“Exceeding client expectations” is one of those vapid corporate-speak terms that I see thrown around all too frequently, to the point that is strikes me as meaningless.  I am never going to use a buzz-phrase like that to advertise my own work.  I’d rather stick with something more practical and prosaic.  It may not win me more clients, but I’m not that kind of person.  But, just beacuse I won’t use it as a marketing phrase doesn’t mean that something like that can’t happen.

Recently, I was meeting with a couple* I am working with on a residential remodeling project.  The main focus of their project is to open up the existing kitchen so that it is better connected to the rest of the house, and also to have a larger dining area.  They had a couple ideas about how that might work, which we discussed when we first met.  We then met a couple weeks ago, and I had a couple different schemes to show them.  It was all very preliminary stuff, just to show them some possibilities of how things might fit into the space and to see what might be feasible.

It’s one thing to look at a space and think about how you might reconfigure things, but, actually measuring things and drawing things to scale, even if it’s just a rough sketch on tracing paper, lets you start to see what that would actually be like, and whether things would fit the way you had imagined.  (Incidentally, when an architect refers to “trash,” it’s not necessarily that they are being self-deprecating about their work.  “Trash” is what we call the tracing paper that is used for sketching (as well as “bumwad” and a few other terms).  So when I told them what I might bring to our next meeting would be “more trash sketches,” I then had to explain that I was referring to the physical media, rather than to the content.)

So I was especially pleased when a couple of the schemes I was showing them surprised them as possibly better solutions than what we had been talking about when I first met with them to discuss the project.  Once I had a base drawing to work from, I had tried out a few different configurations, and came across this particular approach that seemed to do a lot towards what they wanted to accomplish.  I wasn’t sure if they would like it because of the way it worked, or if there might be things about it that wouldn’t work for them.  There are always more factors in a project than what gets discussed, and you never know when some outside factor might become a complication.

Although it looked to me like it might work especially well, I was prepared to let it go if there were other things about it that they didn’t like.  But, it turned out that they were as interested in it as I was.  So, that’s the direction I have now to explore for this project.  And I ended up showing them something they had not expected to see.

That was a thrill for me.  To have answered a question in a way that raised new possibilities, to have excited someone with an idea that hadn’t occurred to them, to suggest an alternative that might be even better – those are the kinds of things that I enjoy in architecture.  I’ve had far too few opportunities to do something like that.  But now that I’m working on my own, there will be more opportunities to do things like that.

*I still haven’t completely figured out how (or even if) I am going to identify clients when I talk about projects here.  On the one hand, I want to be rather open about the process, that’s part of the reason for this blog, to provide something of an insider’s view to the process of working with an architect.  But, I don’t want to open up other people’s lives beyond what they want to share.  So, to that end, I’m not identifying people I’m working with, for now.  Perhaps, as things move along, I will have some additional information.  And if they want to share, the people involved may well recognize themselves and can link to the relevant items.

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