The Design Process

The Journey from Concept to Completion

Architectural design is not a job when you are a passionate architect who loves your profession. Rather, it is a design process that starts with the conceptualization process and ends with a complete design drawing submission and 3D presentation model. This process usually starts when the client or owner brings their ideas to an architecture firm. The firm takes these client visuals and verbal wishes and designs a structure with all appropriate zoning and code standards to suit a particular site. From the initial client inquiry through to project completion, a good architect is dedicated to helping a project succeed while taking the time to listen carefully to their client’s needs, conduct necessary research and explore options.

This is when the exciting design journey begins! An architect can walk you through any part of the design and building process. From helping find the right property, guiding the building orientation, providing plan options through sketches, displaying design views through computer technology, assisting in contractor award, overseeing construction, and selecting final colors, fixtures and furnishings, an architect can bring the “fun part” of the design journey to the forefront. They allow you to imagine opportunity and help you to see potential conflict in old living patterns. They are true problem solvers while creating amazing works of art.

Initial Introduction/Consultation. This is where the client and a member of the design firm (typically the business development manager) discuss the client’s needs and budget. The client shares information regarding their project such as general vision, design intent, and desired architectural style and/or details. After this, the principal architect helps the clients understand their goals and identify next best steps.

Site Visit. The site visit allows the design team to learn more about the client’s project. It also allows the client the opportunity to “interview” the firm. From the start of each project, architects believe in cultivating a positive client-architect synergy. The site visit is the next step in building this important relationship.

After this phase, a Letter of Proposal and AIA contract is provided. The Letter of Proposal defines the firm’s understanding of the project and provides related potential architectural fees.

Kick-Off Meeting/Programming. Once the client has reviewed, signed and returned the Letter of Proposal and the AIA contract, a Kick-off Meeting to discuss project details is scheduled. During this working session, the programming of the home with related room sizes is developed and images that speak to the client’s preferences and inspiration are shared. The design team sketches room relationships and diagrams to create visuals that help illustrate the client’s intent. Houzz and Pinterest accounts are typically shared by the client so that the design team fully grasps the client’s tastes through inspiration imagery.

Schematic Design. This phase includes the freehand concept sketch of floor plans and exterior elevations. This is a collaborative process in which the design team is very sensitive to client input and approval. Having a well-developed client wish list in place, as well as having both the client and architect fully engaged in the process, helps to expedite this phase and minimize the cost related to initial concept sketches.

Design Development & Construction Documents. During this phase, the project information is loaded into the firm’s design software in order to develop the construction documents and the 3D Revit model for the project. The construction documents include plans, elevations, sections, framing, detail and specifications. Everything needed to build the home.

At the client’s request, a design team can assist with final color selections and finish schedules; kitchen cabinet design or assistance; tile selections and pattern design; assistance with selection of all countertop materials; assistance with selection of flooring; assistance with selection of all lighting and plumbing fixtures; selection of furniture, upholstery, accessories and window coverings; and selection and placement of artwork. The firm can also provide designs for interior custom built-ins.

3D Revit Elevation

Coordination of any Related Consultants. During this phase, the design team can assist with the coordination of any additional consultants that may be needed for the client’s project such as Civil and Structural Engineers, Landscape Architect, Interior Designer, Lighting and A/V Consultants.

Permit Filing. At the client’s request, once the construction documents are complete, the team can coordinate all building permit applications for the project.

Bidding Assistance. At the client’s request, the design team can assist with the bidding process including preparation of the bidding documents, distribution of documents to bidding contractors, and selection of the bidding contractor through the review of references, portfolios, and final bid submissions.

Construction Administration. At the client’s request, the design team is available to support the construction process in a variety of ways: interior design assistance such as the final selection of finishes and materials; developing millwork details such as replace mantels, bookcases/built-ins and ceiling treatment details; site visits with the client and/or the Contractor; review of applications for payment; review and negotiation of change orders; coordination of all field questions; preparation of Contractor’s final punch list; and issuance of Substantial Completion certificate.

The skills of an architect can be all-encompassing or very limited. When the journey is truly successful, architects are the creators of places and spaces that evoke joy, inspiration and contentment. We at Purple Cherry Architects are truly motivated to have incredibly successful outcomes – for our clients, for our designs, and for the contractors that make what we draw on paper become a reality.

