Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Choosing the Right Architect for your Home

The Clawson Difference - 

Business and Sales Coaches often ask:
" What is the Value Proposition?...
"What is it that you bring to the table?"
"What is it that you do that is different?"

While Clawson Architects has a portfolio of Beautiful Projects: New Homes, Renovations and Addition Success can be difficult for the home owner searching for an architects to discern why Clawson Architects may be the best choice for them.

So what is the Difference?  Below is our

Value Proposition

Feature: Clawson Architects has evidence that their client’s homes receive both post construction appraisals and post construction sales with between 22% and 200% Return on their Investment.
Advantage:  Your investment in proper drawings and a thoughtful design by Clawson Architects will reap you financial rewards.
Benefit: You will love how the light shines on the faces of your family and friends when they enter the room.  You will feel comfortable and joyful as you take in the views created by our thoughtful placement of windows into the landscape.  Your daily life will be easier as we will have addressed your lifestyle... and in the end...if you decide to sell the family home, you will realize the financial benefits of building something that was thoughtful and enduring.

Marvin during an initial sketching session "adding curb appeal"

Feature: Marvin has the ability to draw on demand to scale often upside down.(to make it easier for the clients to follow his thought process and ideas)
Advantage: This allows Marvin to explore many concepts with the owners quickly to get to a solution that resonates with them.
Benefits: The owners are seeing the possibilities in real time.  They are seeing their ideas incorporated as he listens and draws with them.  There is no time wasted with the architect going back to the office getting on their computer and dreaming up schemes without the feedback of the end user. No sitting around and waiting to see if the architect understood what you wanted. Our clients are seeing perspectives and details  explained with three dimensional free hand drawings on the spot.  This same process is used in the field if there are unforeseen conditions that need to be addressed.  A meeting is held and Marvin whips out his magic pencil and begins to problem solve and communicate/share the possible solutions as the owner, contractor and architect work together to resolve the issues.

Feature: We have extensive experience and knowledge of period home construction, renovations and additions.
Advantage: With over 450 built projects and counting, we are not learning on your job. When you work with Clawson Architects, and allow them to follow their tried and true process, you are harnessing the power of our over 30 years each of High End Residential experience and connections in the industry.  You will have the attention of the partners and their very qualified supporting team.
Benefit:  You will not have to worry.  We have the experience necessary for you project to be successful, creating a home with you that tells the story of your life with details that matter, are enduring and authentically represent your life and your needs and bring you joy.

However from a purely numbers point of view, when looking at the Return on Investment (ROI) Just one more reason to consider Clawson Architects as your Architect in a time when you need an investment you can count on.

So, Thanks again for considering  Clawson Architects, now let's get to work creating something of beauty and value for you!  Give us a call 973-313-2724

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Dining Room Celebrations....Table Sizes, Room Sizes and Number of Guests to be seated

Changing Seasons…Homecoming, Fall Harvest, Family Gatherings and Fire Prevention Month…What does this mean for the Architect and Interior Designer in me and to you the Home Owner.

The kids are back to school, the air has a bit of chill in the morning and I am starting to see some color on the leaves. So it is only right that I should see the overflow of magazines in the mail all with beautiful warm settings for welcoming friends and family to gather around and take part in the Harvest Bounty. There are candle lit tables, jack-o-lanterns and lots and lots of cooking being discussed in these product magazines and on line. It is no accident that this is the retail season for Tables and Table Settings when it comes what is on the shelves in the stores right now. Fall is Celebrating the Harvest with Cooking, Dining Room Sets and Table Settings.

NYC Upper East Side Dining Room by Clawson Architects
From the dishes to dining room tables the stores are trying to sell a gracious lifestyle. They offer new ideas along side their products on how to add a little something extra to your apple pie with this pretty new pie pan or a Roasting Pan with “how to Turkey 101”. You are reassured that if you just buy their table and wares you will become the best entertainer that ever was. Your family members will gather with smiles bringing you the most thoughtful hostess gifts (also available in their stores) beautifully dressed and very good looking too. However, very few articles ever address the challenges of the season like enough room at that table, or how many people can actually gather to eat at that table.

So some tips for the Season and what will fit….
Table Sizes and Shapes & Other Things Considered: 
The Chair backs are high and the ceiling is low in the tradition of Frank Lloyd Wright centering the attention in on the Table and the conversations.
The Room:
The smallest dining room size of any use is:
 12 feet by 12 feet and will accommodate six nicely and eight if your friends and the table expands.

To insure good conversation and easy passing, tables that are rectangular in shape and about 36” wide work the best.

