A Conversation with Brian Milbury, Senior Associate

1. Tell us about yourself.

I am an architect with a true love for designing beautiful residences. I recently moved to Annapolis from Chicago, where I ran my own boutique architecture firm for the last 21 years, producing high-end residential and multifamily designs throughout the U.S. and the Caribbean. My wife Tracie is an interior designer, and we have two children in grade school. My other passions are oil painting landscapes and photography.

2. Tell us about your architectural design journey. How did you get started and how did you get here?

I started my design journey in Miami, right out of college, designing homes in the constraints of that unique climate and aesthetic. I then found myself in the Midwest, designing in the more traditional and historic character of Chicago. Over the years, my work has branched out nationally and in the Caribbean, with every coming year bringing a new path, more design knowledge, and deeper experience under my belt. My architectural design journey is always evolving, building on every design I’ve created before.

3. How would you describe your design philosophy?

I would describe my design philosophy as rooted in traditional precedent, with a focus on creating updated environments for today’s lifestyles, with open, well-lit spaces that enhance the way my clients live. I believe that experiencing a well-designed space can always make your day better.

4. How do you work with a client to understand their needs?

I truly feel it’s important to listen more than you speak. As a project takes shape, I want my client to grow in the journey as well, resulting in a home that truly meets their needs. It is also important for me to take into consideration my past designs, what I learned from seeing how they are lived in, and the learnings of my overall life experiences. A great example of this is raising children – this experience has been immeasurable in understanding how to develop design solutions that create successful family spaces.

5. What is the best advice you have ever received (either personally or professionally)?

The best advice I ever received was to always be yourself – both in your designs and in your life – and to be an advocate for both your client’s budget and their dreams throughout the journey.

6. What inspires you?

I am inspired by historic design details found in older homes that have stood the test of time and provide a glimpse into the craftsmanship of bygone eras, and the evolution of new takes on our built environment that reimagine the architecture that we live in.

7. What is your favorite architectural design book?

Coming out of Chicago, I have always been fascinated with the work of Frank Lloyd Wright, not only for his designs, but more importantly, for the awe of realizing just how ahead of his time he was. The Frank Lloyd Wright Monograph Series is a fantastic book series showcasing his work. Unfortunately, it is out of print, but I am always looking for copies that come up for sale!

8. Which architectural design rule or concept do you refer to over and over?

While there are plenty of tested guidelines that have stood the test of time, I feel proportion and scale are elements of design that if applied correctly, will carry through to the successful detailing of any style of architecture. When people look at structures they don’t like but can’t quite pinpoint why, it is often the misuse of these elements that are the underlying cause of the unease.

9. In your opinion, what is one thing that will never go out of style?

I feel that symmetry is the one thing that will never go out of style. There will always be an opportunity in architecture to bring order and balance to chaos.

10. What are five things you can’t live without right now?

The five things I currently can’t live without are my family, for whom I am making this journey, a good book I can get lost in at the end of a day, virtual meetings, which have brought us all a new way to more easily connect to a global market, my iPad, which has become an indispensable design tool, and steamed blue crabs, my favorite food!

Q&A with Purple Cherry Architects’ Lead Interior Designers

Annie Kersey

Tell us about yourself!
In short, I am a born and raised Annapolitan, Syracuse University graduate, military wife, gym owner, health food addict, Dalmatian mom, and home renovation lover.

Tell us about your design journey. How did you get started and how did you get here?
I fell in love with art and painting at an early age and knew I wanted to pursue a creative career. I still escape to the canvas and paintbrush when time allows. However, I discovered architecture in high school and pursued a five-year Bachelor of Architecture degree with a minor in Interior Design because I craved structure in my career. After falling in love with the world of residential architecture, I found myself most drawn to interior architecture, millwork, and styling, ultimately guiding me towards my passion for interior design.

How would you describe your design ethos?
My design ethos prioritizes comfort and needs with an eye-catching aesthetic! My goal is that each and every space invites you in warmly, but always has a WOW moment.

Annie’s “Coastal Grandmother” mood board illustrates the trend inspired by the houses of Nancy Meyers movies.

How do you work with a client to define their needs? What questions do you ask to determine the final look and feel of a space?
I work through my clients’ patterns of living, identifying what didn’t work for them in the past as well as what did, studying wish lists, and viewing concept imagery. Ultimately, I try to form a true personal connection in the early meetings. Sometimes you can learn just as much or even more about a person through casual conversation than you can from a list of questions or a perfect formula.

The more comfortable our connection becomes, the more a client can open up about their vision and desires. Our homes are incredibly personal spaces, and it is important to recognize that my part in that process is also personal. I ask questions such as: Where do you imagine unwinding at the end of your workday? Where will everyone gather when you’re hosting? Do the accessories and art feel personal or curated?

There’s an infinite number of questions that can come out throughout the full design process.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received, either personally or professionally?
Doors will open for those bold enough to knock. It is easy to get caught up in the doubts of the “age=experience mindset” or count yourself out prior to even giving yourself a chance. You will miss every opportunity you don’t take, so chase your goals with fearless pursuit – your passion, drive, and talent will speak for themselves.

What inspires you?
Inspiration for me is not static; I’m always finding new pieces and moments that I find inspiring. I find a lot of design inspiration in a unique and reinvented take on an everyday element such as painted patterns on wood flooring or an antique chest restored into a bathroom vanity.

Annie’s Industrial Chic mood board illustrates
the design aesthetic she enjoys in her own home.

Which design “rule” or idea do you refer to over and over?
Balance weight: you must carefully mix heavier pieces with pieces that feel lighter in weight. For example, pair a plinth base swivel chair with a sculptural open side table or layer a jute rug with a hide. Balance will create a sense of both calm and cohesion in a room.

Any tried-and-true design advice?
The scale of lighting pieces is critical. Too often, people will select pieces that are too small. Lighting makes a huge visual and environmental impact on space.

