Happy Festivus!

Happy Festivus!

Happy Festivus!

While most of us around here are swept away in the excitement of this holiday season, we playfully enjoy airing our grievances in honor of Festivus. Our new years resolutions are being carefully crafted but in the meantime, it sure does feel good to get some of these grievances off our chest. Let us know if you can relate to any of these or what else is on your list!

Deborah: “I only have two hands, so I can only walk two dogs at a time…or else I’d adopt a passel of them.” 

Annie: “three words; Ticketmaster & Taylor Swift. Also worth mentioning, can the tripledemic be done now and why is self-check out at the grocery store seemingly the only option these days?”

Charles: get ready for a long list! “Supply chain brokenness, can we just go ahead and fix it already? Left lane slowness, I have places to go, move over people. Why is daylight savings still a thing? Starting work before dark and finishing in the dark makes no sense. As always, lack of good design is at the top of my grievances, plain and simple, hire an architect. Air permeable insulation is a waste of energy, vapor barriers in the wrong places is just wrong- let it dry out. Lastly, anyone who doesn’t love grumpy architects because we are the best. It’s outrageous, egregious, preposterous!”

Adrienne: “Toddlers who ask for food to then only take one bite and say ‘ew, yucky’, especially when that food is at a restaurant and you paid for their dinner. Dogs that act completely blind and deaf in the house but then coincidentally know exactly when a neighbor is walking a block away and needs to sound the alarm and bark! Also, our cars, for constantly giving us new reasons they need to be replaced, but also being so expensive to purchase right now. Lastly, I’m looking at you Netflix. Why do you give me an option with ads that I sincerely dislike but am too frugal to pay more to get ride of them? Oh and one more, laundry, because it’s laundry.”

Carla: “Bloop tone (not the frozen yogurt store) and robo calls. A forecast of snow but then it rains will always be at the top of disappointments. Lastly, when your car thinks there is someone in the empty passenger seat and the fasten seatbelt warning comes on. Enough!”

Not sure about you, but those of us who aired our grievances feel like we took a big exhale and are ready for both the exciting opportunities frustrating small moments ahead. Give it a try and let us know what is on your list. Happy Festivus from the rest of us!

Mind Behind the Design: Adrienne Stronge

Mind Behind the Design: Adrienne Stronge

Adrienne with her husband Andrew and son Alister

If there is one thing we know to be certain, it’s that Adrienne Stronge is no stranger to hard work and setting big goals. As a licensed architect with 16 years of experience under her belt, Adrienne is a respected professional in our industry who credits her entry into architecture to small seeds that were planted throughout her life beginning as early as middle school.

Originally from West Point, Virginia, Adrienne grew up loving to read and research. Her first engagement with the world of architecture came when she participated in a governor’s school program that focused on researching historical regional houses. This experience of researching and building a house model planted a seed as she moved into high school and started paying more attention to the built environment. Also during this time, her family began buying and renovating houses which gave Adrienne a front-row seat to the ways small changes could dramatically affect the way a residence functioned. It was also during Adrienne’s high school career someone told her architecture was a “male profession” and that architecture school would be “too challenging” to get into. To that point, Adrienne fully accepted the challenge and earned early acceptance to one of the top architecture schools, the University of Virginia. Like all new challenges, doubt crept in and Adrienne recalls driving to UVA for the first time second-guessing her decision and the path ahead of her. Once she arrived, Adrienne immediately recalls a feeling of reassurance and an understanding that she was exactly where she needed to be.

Fast forward to her senior year at UVA, Adrienne was busier than she could have ever imagined. While taking a full course load, working four part-time jobs (you read that correctly, four!); she was also in the ecoMOD studio where her team built a modular house in an aircraft hangar. The house was built to be transported to Mississippi to aid in Hurricane Katrina relief and Adrienne traveled to the Gulf Coast three separate times to do relief aid and prep work for the Habitat House. Finding time for interviews was challenging and after talking to a few firms in the area, nothing was feeling like a good fit. That changed when, quite out of the blue, Ray Gaines reached out and asked her to interview at the Gaines Group. As it turns out, a former Gaines Group client who interacted with Adrienne referred her to the firm knowing she would be a good fit. Adrienne recalls the funny experience of not being able to find an interview time amongst all of her commitments and Ray asking her to spontaneously stop by on her way to work on the Habitat House. Ray said he didn’t expect her in interview attire and he wouldn’t hold it against her if and when she showed up in jeans with holes and liquid nail stains, and an old t-shirt. Although Ray was not expecting formal attire, he hadn’t mentioned it to Charles and Paul who questioned why the firm would be interested in hiring someone who showed up in a questionable outfit.

