You & Your Architect – The Perfect Match
The services of an architect are a worthwhile investment, whether you’re planning a comprehensive remodel or a brand-new structure from scratch. His or her design plan will dictate the ultimate appearance and function of the home. Recently, I sat down with Westport, CT homeowner and past client, Nicole Lombardo, to talk to her about the process of building a custom home. We wanted to understand her experience working with Vita Design Group and Principal Architect Lucien Vita.
Cynthia: Nicole, the decision to design a home should be a fun and exciting process. The relationship between an architect and client is paramount. I am sure your focus was on finding the architect you felt you could trust and bring your design vision to reality. How did you and your husband seek out the right architect for your dream home?
Nicole: It began with a referral of course. A friend had just worked with Lucien and had a great experience. We met with 3 other architects, but my husband and I were instantly drawn to Lucien. He has a very honest and had a calm disposition. It was clear the relationship was going to be collaborative, which was imperative for us.
Cynthia: Once you decided on interviewing VDG, may I ask what Lucien discussed with you in your complimentary initial meeting?
Nicole: He really listened to our goals and provided wonderful ideas to incorporate and enhance them. He discussed the process of building a home aesthetic, including budget, timeline but not in a regimented way, like the other architects. His approach was more about the harmonious relationship between us and him, rather than the details of a contract and billable hours.
Cynthia: The client/architect relationship is a very personal one as the architect will ask you questions regarding, overall lifestyle, your hobbies, how you want to use the space and the aesthetic, as well as other goals you wanted it to satisfy. Did you know that Lucien suited your style, needs and personality after that meeting?
Nicole: 100% He has a quiet confidence, yet a strong artistic vision. He is very flexible and prides himself on understanding his client’s lifestyle and expressing that specifically and aesthetically. My mother who has passed away was an amazing artist and sculptor. I wanted our home to be able to showcase her work and be able to display her sculpture within the space. Lucien was able to channel that vision into creating these amazing sculpture niches throughout the main level. I have this emotional attachment now to the structure of our home, which I love.
Cynthia: After that initial consultation, there is some homework that needs to be done regarding the architect. Did you contact Lucien’s references and tour some of the firm’s past designed homes?
Nicole: Yes, I toured about 4 of VDG’s previous homes and contacted all of his references, which only reinforced our desire to work with him.
Cynthia: There are numerous candidates for you to choose from in the architecture and design field right here in Fairfield County. In the end, what made you decide on selecting Vita Design Group as your architecture firm? Did you feel they specialized in the style or type of home you wanted to build? Or did you feel they had experience with projects similar to the one you were envisioning?
Nicole: Lucien is a great listener. His personal style was where I wanted the design to go. He understood my unique request to create experiences within our home for sculpture.
Cynthia: The process of gathering building permits can make homeowners nervous. Did you feel VDG represented and advocated for you during the construction process? (This would include representing you at municipal meetings for permitting, during the bidding process and through regular site visits conducted pre-construction through project close out.)
Nicole: Yes, I have to say I really was not aware of any of these construction process meetings/issues if any. Lucien and our builder handled all of them as a team and I was able to focus on the part I enjoyed most, the finish selections, tile and fixtures.
Cynthia: After receiving your input about the project, the architects are able to bring your vision to life as 3-D design. Did you appreciate that VDG was able to show you your home design not only in drawing form, but also in 3-D, as it allowed you to walk through your project room by room before even approving any specs or designs?
Nicole: Absolutely, especially with our #1 goal to showcase 3-D sculpture. This approach helped me visualize the space and especially the areas nearest and dearest to me.
Cynthia: We believe the success of a project comes in the continuity of architectural design vision between the exterior as well as interior. Do you feel Lucien carried creative detail and finish selection from one space to the next in your home design? Do you have a favorite architectural detail that you feel enhances your home experience?
Nicole: Yes he did, especially with the use of steel elements throughout the home. I would have to say the steel is my favorite detail. I love that the design echoes Soho loft meets New England. The steel I-beams are used as a modern industrial interpretation of crown trim, which tie into two steel-framed columns at the center of the main living space. They serve as custom light-boxes to display my mother’s art!. Steel details are carried through to the fireplace where the mantle (an inverted steel channel) wraps fully around the chimney to the exterior (where he created another fireplace) and the list goes on. I often sit at my dining room table, look around and am still surprised at Lucien’s innovative application of the steel.
Cynthia: I can’t thank you enough for your time and candid interview Nicole. I hope you know your home feels like home to us too.
Ultimately, you want to find the architect who’s right for your situation, for your budget and for you. The architect advocates for the owner and ensures the investment in the construction documents and final design is realized. We enjoy working with our clients and designing their home from concept through completion. We feel honored to have listened to your ideas and to have put those ideas into a custom home that is not only beautiful but functional for your lifestyle.