In your opinion, what’s the one thing that will never go out of style?
It’s too hard to list just one! So, here’s a few: a warm neutral palette, marble, white bedding, and monochromatic styling.

What are five things you can’t live without right now?
Sharpie pens, CrossFit, Starbucks iced coconut milk lattes, my iPad, and my dog Remy.

Alex Epstein

Tell us about yourself!
I am originally from the suburbs of Baltimore, splitting my summers between the Delaware beaches and the Eastern Shore of Maryland. I grew up surrounded by family heirlooms and and my mother’s exuberant flair for maximalism, where “more is more” was never enough! I have a love of bright colors and patterns and strive to bring the same joy into each of my projects.

Tell us about your design journey. How did you get started and how did you get here?
After earning a Bachelor of Science in Interior Design from The Art Institute, I took an internship at a small boutique firm in Baltimore where I was inspired by the historic homes of Roland Park, the preservation of their unique qualities, and the endeavor to be true to their traditional origins.

From there, I held roles in the merchandising of showrooms and retail stores and ultimately transitioned to a corporate role, designing for a high-end furniture and fabric vendor. It was during this time that I fell in love with the design process and couldn’t get enough of it! Being surrounded by luxury textiles, avant-garde wallpaper, and more furniture frames to select from than I knew what to do with, I realized my passion was for residential design, where I could bring my knowledge of pattern layering, mixing of scale, and love of color to my clients’ homes.

How would you describe your design ethos?
More is more, is more!

Alex’s Maximalism mood board illustrates
the design aesthetic she enjoys in her own home.

How do you work with a client to define their needs? What questions do you ask to determine the final look and feel of a space?
I first want to understand how my clients plan to use each space – do they love to entertain? Or do they enjoy spending time with family conversing or gathering around a large screen to watch the game? How do they live their daily life, are they the type of family that wants to snuggle with their pet on the sofa, or are they lovers of red wine? These are all aspects that will inform how furniture should be laid out, the size and scale of each piece, and the fabric selections.

I am a firm believer that it is so important to balance comfort with design details. Although I enjoy encouraging my clients to go above and beyond in their design decisions, I want to make sure that they are not afraid to actually use the space either. 

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received, either personally or professionally?
Life if not a dress rehearsal. You have to work hard for what you want, go after your dreams, and learn from your mistakes.

What inspires you?
Everything inspires me… it could be an outfit of someone walking down the street, the décor of a beautiful restaurant, the way the light hits the side of a building, or a piece of artwork from a local artist.

Which design “rule” or idea do you refer to over and over?
There are no rules. Design a space that makes you happy and that you want to live in everyday! I make an effort to design each space specifically to the needs of the client, balancing design and function. Each space should feel curated, lived in, and welcoming – just like your favorite pair of denim. To achieve this feeling, I like to balance the new with the old.

Any tried-and-true design advice?
You can never have too many pieces of “legged” furniture in a space, and always watch the size and scale of your furniture!

Alex’s Hunt Country vision board showcases the rustic sophistication many of our clients seek in their mountain or horse farm properties.

In your opinion, what’s the one thing that will never go out of style?
I truly think that blue and white décor will never go out of style. Think blue and white ginger jars, a classic navy blue sofa, and the crispness of fresh white linens. Blue and white have been a staple in the design industry for years and will continue to be for years to come. This aesthetic does not fit a “trend” that will stamp in time when a space was designed, but rather will always be classic and timeless.

What are five things you can’t live without right now?
Dirty martinis, my poodle puppy Jonathan, my monthly subscription to Elle Décor and Veranda, my iPad, and the smell of the air just before it snows.

A Conversation with Peter Guidetti, Lead Design Architect

1. Tell us about yourself.

I am an architect with a passion for the study and practice of traditional, classical, and modern residential architecture. I grew up in the New York City area, met and married my high school sweetheart and have three amazing children, two of which are grown, and one is currently in high school. Although architecture touches almost every aspect of my life, my second passion is cooking – I love to share meals with my family and friends!

2. Tell us about your architectural design journey. How did you get started and how did you get here?

My architectural journey started way back in the first grade! I saw a picture of the Taj Mahal in a book about India – I remember being captivated by it; I began to draw it and study its shapes and interesting

forms. I have continued that process of drawing and studying architecture to this day. I was introduced to the work of Purple Cherry Architects through social and print media. The beauty and elegance of the projects and the visions that Cathy and her team have created inspired me instantly.

3. How would you describe your design philosophy?

My design philosophy is rooted in the study of architectural history. I love learning from the masterworks of the past; often solutions for design problems can come from this inspiration. I love the axial arrangements of Beaux-Arts architecture, and because of this I try to incorporate longer and thinner compositions into my design work. It creates connections through rooms and infuses natural light to all aspects of the plans.

4. How do you work with a client to understand their needs?

To truly connect with a client, you have to be a dedicated listener. Listening carefully to their thoughts, ideas, vision, and dreams creates a magical relationship where beautiful designs can be brought to life! I also hand sketch while we are meeting to quickly test ideas and design concepts.

5. What is the best advice you have ever received (either personally or professionally)?

Treat every person you meet as if they are the most important person in the world.

6. What inspires you?

Architecturally, history and older homes of the past inspire me. They have so many interesting and quiet lessons to teach if you slow down, pay attention, and listen. Personally, I am inspired by my family and my faith.

7. What is your favorite architectural design book?

To an architectural book collector, this is an impossible question to answer. But if I had to choose, there would be two: A Monograph of the Work of Mellor, Meigs & Howe from the 1920’s and Robert A.M. Stern Buildings and Projects 1987-1992. A Monograph of the Work of Mellor, Meigs & Howe is so amazing and it teaches me something every time I open it! They brilliantly combined elements of English country houses and French farmhouses into picturesque and uniquely American compositions. Robert A.M. Stern Buildings and Projects 1987-1992 was my first and most important book in my architectural collection. The work depicted had such a profound impact on me and taught me about so many architects that were inspirational to Mr. Stern — I will be forever grateful for his inspiration and in admiration for his talent and knowledge of history.