Round tables are great especially if you are into being equal as there is no “Head” of the table. A 48 inch round table seats six. A 60 inch round table seats eight to ten depending on the style of the chairs used. The bigger the round table and depending on how that table expands, the more you may want to consider a “lazy susan” for the center of the table or setting a buffet. If the table becomes an oblong shape you can typically squeeze folks a little closer around the end as the “head” of the table is not as predominate.

This Dining Room was designed by Clawson Architects with flexibility in mind.  See one of the alternate entertainment setting below (White Table Cloth)
When looking at tables that extend, take the time to analyze weather or not you really get more seating. In some cases, the legs from the table interfere with the seating and additional settings are not actually gained. Consider a Pedestal base to avoid this. Often the table is featured in the store and catalogs with chairs on the end when if fact there is no over hang or the table is too narrow to have guests on both sides and someone sitting on each end. For a table to have a seat at the ends it often must we wider than the 36 “ as the depth of the table will take up the place settings on both sides. Don’t be afraid to try things out. Get some blue painter's tape and mark out the table on your floor. Take place mats to the store with you or grab some of theirs and put them around on your prospective table. Keep in mind that to be able to walk around someone that is seated at the table you will need 42” clear from the edge of the table to the wall, 48” is more gracious and means no one has to turn sideways or scoot in.

Lighting really sets the tone. If you are installing an overhead fixture consider the following:

The Multiple lights hung closer to the ceiling gives the room more flexibility for entertaining
Do you ever entertain and move the dining room table to the side? If so, you may want to make sure that the fixture is retractable or hung high enough that your taller guests don’t hit their head on it. If you never plan to move the table or have a standing cocktail style party, it should be installed so that the bottom is 36” off the table surface. Wondering how big the fixture should be, add the length and width of the room together and then exchange the word feet with inches and the diameter of the fixture should be in inches. (i.e. 14 feet + 18 feet = 32 feet so your fixture should be 32inches in diameter.  And always choose to have the fixtures on a dimmer switch. 
Candles are a great way to set  light, decorate and add glamour to any event. Using glass chimneys to them will keep them a little safer …just keep in mind that with all the cooking, entertaining with candles and a fires in the fireplace it is no accident that the National Fire Protection Association has made the Fall "Fire Prevention Awareness Season"….humm.

So Celebrate.
Enjoy the season and the feasts and channel your best Martha whether you are the host or the guest.

For more guidelines and considerations about buying wood dining room tables check out the Amish Direct Furniture web site. They offer diagrams and information about the construction of quality furniture and even more things to consider.

Now I need to get back to work helping clients with those final details on their newly designed Clawson Kitchen as they have all graciously offered to host their Family's Holidays.

....oh! one more thing ...change your batteries in your smoke detectors!!! actually two and keep those gutters clear  oh wait...and have your chimney cleaned so you are ready for the cold.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Press Release: Clawson Architects Awarded Silver and Gold AIA Medals--

Press release                             
For immediate release                                                             
Clawson Architects awarded medals
for residential design excellence
by peers at 20th annual architectural awards
20th Anniversary Celebration
AIA Newark and Suburban
Design Awards 2013
The purpose to honor design excellence.
MORRISTOWN, NJ – Clawson Architects, LLC was awarded both a Gold and a Silver medal for design achievements from the American Institute of Architects regional chapter. The Newark Suburban Chapter awarded the Maplewood-based firm the only awards this year for outstanding residential design.
In this regional competition, 14 firms submitted multiple entries in four specific categories. The jury awarded a total of seven medals this year, five in non-residential design categories and two in residential design categories. And unlike many competitions, the jury reserved the right to not present any awards if the entries to did not meet strict criteria. The gold and silver medal projects from Clawson Architects were awarded in the “Residential Interior or Feature Element” category.
The AIA chapter presented the Gold Medal award for the Clawson firm’s design of the “Stair Hall "  The jury’s notes specified the “Stunning transformation and elegant lines.” The home was not a mere renovation but more of a re-invisioned “creation”.  The stairs and detail did not exist and are part of a project that included renovations, alterations and an addition. The home is located in Ridgewood, New Jersey.
The AIA chapter presented the Silver Medal award for the Clawson firm’s design of the “Nussbaum pool pavilion.” The jury’s notes specified the “restraint and sophistication of the design.” The pool pavilion is a new construction project located in Short Hills, NJ.

