Our cabin in the woods project is shaping up to be a lovely retreat for our clients. The progress being made will upgrade and maximize our client’s comfort and relaxation in this place. This project has been another enjoyable experience of designing to achieve our clients dream lifestyle on another beautiful property.
Our design process began by analyzing the site and looking at the existing conditions and structure. We talked about the way they ideally want to live in this place, and developed concept drawings to continue the conversation. One idea lead to another and we continued to hammer away at the changes and details until we finally arrived at the “just right” design for function, comfort, and budget. We were able to work through the interior design process with our client’s both virtually and with some in-person meetings to determine the perfect design aesthetic for their cabin. It’s a rewarding experience when our team can collaborate and provide clients with many options to consider to achieve the best solution while keeping tabs on their budget.
The results are now taking shape as the framing is complete and the drywall is being installed. We are looking forward to seeing how Integrity Custom Builders brings our drawings to the final reality. Following the process and working with both the builder and client during the construction process has allowed everyone to keep on tack and very importantly, on budget. We have fielded questions (the inevitable type that always come up during renovations), recalibrated if product availability has changed, and offered options for the best possible solutions. We love working with a builder that has an open communication systems to keep everyone informed about progress and clients that engage in the reason behind the design. This cabin is going to feel spacious and inviting while maintaining a comfortable footprint. The clients will be able to entertain, unwind, and enjoy this beautiful property to its fullest potential once construction is completed.
As we continue our series featuring the “Minds Behind our Designs”, we are excited to share a team member whose invaluable skill set allows him to touch almost every project. James Halstead has served as our Structural Design Director since 2013 and brings a depth and understanding of fundamental structural solutions and technologies. It’s common to overhear our team members collaborating on an idea and inevitably ask, “James, can we do this?” As often as it is said, James plays a critical role in ensuring the integrity of our work and making our ideas fit structurally into the overall design.
James is a native of Albemarle County and enjoys living and working in the community he was raised in. From a young age, he recalls his close relationship with his grandfather as a source of inspiration that guided his future. As a carpenter, his grandfather could construct almost anything, and James remembers learning as much as he could from him. These early years of learning how things were built led James to study at Piedmont College and eventually begin a career in structural design. He developed much of his skill set while working at a local engineering firm that partnered with the Gaines Group on numerous projects. Their partnership led to a strong relationship over the years, and it was a natural fit for James to join the team at the Gaines Group once his employer retired.
Since joining the firm, James has elevated our team’s ability to support all phases of the design process. His skill set allows our team to find solutions that meet overall design goals. In his words, “Charles and I make a good team. He creates the big picture and I help make it come together with all of the details.” He loves the wide range and diversity of projects but specifically enjoys working on custom residential designs. To date, his most memorable project was the Penn Laird custom home in which the design was centered around a full-size, half-court basketball court in the basement.
Outside of work, James devotes much of his time to his family and community. He prioritizes spending time with his wife of 23 years and daughter who is currently a junior at Longwood university. He also serves as the Captain of the Reserve program at the Albemarle Sheriff’s Office and has been an active board member on the Fluvanna County Board of Building Code and Fluvanna County Planning Commission. When he has a free moment, you can also find James unwinding on the golf course.
Next in our lineup of First Friday artists is local painter, Wendy Bowers Lam. We are looking forward to hosting Wendy on Friday, October 7th from 5:00-7:00PM, and invite everyone to visit the event page here. Get to know Wendy before the gallery opening by checking out her biography below.
Wendy enjoys painting with bold colors and whimsical subject matter. She is drawn to curious cow expressions and gentle sheep she photographs while hiking in Scotland. She finds inspiration for subject matter in an African safari, or a trip to Key West seeing strutting roosters. Wendy also photographs rural barns, garden flowers, Blue Ridge Mountains and vineyard fields for local inspiration and beauty. Watercolor paintings are intricate depictions of bees, fish, and insects among other animals.
Wendy grew up on Paul Street in Old Town Harrisonburg. She graduated from Harrisonburg High and then the University of Virginia. She taught middle school language arts in Augusta and Rockingham County until staying home with three children. Always interested in artistic pursuits, Lam took some classes at The Beverley Street Studio School in Staunton as an adult and began to paint in oils. She is a juried member of the Co-Art Gallery in Staunton and has exhibited professionally there for over 10 years. Wendy also exhibits in state juried shows such as the VMRC Art Show, Art at the Mill, the Bath County Art Show, Blue Ridge Community College and Two Rivers Colony Country Club (Williamsburg). Lam’s solo shows include the Smith House Galleries at the Arts Council of the Valley, Ox Eye Vineyards (Staunton), Aioli Restaurant, Shenandoah Pizza (Staunton), and Clementine’s Restaurant.