8. Which architectural design rule or concept do you refer to over and over?

While each project is unique, I think I try to create plans and elevations that are more linear or axial in their compositions. Thinner buildings have more picturesque rooflines and allow natural light to touch more of the plan. I also try to incorporate distinctive vertical elements that define important plan changes (such as stair towers and turrets). Porches tend to add layers of indoor/outdoor “rooms” which help anchor a house to the landscape and gardens.

9. In your opinion, what is one thing that will never go out of style?

Honest materials like real stone, real heavy wood timber, and slate roofs will never go out of style as they tend to look a little better as they age — the patina that makes you want to hand down a home to a future generation.

10. What are five things you can’t live without right now?

1. I love to read English literature, so any work from Dickens or the Bronte sisters. I am currently reading Bleak House by Charles Dickens.

2. Derwent Graphitint Pencils – I love sketching with them.

3. Moleskine soft cover plain journals travel with me everywhere.

4. National Hockey League playoff games. I am a huge fan of the New York Rangers!

5. Really good dark chocolate.

Architects Don’t Do Math

Every architect has probably had the experience of telling a new acquaintance they’re an architect, and being told, “I always wanted to be an architect, but I couldn’t handle the math.”

While it’s true that most architects have to take calculus in school, the reality of architectural practice is that there’s very little math involved, at least in terms of calculations or high-level mathematical concepts. What architects do need is a good understanding of three-dimensional geometrical relationships and the ability to envision a space and its component parts. While it may be related to geometry or trigonometry, this type of understanding also shares many concepts with the visual arts such as symmetry, balance, composition, and proportion having equal or greater weight than numerical precision.

Yet the misunderstanding of the role of math in architecture isn’t too surprising – many people never need to hire an architect, so their personal experience with the profession is limited. Also, architecture is a fairly small profession. The National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB), whose membership consists of the licensing boards of the U.S. states and territories, reports 115,316 licensed architects in the United States in 2019. By comparison, there are over 600,000 Certified Public Accountants, 1.1 million medical doctors, and 1.3 million attorneys.

So what do architects really do? The simple answer, which almost anyone can give, is that architects design buildings. However, that seemingly simple word “design” encompasses a wide variety of tasks, which take many different forms throughout the design process. Far more than simply making the building look beautiful, designing is fundamentally the process of synthesizing multiple, sometimes competing (if not outright contradictory), needs and priorities into a single, harmonious building.

Early design sketches must balance relative room sizes and adjacencies, circulation patterns, views, functional relationships, and dozens of other factors to create a practical and pleasing design. As a design develops, the architect must respect the realities of construction, using materials and building systems appropriately to ensure the building’s durability and function. Architects must coordinate their own work with the work of consultants such as structural and civil engineers and other designers such as interior designers and landscape architects. Elements like structural beams and columns, heating and ventilation ducts, and piping systems must be incorporated into the building without causing conflicts with other systems and design priorities. Specialized systems such as lighting control and audio/video installations bring their own concerns that must be addressed. Building and zoning codes bring requirements to safeguard occupants and conform to desired patterns of development.

Architects have often been compared to the conductor of an orchestra, responsible for the oversight of numerous different groups of musicians. It’s a good analogy, since the architect is the one responsible for making sure the work of the different consultants, designers, and contractors comes together to create a finished project that meets all project requirements, whether they are visual, technical, or regulatory. Even if we do leave most of the math to the engineers…

Written by Alan Cook, LEED AP, Studio Director
Since 2014, Alan Cook has brought his passion, leadership, and expertise to Purple Cherry Architects. With a deep understanding of environmental design, coupled with over twenty years’ experience, Alan brings to each project a valuable interdisciplinary perspective. A graduate of Syracuse University School of Architecture, Alan has extensive experience with custom residential, historic preservation, adaptive reuse and commercial projects. He notes, “My passion for architecture is fueled by the fulfilling aspects of problem-solving combined with the delight of helping clients create homes of remarkable beauty and functionality.” Outside the office, Alan serves on the board of Girls on The Run Greater Chesapeake.

Four-Legged Design Trends

For many of us, dogs are much more than pets – they’re full-fledged, four-legged, furry family members. After welcoming a dog into your life, it can be hard to imagine arriving home without a wet nose and wagging tail greeting you at the door. But even the most dog-friendly homeowner recognizes that loving our canine companions can bring design challenges. Fortunately, skilled design can provide creative solutions, many of which will be appreciated by the two-legged residents as well!

Maybe the most difficult choice to make when bringing dogs into the home is the selection of flooring material. Dogs’ claws can be damaging to wood floors, particularly if the dog is a larger breed. Softer woods like pine are not advisable for a canine-inclusive household, however beautiful they may be. If more dense wood species are used, such as oak or walnut, damage to the wood itself can be minimized. Also, selecting the cut of the wood carefully will help: rift-and-quarter cut wood exposes less of the soft wood grain to the surface of the floor than plainsawn lumber of the same species.

Carpet can be subject to stains, but it can also help reduce wear on high-impact areas like stairs. A runner installed over wood treads can keep scratches from forming on a staircase. Ceramic, porcelain, and stone tiles are excellent choices for durable, cleanable, flooring materials in spaces where dogs spend their time. They also resist water damage if your dog, like mine, tends to walk away from the water bowl before swallowing. Grout in natural stone tile floors should always be sealed to reduce staining, although some very light colors may still show discoloration as time passes.

A great design solution is to designate an area of the home to house most of the dog’s needs in one location. This could include a spot for food and drink bowls; a kennel or crate if desired or a dog bed if not; storage for food and other supplies; a dog washing station; and a way to contain your pup while you’re away or company is visiting. Often, all of these functions can be combined with another favorite feature: the mudroom.