Marvin Clawson, the lead designer on the award-winning projects, said, “Our profession is about creating beautiful spaces that inspire and exceed the client’s expectations. And when our colleagues recognize our work for design excellence, well, that something to celebrate!”
 The Newark Suburban chapter of the AIA presented the awards on Oct. 17, 2013 at a special evening
awards dinner at the Morris Museum in Morristown, NJ. It was the organization’s 20th annual awards event. AIA members, sponsors and guests were able to view project boards from the competition, while enjoying food, refreshments and camaraderie.
The sponsors of the event included L’Abbate, Balkan, Colavita & Contini, LLP, Pella Windows & Doors, Microsol Resources
The jurors for the event included:
Claire Weisz, AIA is a founding partner of WXY architecture and urban design, a New York City-based firm.
Hugh H. Trumbull III, AIA is a senior design principal with Kohn Peterson Fox.
Stuart Disston, AIA, LEED GA is a partner in Austin Patterson Disston, specializing in residential design based in Quogue, N.Y. and Southport, CT.
Jack A. Purvis, AIA, principal at the firm that bears his name in Allenwood, NJ,, and is the 2013 President of AIA New Jersey.
Clawson Architects, LLC guides individuals who value design and appreciate the journey through the process of creating and transforming their space so that it intimately and authentically reflects their needs and aesthetic preferences. The results are spaces that delight the owner while providing enduring value beyond their investment. As Architects and business leaders, we value a good investment and believe that an investment in the design of a space is an investment worth making. Clawson Architects, LLC is a full-service high-end residential architecture and interior design firm. Principals at the firm are
Marvin Clawson, AIA, CID and NCARB, 
Rene´ Clawson, AIA, CID, LEED, AP, BD+C, CID
For more information about the events or
other award recipients contact:
Julie Pagnotta, Section Administrator:

The American Institute of Architects visit–

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Hiring the Perfect Contractor for the Job: Finding "Mr. Right" -The search for the perfect contractor.

I guess you could say “I grew up in the Business.” My great grandfather was a developer in Pittsburgh after World War II. My paternal grandfather was a union carpenter and worked his way up to Construction Superintendent on large jobs like the Watergate in Washington DC. My father took the path of higher education and became a Professional Engineer and worked in Construction Contract Management for big projects like the New Library of Congress, it is not so new anymore. Construction talk was dinner conversation most evenings. The epic stories are the ones of major mishaps.
Now as an Architect (the only one to carry on in the “family business”), not a day goes by that I don’t talk to a contractor. Clients and friends who are renovating their homes always want to know who my favorite contractor is. Well, I must qualify that …I have never met a contractor that I wouldn’t get a drink with…they are in general light hearted guys that know how to have a good time. But just like finding “Mr. Right” …you would not necessarily want to enter into an “until death/built do we part” agreement.
So, my experiences have taught me to:

1. Get recommendations and references from each Contractor
  • a. Call the references
  • b. Verify that the work done by the contractor is similar in scope to what you are    planning to do.
  • c. One reference is not enough…
2. Ask the reference how they know the Contractor
  • a. Be specific and ask are they family? Are they related to the contractor?
  • b. Would they hire the contractor or their sub-contractors again?
  • c. What was the scope of their project.
  • d. Did the contractor meet the schedule.
  • e. How did the contractor comunicate with them--email, phone, notes in person?
  • f.  Did you work with an Architect? Did the contractor follow the drawings?
3. Ask to visit two jobs similar in scope that they have completed.
  • a. Make sure the client is going to be there, and verify that this contractor did the work that you are looking at. I have personally been shown very impressive projects where the contractor made it out that he had built the entire house.  Investigations into the initial permitt at the building department showed that the house was built by others.  He was a past employee of the company.
  • b. Look at where materials change/meet. That may tell you what type of craftsman they are. It could also be the fact that they did or did not work with an architect on the detail…so ask.
4. Check the Recommendations and Complaint Records
  • a. Better Business Bureau
  • b. Local “Online” Sites
5. Licensing, Registrations, EPA Lead Safe Certification and Insurance
  • a. Call and verify that all of the documents are originals an currently active, don’t accept a certificate as proof before you sign a contract.
  • b. Call your Insurance Agent and see if you require an additional rider on your Homeowner’s policy during construction.
6. Beware of a contractor that wants you to…
  • a. File for permits yourself.
  • b. Or one that tells you that he can “do it” without a building permit.
  • c. Pay in cash or will not allow you to retain 10% of the costs until you have a Certificate of Occupancy as required by law in New Jersey and stated on the Building Permit.  Wants you to pay the subs directly.

