Monday, September 18, 2017

THE DREAM JOB-- On Time, Under Budget, Great Design

* Schedule  *  Budget * Design *  

...pick two the industry has taught us....

Yet as two architects, specialized in high end residential renovations and additions, with over 30 years of experience and over 450 built projects, we believe we are in control!  And, like our clients we are determined to beat the odds and  have it all! 

We are living in our house while they do the work, and our trusted and experienced contractor --will not give us a schedule other than "don't worry I will go fast,"  he tells us. While we would never recommend this approach to our clients, and scoff at the idea of no schedule. Our ten years history of working together, we know he is very fast as well as a man of his word. 

In an effort to keep our lives as normal as possible, the contractor has not had us pack up the kitchen yet. We offered to do a partial clearing of the back area right away as there was a way to put up a temporary partition giving him more room to work and still leaving us with a usable kitchen. He insisted it was not necessary and he would let us know when.

This contractor moves fast.  His experience based on our collegial working relationship and our attentiveness to our clients needs is that we are responsive and that we move fast too. 

Tuesday morning the contractor flagged us down as we were leaving for work in the morning. The day ahead was scheduled full of meetings and commitments. When I heard the words needs to be emptied out by tomorrow.  

Now slightly overwhelmed with a task we had not scheduled for that day, we told each other it would be fine. I offered to skip a board meeting but Marvin reminded me a commitment is a commitment and we would divide and conquer ---a bottle of wine and the task before us beginning when I returned after 10 pm from the Board meeting. 

Total boxes fill that night including Utility closet in Powder room...21
Together we took turns stepping up on the chair and handing down the finding. From the kids elementary school pottery projects to grandmas cream and sugar set to the wedding gifts created by artist friends. The bulletin board with the stacked certificates, graduation tassel and tickets as  memorabilia, friends well crafted party invitations and baby announcements we couldn't bear to part has all been taken down. 

The memories from 20 years of living in our first house have been sweet.  Sharing wine, memories and laughter as we patted each other on the back for what we have built together and what we are building now we paused... and joked.... and reminded each other that our life has never been...
 on our schedule, 
our budget 
or completely by our design!
And we reflected on how it's all worked out beautifully.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Clawson Architects awarded Gold medal for design excellence by peers at 22nd annual architectural awards

Clawson Architects awarded Gold medal  
for design excellence by peers 
at 22nd annual architectural awards 
September 15, 2017
Michael Graves School of Public Architecture, Kean University, Elizabeth, NJ – Clawson Architects, LLC, of Maplewood, New Jersey, received a Gold medal for design achievements from the American Institute of Architects regional chapter. The Newark Suburban Chapter awarded the Maplewood-based firm the award this year for outstanding residential architectural design element.
In this regional competition, firms submitted multiple entries in five specific categories. The jury awarded medals in five 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 medal project from Clawson Architects was awarded in the “Residential Interior or Feature Element” category.

The AIA chapters presented the Gold medal award for the Clawson firm’s design of the “Hill Top Barn in Summit, NJ” The jury noted that Clawson Architects, “consistently turns out beautiful work.”

Marvin Clawson, AIA, NCARB, ASID, CID together with Michael DiGeronimo, AIA, AICP, PP, were the designers on the award-winning project. While the Clawson Team points out that the entire estate was a pleasure to design, they made the conscious decision to submit only the barn, noting the unique design challenge of having to address this necessary and utilitarian structure that was not only visible from the stately main house but very close in proximity as well. The solution was to make it an element within the landscape that anchors the property with a subtle presence.
Marvin E. Clawson
Michael DiGeronimo

“So often, it is the over the top, remote houses set into a majestic landscape that take the prize and while they are certainly something to behold, it is rewarding to have peer recognition that recognizes the skill to create something that is humble and blends into the surroundings.” Said Clawson Firm Principal Architect and co-founder M. Rene Clawson, AIA, LEED AP, CID.
M. Rene Clawson
The Newark Suburban chapter of the AIA presented the awards on September 14, 2017 at a special evening awards dinner at the Michael Graves School of Architecture at Kean University. It was the organization’s 22nd annual awards event. AIA members, sponsors and guests were able to view project boards from the competition, while enjoying refreshments and camaraderie. Sponsors of the event included: Trukmann’s Reprographics, Pella Windows, Structural Workshop, LLC, Andersen Windows and Doors, Benjamin Moore Paints, Clawson Cabinets and KSI Engineers.

