HGTV… To many of us residential architects, that’s a four letter word. Promoting unrealistic expectations for most projects regarding time, quality and budget, HGTV has made our tough job as architects even more difficult.
This week’s guest is a successful residential architect serving the southeastern region of Michigan. One day, about a year before we recorded this episode, she received a mysterious telephone call, which lead to her being the lead architect for the most recent HGTV Urban Oasis giveaway home.
She shares the story of her experience of being on the inside at a HGTV project, how she landed the job and her quest to be a faithful representative of us small firm architects.
This week at EntreArchitect Podcast, An Architect on the Inside at HGTV with the founder of Studio Z Architecture, Dawn Zuber.
An “Architect” Since She Was 11 Years Old: )
When Dawn was five, her grandparents moved to Florida from Ohio and they moved back when she was 11. They bought a house that worked for where they were, but they didn’t love it. Dawn, her mom and her grandma would visit open houses every weekend and she would collect the fliers in a folder. She began to redesign them and think about how to fit things into the spaces she saw.
In high school, Dawn found herself lucky to have an art teacher who was from a generation that told her she could be a nurse or a teacher, but had a passion for architecture. During her junior year, they spent time looking at slides of homes to learn how to identify the different styles of architecture. When a pipe burst in the gymnasium floor, her drafting teacher invited her to use his drafting table and machine to draw up the painting of the gym floor so that the art students could transpose it onto the floor.
After spending a semester in London and graduating from University of Cincinnati, she met her future husband. In a five-month period, she got married, took the architecture license exam, and moved to southeastern Michigan. There she worked for a small firm that did mostly custom residential, and then moved to another company who did office and school buildings.
How did you find your way to leadership with CRAN?
Dawn was with CRAN (Custom Residential Architects Network) when they first started in Los Angeles almost 15 years ago at a pre-convention workshop about residential architecture. CRAN is a Knowledge Community that started as a grassroots movement allowing members to organize around specific interest areas, and eventually brought the idea to AIA. She’s been involved in the advisory group since 2009.
How is the CRAN symposium organized?
Typically the event is 3 days that starts with a home tour and includes cocktail receptions almost every evening and sponsor-hosted networking dinners. There are educational sessions and sponsor showcases for residential architects, and the event is also streamed online via Houzz and available on AIAU for people to watch later for credit. Everyone that attends is on the same track and enjoys the same experience, so it’s a great opportunity to connect with a network of support for residential architects.
Tell us about your experience with HGVT.
Dawn received a voicemail from a contractor who wanted her help designing a house in Ann Arbor. With her busy schedule, she pushed it aside and planned to call him later. Days later, a friend encouraged her to call him back saying, “If you’re really busy, it’s fine. You should call him back…you won’t regret it“. She met the contractor the next day for 30 minutes and made some jokes about salvaging the 1970s wallpaper, and was hired the next day to complete the project. Then she was let into the secrecy of the project. It took her some time to understand what they wanted to do, the great need for secrecy, the whole process and the speed of how quickly things would unfold. In the span of five weeks she completed several months’ worth of work to meet each deadline; she measured, did the as-builts, nailed down the design and completed construction drawings. Dawn did her best to represent residential architects, reminding those she worked with that HGVT often tends not to mention how much things cost and how long projects actually take.
What is your experience with Houzz?
Dawn is a Houzz Pro-Plus user, which provides a lot of support and help to create a strong profile. If you’re investing in Houzz as a tool for marketing, it’s probably a wise choice.
What is the one thing that small firm architects can do today to build a better business tomorrow?
“Get involved in whatever you choose to get involved in. CRAN is a great opportunity for people to meet other architects who do what they do. That network is wonderful for people to connect with others they can work with and ask questions to. Being involved is a great way to get leads and find teammates for projects.” – Dawn Zuber, AIA
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Referenced in this Episode