Making the mudroom a dog-friendly zone makes sense for many reasons. Dogs are often muddy or wet when they come inside, particularly at waterfront properties. Having an entrance with water-resistant floors provides a chance to get inside and cleaned up before tracking mud throughout the rest of the house. Cabinets and cubbies can store towels, leashes, food, and other dog supplies. In some cases, a linked series of spaces can provide an entrance, storage, and even laundry and dog-washing facilities in the same area, while still keeping the mess under control and out of sight.

A dedicated dog wash is another often-requested feature. This is essentially a dedicated dog shower, with the surface elevated above the floor high enough that the owner can comfortably wash the dog while standing. Tile wall and floor finishes and glass partitions can help contain splashing, and a handheld nozzle makes it easy to wash and rinse. Placed near a washer and dryer, this setup makes light work out of keeping a dog clean.

Many owners, however much they love their canine companions, still require a way to isolate their dog to a particular area from time to time. A great option for all but the largest (or most athletic!) dogs is a Dutch door. Closing the bottom contains the dog, without the sometimes-unsightly appearance of a temporary pet gate. Built-in gates are also available, which can either slide into a wall like a pocket door or lift up out of the way to be concealed in a door jamb.

While living with dogs can bring some specific needs and obstacles, it’s also true that both humans and canines like many of the same things: a place to come inside and get cleaned up after a day at the beach or in the woods; a comfortable spot to eat and drink; and a cozy space to sit and relax. Built-in benches and window seats can provide a charming spot for a comfortable moment’s rest and relaxation, whether you arrive on two legs or four. In the end, you may find that your pet’s favorite spot in the house is the same as yours.

Written by Alan Cook, LEED AP, Studio Director
Since 2014, Alan Cook has brought his passion, leadership, and expertise to Purple Cherry Architects. With a deep understanding of environmental design, coupled with over twenty years’ experience, Alan brings to each project a valuable interdisciplinary perspective. A graduate of Syracuse University School of Architecture, Alan has extensive experience with custom residential, historic preservation, adaptive reuse and commercial projects. He notes, “My passion for architecture is fueled by the fulfilling aspects of problem-solving combined with the delight of helping clients create homes of remarkable beauty and functionality.” Outside the office, Alan serves on the board of Girls on The Run Greater Chesapeake.

Deciding on Siding

When designing a new home or remodeling an existing home, the decisions that often have the most visible impact are the ones made regarding exterior finishes. As custom residential architects, we begin these discussions early on in the design process because the decisions tie heavily into what style of home a client is designing and at what budget – whether it is Nantucket shingle style, a sprawling modern, or a classic Georgian. The selection of exterior materials can also impart a significant emotional reaction. Imagine how different a warm cedar shake exterior feels in comparison to sleek, white nickel gap siding.

Each style of home offers numerous choices of exterior finishes at varying price points. For example, a modern home could have synthetic paneling, wood lap siding and a stone veneer. A country retreat could encompass board and batten, lap siding, and painted brick. While wood is an incredibly beautiful living finish, it also requires regular maintenance, and increasingly, clients are requesting exterior finishes with minimal to no upkeep. After all, not many homeowners are interested in re-staining their house every five to seven years.

To help you understand the variety of exterior siding options available and what makes each unique, we will begin with a general overview of some of the more commonly used siding styles and then summarize the different types of siding materials as well as their characteristics.

Style

Lap or Clapboard Siding: Lap siding is horizontal siding with thin plank boards that overlap each other, creating a natural “rain barrier”. Clapboard typically refers to the same lap, but often more specifically has a bead or bevel at the bottom (although these two terms are often interchangeable). This style is possibly the most universally used and is typically found in Georgian, modern, traditional and even cottage-style homes.

Shiplap: If you have ever watched HGTV’s Fixer Upper, you know exactly what shiplap is! While very similar in appearance to lap siding, shiplap is comprised of horizontal boards that are butted together in the same flush plane. Historically, these are boards would have been found as a substrate for walls behind plaster or wallpaper or even on the exterior of a barn. They are butted flat ends and tend to have gaps between, as well as a channel that allows for overlapping to provide a “rain screen”. While you would traditionally see shiplap used in coastal, cottage or farmhouses, you can also find it in modern and transitional homes.

Cedar Shakes or Shingle: Cedar shakes and shingles are similar types of wood siding. The primary difference is that wood shingles are more precisely milled and uniform and shakes have a more irregular and hand split texture that some homeowners love. Shakes and shingles can be installed in a variety of ways, each of which offer a distinctive quality to the style of the home:

  • Keyway: Vertical spacing between shingles lends visual interest and traditional appeal.
  • Contemporary: Set tight and touching to add a smooth, uniform finish to modern designs.
  • Even Butt: Creates a consistent, symmetrical line in keeping with newer styles.
  • Staggered Butt: Adds character and dimensionality to a home’s finished appearance.
Photo by Purple Cherry Architects

Nickel Gap Siding: Nickel gap siding is very similar to shiplap and lap siding. These thin plank boards run horizontally or vertically and have a small gap between the boards about the thickness of a nickel, hence the name. These thin plank boards are made with an interlocking “tongue and groove” profile on all four sides, so they don’t overlap at all. This also helps set the spacing and provide a uniform gap – a simple, beautiful detail that feels very modern.

Board and Batten Siding: Board and batten is similar to vertical nickel gap in that it is a series of thin plank boards installed vertically in the same plane with an intentional gap, but with the introduction of a batten that overlays on top of the boards covering the gap. Board and batten is commonly used on farmhouse or cottage style homes and is often incorporated into accent walls, backsplashes and fireplaces in modern and transitional homes.

Material

Commonly used siding materials include fiber cement, PVC, poly-ash, and wood.

