Charlotte Architect Explains How Collaboration On All Fronts Results In a Home That Offers Lasting Beauty

Posted on | July 14, 2014 | No Comments

Building a home is a process with a thousand moving parts, and a successful project requires both a rock-solid plan and great teamwork. Don Duffy, owner of Don Duffy Architecture in Charlotte, knows a great deal about both. While Don is one of Charlotte’s most highly skilled and respected architects, he is also nothing if not humble – readily crediting teamwork for his many successes. He recently sat down with North Carolina Design to talk about the importance of collaboration, explaining how and why it brings so much satisfaction in his work.

Images Courtesy of Don Duffy Architecture ©

To Don, meaningful collaboration with clients is one of the most important aspects of designing a home. “In my view, we are servants, and we come to the job with that in mind,” he explains. “I do not think that I know what is best for our clients. In fact, we do our best work when our clients act as coaches.

“Some clients are good coaches, who are organized and know what they want, and can guide the process smoothly along. Some of them just need a sounding board so they can exercise their own creative side. And some of them need us to help them draw out and articulate their vision. There is nothing more enjoyable then developing a client’s idea for how they want to live.”

A lot of work goes into thoroughly deciphering a client’s unique perspectives. “Understanding our clients’ needs doesn’t happen in a single meeting,” Don notes. “It happens over many, many meetings – after spending a lot of time chit-chatting about the project. When clients say that they want something ‘traditional,’ ‘modern,’ ‘not too big,’ or ‘not too fancy,’ we always ask them to use adjectives to explain what they mean. Those concepts mean different things to different people, and we have to redefine them in the client’s terms.”

Don also highly values the collaboration of the team of craftsmen and builders that bring his designs to life. “The building process is very much communal, and involves many people who have solid ideas,” he affirms. “It’s the artistry of the entire team that will make the home even better than the original drawings. There is so much joy in the pride the trade partners bring to the project. You know you have hit a home run when the construction team brings their families to the job site to show them what they have created.”

While he loves the collaborative process, Don also gets a great deal of personal satisfaction from each project. “I love the sensory experience of it all, and seeing the project come together,” he explains. “When you’re working in a rural area, for example, you’re surrounded by the smell of the woods and the sounds of the forest, and you have the sense that you are building something amazing from nothing. It’s impressive to go from a piece of dirt or forested piece of land to a finished home.”

In the end, Don’s real crowning achievement comes from making his clients’ visions a reality. “The biggest joy in a project is in the client’s enjoyment of the home,” he concedes. “There is nothing better than hearing a client say that they knew the result would be good, but they had no idea that it could be this good.”

Courtesy Photo Credits Provided By Don Duffy:
Photos 1,7 and 8 – Bruce Clodfelter Landscape Architect
Photo 4 – Sheryl Vandermolen Interiors
Photo 9 – Stephen Young, Think Still Photography
Photo 9 – Circa Interiors
Photo 10 – Photography by Charlotte Virtual Home Tours, Cal Mitchner

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