Often, once I know more about you and your project I am a better Match Maker. Personality does play a huge role in matching clients up with Mr. Right. So, once you have found “Mr. Right”…it is time to get engaged…We will go over getting the right pre-nuptials next time. Until then to learn more about How to work with an Architect or the process of getting the right construction documents—your contract with the contractor for that big day, visit

Contracts and Contractors: "Pre-nuptials" - Your Contract with the Contractor

"Pre-nuptials"-- Your Contract with the Contractor

When it comes to Renovations, Alterations, Additions or Building a New House, the best endings are “…And They Lived Happily Ever After”. The best way to get to “Happily Ever After” is to clearly and concisely define expectations and to make sure that your expectations are in alignment with that of Mr. Right, the Contractor, before you say “I do”.
The best way to do this is have a Contract. When doing a residential project, you really need a set of Construction Documents, which are Architectural Design Drawings and Specifications that communicate your expectations to the Contractor. I recommend this approach even if you are “just remodeling your powder room”.
The Architectural Drawings may include the following:
  1. A survey of the site showing the footprint of your house and any additions.
  2. Existing conditions drawings that represent your “as-built” house.
  3. A Scope of Work defined in words and drawings.
  4. Demolition plans if the project is a renovation.
  5. Dimensioned floor plans, elevations, reflected ceiling plans illustrating the Scope of Work.
  6. Wall Sections and Construction Details are technical drawings required by the Building Department that provide information pertaining to the structural, environmental and other components of the house.
  7. Electrical Plans that specify and locate: Lighting Fixtures, Electrical Receptacles, Lighting Switches and Dimmers, Smoke Detectors and Carbon Monoxide Detectors, as required by code.
  8. Structural Drawings representing the foundation and framing of the house.
  9. Mechanical Systems Drawings that specify systems and coordinate locations, color, size and models for Supply and Return Registers as well as, Radiators and Thermostats.
  10. Plumbing and Gas Riser Diagrams. These are single line drawings that schematically represent the fixtures and fittings for each system.
  11. Details for the project that articulate what will happen where two materials come together.
  12. Material Specifications. Larger projects have specifications in book form. Smaller projects can simply incorporate the material and fixture selections by notes on the drawings.
  13. A Professional Seal from an Architect and or Engineer certifying and insuring that the drawings and calculations are correct and meet National, State and Local Building Codes.
Additional concerns to discuss and include in your contract are:
  1. Schedule for the work and hours of work permitted by your Township.
  2. Emergency Contact Numbers for Contractor
  3. A Payment Schedule clearly showing milestones for the project and the corresponding payments.
If you plan to live in a home that is being renovated,
  1. Notification prior to electrical, water and heating shut downs and Temporary service if more than one day.
  2. Protection of areas not in scope of work. Especially dust migration.
  3. Introduction to the Contractor’s superintendent. They will be your daily contact on the job.
  4. Schedule for weekly progress meetings.
The drawings and specifications serve as Construction Documents and appear as an “Exhibit” to the formal Contract between the Client and the Contractor. By defining your expectations in the Construction Documents, you are:
  1. Clearly defining the desired scope of work.
  2. Protecting the investment in your house.
  3. Protecting the structural and material integrity of your house.
  4. Minimizing the length of time that you will spend “working on your project”.
Following the process described above provides you with a precedent for a successful project. It is a less stressful and more enjoyable approach to an once-in-a-lifetime experience for most.
If you get handed a one to two page document that does not reference the Construction Documents by title and date of issue, overlooks the construction schedule and focuses only a payment schedule, think twice.
Because when we are talking about your house…there is only one good ending and that is Happily Ever After.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Architects...What do they really do? Careers in Architecture

I recently entered into a casual discussion with an acquaintance who happens to be an editor from the New York Times...she confessed, "I don't know if I ever told you but I always wanted to be an Architect....but my parents made me take typing instead of drafting in High School." 

While an entertainment channel did a montage recently of celebrities answering the question "If you could be anything what would you be resulted in 50 or so people saying "Architect," "Architect," "Architect," "Architect," "Architect," "Architect," "Architect," "Architect,"
"Teacher," "Architect,""Architect," "Architect,"
"Architect," "Architect," "Architect," "Architect," "Architect," "Architect," "Architect," "Teacher," "Architect,""Architect," and the men have been named the sexiest professionals, I think many are confused about what we really do.

Some of the myths and mystique revolve around what we do and wear.  It seems that we all wear black, cool glasses and point at cool drawings and models.  But it has became clear to me that being an Architect is much like being a writer/editor --we are three dimensional storytellers. 

