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Choosing the Right Architect: An Interview with Pat Leitzen-Fye of Christopher Fye + Associates

By Pat Leitzen-Fye

Tell us a little bit about your company and its foundation.

We are a small, generalist firm, celebrating our 27th year in operation. As a generalist firm, we work on a wide variety of projects from residential to commercial to historic preservation, and more.

Our body of work tends to split pretty evenly between commercial and residential projects and we particularly enjoy working with individuals and families to help them create and enjoy their dream home. A large percentage of our residential work has been in addition and remodeling. We are true experts when it comes to designing the best possible spaces for an existing home that honors and complements the home, provides optimum functionality and focuses on energy efficiency while also being pleasing to the eye.

In your opinion, what are three qualities that every architect should possess?

Honesty.
Creativity.
Excellent communication skills- the ability to listen as well as speak, and to transform clients needs and desires into a living, breathing space.
Bonus: A sense of humor!

As an architect, how do you make sure you're understanding of what your client wants?

Clear communication is key- whether in direct conversation, by telephone, or in email communications. We start residential projects by assessing the needs of the client, and the budget, and encourage them to review carefully those needs in relationship to their budget and the real costs (and return on investment) in order to provide the best possible results. We try to help clients define "must haves", "would-likes" and "gold plates" as a guideline for the spaces, functions, and finishes of their home.

We return always to the tried and true design process of schematic design through construction observation, along with a designated timeline, to flesh out, verify, and understand client's needs while also providing design insights and advice based on our knowledge and expertise.

What are at least three questions every homeowner should ask their architect before hiring them?

What's your design philosophy?

Ask to see a portfolio of work, which could be accomplished by a view of the firm's website, though many firms are not as good at web management as they could be!

Who are your references?

Seek to discover the architect's/firm's "personality". In addition to design skills, you want to be sure your architect is someone you want to do business with- someone with whom you can share your heart's desires, express your concerns, and feel comfortable in a long-term relationship. Designing a home or and addition/remodeling can be a lengthy experience. You'll want that experience to be fun, educational, and ultimately, beautifully satisfying.

What is your philosophy behind creating dynamic, yet practical homes for your clients?

Listen first, design second; listen again, tweak design accordingly; listen some more, and advise; listen, confirm, and unveil. Dynamism is a subjective term, open to many interpretations. We try to zero in on the client's needs and the way they live in their homes to design spaces that work for them, now and in the future, and serve them practically, from the maintenance, energy use, and long-term use standpoint.

What are a few minor building renovations that can really improve the appearance of my home?

Improving appearance is one thing; improving function is quite another. For appearance, it's often as "easy" as redesigning the entrance- adding a beautiful front door or a gracious and welcoming front porch. Installing new windows that honor the home's history and design is also a great enhancement. Constructing an addition to better serve the functions of the inhabitants is key to appearance in that an addition must be designed in such a way as to allow one to believe it's always been there, it "fits" and doesn't appear jarring or ill-planned. Conversely, one could make a "statement" by purposely designing an addition that is quite different from an original home while still complementing the original.

What's the best way for people to get in contact with you or your company?

Online: www.fyearch.com. You can email us directly through our website. We're also on Facebook at www.facebook.com/fyearchitectsfreeport.
We can be reached by phone, 815.233.2215

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