Can You Quantify the Return, or Gain, from Excellent Design?

YES! With truly artful design, fees deliver exponentially. “Architecture is frozen music,” Goethe said, but it’s not a frozen asset. Exceptional design gives back from the conceptual stage through resale, like a high performing stock with dividends. This happens in three ways: saving money during construction, contributing to our productive well-being while we occupy it, and outpacing the market.Enter your text here...
When we bought our 30’s adobe house in Arizona, local friends laughed. Who would buy that run-down antique sitting on the market for a year? Sometimes we wondered that ourselves, faced with an unfamiliar construction type and a shoestring budget. But with knowledgeable consultants and skilled craftsmen, the team uncovered and restored a gem. We solved structural issues in the mud brick walls, edited out years of unthinking décor and systems, and modernized the floor plan.                              

30's Adobe Renovation by ESSARC

Xeriscape gardens by landscape architect Christy Ten Eyck complimented the house, which won an award in historic preservation and achieved National Register status. The AZ Republic ran two articles about the project, we were asked to join house tours, and a Hollywood production was filmed there.

But infinitely more important than – or in spite of - all the attention, the house contributed to a soul-filled early childhood full of wonder and whimsy for our daughters, an Old West retreat for our northern guests, and a magical gathering place for friends and family. And for this working mom - a large, bright studio let art and architecture projects and children’s activities take place side by side.

Before I get too weepy for the amazing ten years that house gave my family, I’ll give you some cold, hard numbers. We sold it for twice the average square foot price of neighboring luxury homes. Five years later it doubled in price, from 1.2M to 2.5M, with no major improvements. The average local market increase of 9% a year during that boom period would have put the price at 1.8M. To me, the house had always exuded a poetic sense of place, but it took vision and love to enhance it so people saw its gift to the community, and our everyday lives were enriched beyond our wildest expectations. This is the goal I bring to my clients.

The three-fold Return on Design is a very real financial return on investment when the project achieves a poetic aspect, the result of endless considerations coming together into a refined, efficient art form. I work to blend a client’s story with my commitment to design for regional context, or what I call The Poetry of Place. This evocative lyricism and energy in the built environment results from generations responding to local climate, materials, and culture. Our Arizona house had a literal historic style, but certainly modern architecture, when poetic and responsive, feels uplifting and artfully at home in its surroundings.
Let's look more closely at the three ways Return on Design happens:
1. A proven design system minimizes the surprises and waste often associated with construction.
I owe much to my early training at internationally renowned Centerbrook Architects, where white glove service through construction was paramount. I work hard to achieve that level of attention. At ESSARC we distill the customers' needs, hopes and dreams – their story - as well as the myriad choices, into an efficient, beautiful composition, in a process similar to writing a good poem.
Attention to detail saves money and precious time during construction.
Each design phase or “draft” crystallizes and expands on the last. From the initial consultation, where all parties feel heard and the requirements of the community are researched, to the Schematic Design, or “outline,” phase, we draw out the client’s narrative rather than focusing on a signature design style. Next, in Design Development, our staff “edits with details” – guiding the client in a maze of choices for materials and fixtures. After public reviews and Construction Documents are completed, a sound team is formed, the three legged stool of client, architect and contractor. In the end, this responsive design process helps the contractor finish on time and on budget.
Recently a busy mother, working on her PhD and pregnant with her third child, needed a bedroom added to the house before the baby came. She trusted me to draw up plans quickly and the contractor worked hard to deliver on promises. The job was completed on budget and well before the birth of their adorable son.

Attention to detail saves money and precious time during construction. A contractor’s mistake on an invoice caught, an attempted change order for items already on the drawings denied, an omission of structural beams noticed – good contractors do their best to avoid those things. But on every job, human error happens and questions need solving with teamwork. Already fees are paid for many times over.
2. Excellent design contributes to our well-being.
New studies find that turning occupants’ attention to outdoor views or welcoming the natural world in increases productivity, creativity and unity. A 30-year study at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champagne has found empirical evidence of social, psychological and physical well-being from greenery designed into city spaces. Anxiety levels and crime diminished and immune systems improved. Other studies show that our minds and bodies respond positively to light, and that more expansive thinking happens in spaces with higher ceilings. Although harder to quantify, there’s no doubt that well-being has a positive financial return.

Architect: Gladwish

The house you decide to live in will surely affect your heart as it enhances our life

This emphasis on wellness brings to mind an analogy I heard an architect give when explaining her value: “If you needed an operation, would you search out the cheapest heart surgeon?” Of course not, because this could have a drastic impact on your life! Yet the house you decide to live in, like your work environment, will surely affect your heart as it enhances your life.
A new design is life-changing. Low maintenance means you can just enjoy your home. Uncluttered spaces and good organization give back endless hours into your life. Natural materials benefit your health with their beauty and purity. Green design helps save our environment. All of this puts money back in your pocket with increased well-being, energy efficiency, and, for a business, brand recognition and employee retention.
3. A 19th century farmhouse typical of Lincoln, MA was bought for 1M.
After renovations designed by our firm, the house sold for 2.2M, while the nation was still recovering from the Great Recession. The house wasn’t expanded, but spaces were redesigned artfully, streamlining but still expressing the historic structure, enhancing the family’s busy life together. Flexible spaces could be cozy but workable for entertaining large groups, rooms were opened to beautiful views, and movement flowed efficiently for today’s lifestyle.
The 2.2M sale price was $483 per square foot. In the years since, four similar size prominent historic houses in Lincoln sold for an average of just $318/SF. Even now, several comparable houses linger on the market with an average asking price of $363/SF. The new owners, a young family of six, are moving on for a new position out of state, and they have already sold the house to another family without even putting it on the market.
Factor in the 3-fold Return on Design, then fees disappear.
It’s worth investing in your life story. When you look only at fees, they can seem high. But factor in the Three-fold Return on Design -- during the project’s creation, transforming the lives of occupants, and at resale — then fees disappear. The owner gains exponentially with spaces that deliver years of joy and prosperity. Our team works to understand the characters of a story and create their perfect setting. The design harmonizes poetically with the people and the place, compounding the return on their unique design narrative.