Fiber Cement: Fiber cement is composite material made of cement reinforced with cellulose fibers. It is mold/mildew resistant and resists bugs and insect damage. Fiber cement typically comes in lap siding, board and batten, shingle (lap form) and exterior trim. It has minimal expansion and contraction. While durable, it can be very fragile during installation and does have some clearance requirements to ground water. It is a very cost effective and low maintenance siding option.

PVC: Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is a widely produced synthetic plastic polymer. The product is similar to fiber cement in that it is mold/mildew resistant, resists bugs and insect damage. PVC typically comes in lap siding, board & batten, shingle and exterior trim. It comes in full thickness products similar to wood as well as in vinyl siding and trim, which are typically found on production homes.

Poly-Ash: Poly-ash products are made with fly-ash, a by-product recovered from coal combustion. When fly-ash is combined with polymers, it becomes a durable material that is ideally suited for exterior siding and trim. Once installed, the material is resistant to moisture and bugs. Poly-ash is a great alternative to PVC and fiber cement – although it is slightly more expensive, it has significantly less expansion and contraction.

Wood: Wood is obviously a beautiful natural siding and trim material that has been used for centuries. Cedar is commonly used in shake or shingle applications; cypress and accoya are commonly used as siding. Some wood species such as cedar and cypress have a natural resistance to insects and are better protected from rot though all are prone to decay, mold and mildew. All wood types need protection by paint or stain and will require continual maintenance.

In the end, the siding of a house is akin to the clothing we wear. Our choice of clothes depends as much on location (a sweater and boots wouldn’t be comfortable in southern Florida) as well as the fashion statement we want to make. And of course, there’s the budget factor. But unlike our clothes, we can’t change our siding material easily. Even though we can change colors and accessories depending on the material chosen, most of us take a “one and done” approach to the exterior of our homes.

Much like a classic leather jacket, we want siding that looks good on day one and for many years to come.

Written by Doug Kuchta, RA, NCARB, Project Manager
With an architect father, and a childhood home often under construction, Doug Kuchta has long been intrigued by the technical aspects of how structures are built. A graduate from Morgan State University School of Architecture, Doug’s experience includes both commercial and residential projects. Always ready to roll up his sleeves, Doug explains, “When you can use architecture to overcome a challenging design situation and create something beautiful, purposeful, and balanced, it is amazing.”

Interior Paint Selection 101

Did you know that Purple Cherry Architects has a full-service Interior Design team?  Our Interior Design services can be utilized independently or in conjunction with our architectural design services. Today, we tapped into the expertise of the design team to compile our top seven tips for selecting paint color and sheen for every room in your home.

1. Exercise your patience.
Believe it or not, paint is one of the last decisions we make – and it is usually one of our clients’ first questions at the start of the design process! Just like how you can box yourself into a corner, you can box yourself into a design by choosing a paint color too early in the process. By choosing an exact paint color and designing around this color, you limit the design possibilities. We strive to have a general sense of a client’s desired color palette for direction but we do not select exact paint colors until after most of the other interior selections have been made. We then have our pick of thousands of beautiful colors to compliment a design.

2. Do your research – it’s worth it.
To repeat ourselves – do your research, it’s worth it! Do you lean towards warmer or cooler tones? Maybe you love the simplicity of a white wall or you are all about the drama with a bold pop. Pinterest, Houzz, and design publications are helpful tools in discovering what you are naturally drawn to. The next question is – do you see yourself living in a space like the image? You may be drawn to be certain photos but after further thought may have an emotional reaction to the “feel” of the space. Color and tonal quality can affect our mood. Many people love the look of gray tones, which have become quite popular in the last few years, but when they envision living in a gray space, they may feel differently. You may realize you prefer warmer tones over cooler tones even if in the gray family!

3. Understand transitions.
Understanding the architectural layout of your home and how paint colors transition is critical. Further, understanding the volume of the space and the orientation to natural light is significant. Our architectural and interior design teams understand the importance of these transition areas and how paint colors will transition to one another and to the light. In the increasingly popular open concept floor plan, these transitions are key and lead to us specifying fewer paint colors to avoid open sight lines with multiple paint colors. Our eye senses interruption when design elements, including paint, do not flow throughout an open space. We aim to have your eye carry seamlessly throughout your home so it picks up on all of the beautiful moments.

4. Don’t forget trim and ceilings.
Many times, we recommend painting the trim and ceiling in the same color but in different sheens (stay tuned for sheen advice below). Going back to transition, knowing how the trim tracks from space to space or even within a single space is crucial. It is not uncommon for us to specify the same trim and ceiling color throughout an entire house. This provides a level of continuity as you move throughout your home. This approach is frequently taken in the heart of the home – the kitchen. If you love a timeless white kitchen (which many of our clients do), you will appreciate the continuity of the cabinetry matching the trim color. 

5. Utilize the existing color palette.
How do you select colors from here? Use the design elements and materials in the space! When we work through the design process, we select materials that tonally come together to create a holistic design. This means that the color palette is already set when it comes to selecting that perfect paint color! Our cabinetry finishes, fabrics, and rugs all influence the direction. Still wanting a bit of color? Pop a pale blue or a fun wallpaper on your ceiling to compliment your palette. One of our “go-to” collections is Benjamin Moore’s OC collection. Check it out!

6. Brush up on sheen.
Paint sheens are fairly straightforward if you keep a few guidelines in mind. There is a general rule of thumb: the higher the sheen, the higher the shine. And in turn, the higher the shine, the more durable and wipeable that surface is. More durable, sounds like a no brainer? A higher gloss sheen will also highlight any potential imperfections in your drywall. Last tip before you dive into sheens: check with your manufacturer for the differences in sheen. There are subtle differences between manufacturers.