Hiring an Architect

To Hire an Architect, or not to Hire… That is the question! Few people realize how complicated it is to build – that is until they find themselves lost in the maze of design options, building codes, zoning laws, contractors, and so on. Like a snowflake, no two projects are exactly alike. There is no single clear-cut path to navigate. A well-experienced architect is the one professional who has the education, training, and vision to guide you through the entire design and construction process, from helping you define what you want to build to helping you get the most bang for your construction dollar.

Talented architects see the big picture. They don’t just design four walls and a roof. They create total environments, interiors, and exteriors that satisfy functional needs and are exciting, dynamic spaces in which to live. Whether you are remodeling, doing an addition, or building your dream home from scratch—the great architect can guide the way. Working with contractors and other construction professionals, architects help you end up with a beautiful project that meets your needs and works with both your budget and time frame.

Architects solve problems. Most building projects start with a want or need. “I need a larger kitchen for entertaining.” Or, “We’ve outgrown our home.” But how does that need or want get translated into square feet and three-dimensional space? That is what architects are trained to do—solve problems in creative ways. With their broad knowledge of design and construction, architects can come up with clever alternatives and options you might never think of on your own, such as—designing to age in place; designing to maximize views; designing to support daily living patterns, and so on.

Need more room for your growing family? An architect can show you how to expand your home so you don’t have to move. An architect can design a home that meets your needs today and can be adapted for tomorrow. Have a limited budget? An architect looks for ways to make your project cost-effective.

An architect’s services are a wise investment for the money vs. an added cost to your project—which is often the misconception. Why?

  • A well-conceived project can be built more efficiently and economically. Architects plan your project with you with your budget in mind. As your ideas evolve, changes can be made in the design development phase when three-dimensional Revit software is utilized—a cost-effective tool that also eliminates human error.  Changes made during the drawing phase are much less expensive than later on when construction is underway. Thorough drawings enable the contractor to accurately price and build your project.
  • An energy-efficient home can save you money on your fuel bill. An architect can design a structure to maximize natural lighting & heating/cooling effects, thus reducing your electric bills over time.
  • An architect can help you choose materials and finishes that are durable as well as beautiful, saving on frequent maintenance and replacement costs. Architects work to stay abreast of advances in lighting, finishes, flooring, paint, etc. Their familiarity with the full range of materials enables them to suggest the appropriate materials for your project.
  • An architect is available to support the construction process in a variety of ways through construction administration: interior architecture design assistance such as the final selection of finishes and materials; developing millwork details such as replace mantels, bookcases/built-ins and ceiling treatment details; site visits with you and/or the contractor; review of applications for payment; review and negotiation of change orders; coordination of all field questions; preparation of contractor’s final punch list; and issuance of Substantial Completion certificate.
  • Good design sells. A well-designed home is easier to sell and often has a higher resale value.

Architects can make your life easier. Let’s face it, building a new home is a long process that can, at times, get messy and disruptive, particularly if you are living in the space while under construction. The architect you hire looks out for your interests to ensure the process flows smoothly.

An architect is your advocate, designer, friend, family member and sometimes even a marriage counselor when a couple might not see eye to eye on design options! In the end, a good architect has the talent to take the element of fear or the unknown and make the design process an extraordinary journey!

Purposeful Architecture – “Galaxy of Possibilities” Gala

You know the name “Purple Cherry Architects”, but how well do you know “Purposeful Architecture”? If you google it, it’s the first thing that comes up. The logo looks strikingly similar to that of Purple Cherry Architects’ logo! That’s because Purposeful Architecture is a design studio within Purple Cherry Architects that specializes in “creating learning and living environments that inspire creativity and individuality in children and adults with special needs.”

Purposeful Architecture and Purple Cherry Architects are likely names that you have seen around the metro area for several decades. You have also seen them associated with local non-profits such as Hospice of the Chesapeake, Arundel Lodge, and the Ronald McDonald House just to name a few. But two plus years ago, Purple Cherry expanded into the Charlottesville area and with that, so did Purposeful Architecture.

While Purposeful Architecture has worked on non-profit projects, special needs schools, group homes, vocational day facilities, etc. from the Annapolis area all the way out to Utah, Arizona and even Saudi Arabia, one of the more recent non-profits pairings is with the Virginia Institute of Autism, or as we call it simply – VIA. Early in October, VIA hosted their Annual Gala, “A Galaxy of Possibilities”, to help kick off their fundraising campaign for their new Charlottesville facility to serve transitioning teens and adults with Autism into the community.