I thought about how many people are calling me because they saw my portfolio on Houzz and they love what they are seeing.  I visit with potential clients and they have print outs from the site or cuttings from a magazine and they tell me about how they are trying to create what is in the picture.  First and foremost it is like trying to get the look of the person on the cover of a fashion magazine.  These images have fancy lighting, they are staged and they have been photo shopped.  What I believe people are responding to is the story that is being told...the problem is that it is not "their story". 

Successful architecture tells a story of its occupants and the site.  Much like a good story has a hero and a context that support the plot, successful spaces are created when the Architect understands the setting and the client and how they are going to move in and around the space and how they live and work.  Trying to copy an image you see online might give you a look, but if you want that space to make you feel good like your favorite pajamas or an old leather jacket, the space needs to tell the story of you.  Not the story of a famous designer ...but the story of you.  It should be tailored/edited to meet your living style and needs and should have your voice. 
I like to think the reason people are drawn to the images in our portfolio is because they like the stories that being told and they want us to help them tell theirs.  A good Architect will help you find your voice.  They will listen to your stories about your life and how you work and play, what your interests are and help you write the story of you in 3D.

Many people don't know this either...if you want to be an Architect, you don't have to take High School Drafting.  You don't even have to have to be really great at Math.  What you do have to have is the ability to conceptualize, draw and tell a good story. 

Monday, September 10, 2012

Architects depend on the "Referral Machine"--oiled best by satisfied clients. Glowing Referrals for Clawson Architects

Architects are typically working themselves out of a job.  Repeat clients exist, however; our typical clients are building their dream house/addition and there is only one dream that can be realized.  We have found that our best clients come from the Referral Machine-- satisfied clients.  These potential clients have been referred by someone that has worked with us and the they value the experience based opinion of their friend and or colleague that has a first hand experience with Clawson Architects.

The team at Clawson Architects works hard to exceed the expectations of their client and while we hear that our client love their spaces and are happy,  nothing, absolutely nothing, beats reading a review that articulates everything that you have been working to deliver.  Yesterday, I was overwhelmed by a review posted on by a past client of Clawson Architects.

If you have ever wondered if you need an Architect, the benefit of using an Architect or what the experience might be like check this review out.... two years later they are still thrilled... AND SO ARE WE!

"We hired Clawson Architects to do a major rennovation of our 1910 house, involving a completely new kitchen and family room, plus a new second floor hall full bathroom.

Why hire an architect?
When money is tight, you might be tempted to “skip” the architect and just hire a builder directly. In our opinion, this is a mistake. It can mean the difference between getting a space that’s merely adequate versus one you’ll truly love.

Why hire the Clawsons?
Drawing skills.
Marvin Clawson’s extraordinary drawing skills saved us time and money. He stood in our old kitchen and quickly sketched different ways of arranging windows, doors, cabinets, hallways. He showed us, in correct perspective, how our kitchen would appear looking down a paneled hallway. He drew three-quarter-views, cutaway views, views as if we were looking through floors and walls, etc. Believe it or not, these days, almost no architects can do this. CAD (computer aided design) drawings, which his office also does, have their place, but the turn-around time is necessarily much slower than Clawson’s instantaneous vision.
The result of Clawson’s old-fashioned drawing ability is better communication between architect and client. We could really see how his ideas, and ours, would look. This helped us rule some things in or out immediately. It also made it easier for him to see what we cared about most. As a result, we made faster, better decisions that we stayed happy with.

Good period design.
The day of the cookie-cutter McMansion is over. The Clawsons are experts at increasing the feeling of light and usable space in your home without needlessly over-building. Our kitchen feels bigger than it is because it is well thought out. The Clawsons know how to incorporate period details that made our house more charming and functional. Our 1910 house got a “milk window” and a laundry chute.

Knowledge that means quality and savings.
The Clawsons’ deep knowledge of materials, and sources helped us achieve a high-end look on a budget. Jane had her heart set on a stone sink like ones she had seen in European farmhouses, but was dismayed by the high price of such items. Thanks to Marvin Clawson, we got a custom-made sink made of native limestone at a fraction of the cost.

The contractors recommended by the Clawsons were a pleasure to work with – Scrupulously punctual, neat and highly skilled. They delivered a high-quality result well before the deadline.

In the 2+ years since the job was completed, we have been super-happy with the result. Seems like we spend most of our time in there! It's a beautiful bright sunny room all day and all year long. It's hard to imagine a better outcome.

We whole-heartedly recommend Clawson Architects LLC! "

Does it get any better than this?  Thanks Jane and John...we loved working with you too.

To see more reviews check out Clawson Architects on