A few years back, the host at a neighborhood July 4th party shared how she handled the inevitable “What do you do?” while traveling for work. With each conversation, her answer changed and was always something quite out of the ordinary. Her most recent trip had involved a story about being a massage therapist for strippers. Very important for handling those pole injuries.
I decided to follow her lead that night, and when one of her friends asked what I did, I was kind of honest and said architect. And as any architect can tell you, the next question is about what type of architecture you do. By the time our conversation ended, I had her friend convinced I specialized in dungeons for the more adventurous couples in Dallas. I think she was a little disappointed that wasn’t true. However, I had a lot of fun spinning that tale.
Apparently, I also opened myself up for the universe to have a little fun with me a couple of years later.
I had been working on an addition for a couple that included a new master suite and an office. As we were wrapping up design, the couple pointed to a storage room we had created and asked if that was something that could be expanded. In discussion between themselves, they thought it would be nice to have a playroom.
And they didn’t have any children.
I tell each prospective client that residential projects can be one of the most personal experiences one can have, just from the perspective of this being your home. However, from a design aspect, projects are very personal too because you’re going to be sharing things with your architect you might not necessarily share with other professionals in your life.
For example, we had the client who requested the bathroom door be on his side of the bed. Apparently, he awoke repeatedly through the night to use the restroom, and the closer the better. Consequently, we knew more about his bodily functions than most people should.
However, the playroom request was something entirely different. And in spite of what I shared at this party, a playroom was completely off my radar as an architect. In 24 years of work, no one had ever requested one. Or at least the adult version of one. And this far along into the project, not only did I have to reconfigure adjacent spaces to create a large enough room. I had to take a step back and reconsider more than just the space.
Could we still have a wood floor, or would tile or viny be more appropriate? What about wall finish and paint color? We were having a hard time just selecting basic wall color throughout the house. What would this room require to achieve the atmosphere they were hoping for? Does Sherwin Williams have a special category I don’t know about?
Then there was the question of plumbing. We discussed having a small wet area within the room. Is that something that was really needed, or would the Master Bath be close enough? Or maybe we just add a drain to the floor.
I also had some unexpected and unusual conversations with equipment suppliers as well as visited a few web sites that weren’t part of the typical “go-to” sites for architects. Not only did it make for an interesting furniture planning exercise, but I found myself having to rethink the strength of the ceiling joists.
But any architect will tell you that no two projects are alike, and no two clients are alike. And this particular project really reinforced that idea. I have learned quite a bit. Perhaps a bit too much. Or maybe enough that this could make for a nice niche market. Either way, I’m certainly going to be prepared should this request come around again.
And the next time I’m at a party, or the airport, or the dentist, and someone asks what type of architecture I do, I think I’ll just be upfront and not let the universe create something unexpected.