The evening was hosted by Castle Hill Cider near Charlottesville and silent auction Items lined the perimeter of the timber-framed hall as all the stars in the galaxy were shining just above attendees heads. Okay, so they were actually twinkle lights but we’re talking about a theme here!  Cathy Cherry, Ashley Marshall, and John Daly from our team were all in attendance! It wasn’t just the PCA team that supported VIA–our team was joined by some notable colleagues like Doug Croker of Ilex Construction, who has been working with PCA on various projects in Maryland and Virginia, and Alison Dickie the fabulous editor of Albemarle Magazine. The night went off without a hitch and was full of speeches, live auction items, dancing, laughing and even a little photo booth time. It was truly a night to remember with some great people for an even better cause.

With the gala in the past, the real work begins! The project is the renovation of an existing senior center on Hillsdale Drive. The use, materials and team all play a critical role in the redesign of this new space. One of the biggest things needing attention is the roof, but let me tell you a little bit about the other parts.

Individuals with autism can be more sensitive to sounds, smells, etc. It is key that the team at B&R Construction Services–the mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) engineers on the project–pays close attention to this when working through their design. Ever turn on the lights in a conference room and hear a buzzing or humming noise? That is a “no-go” in the world of special needs design! Switching out the noisy bright fluorescent bulbs for quiet warm 2700 kelvin LED bulbs can help to alleviate sensitivity.

When students need a break from all the commotion, they often need a secluded space to distance themselves from all the things causing stress. Thus why sensory rooms have been located within the four major classrooms.

In addition to these sensory rooms in the classrooms, VIA will also be building out the basement into a large vocational classroom that will be mocked up like an apartment. This gives the students and adults opportunities to learn how to clean, do laundry, cook, etc., all of which can help them get jobs out in the community and better their life experiences!

If they aren’t learning life skills in the model apartment classroom, they could be spending time in the VIAble ventures lab. What is VIAble ventures you ask? It’s a social impact program to develop small sustainable businesses tailored to give adults with autism jobs! The first venture – candle making. Who doesn’t love a good candle? Be on the lookout because their first inventory is coming soon!

As this project becomes more and more of a reality, we certainly cannot do it without the work of some of the other local consultants on the project like DMWPV Structural Engineers and Timmons Group for the exterior civil and garden work!

Want to learn a little more about what VIA is doing? Check out these links featured on the local Charlottesville news! Take a look at the Daily Press . Interested in other ways to get involved? Go to to read more and learn how. See you in Cville!

Written by Ashley Marshall, project manager at PCA

Finding Fur-ever

Every year, the SPCA sees around 6.5 million animals surrendered to shelters nationwide. It may have been anything from puppies or kittens left in a box on the side of the road, to older or sick adult dogs or cats, or even malnourished dogs chained up outside for days without food or water. Of these 6.5 million animals, approximately 3 million are adopted, 1.5 million are euthanized and over 700,000 that have entered shelters as strays have been reunited with their owners.

The SPCA of Anne Arundel County was founded in 1920 and is currently the largest and oldest animal welfare organization in the county. It was originally created to help manage the overwhelming amount of stray dogs that had overtaken Eastport. Unfortunately, the SPCA struggled in its early years. It was not until 1934 when Albert McCarthy became the President of the organization that it truly began to shine. Albert was the strong animal welfare activist that the SPCA needed. Under his leadership, SPCA managed and enforced all dog-licensing regulations, and ran six animal ambulances to retrieve animals that had been injured and opened their first shelter building in 1947.

As the shelter grew, they outgrew the original building and it now houses the administrative offices, meeting spaces, volunteer orientation and the Spay and Neuter clinic. The clinic was the dream of Peg Howard who was a volunteer, board member and donor that used her own money to build and equip the first clinic in 1974. This allowed the SPCA  to become one of the leading pioneers in low-cost spay and neuter services.

In 2018, almost 2,100 animals were taken in by the SPCA, and not just dogs and cats, but small animals like bunny rabbits, guinea pigs, birds, and hamsters, too. Out of those 2,100 animals, just over 1,700 were able to find their forever homes. In addition to the 2,100 animals in the shelter, 733 were placed in love-filled foster homes.