Adrienne officially became a Licensed Architect in 2022

Sixteen years into working at the Gaines Group and Adrienne is a licensed architect with a great depth of experience and a specialization in multi-family design. Her favorite part of being an architect is having an impact on the way people interact with the built environment. She has a special passion for designing environments that ensure accessibility for people of all abilities. This passion stems from a close relationship she had with a family member whose progressive disease confined him to a wheelchair. Adrienne was a first-hand witness to the challenges he navigated interacting with his built environment and the frustrations that came when his opportunities were limited due to accessibility limitations. For this reason, she especially loves working on multifamily projects where she gets to create whole communities with access for everyone throughout the site. These projects create unique challenges when considering accessibility, but Adrienne finds it extra rewarding to solve these design dilemmas. One of her favorite elements to design is accessible pools for people with all abilities to be able to safely enjoy. Additionally, she enjoys focusing on multifamily design as she gets to create smaller, efficient spaces that comfortably fit into an overall design goal while meeting budget constraints.

Outside of being an architect, Adrienne is busy with her family and hobbies. She has been married to her husband Andrew since 2007. Andrew is an artist and an illustrator known for live-printing and local comic-cons and together they travel to many of these local events. In 2020, they welcomed their son Alister to their family and the trips to comic shows have slowed down since having a toddler in tow. Their 16-year-old pug-mix Spudnik is also a beloved family member and together they love traveling and exploring new places. Adrienne has no shortage of hobbies and likes to unwind by reading from her large book collection and doing jigsaw puzzles. She and Andrew have a vintage robot and space toy collection that they enjoy “hunting” for at flea markets, antique stores, and yard sales. Andrew runs their small business buying and selling vintage toys, games, and books, both online and in their booths at a store in Richmond, VA (Odd Balls Collectibles).

Architecture Design verses Drafting

Architecture Design verses Drafting

Gaines Group staff
Discussing the differences in architecture design versus drafting allows us to share the value an architect brings.

A common question we receive from potential clients is “Why should someone hire an architect versus a drafting service?”. We love this question because it gives us the opportunity to share about our training and experience and highlight the value we add to construction projects.

To understand the difference between drafting and architectural design, it is helpful to think about a project as a 3-dimensional complex building system to be approached with a level of expertise that delivers healthy, functional, and sustainable results. Beyond providing construction documents, architects approach a project through a holistic lens that considers building science, budget, flow of space, and aesthetics. As visionaries, architects guide the design process by considering the life clients want to live in a space. We are experts on the entire scope of a construction project and are often involved in all stages from envisioning and planning, design development, construction budgeting, and even observation over construction. 

Deborah and Charles look over blueprints.
Charles and Deborah are licensed architects. 

Drafting is the translation of a design to technical drawings. Drafters focus on documentation and the delivery of construction plans. Unlike an architect, drafters are not required to have a specific education background and do not hold a license. All architects are drafters; all drafters are not architects.

Architects lean on their education and years of training to serve as visionaries and provide expert oversight on projects. The journey to becoming a Licensed Architect involves 5-7+ years of higher education, an internship process under a licensed professional, and the successful passing of rigorous licensure examinations. Training covers art, science, math, psychology, sociology, and we infuse this blend of knowledge into each design. Additionally, architects hold a license once they successfully pass a series of exams and therefore hold liability for each of their projects. 

So, should you hire an architect or a drafter for your project? If you want a fully custom design that is uniquely tailored to your vision and is healthy, functional, and efficient, an architect is the best option. If you want to know more about the process and how an architect can support your project, visit our previous posts: “Why Hire an Architect? Know the Answers, Build the Solution”, “Why you should hire an architect”, and “Design adds value not cost, hire an architect for better performance, aesthetics, and process.”.

