand

2) Loyalty and trust are the foundation for ongoing success

3) Appreciate the expertise of your team; it is a collaborative effort

4) Not everyone is your client; you need a market niche

5) Business emerges, changes and evolves – you need to be resilient

Designing houses is not only what I do for a living; but it is what I love to do…and I thank everyone who works on our projects and shares their own brand of expertise. Special thanks to Jenny, for all her hard work and dedication. I appreciate the trust and loyalty we’ve established through our strategic partnership.

John Williams is the principle architectural designer for Williams Residential Design. A boutique firm with 46 years of experience.

Visit John @williamsresidentialdesign.ca

There is a trend that has been around for a few years that is currently in the news and it involves the gentrification of neighbourhoods that were built in the 50’s and 60’s.  They have large lots, mature trees, updated services and most often amenities that are convenient for families.

I started my career, 46 years ago doing exactly that!  Updating, renovating and building homes that revitalized communities, increasing property values and attracting a whole new demographic.

In today’s market,  it is not always cost effective to renovate. In some cases, building a new home on an existing lot just makes good sense for the marketplace.

What is creating a ruckus are the changes to not only the building codes but zoning by-laws in various cities.  These revisions are restricting the size, scope and proportion of homes in an attempt to control “Monster Homes.”  The very description is daunting and sends a very negative image of what these neighbourhoods will look like in the future.

For some reason, planners feel that when changing building heights, set backs, and coverage along with the overall building permit process it will be a deterrent to the demolition and building of homes that fit this description.

What is interesting, is that many years ago the rules and regulations were introduced to encouraged commerce, creating communities that welcomed redevelopment.

I fear, that the new rules will in fact do just the opposite.  Instead of revising the existing rules and regulations, why don’t we create incentives for homeowners to work with industry professionals to design homes that appeal not only to our new lifestyle choices but encourage what I call “good architectural manners” in our communities.

A punitive system discourages collaboration and creates tension.

Gentrification is a good thing!  It means that we have healthy communities that are attracting people interested in raising families or retiring in areas of a city that support and encourage their unique lifestyle.

If we continue to make things difficult and antagonistic what will be accomplished?

The building industry is the backbone of our economy.  It creates jobs, supports entrepreneurship and develops strong communities.

Changing the current rules and regulations will not guarantee better communities but rather discourage the development and revitalization of neighbourhoods that most often need an architectural facelift.

Let’s try to incentify the industry to create new and beautiful communities that encourage growth and prosperity. This will meet the needs of families who live in neighbourhoods that will be enjoyed by many future generations.

How about we strive for “architectural good manners” and try to avoid terms like “Monster Homes.”

John Williams is the principle architectural designer for Williams Residential Design. A  boutique firm with 46 years experience.

Visit John @williamsresidentialdesign.ca

When you’ve been in business for 45 years you’ve seen a lot of changes in your industry. I remember the days when we had to hand draw both design and permit drawings for submission. I’ve had a lot of white shirts that needed the cuffs replaced!

Today, of course, everything is on computer! Is it more convenient? – Yes! Is it more efficient? – Perhaps…but one thing it is not… is personal.

When I design a custom home I still present the design concept with a hand drawing because I feel it creates a sense of personality and connection with the family who will live in the home. Classically trained, I still see the value of hand drawn details that incorporate the “art” of design.

Families LOVE it!

I am told that they appreciate the fact that I’ve taken the extra time to actually “draw their house.” Now, after all these years, I am able to draw to scale and sometimes faster than my technologist is able to redraw it on the computer!

There is a school of thought, that “faster is better” but I feel in the early stages of the process it becomes too clinical and impersonal.

When we have a final design, it is at that time my team takes over to finish the drawings for permit. What people often don’t realize is that a technologist has a skill that takes my hand drawing at scale and redraws it into a program called AutoCAD. This is when technology becomes convenient, efficient and precise.

I often think back to when Frank Lloyd Wright designed homes. He had an army of draftsmen that took his hand sketches and multiplied the drawings not only for the client but for permit. Drawing control was in a safe of sorts and under lock and key. In todays business climate, in my firm, we include a watermark to protect copyright and guarantee originality because today for convenience we transmit files electronically to our strategic partners. They are then able to add their area of expertise to the process such as engineered trusses, HVAC and plotting on the survey for the final package which is submitted to the various cities and municipalities for permit.

I still include an embossed corporate seal and my personal signature on every set of permit drawings because they are not only a representation of my work but ensures the authenticity of the design. As the designer, I hold the copyright on all of my designs and very much like Frank Lloyd Wright keep the plans under lock and key.

A hand drawn coloured rendering is presented to each family of the front elevation and that completes my design process. It is very gratifying and humbling to see the rendering framed and hanging in the families home.
It compliments my personal commitment to the “art” of design.

It is this personal touch that is not available in our technology craze, and, in this industry, faster is not always better!

I’m sure you’ll agree.

John Williams
Architectural Designer
williamsresidentaildesign.ca


Creative inspiration is one of the elements of good design. I have been fortunate to have found inspiration when travelling, networking and attending various seminars and tours of other great architectural projects.

In today’s business climate, one of the first resources is the internet. It is here where you may find many different types of inspiration – pictures, articles, videos and commentary from many artists who use various types of medium. Just take a moment or two to research The Louvre in Paris, The Vatican in Rome, Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City or the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto. These are places that house centuries of completed work that was inspired by the life and time of each artist.