Animal Fosters are vital to the number of animals the shelter can save each year. Foster care is for some of the most vulnerable animals that come through the doors. Those animals like, pregnant or new moms, orphans, animals in recovery and even some that just need a break from shelter life. A calm and relaxing place to stay provides these animals with their best chance at a happy life. If you, or anyone you know, would be interested in fostering, be sure to reach out to SPCA to learn more!

Volunteers, such as our team members Ashley Marshall and Cathy Purple Cherry who volunteer at the SPCA, also play a critical role in helping to care for the animals in the shelter and SPCA is lucky to have a very active and vibrant program. With a staff of around 50 and 2,100 animals that came through the doors last year, it would be impossible for the staff alone to provide the complete care needed. While volunteers can help with events, gardening, and clinic, one key task is socializing. The socialization of the animals is essential to their adoption. For dogs, getting them out of their 3’x6’ concrete block and metal chain link fence run and taking them for a walk on the scenic nature trail can help ease their anxiety and nervousness.

The SPCA is a 501c3 organization. As a non-profit they look to volunteers, donations, etc. to help keep facilities and programs running. Throughout the year, SPCA hosts a variety of fundraising events to help support their animal budget. Ever drive through Sandy Point State Park at Christmas time for Lights on the Bay?  Well, for the last few years, the proceeds have helped all benefit the SPCA. How about the Walk for Animals or the Puppy Plunge in the Summer? All fun events that not only help raise money for the SPCA but give you a glimpse of the sweet faces available for adoption.

SPCA Intake Building Perspective (not to scale)

One of the next big steps for SPCA is the design and completion of their new animal intake facilities! After 33 years, this building is in desperate need of replacement. The fun part? The team at Purple Cherry Architects gets to help make it a reality! We could not be more excited. But let’s not forget, it takes a village and SPCA needs the help of the community to make it happen. If you would like to help the cause and donate go to!

Hope to see you at the next SPCA event!

*Note:  Some of the animals in the photos have previously been adopted.

Written by Ashley Marshall, project manager at PCA. 

Pool House on Harness Creek

Image credit: David Photography
Image credit: David Photography
Image credit: David Photography

This tranquil glass pool house is situated on the waterfront of Harness Creek in Annapolis. Homeowners desired a meditative reflection space that mirrored the same aesthetic as the main house it is detached from. The feature story in Home and Design Magazine, In Harmony, further details the connection of the pool house with the meadow and shoreline garden. Emphasizing nature and it’s elements was a major component in this project. The grasses and plant beds throughout create a “tidewater habitat.”

Each stone of the connecting bridge to the main house and pool were individually chiseled to achieve a hand-stacked look. Custom vanities, aqua blue tiled spa shower and closet, and a sitting area make up the interior of the space. Writer Sharon Jaffe Dan perfectly depicts this as “living proof that man and nature can coexist in harmony.”

New England Barn Design

Maine Barn Company brought to life our design for this 19th century New England barn that serves as showroom to our client’s extensive classic car and motorcycle collection. “It was the showroom for the most part that drove the design,” states Cathy Cherry. Annapolis Home Magazine’s feature on this barn shares the strategic design and planning our team used to make this space a spectacular showcase for the homeowners.

Image credit: Anne Gummerson

Home Sweet Home

In building their dream home, our clients not only sought luxurious finishes and stunning spaces – they also wanted a home that was comfortable, warm, and could serve as the touchstone for their family of four, plus two large dogs. So, while large in square footage, the scale of each room is expertly defined by the extensive application of millwork, lighting, furniture, and artwork. Kudos to Arlene Critzos and her team at Interior Concepts who selected incredible furnishings that beautifully compliment the architectural design of the home, help to further marry the home’s interior with its surrounding natural environment, and provide plenty of spaces for its family to feel right at home.

Image credit: David Burroughs Photography

Aqua Terra: Picture Perfect

We’ve just updated our web portfolio with stunning photography of our most recent project, Aqua Terra. A heartfelt thank you to David Burroughs Photography for expertly capturing several of the spectacular design elements in this 10,000 SF custom waterfront home on Harness Creek. Sure to delight is the wood and steel floating staircase, the custom painted glass interior panel imported from Israel, the sunken outdoor entertaining area with fire pit, the luxurious master bedroom, and the study fireplace integrating large boulders and cantilever hearth stones.

Image credit: David Burroughs Photography

Architecture & Interiors