The jurors for the event included:
David Mohney FAIA, Dean of the Michael Graves College School of Public Architecture; 
Dean P. Marchetto FAIA, PP, Founding Principal of Marchetto Higgins Stieve
Pamela Lucas Rew, FAIA, Partner KSS Architects

Clawson Architects is known for taking on challenging residential design projects and developing creative, smart solutions that delight clients.  Elegant, period-specific details and contemporary amenities meld in a space that transcends far beyond “a box on the back of your house” to become architecture for the ages. The enthusiastic Clawson Architects team collaborates with you in a design process you’ll never forget.  Clawson Architects, LLC is a full-service architecture and interior design firm. Principals at the firm are Marvin Clawson, AIA, NCARB, ASID, CID and Mary Rene´ Clawson, AIA, LEED, AP, CID.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Old Habits, Muscle Memory, Solid Foundations and Strong Relationships

The back porch came off.  You can see it is gone, and the sun shines directly into the living room now with no porch roof to shield the direct southern light.  That, however, has not stopped me from walking to the back door with dinner for the grill.  Old habits die hard—lucky for me, there is a neon board and yellow CAUTION tape to remind me.   

The demo was quick and followed by the digger breaking ground. 

It really is hard to fathom just how much dirt gets excavated.  There were two dumpsters in the driveway one for building materials and the other for dirt.  They hauled off two dumpsters of dirt and then the part came where we needed to save some for the back fill.  There was a well thought out plan to fill yet another dumpster and work to preserve as much of the lawn as possible.  The Contractor is very aware that he is working in “Marvin’s Garden” and yet he was forced to choose.  In an effort to preserve a weeping red bud –a unique specimen, the contractor had to pile the dirt on the lawn.  He was unable maneuver between the hole he was digging and the tree we are saving.   I am not certain any tears were shed, however, I am certain that Marvin the gardener was working hard to stay composed.

Discovery:  Our 96 something year old home has no footings....but great muscle is still standing…and really never showed any signs of forgetting how to stand.  For all the homes we have worked on, you can typically observe some cracking or sagging that would indicate that the area was not supported correctly and we anticipate the need for some additional structure.  Not here.  It came as a bit of a surprise.

Our experience and solid relationships with our consultants had us verifying the condition with our structural engineer as soon as it was exposed.  He dropped by and created a sketch for the contractor for underpinning the existing structure and we have moved forward and corrective measures are taking place. 

End of first week –   footing inspection called for and the beginning of one of the many hurry up and wait scenarios was upon us.  The inspection times are typically within 72 hours of the call and they will come between 10 am and 1:30 pm.

Success: They came, at 10:30 am, they observed, we passed! Now the big wait. It was Friday. Not knowing if we would be closer to the 10 am inspection slot or the 1:30 pm inspection slot and if there would be something the Inspector observed that also needed addressed and the holiday weekend approaching there was no time to order cement and the workers were gone.

Forecast for the weekend…you guessed it rain….

So, like most of our clients….this first week we are getting to see what it would be like if our dream had been a swimming pool in our back yard.

While the workers were digging and underpinning and tying re-bar this past week, we signed off on the window order and door order and a big comfy couch for the family room. I had a moment ….second guessing all the finishes I have selected for the bathrooms and then there was all the middle of the night tossing and turning as I worried if the foundation would really stay standing.

Gratitude: So from Pete at KSI who ran out and did the foundation underpinning sketch, to Frank at DirectMillwork, LLC that went line by line confirming the order, painted or stained, color of the hardware, screens, drip edges and jamb liners on something like 30 new windows, to Ali Como from Alexandria Como Designs for specifying and ordering the perfect couch in the perfect fabric and giving me encouragement and her nod of approval on the kitchen tile and colors I was leaning toward, to Adrienne at Short Hills Marble and Tile for her patience and professional guidance in helping me find the perfect tiles, colors and patterns for my bathrooms and kitchen back splash....THANK YOU.  