In architecture, inspiration, is part of the creative process which marks the beginning of each design. It is where the energy for the project starts, changes and flows into what will become a unique custom home.

I am often asked where I find my inspiration?

Here is an honest answer; My clients!

The relationship that you begin with each client sets the foundation for inspiration. The many conversations where we discuss and share how they will actually live in their home contributes to the creative process.

“I’d like to have lots of windows to enjoy the light”
“We’d like to watch the sun rise and set from the living room”
“In the summer, I’d like to enjoy my morning coffee from a cozy balcony”
“I love to entertain, so I need a big kitchen with an island”
“I’d really like to have a big covered porch”

These conversations create visual images that soon become a floor plan where a design style emerges and a foundation is built on what will become their new home.

So the next time you’re about to begin a new project, don’t forget to ask: What will be your inspiration? A conversation may spark a great idea!

John Williams
Architectural Designer

The design process usually starts with a few complex questions:

“How long will this take?”    

“When will I receive a permit?”

Questions that speak to a complicated process that includes both time and patience.  We begin the process with a dialogue that involves inspiration, collaboration and arithmetic.

Inspiration creates good design.  Every project is different based on the connection to the lifestyle choices of the client.  A vision for how they live in their house combined with a wish list that will contribute to their comfort and enjoyment in the years to come.  The personality of the “family,” that will live in the house I’ve designed. 

We begin with a detailed questionnaire discussing “how they live.”
What is important and how they envision life in their new home, it is a very personal and invigorating experience.  I usually start formulating thoughts and ideas before we finish the discussion.  Our conversation creates inspiration.

My travels over the years contribute to the process by combining my personal experience with the wish list for each client.  I’ve incorporated many design features from around the world that just seem to connect with the family.  During the conceptual design presentation, I know I’m on the right track when I see their faces light up and smile.

Collaboration is important because every good designer knows that a great home is never created in isolation.  There are so many talented individuals who bring the design to life.  Framers, plumbers, electricians, stone carvers, brick layers, joiners, trim carpenters, and cabinet makers to name a few.  Of course, interior designers and landscape architects complete the story and as a team we contribute to the magic of every good design.

Arithmetic is the sacred geometry found behind the design process.  Geometry, trigonometry, algebra, calculus and simple mathematics are all foundational elements found within the design.  These disciplines have been handed down throughout the centuries and are as relevant now as they were thousands of years ago.

The mathematical calculations that must be exact to the fraction of an inch. These create the proportions, rhythm and beauty that we enjoy in our neighbourhoods and communities.  It is how the design comes to life not only on the drafting board but in the ground.  Architectural good manners completes the process and is paramount to the streetscape and what connects each family to their neighbourhood.

When we change just one element in the design it creates a domino affect that forces a number of dimensions to change, dimensions that are dependant on each other.

Just think of a rubik’s cube – it may sometimes take hours to get it “just right.” We often refer the rubik cube to the collaboration within the design. It looks deceptively easy, but it takes a skill that combines experience, talent and expertise.

I have had the honour of winning many awards in both Canada and the United States amongst a very talented group of peers and I’m always amazed that my design talent is recognized on both sides of the boarder.

To answer the question: “How long will this take?”  It depends on the number of times we have to go back to the rubik’s cube and solve the puzzle for good design.

What I am able to answer when we first meet?

“Great clients, inspire great houses” and I’ve had the pleasure of working with many wonderful families. 

John Williams
Architectural Designer
Williams Residential Design

Creative inspiration is part of every design and as a veteran in the industry I’ve had my share of moments incorporating elements from various sources.  Travel is one of my greatest inspirations, whether in Italy, Spain, France, the Islands or the United States.  Visiting historical buildings that have stood the test of time is an inspiration not only from a design perspective but in the engineering of the structure.

I often mention that there are many talented craftsmen who bring the design to life but first you need to create a design that combines not only unique visual elements but what I call “good bones for construction.”

We have recently become members of the Institute of Classical Architecture and Art because I’ve reached a point in my career where I’m looking to expand my resources for inspiration. With a membership office in New York City, educational seminars and trips abroad these practical benefits appeal to my sense of inspiration.  I am looking forward to meeting some of my contemporaries who have inspired me over the years as part of the creative process.

I was recently interviewed on the topic of mentorship and inspirational mentors. From my perspective, membership and mentorship go hand in hand.  After 45 years in business, I now have the practical knowledge to pass along to technologists, craftsman and builders on the execution of the “pretty pictures.”

I’m often called to job sites to trouble shoot on projects where the language of good design has been lost between the designer and practical building techniques.  My experience as a developer, contractor and architectural designer combine all of the talents required for seamless execution.

At this stage in my career, mentorship aligns with a responsibility to mentor others in the industry who are willing to learn the techniques that I’ve acquired throughout a lifetime of experience. As we all know, the basics are found in books, but industry experience rounds out our knowledge.

I’m looking forward to my continued journey as both a Mentor and Mentee and meeting those who share my enthusiasm found within the membership of the Institute of Classical Architecture and Art. 

Here’s to a new inspiration!

John Williams
Architectural Designer
Williams Residential Design