In Residential Architecture


April 10, 1994|By Beth Smith

Locating an architect with a reputation for good residential design takes more than a finger tour of the Yellow Pages. Baltimore has hundreds of architects who are good at all kinds of buildings, but the field narrows considerably when you are trying to find someone to create your dream house.

Since most architects don't advertise, the best method for finding the right professional for your project is to ask neighbors and friends for names of architects who've worked successfully for them.

You might also want to contact the Baltimore chapter of the American Institute of Architects. Ask for a brochure about the Residential Design Group, 13 firms that have joined together to market their services.

Although this listing concentrates on architects located in the immediate Baltimore area, there are a great many well-respected architects -- and indeed some of national renown -- in other parts of Maryland. They can be identified and contacted through the Potomac and Chesapeake branches of the institute.

When looking for an architect who designs houses, keep in mind that large firms may not specialize in residential design. Yes, they may design one or two great houses a year, but corporate, not residential, design may take up most of their time.

Many of the area's most respected residential architects can be found in small firms. And, since the late 1980s and early 1990s, when the bottom fell out of the custom home market, they have been eager to tackle less extensive projects. Even with the custom home market showing a slight upturn in the last year, the bulk of residential architectural work is still in renovations and additions to existing homes.

Once you have selected two or three architects, interview them. Ask to see photographs of their work and a copy of their client list. Call former clients for recommendations. Discuss fees early on. Hourly rate fees run about $65 to $110 while a project fee can range from 6 percent to 15 percent of the total building cost.

Check to see whether the architect is licensed by the state. Licensing is one of the requirements for membership in the institute (and only institute members may use the initials AIA after their names).

Lastly, be sure you have an easy rapport with the architect you are planning to choose. Residential design is a lot more personal than building an office complex. Feeling comfortable with your architect is essential.

To help with compiling this list of architects specializing in home design, we sought recommendations from contractors and interior designers, and we asked architects who they would hire to design their own houses. Limited by space, we tried to narrow the list to those architects about whom we heard most often, those said to be highly respected for their residential work. There are undoubtedly plenty of additional talented and reliable architects in the area who don't happen to be listed below.

Mark H. Beck, AIA.

Beck, Powell & Parsons Inc., 2204 Maryland Ave., Baltimore, Md. Mr. Beck is probably best known for his contemporary houses, but he is equally adept with traditional designs. He has been in business for 31 years, and his clients have such faith in him that they often return to ask him to update or enlarge his original designs. For a 1,200-square-foot weekend house in St. Michaels, for example, he designed years later a 1,400-square-foot addition. Mr. Beck's partner Peter Powell is nationally recognized for his active- and passive-solar heating designs for houses.

Jay I. Brown, AIA

Levin/Brown & Associates Inc., 15 Greenspring Valley Road, Owings Mills, Md. 21117.

Mr. Brown has been designing custom homes in the Baltimore area for 26 years. He teamed up with architect Mark Levin eight years ago. Their firm specializes in medical laboratories and offices, religious architecture and residential design. Mr. Brown handles all residential work. His custom homes range in price from about $250,000 to $1.5 million, but he also does renovations and additions. His work is about equally divided between traditional designs, including Tudor, Georgian and Colonial styling, and contemporary designs. Adept at special-needs housing, he recently completed a contemporary house for a woman who uses a wheelchair.

Bruce H. Finkelstein, AIA

HBF Plus Architects, 1777 Reisterstown Road, Suite 395, Baltimore, Md. 21208.

Six years ago, Mr. Finkelstein founded HBF Plus, a company specializing in residential design. He also created Design Reach, a business that provides architectural consulting services on an hourly basis for homeowners in need of design help for small projects. Recent jobs have ranged from laying out a basement remodel for a Design Reach project, to designing a very traditional 8,000-square-foot home in Baltimore County. Other jobs include a large addition to a 19th-century farmhouse; a rustic country home of stone, wood and glass; and a modern two-story house with an indoor swimming pool running through the middle of it.

David H. Gleason, AIA

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