It really does not matter how many times you hold someone else’s hand in this process....when it’s your house it’s personal….and while I have known that, being exposed to so many beautiful ideas and finishes, it is really difficult to choose and we are truly even more empathetic now.

The strong trusted relationships we have cultivated, each with their expertise, over the years make all the difference …be it our house or yours.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

When Empathy Hits Home

Time to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth...

While Marvin and I have been creating drawings for renovations to private homes and visiting the sites under construction for ... lets just go with years....assuring clients throughout the process that is going to be great!

We are finally embarking on major renovations to our 1923 home.

When we purchased the house in 1997, my father's face went pale as he mustered up "its a great starter home" my mother who is better at conceptualizing said "you are going to love that porch!".  Having just given birth to our second child, my mother stayed with us and helped us move in with a four year old, a new baby as Marvin started a new position as an Associate at a firm in NYC...and good friends pitched in to help us make it safe and livable.  The next time my father visited...he was like wow....and yet all we had really done was clean, re roof, refinish the floors and paint inside and out.

We have lived in this house and dreamed of the possibilities for 20 years now.

Over the years we fixed what needed fixed and mused about the possibilities.  We looked at moving when our third child was born and made the choice to stay put. The kids were growing and their interests that had us on the go.  We had started Clawson Architects and as they say "the shoemakers kids...." and other than the typical maintenance we did not do much.

So it is time.  Time to renovate and the lessons in empathy are hitting us they are:

The answer is three.  It has taken us quite a few years to get the plans together and we drew three different schemes before making the decision to go with the plans we filed with the building department. Like our clients "we just put it on the drawings"  we were giving to the contractor for pricing to see if some how even though we knew it was going to cost more that it would magically be within the budget we had set.  We too had to "pull back".

Stake holders....Marvin and Rene....we had to take responsibility for our dream and our budget.  As you can imagine...both being architects and interior designers we came to an agreement and set some ground rules:  We needed to keep our goals and needs in front of us and not stray. We heard each other out and I yielded to Marvin and gave the last say on the outside decisions and he yielded to me giving me the final say on the inside decisions. I don't recall having to claim "my decision"...after 20 years of talking about it, we are on the same page.

We will be living in the house like many of the people we work with while this all goes on. So of course like our clients we want to stay ahead of schedule and under budget. It worries us.  We know the truth.  It is disruptive.  It is noisy.  It's dusty.  People are going to be in our space. There will be challenges. We are anxious...about the choices we have made and of course the budget ...reminding ourselves  "If you want to stay on budget what is on the plans. DON'T MAKE CHANGES!"

So to my dad who has passed was a great starter house and I regret that I will not get to walk you around to show you the new and improved forever house. And to my mom...your were right ...the porch has been awesome! We have made so many memories....we have shared many drinks and laughter with friends, family and neighbors.  It is a porch that we have snuggled as a family to watch the thunderstorms and sipped coffee as we watched the hummingbirds in 'Marvin's Garden'.  School projects, crafting 4th of July bike decorations and creating watercolor paintings of the garden. First steps, first Popsicle, college applications and graduate school papers have happened here. It has been the favorite family meal spot April through October and where all the world problems are solved. Tomorrow it is going to be dismantled to make way for something new.

The new plans do not include a screened porch and while we are all excited about the changes ....and all we will gain, we have all had our doubting moments...we are left to assure each other that it will all be fine. That the new space we are creating will be the place we create new memories.

This journey of our own has been real life lesson in client empathy as we have watched many clients  over the years stress as they pack and clear their belongings to make way for new's our turn.  We have spent the last few weekends clearing the attic and basement...playing trash or treasure...the memories are overwhelming and yet WE CAN NOT WAIT to host a holiday party in our newly renovated home with kitchen and family room addition!

Stay tuned as the lessons in client empathy continue.

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–