Architect Bibliophile

Architect Bibliophile

By Principle Architect and Multi-Family Director, Adrienne Stronge.

I have always loved books. I have been on a lifetime of adventures from my couch / bed / chair, thanks to the amazing power of printed words. At a very young age I knew two things; I wanted to be an author and I wanted to live in a house with a library. As I got older, I realized that my talents were better suited to creating tangible buildings rather than fictional worlds, but I knew that my hobby would make me a better architect. 

Reading allows me to practice designing in my mind, turning written words into beautiful buildings without pictures to guide me. It’s like exercising my design muscle, especially with fantastical worlds that exist outside of our reality. Books also help me practice empathy. Walking in someone else’s shoes and reading someone else’s perspective works towards building empathy for other experiences. As architects, we need to be able to listen and empathize with our clients to create personalized spaces that fully meet their wants and needs.   

Adrienne's Books on bookshelf.


While I did not become a writer, I do have a “library” with bookshelves shoe-horned into every blank wall of my house. I love having a house full of books and places I can go to comfortably read them. If you are like me and need a place in your home for books, or even just spaces to cozy up with your e-reader, here are some tips below:

1.  Make sure your architect knows the size of your collection. Built-in bookcases with adjustable shelves are better than individually bought shelves for safety reasons, but if you will have any heavy furniture pieces, consider adding blocking in the wall for anchoring these pieces. Ensure your bookcases are designed near a bearing wall if you have a large, weighty collection. Don’t forget to design places for any oversized books in your collection, which are best stored flat to avoid stressing the spines.

2. Reading next to a window is one of my favorite places to curl up with a book, but avoid direct light in rooms with books. Direct sunlight will fade spines and make books age faster. Work with your architect to conduct sun studies that will allow enough indirect light to comfortably read but block harmful direct light. 

room with shelves

3. You will want to ensure there is no excessive moisture in the room that will house your books. A well-balanced HVAC system with a well-designed and constructed building enclosure is key for this.  

modern home harrisonburg interior
4. While I love natural light in my reading space, the room needs ample artificial light for night or rainy day reading. If your reading space will be in the center of your room, consider adding a floor outlet for your reading lamp to avoid trip hazards from wires. Direct, individually switched sconce lights over beds will allow you to continue your reading well into the night when you just need to consume “one more chapter…”

5 over 4 craftsman study room
5. I love the cozy image of reading next to a fire. An efficient heat pump should keep you comfortably warm in your home, but you could consider adding a visually appealing electric fireplace. These will give you the cozy effect of reading by a fire, without the introduction of flame and particulates to your library.

5 over 4 craftsman family room
6. For a bit of whimsy, consider using a bookcase as a hidden doorway. Creating a secret room adds a fun, unexpected element to your library.

7. Don’t forget your outdoor spaces! Make a cozy nook outside for a great reading spot. My ideal outdoor spot is covered for all weather, includes a ceiling fan to discourage bugs, includes artificial lighting for reading late into the night, and has well-placed blocking in the ceiling so I can install a swing or comfortable hanging chair.

interior screened in porch


If you’re a fellow bibliophile, be sure to check out the VA Festival of the Book, taking place March 20-24, 2024 in Charlottesville.

Going Green for Saint Patrick’s Day

Going Green for Saint Patrick’s Day

What better day than Saint Patrick’s Day than to give you tips for to go green! As a bonus, if you forgot to wear green for Saint Patrick’s Day, maybe you can evade the pinching by trying these green tips! … Ok, that might not fly, but taking care of the environment and creation is a pretty worthwhile reason on it’s own to try one (or all) of these.


Carbon Neutral Home. Photo by Susan with Beck Builders.