PCA Cheat Sheet:

  • Flat paint = No Shine
  • High Gloss= All Shine
  • Eggshell, Satin, & Semi-Gloss = In between Flat & High Gloss

Ceilings and trim are also fairly straightforward. We recommend flat for drywall ceilings and semi-gloss or satin for trim. Semi-gloss has been traditionally painted on trim for many years, but we are seeing a trend towards the lower sheen of satin. This sheen level provides that perfect amount to highlight the beauty of the trim profile but at a lower level of gloss.

Our “wet areas”, the bathrooms and laundry rooms, need durability against potential moisture while also avoiding the look of a high gloss sheen. As a broad stroke recommendation, an eggshell or a satin wall paint sheen will give you that extra bit of protection without the “glare” of a high gloss sheen.

7. Sample, sample, sample (and sample again).
Bigger is better! Larger format samples allow you to see the color – a 5’x5’ area should do the trick! If you are able to sample on multiple walls within a space, do it. Color can change throughout a space and light is key. If you can, live with the color and feel it. Better yet, look at the color when you will be using that particular space the most during the day or evening. And remember, you may need more than one round of samples and that is okay! Color is an important aspect of the design.

We hope you find these tips useful!

Spa Living at Home

With the pace of modern life seemingly increasing all the time and the boundaries of the nine-to-five work day expanding with unceasing electronic communication, who doesn’t sometimes feel the need to escape to a peaceful oasis of serenity for a relaxing interlude? Fortunately, that escape can be just around the corner with a well-designed, spa-like bath in your home. Far from the cramped, utilitarian spaces many of us remember from childhood bathrooms, a luxurious custom bathroom can be spacious and bright, and as soothing or dramatic as your imagination can make it.

The finish materials have an outsized impact on the character and mood of any space, and luxury baths are no exception. The need for water resistance around tubs and showers naturally leads to using tile floors, although wood floors are suitable for, and often used in, powder rooms. Within the world of tile, though, the options are practically limitless. Natural stone can run the gamut from glossy marble to rustic travertine. Water-cut stone mosaics provide intricate patterns and colors. Porcelain and other ceramic tiles are available in every color and shape imaginable. Large-format tiles give a sharp, modern feel to a space, while porcelain planks can mimic the appearance of weathered wood. Stone slabs and tile can be used as wall finishes as well, as backsplashes, wainscoting, or full-height finishes. The use of an unexpected material, such as irregular, natural stone or pebble-like tiles, can add a dramatic touch to a composition.

Our moods respond dramatically to color, so the material and color palette should combine to set a comforting tone. Many clients are attracted to soothing blues, grays, and earth tones, which have a calming effect and can be combined with a variety of accent colors.

Bringing natural light into any space makes it more inviting, and if you’re fortunate enough to have a beautiful view from your bath, you’ll want to be sure to take advantage. Nothing could be better than lounging in a comfortable soaking tub with a view of the water.

The bathtub is naturally one of the centerpieces of a spa-like bath. Although platform tubs can be a beautiful solution, the current trend is very much toward free-standing tubs. The classic claw-foot bath is still around, but now it can be had with fun design features like chrome feet, which add interest.

Other free-standing tubs look more like modern sculptures than bath fixtures, with shapes ranging from classical to organic to geometric. More and more synthetic materials are being used in the manufacture of tubs, which help to reduce the weight from the cast iron of yesterday, and also help retain the warmth of the bath water. If simply soaking isn’t your cup of tea, tubs are available with whirlpool jets, bubble massagers, and chromatherapy.

The shower is the other major amenity in a luxe bath, and like the tub, you might be surprised at the variety of fixtures and features to choose from. Multiple shower heads, waterfall heads, rain heads, hand sprays, and body sprays can be combined to give the user anything from a gentle spring rain to a full-blown monsoon. Steam showers provide the ultimate relaxing spa experience. Finally, curbless showers are becoming more popular in high-end homes, and are easier and safer to enter, allowing people to stay in their home even if they lose mobility.

Finally, don’t forget the delightful little details than can add so much to the bathing experience. Heated floors can easily be installed under tile floors to provide a comfortable warmth underfoot on a chilly morning. Towel warmers, either installed in a drawer or wall-mounted as a towel rack, offer that just-out-of-the-dryer feeling every day. And if you want soothing music while you soak, or to catch the morning traffic report as you start your day, you can integrate audio and video components into the space. Just be careful – you may never want to leave!

Written by Alan Cook, studio manager at PCA

Choosing the Right Roofing Material

An old song says “you’re never fully dressed without a smile.” While it might not be as catchy, it’s also true that no house is complete without an attractive and watertight roof. While we won’t quit our day jobs to write song lyrics, we will note that selecting the roofing material for a house is a decision that must be made keeping a multitude of factors in mind.

Not only is the roof’s appearance often a primary visual element of a house’s design, but the weather-tightness and longevity of a roof is a major concern for the homeowner. Many good options are available and each material has its own benefits and drawbacks that should be considered.

Asphalt Shingles: The most common and cost-effective roofing material, asphalt shingles are much improved from the basic three-tab or strip shingles that were common years ago, which are still used on lower-cost homes. Typically called “architectural” or “dimensional” shingles, heavy-duty asphalt shingles are made with multiple layers of asphalt, giving them a thicker edge and more pronounced shadow line than strip shingles. This manufacturing method allows the shingles to be shaped to resemble wood or slate roofs, creating an attractive visual texture. Manufacturers offer a huge variety of textures and colors, allowing asphalt roofs to complement almost any palette of materials. Warranties are commonly 40-50 years, with lifetime warranties available from some companies. Asphalt is effective across a large range of roof slopes and can be used on pitches as low as 4/12, with some manufacturers allowing even flatter pitches. Although some color fading can be expected, the appearance of an asphalt shingle roof doesn’t greatly change over its lifetime.

