What do we design for? Who do we design for? [10]

Clients purchase the outcome not the object.

We design for the experiences you will enjoy in your home once it is finished. Our work isn’t about the object but rather about the outcome. When you hire us, we lead you through an iterative design process to craft the best home to meet your goals, ideas, and needs. The result of our work is not just a house, but rather it is a place for you to enjoy shared experiences, emotions, and memories.

We design for you and your family, your friends and relatives, and all of the people who will call that house home over the years. We design for your children and grandchildren to have a space for play and exploration, a place to learn and grow, a place of belonging and joy. We design to make you feel relaxed, comfortable, and warm. We design to make you feel welcome, safe, and secure. We design for dogs who want a space to lie next to the fire. We design for cats who wander looking for the perfect location to stretch in the sun. We design for you to experience the passing of time through light and shadows moving across the floors and walls, notches on a door frame marking growth, and the changes each season brings to the surrounding landscape.

Although the house itself is an object and of course we want it to be beautiful and functional, it is our job to design for what happens within the house throughout its lifespan; the feeling you have when you return home from a long day at work, the joy of friends gathering for a shared meal, or the relaxation that may wash over you when you escape the city to your weekend getaway. It is these moments that define our work.

We don’t design objects, we design experiences. Architecture isn’t about the physical house. Our work is about what each home will do for you and all the others that will spend time there. The result of our design process is the feelings and experiences you have enjoying life in your new residence with all of your friends, family, and loved ones. These outcomes are what makes us love what we do and what makes the process of design worthwhile.

Who do we design for?

We design for all of the people who will call each house a home. We design for everything that will occupy the space over time. We design for the landscape and the environment that surrounds each home, the ecosystem we are all apart of.

What do we design for?

We design for the emotions, experiences, and memories people will enjoy within our buildings. Our work isn’t about the object but rather the life that happens within what we create.

Although these specific words are residential focused, this idea can be reworked for any project type, be it retail, hotels and resorts, commercial offices, health care, or educational spaces to name a few. People don’t hire us to make buildings, people hire us to create the inspiring spaces within which we experience and enjoy life.

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Things I’m Reading/Listening to

  1. City Of The Future: Talking Streets With New York City Transportation Legend Sam Schwartz
    Discussion about how design and new technology can allow us to better manage street use and create public spaces that are better for all users (not just cars).

  2. Missing Large Housing
    Move over “missing middle” advocates, it’s time to step up the game and advocate for even larger housing projects.

  3. The Japanese Concept ‘Ikigai’ is a Formula for Happiness and Meaning
    So many of us, including myself, are currently reflecting on what is important, what makes us happy, and how our careers should be molded to be more fulfilling, enjoyable, and balanced. This article introduces the Japanese concept of Ikigai and suggests some ways to identify yours.


Book Club

  1. The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don't Work and What to Do About It
    by Michael E. Gerber
    I just finished reading the E-Myth revisited and although it isn’t design/architecture specific, I have to say it strikes a lot of chords with me. I clearly recognize some of the mistakes and patterns from the first firm I started with two partners and it helped identify ways I will approach creating my next venture. I wish I read this 9 years ago when I was just planning on starting my first business, and I think everyone who is running or interested in running a business should read it.

  2. Streetfight: Handbook for an Urban Revolution
    by Janette Sadik-Kahn
    A great read about the fight to transform New York City’s streets from auto centric to multi-modal. This is an excellent story that is relevant far beyond NY and shares successes and tactics that can be implemented anywhere. To have better communities, towns, and cities we need to rethink how streets - probably our biggest public asset - can better serve a wide range of needs.


Design Inspiration

One thing you will learn about me over time, if you don’t know already, is that I love brick architecture. It is amazing how a simple module, despite being centuries old, can be used so creatively to create profoundly contemporary architecture. The York Street Residence designed by Jackson Clements Burrows Architects (JCBA) is a wonderful example of how the manipulation of bricks can create beautiful architecture that speaks to solid vs void, transparency vs opacity, and an integration of architecture and landscape. Follow the link above to see more images and explore their other inspiring design work.


Sharing the love.

This week let’s give a shout out to Iain McKenzie and his website Next Portland. Iain started Next Portland in order to give people an easy place to find information on what projects are are in the pipeline around the city of Portland. In his words:

Next Portland writes about multi-family residential, retail, cultural buildings, educational buildings, hotels and other large projects happening in the City of Portland. We cover both new buildings and major alterations or additions to old buildings. Our blog posts are exclusively written about projects that are either still in the design phase, or are under construction.

One of the best ways to get people more interested and engaged in conversations about the built environment is to make information more accessible. Before Iain launched Next Portland there was no easy way for people to see what was going to be built where. Even architects and developers who work in this space day-to-day would have a hard time finding info - having to search through public records on each specific property. Iain made it accessible through his development map and regular blog posts. He has had a profound impact on his city and I admire his work and dedication.

My challenge to all of you: take the concept of Next Portland and implement it in your town or city. Talk with your government officials and the local building department and make this information easily accessible, searchable, and geo-located on a visual map. Make it easy for everyone to see what projects are being designed and how their city will transform over the years to come. Make architecture, development, and how we build our cities more accessible.

Thank you Iain for all of your hard work and keep it up!


Things I’m Selling

ADU Plans
There are currently 15 designs available and I will be adding more over the coming weeks. There should be a layout that works for almost any need and a range of styles to choose from. If you have ever thought about adding an ADU to your property check out these pre-designed plans to get a head start with your project.

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If you know someone who is considering building an ADU on their property, please share the link to plan store with them.

Book List
Here is a full list of books I recommend, from how to run a better business to design inspiration; books for architecture students to fun reads about the built environment.

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I’m working on creating a list of tools, software, and other design supplies that I recommend. Hopefully I’ll have that ready by the next newsletter publication. Stay tuned.


Check out my design work, my artwork, my photography, and random other things:

Want to schedule a time to talk face to face? I’m interested in building stronger relationships and would love to jump on a video call with anyone who is interested. Use this link to get on my calendar: https://calendly.com/lucasgraydesign/30min


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