December 21, 2010

Home Design Trends: Conversation with Architect Mark Burgess

Architect Mark Burgess is a founding partner of U+B Architecture and Design Inc., a Minneapolis-based architecture and design firm. U+B does commercial interiors and residential construction, additions and renovations.
The firm designed the Spoonriver restaurant in downtown Minneapolis and is currently handling master planning and design for the Assoufid development in Marrakech, Morocco. The project includes 80 luxury villas, a five-star hotel and golf club.
MLuxe grabbed Mark for an interview to discuss trends in home design, architect-client relationships, and more. Enjoy.
What are today’s homeowners most interested in?
I think most people want to have something that’s tailored to their site, tailored to their lifestyle and tailored to their budget. I think there’s a realization that a house that isn’t designed for you isn’t really the best value.
It’s not about square footage; it’s about creating memorable spaces and memorable rooms. Another thing people are more conscious of is, when they’re adding onto a venerable old house, they want the addition to be a seamless piece of the house.
You often see an older house with an addition that looks like the 1970s. And I just groan and think, “Couldn’t they have put a little more thought into it?” Architects can add a lot of value in helping the homeowner think these things through.
uplusb orono house
Photo of a home in the Minneapolis area designed by U+B, transforming “a banal late 1950s ranch style residence into a contemporary home for a couple and their two children.”
How does the architect-client relationship work?
It’s really hard to have successful projects without great clients and great client ideas. As an architect, you want to ask them hard questions: “If you could have this or this, which would you choose?” We balance a lot of different goals between spouses, designers and budgets.
What’s the role of quality in assessing a project?
It’s very important. It’s all about using the right material in the right location, something that’s durable and long-lived. It has to do with making appropriate decisions.
What kind of styles are your clients interested in today?
Increasingly you’re seeing people who are willing to experiment with modernism. I think people are willing to juxtapose traditional houses with very modern interiors.
We recently did a very modern interior in a Cape Cod house. I think people find that interplay between traditional and modern very interesting.
But I think most people want traditional detailing — the feeling of the trim and the material — but they want modern spatial combinations. Older houses tended to be a series of discrete rooms that didn’t open into each other. Now people like wide open spaces.
Are you seeing more interest in outdoor spaces?
The spaces that provide transition between outside and inside are incredibly important. Spaces like porches, screen porches, decks — I really consider them outside rooms.
We work a lot with landscape architects. It’s really a pleasure to collaborate with people who are talented with plantings and earth.
Also, a home really has to be anchored to a specific site. You think about where you want to put the screen porch: do you want the sun to rise on that space or set on that space? Where are the prevailing breezes? Those kinds of decisions anchor a house in a way that can be really poetic.
Can you say a few words about windows?
We specify Marvin windows almost exclusively because they have great customer support. My partner had a question about some Marvin windows. He called them and got an answer right away — no waiting around for three days. They stand behind their products.
They also have flexibility — you can get them in lots of different types and sizes, and they perform very well. With Marvin, if you want a window to be two inches narrower in one dimension, they can make it happen. That kind of flexibility is important for me as an architect.

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