Wood shingle roof

Wood Shakes and Wood Shingles: A classic traditional building material, wood shakes are appropriate for Shingle Style, colonial, and Nantucket-style architecture. When used with wall shingles or clapboard siding, they provide a timeless appearance. As a natural material, they are not a good choice for extremely arid areas with a high probability of fires. The most common wood used in roofing shakes and shingles is cedar, although redwood is used as well. Shakes are made by splitting logs, and are most often left with the rough split faces showing to create a more regularly shaped product.

Wood shingles are sawn on both sides, are thinner than shakes and are butt and square. A properly installed and maintained wood roof can last 50 years. One of the most attractive features of a wood shake or shingle roof is the naturally weathering finish. Not every homeowner appreciates or wants the appearance of a natural material with a “living” finish that changes over time, but for those who are seeking the look of that traditional weathering, wood shakes or shingles roofs are unmatched. The initial cost of a wood shake or shingle roof can be three to four times as much as asphalt shingles. Because wood roofing is subject to decay, it must be carefully installed so that it can breathe, most often over a ventilated underlayment.

Painted metal roof

Metal Roofing: Most metal roofing used residentially is standing seam, although flat seamed roofing is used on very low slopes or complex curved surfaces. Standing seam roofing is typically made from aluminum, steel or copper, although less frequently other metals such as titanium can be used. Aluminum’s natural resistance to corrosion makes it an excellent choice for marine environments where salt can accelerate corrosion. Steel roofing tends to be slightly less expensive than aluminum, and it can be coated with either zinc (galvanized) or a zinc/aluminum alloy (galvalume), or it can receive a painted finish to provide protection to the metal – infinite color options are available. Copper roofing can be left unprotected, since the natural oxidization of the metal creates a natural protective coating called patina.

Left: new copper roof | Right: aged copper roof

The patina naturally develops over time, changing from the bright finish of a new penny to a dark bronze in just a few weeks, ultimately turning to a pale green color after months or years of weathering. Since metal roofing has been used for centuries, it can complement almost any architectural style. It is forgiving of low slopes, particularly when flat seamed. While steel or aluminum roofing costs around three to four times as much as an asphalt shingle roof, and copper roofing even more, its life span can be 50-100 years. Metal roof installers must take care to use compatible metals throughout a roofing installation, since placing dissimilar metals against one another can degrade metals through a process called galvanic corrosion, drastically shortening a roof’s life.

Slate roof

Natural Slate: One of the longest-lasting roofing materials, slate has a long history as a building component. Most often used in traditional architecture, slate gives an impression of permanence and quality to any structure. That long life comes at a price, as a slate roof can cost up to three times as much as a metal roof. Since slate is a type of stone, slate roofing tiles weigh far more than any other roofing option, and that great weight must be accounted for during the structural design of a home. The flashing used with a slate roof is likely to be the weakest link in the roofing system, so the installer should pay careful attention to detailing and installation to ensure the entire roofing system lasts as long as the slates themselves.

Regardless of style or budget, every house needs a reliable and beautiful roofing system.  Selecting the right material for the job will help keep a smile on the owner’s face for years to come.

Written by Alan Cook, studio director at PCA

Inspiration from the Internet

Once upon a time, new clients would come to architectural design meetings with piles of magazines or stacks of binders stuffed full of photos, each one representing an idea. A concept. A possibility.

And every so often, an inspiration.

Sometimes, a client finds just the right image: a picture that evokes a feeling or a mood that somehow calls to them. It may not be a specific design feature, or color, or style of window, but something about the image conveys a feeling. It may be the way the afternoon light falls on clapboard siding, or the orderly spines of books arrayed on built-in shelves. Whatever it may be, that feeling, that sense that this is what my house should feel like, can serve as a sort of compass for a project, a way of making sure to stay on course.

Of course, it’s hard to find that one special image; an element of serendipity often comes into play. The best approach is to simply look at a lot of pictures. Over time, you’ll start to see patterns in what you’re attracted to, and that deep feeling of being just right can emerge from the overall sense of a collection of photos.

While some clients still prefer to gather their images with paper and scissors, the internet – specifically sites such as Houzz and Pinterest – has made a nearly infinite volume of imagery easily available. Search functions allow you to quickly locate images of particular interests, whether styles of architecture, applications of a material you love, or combinations of colors.

Algorithms for each site will even make suggestions based on past searches, allowing you to find variations on an idea that may not have occurred to you otherwise. Of course, this may lead you into searching and scrolling for hours – but that can be fun too.

But the best part of these sites may be the ability to organize the images you find. Sort by style, feature, color, component – whatever method you choose, you can group photos so they can easily be found and shared with the design team. As the design evolves, clients and architects alike can refer to these images again and again. Some collections may be important references early in the project when the overall design and style is being set, while others are useful later on for selecting finishes, colors, and details.

When reviewing your imagery with the architect, be sure to explain as clearly as you can exactly what in the photo appeals to you. It’s not always the most prominent or important thing in the picture, and you might be surprised how easy it is for two people looking at the same image to focus on entirely different aspects. Imagine the confusion if you were attracted to the color of the siding, but your architect was looking at the proportions of the windows. While a picture may be worth a thousand words, it pays to be sure everyone is listening to the same phrases.

When that happens, and the elements culled from thousands of images coalesce into a new, unique design that captures that amazing feeling of being just right – images can, almost by magic, turn into inspiration.

Written by Alan Cook, studio manager at PCA

Hospice of the Chesapeake: Caring for Life

Philanthropy, purposeful, non-profit, and special needs – these are all likely terms you have heard associated with Purple Cherry Architects for years. That is because the work we do is not limited to just the residential work that you may see at Purple Cherry. However, it is those projects that allow us to do the purposeful and non-profit work that really touches your soul.

For example, in 2013, Purple Cherry was blessed to be awarded the job of designing a 14-bed inpatient care center at the new Hospice of the Chesapeake Campus in Pasadena.