7 Ideas to go green on this Saint Patrick’s Day.


  1. Cut your water usage. Not only does this conserve precious water resources but it saves you money as well.
  2. Try a free carbon footprint calculator to identify the ways your household may be producing carbon. Then reflect on how you might reduce your footprint in feasible ways for you.
  3. Choose LED bulbs for more energy efficiency. Not only will you not have to replace a bulb near as often but LED bulbs have some of the most versatile options today with numerous color temperatures, shapes, and sizes.
  4. Install Solar PV on your roof. This can be a large investment, so it’s not surprising that there are often a lot of questions surrounding investment in solar. Eric Beck, owner of Green Hill Solar, and Charles Hendricks answer some of the questions we’ve heard the most. If you’re interested in hearing more, check out the answers and discussion in our blog posts: Should you install solar pv on your roof? Part 1 and Part 2.
  5. Utilize Insulating Curtains for the spring days that suddenly get very hot or cold. They come in a variety of styles, colors, and textures. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, insulating curtains can cut heat loss in a room as much as 10% during cold days. They also help to keep intense sun-rays out on hot days.
  6. Another option for when the Virginia Spring swings from cold to summer-feeling heat outside is to open your windows. This is called Natural Ventilation and it can improve the quality of your indoor air by circulating fresh air, while reducing energy bills when designed right. However, if your allergies are bad in the spring, this tip may not be worth it, and that’s ok.
  7. Read more about what components are important to have a green HVAC system on our blog: Keep ducts in conditioned spaceProperly size your HVAC system   Green Term Defined: HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning system),



Sometimes Being an Architect is a Roller Coaster

Sometimes Being an Architect is a Roller Coaster

The job of an architect can be an emotional roller coaster. You get the opportunity to walk with your clients to hear their goals, dreams, and aspirations for their new home (or business), feeling the excitement. Then the fun begins as you translate all the challenges, stretches, and opportunities into a cohesive design. We get to use our analytical side to process the information and constraints and our creative side to create a beautiful and functional design solution. This is architectural design, walking with your client through their dreams, grabbing the parts of the dream that matter the most, and creating a holistic design solution that brings it all together. You invest emotionally in their design as you sculpt their dream home, and when you get it right, you feel joy.

We recently designed for clients that had a very specific vision for their dream house. Their vision was centered around how they wanted to feel in the space that is sacred to them. Yes, they had some very specific aesthetic goals as well, but merging those aesthetic goals with a sense of softness and modesty was key to the final design. Working through the process we found an architectural language to define spaces and captured the right feel. We walked with our clients on their land, listened to their hopes and dreams, gathered inspiration, discussed goals, and developed a design concept. We absorbed their emotional connection and goals, developed the design concept, gathered feedback, and modified – multiple times.

bonus room with couch and chair. Light during golden hour streams through the window.

Once we had the right feel of space, we started working through the building science implications. The design demanded delicate details to achieve the right finished product. While designing with empathy is an important tool we use on a regular basis, a focus and understanding of building science, structural design, and material knowledge allow us to create beautiful, durable, healthy, and energy-efficient buildings.

outdoor seating area, sun setting over mountain view

This idea of creating / designing dream homes (businesses) can be challenging because dreams tend to continue to unfold as opportunities can better be seen (first draft of the floorplan) and room sizes and shapes start to form. As an architect you are often the one left to remind everyone involved that there is a budget that goes along with the dream. You are the one that has to break their heart when the budget doesn’t match the dream. You act as the sounding board for ideas, bringing your own and evaluating others. Years of experience, training, education, and trial and error feed your sense of design.

While I have heard many times that someone has an “eye” for design, there is no replacing years of experience and knowledge. The process of design relies on a “feel” for the right solution. It requires an emotional investment to get it just right. Sometimes you are in a state of joy and sometimes you are struggling to hit a budget emotionally strained.

National Sandwich Day 2021

National Sandwich Day 2021

In honor of #nationalsandwichday our team is celebrating by ordering takeout from Lola’s and enjoying a delicious lunch together! While national sandwich day exists to honor the inventor of the sandwich (John Montagu) we are taking this time to take a breather and enjoy quality time with one another.

And if you are curious about some of the best sandwiches in Harrisonburg, we have attached our Lola’s order for those who would like their own piece of #nationalsandwichday.

Deborah: Smoben

Matty: SOS