She currently teaches some watercolor/mixed media classes at JMU’s Lifelong Learning Institute. Wendy is very active in the community as a CASA volunteer, a board member of both the Explore More Children’s Museum and Kerus Global Education, and is active in the Spotswood Garden Club. She is a lifelong runner and reader.
As architects and designers, we find ourselves oscillating between a larger, holistic view of design one minute, and then headfirst into the details a moment later. We must be adaptable and open to looking at each project through both lenses individually and simultaneously. I recently sat down with Charles to talk through this concept of how we approach design and asked him a few questions. Follow along below to learn from our conversation.
Charles, what does it mean to you to approach a design holistically?
We get calls all the time with the same question: “how much for you to design a 3 bedroom house in the county?” I see this question as an opportunity to talk about custom design vs new construction. Many homes and even businesses are not designed holistically, they are just drawn to look like a certain style. When we take on a project we want to approach it with more than just the facts (3 bedrooms, 2 bath, kitchen with window above the sink – check). We want to think about how the building sits on the site, frames views, how it performs over time, and how it impacts the environment. A holistic approach to design asks questions about the life the inhabitants want to live in that place and not just the budget, square footage, and the number of bedrooms. We want to not only hit the budget with our designs, but we also want to enhance livability with our custom solutions that are environmentally sensitive, durable, and healthy.
While it is important to think holistically, we know details are what can really set a design apart. How have you trained yourself to approach a design through both lenses?
We are always looking for those special opportunities and challenges to make a project, detail, or design solution unique. As an architect, you are constantly zooming into a small detail and stepping back to see the whole picture. If you don’t you will not be able to think through all the elements that make up a good design solution. It is important to keep the overall goals in mind even when working on the very small details so that everything is coordinated in the end.
Do you prefer to spend your time on the details of a design, or are you a larger-picture/holistic thinker?
I have done both over my career, but where I am at now, I deal with the holistic a lot more. I have an amazing team of talented architects and designers that work into the details and then we discuss them. So I still get to enjoy the detail, but I don’t get to spend a lot of time on them.
What are some of your most memorable design details to date?
I have so many amazing clients that have allowed us to design for them over my 23+ years doing architecture. The rooftop deck on East Grattan Street and all the small special spaces and elements in that house are very cool. The painted address on Duke Garden apartments came out better than I expected. The sign in front of the Depot that pays tribute to the railroad is one of my favorites. The views we framed on top of Afton mountain are amazing. The playhouse I designed for my girls is one that holds so many special memories. The first LEED-certified project I completed way back in 2005 that has the look of a much older home will always be one of my top projects. There are simply too many options to pick just one. From the half-wall shadow detail we have used to the lambs fence for deck rail to the glass walls into a mechanical room at the elementary school so kids understand the building systems we have used many opportunities to create details I am proud of over my career.
Choosing to live a more sustainable lifestyle can start by swapping out some of our everyday items for more eco-friendly options. We surveyed our team as to which are some of their go-to products they use in their own homes that help reduce their footprint. Check out this list and see if any of these items can be swapped out in your household!
Stasher reusable silicone bags. A few of us use these great reusable bags for our snacks and small travel items instead of regular disposable bags.
E cloth cleaners. Use these washable micro-fiber cloths for numerous cleaning surfaces around the house and ditch the disposable ones.
Wool dryer balls. These eco-friendly dryer balls are a go-to product and are a great alternative to traditional dryer sheets.
Nuuly clothing rental. This has been a fun new venture for Annie who appreciates the concept of reducing waste by renting different styles of clothes each month.
Reusable Grocery bags and crates: A few of us try to make it a habit of keeping reusable bags in our vehicles so we always have them available. Cut down on using plastic bags and grab a few the next time you are checking out! Collapsible crates are also a helpful option to load heavier items without using extra plastic bags.
Quality Reusable Water Bottles: when we aren’t guzzling down coffee, many of us have invested in insulated water bottles that cut down on single-use plastic water bottles.
The best way to cut energy fast is to switch out your old light bulbs to LED. Charles says to use Cree bulbs.
Refillable soap dispensers are a great way to cut down on singe-use plastics. As an additional design tip, look for decorative soap dispensers that coordinate with your bathroom or kitchen aesthetic. Companies such as the Grove Collaborative will deliver refills of your favorite soap and cleaning products to help you cut down on extra packaging.
If a larger swap is possible, considering upgrading your HVAC to a ducted mini-split. Charles recommends this as an everyday item because it consistently keeps his house comfortable! This was an initial investment he made when moving into his older home a couple of years ago.