Newly designed Hospice of the Chesapeake
Interior view Hospice of the Chesapeake

The building is designed in a “T” shape, allowing each room to face beautiful gardens designed by Campion Hruby Landscape Architects, full of water features, meandering paths and benches for families to make use of while spending the last days with a loved family member. Once inside, patients and their families are treated to rooms that truly “felt like home”, due to thoughtful interior design by TM Design & Associates. Also inside the new structure is a series of community spaces – a kids’ room, a family room and a reflection room. Many visitors’ favorite space, the reflection room was designed to provide families with some respite or a more intimate place to have a discussion with the chaplain.

Reflection room located inside Hospice of the Chesapeake

One of the key features of the reflection room is the artwork. A series of four panes of glass painted by Sally Comport of Art at Large hang in front of the windows, filtering the light into the room and representing the seasons – seasons of the year, seasons of life, seasons of whatever a visitor may interpret them to be.

While we could go into great detail regarding the efforts and team members that went into the design and construction of this facility, one thing is certain – it would not have been possible without the giving heart of all who donated to the Hospice’s Caring for Life Campaign, whether monetarily or via services or in-kind donations.

Interior view Hospice of the Chesapeake

On that note, the Hospice’s Annual Gala, its largest fundraising event of the year, was recently rescheduled to July 18th, 2020 due to the COVID 19 outbreak. Given the highly infectious nature of the virus, and the population the Hospice serves, this was the right call.

The good news? This means that there is still plenty of time to donate or even purchase a table, like Purple Cherry Architects did.

If you’ve never attended the Gala, rest assured it is a night to remember. After being greeted by the friendly faces of Hospice and its volunteers, guests are guided towards a step and repeat banner for a brief photo session, after which they join a cocktail hour to mingle with friends and browse the silent auction items laid throughout the room.

Children's room located inside Hospice of the Chesapeake

Previous silent auction items have included a signed jersey from a local professional sports team, a weekend getaway to St. Michaels, or a game night experience at Mission Escape Rooms .

During the seated dinner portion of the evening, guests hear stories about Hospice and its mission, and listen to heartfelt stories from individuals who have been positively and directly affected by Hospice of the Chesapeake. After dinner, an exciting live auction is held and the dance floor is opened – once of the PCA team’s favorite activities.

If you would like to donate or be a part of this year’s festivities, visit the Hospice of the Chesapeake Gala website to learn more. We hope to see you on the dance floor!

PCA team at Hospice of the Chesapeake Gala

Written by Ashley Marshall, project manager at PCA

Ronald McDonald House: The House that Love Built

If you are a follower of PCA posts on social media, you will see everything from exciting project updates, to blogs filled with interesting tidbits, to fun-filled event pictures and so much more! You will also see posts about various team members, in the community, giving back—something that PCA holds near and dear to its heart! One of the most long-standing philanthropy efforts you will see from time to time is the firm’s involvement at the Ronald McDonald House in Baltimore. The keyword in that statement is “firm”. While we have various members involved in all sorts of volunteering efforts throughout the region, all members of the firm are participants in Ronald McDonald House at some time or another.

The Ronald McDonald House Charities were established to create, find, and support programs directly related to improving the health and well-being of children and their families. If you visit one of the many Ronald McDonald houses in the country, you will find pediatric patients being treated for various medical reasons. Some behavioral. Some physical.

PCA has been volunteering at the Ronald McDonald House in Baltimore for over 15 years. What do we do, you ask? Every other month on one Tuesday evening, we gather the forces! Co-workers, friends, family, even some vendors like Chesapeake Tile and Marble, all jump on the highway, fighting rush hour traffic, to make dinner and dessert for all the families staying at the house. This is a tradition that Cathy Purple Cherry started and the rest of PCA jumped onboard truly loving and embracing it!

In spring 2019, the Ronald McDonald House in Baltimore moved from its location near Lexington Market to Aisquith Street across town, allowing it to double its capacity in a new 60,000 square foot state of the art building. The new house provides a brand new kitchen with all new appliances, induction cooktop, commercial dishwashers, and storage for all visitors. One of the neatest features is the rooftop terrace that PCA was able to experience one night after cooking dinner. The comfortable outdoor seating, fire pits, and water features truly create a place where families can go between hospital visits to seek a little bit of respite. There can be up to 100 individuals staying at the house. Look at some of the great spaces!

People often say that the Ronal McDonald House is “the house that love built”. This is only supported more by the oversized 26’ heart on top of the building that lights the way for anyone who stays or volunteers at the Ronald McDonald House. In addition to the heart that you can see for miles, the patients, their families, and volunteers have also left their own mark. The house calls them “hope stones”- containing messages of hope and encouragement, all captured through installations near the elevators. Even local artists donated over 250 pieces to decorate the house in the house’s “All You Need is Love” project.

PCA has first-handedly seen the greatness that the Ronald McDonald House provides. The house really provides comfort to patients and families going through difficult times. Recently, the PCA gals took a Towson University student, also a patient, out to get her nails done! Another fun connection, one of our beloved clients was the co-chair of the fundraising campaign for the new house.

We are just one of the many organizations that support the Roald McDonald House. We have made great friends with patients, staff and other volunteers and they have all truly inspired us. They remind us to always keep fighting, do well, and that God has a plan.

Do not think you will only find us in the kitchen!  We have also had team members participate in the annual Red Shoe Shuffle, a 5K Run/Walk to help support the house. If you are a runner, lace up those running shoes! This annual run happens early spring, starting and ending at the house! This year, the new house means a new course! Take a look at the Red Shoe Shuffle page for details. Who knows… maybe you will see one of us there!

5K not your thing? That’s okay! You can still join us in support of the Ronald McDonald house. Be sure to check the website for all volunteer opportunities or join the PCA team one night for dinner?!

Written by Ashley Marshall, project manager at PCA

Architecture & Interiors