If you already have a design and need to make a few simple changes, a drafter might be an appropriate option. Either way, feel free to reach out and discuss your project. We are happy to answer questions and help you understand the value we bring to a project.

Holiday Decorating, the Sustainable Way.

Holiday Decorating, the Sustainable Way.

It’s that time of year again and many of us are are spending time joyfully decorating our homes. Before running out to big chain retailers for more decorations, consider a few of these tips to deck your halls this year. Don’t get us wrong, we love our store bought decorations as much as anyone else, but we also try to work in a few seasonal touches that reduce our footprint and save us money.

Candles and greenery are a great way to add festive touches to any space.
  1. Candles are a great way to add comfort and visual décor. Arrange tall candles on top of your mantle or table for a warm glow, or purchase a soy-wax candle that smells fantastic and is clean burning and non-toxic. Pictured above is a table at Annie’s house where she includes numerous natural elements and candles. Some of our favorites can be found at Lineage Goods.
  2. Try your hand at making your own decorations! A homemade wreath or garland can be a special focal point in your decorations. Bonus points if you can make this into a fun family or holiday gathering party to enjoy with others! If you are intimidated at the thought of making homemade items, YouTube can be your go-to guide. Here is a great tutorial on making a wreath.
  3. Opt for natural decorations and don’t be afraid to forage. Here in Virginia, there are plenty of species that add holiday charm around your home. Tuck your finds into a wreath, garland, or in a vase for some natural and seasonal beauty. Some of our favorites are magnolia leaves and seed cones, pinecones, and holly berries. Aside from foraging, a bowl of clementines with cloves or even a few pieces of cut firewood wrapped in festive ribbon can cozy up your space.
  4. Purchase quality, simple pieces you can customize each year with your evolving style. A simple sign made of quality materials can be customized with various ribbons, bows, and greenery.
  5. When decorating a tree or lighting up your windows, choose LED Christmas lights to use less energy.
  6. Think beyond visual decorations and awaken your senses with a stovetop potpourri. Annie’s favorite recipe calls for a few sliced oranges, fresh cranberries, cinnamon sticks, and cloves that gently simmer on the stove. This warm blend aromatics can make your home instantly feel warmer and cheerful.
A holiday potpourri is a great way to add comfort and warmth this holiday season.
  1. Save wrapping paper and frame it! Sometimes wrapping paper is just too beautiful to throw away. Try framing some of your favorite pieces for a beautiful holiday piece or even make a collage.
This wrapping paper was too beautiful to be tossed. After cleaning up the edges and mounting it in a frame, it’s now a beautiful piece that can be reused for years to come.
  1. Don’t be afraid to shop for vintage or thrifted pieces! Pre-loved pieces can add instant character to your home. In Harrisonburg, we enjoy perusing Heartworn Vintage, Gift & Thrift, and Green Valley Auction for unique holiday finds.


First Friday Artist, Lynn Adams

First Friday Artist, Lynn Adams

Next in our lineup of creators participating the First Friday holiday gallery opening is Lynn Adams. Lynn is excited to partake in the festivities and will be sharing her handmade wool and wood turned items.

First Friday Artist, Lynn Adams

Lynn and her family have lived in the Harrisonburg area since 1981, except for a a short time in 2011-2013. They have been involved in Boy Scouts, the church and the Builders Association for many of those years. 

She has always enjoyed crafting and working with her hands. She has worked on a range of projects from costumes to wood projects. During Covid, she was in search of something new to learn. She had worked with fabric, yarns, and glass and needed a new challenge. She found needle felted wool and wood turning. 

Both are using what is found in nature and that helps bring out its own personality.  The wool is naturally dyed and 100% organic. The wood is what we can find from here or from friends, or traded with other wood turners.  She sometimes uses acrylics in some of the turnings to add interest and variety.

Be sure to come out to meet Lynn and enjoy all of the vendors, live music, and visits with Santa on December 2nd, from 5:00-7:00 pm. Find the event page and RSVP here. And in case you missed it, read up on the other vendors who will be sharing their work here, here, and here.