You all know that I love providing great interviews with women in design here on the Babble. I have such a fun interview to share with you this month. Katrina Evans has been high on my list to interview for a while, and I’m so glad our schedules finally worked out because I’m able to publish this post on her birthday of all days. Happy Birthday, Katrina!
I first met Katrina and her husband Chris when we moved to Athens, Georgia back in 2008. Though their business (E+E Architecture) was just starting up, she took me in as their first employee. I couldn’t believe the number of projects she had going at once. Katrina managed to not only keep her business afloat during the worst of the recession, she’s such a (forgive this choice of words) hustler that they made it through a shining example of success.
I admire Katrina’s work ethic and drive, her down to earth nature, her functional creativity. She’s patient while at the same time demands excellence from those she works with. I learned a lot from Katrina during the short time I worked with her (we relocated to Virginia in 2009) and do wonder what life would be like had we stayed in Athens. She taught me how to respect clients’ wishes and still keep the project rolling along. It’s the same attitude she applies to her family, making the whole work/life balance look effortless. Katrina and her husband Chris recently designed and built their house in Athens, and she’ll talk a little about that in her interview. Let’s get to it.
Tell us a little about yourself- where you’re from, where you went to school, what you are doing now, etc.
I am originally from a smallish town in Iowa called Cedar Rapids. I studied architecture at Iowa State University. I was lucky enough to study abroad in Rome for a semester and had some perspective knocked into my wholesome Midwest background. I graduated and stomped around as a young professional in NYC, later moved to Atlanta. After a few years working at a great firm, Perkins & Will, I had the opportunity to work as a staff architect for a hospital in Athens, GA. My husband, Chris (also an architect) and I jumped at the chance to move away from Atlanta into our charming college town.
Present day, my husband and I have our own Architecture / Interior design firm with a few capable employees. E+E Architecture started in 2007, right before the economy tanked but somehow we’ve grown each year and have a solid reputation with some cool projects under our belt.
How did you get interested in architecture?
I think I got interested by one of those super basic classes in early high school where you draft out a house. I poured myself into the project and proclaimed that I would become an architect. As a bonus, I liked that upon earning a degree, you practiced architecture versus aimlessly wandering around in the business world. This is of course not really true since folks trained as architects branch into a million directions.
At what point did you decide to go into business for yourself?
Chris and I had a few side projects and formed E+E in 2006. We both had full time jobs but out of the blue the hospital I worked for cut my position. I freaked out for a couple hours and decided by the end of the day that I would ramp up E+E full time. Chris joined two years later.
Tell us a little about your home and work schedule. How do you make it all work with a shared business, two kids and a dog?
Ha! I suppose we make it work because we work our tails off. It definitely helps that Chris and I have shared goals: a healthy business and happy home with our kids. We split up all duties and divide and conquer as much as possible. I used to be the type of person where I could waste away a whole weekend doing very little of anything. Now, we are always on the go or doing something which helps. Balancing both family and work can definitely be overwhelming for us. We try to remember a mantra “work to live, not live to work”.
Tell us a little about the house that you and Chris Evans designed for your family: the property, the process, some of the trials, and what you are most proud of in the house.
We had been looking for an in-town lot for a while and made a few unsuccessful attempts at buying one or two. When we found our current property, it took about two weeks of marinating on the thought because the house was just gross. Our friends called it the “flophouse” and it had been vacant for years. Ultimately, the street, schools, location and the wide double lot sealed the deal.
We established our goals: open floor plan, tons of light, a big screened porch and ultimately, a house that reflected exactly how our family lives. It was a little tricky to find the time to do our drawings since we were busy but we finally went on vacation and found time to lay it out. Elevations quickly followed and the entire process was pretty easy considering we are both hands-on dueling architects / spouses. We definitely disagreed on some parts here and there but overall, it was shockingly painfree.
Challenges were really about staying within our budget. A realization to us was that appraisers are not necessarily great at reading drawings and that “cool” elements don’t always translate into a higher appraisal. Once the home was complete, we did ask our appraiser to come out and walk the actual home and the number went up dramatically.
We also decided to GC it ourselves, which… is a lot work. Fortunately, we worked with a friend / GC who helped us through site work, foundations and framing and then we tapped into the pool of wonderful sub contractors in the area. I think we may have worn a few folks out but we wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them again to any of our clients.
Describe some of the unique features you included.
We are very happy with the quantity of windows. Every room has a generous amount and it fills the house so well with light. A bonus is that we can see our children in the front yard / back yard with ease.
I guess the standing seam vertical panels are somewhat unique. We love the way the panels fold up the connector and bridge from the original home to the addition.
In general, we kept the palette very clean –white walls and dark floors and intended for the light fixtures to be the only semi-permanent feature that jumps out. We found some great old fixtures, had a few custom made by the local lampsmith and we made the string lights upstairs. I love them all. It’s especially interesting to see the shadows the lights cast.
Other design details we like are the stair railings. We wanted something that had interest, was economical and safe. They aren’t exactly code compliant so we had plywood up at our inspection and then installed the rope. I think it plays well with the light fixtures.
What projects are you working on now?
We are working on a mix of projects right now. We just wrapped up design on a new restaurant, Seabear, an Oyster Bar. We are also doing a childcare center, a new office building and an open-air pavilion for the UGA Ropes Course program.
What architect (or architects) inspire you and why?
Lake Flato. They are very successful at merging vernacular architecture with modern, clean design. They also choose materials that have integrity and let those materials guide the design. They also work on various scales and budgets but still create spaces and places of beauty. I’m a fan.
Since you are currently teaching a course at UGA, what, if anything, would you change about architecture education?
There are lots of flaws. Most basically, I think that there is so much emphasis put on design and theory, it leaves very little room for any practicality. Some programs around the country have a construction element built into their program and I think that would be invaluable. At Iowa State, which has a great program, it was deeply theoretical. A slightly more rounded approach would benefit students and the professionals that will work with them.
The class I teach, Building Systems for UGA Interior Design students, has a goal of teaching the students about how a building comes together by real-world examples and whenever possible, by getting out in the field.
Lastly, what is your favorite thing about being an architect?
My favorite thing about being an architect is creating buildings or spaces that have a direct impact on people. Good design really does matter… and now research is backing up the egos of countless architects …
Examples: Being intentional about natural light can lead to improved outcomes in healthcare settings, lower pain medicine usage for patients. Staff will even sleep better with high exposure to natural light. Efficient, deliberate layouts of offices can increase productivity and decrease employee absenteeism.
I could geek out about this for a long time. Good design really is good business.
I hope these words and images inspire you like they do me. I love when she shared her secret to success: work your tail off. And those orange kid-proof chairs- I totally see where she’s going with that! She forgot to mention the astro-turf they installed in the kids’ playroom. Seems like they thought of everything.
Thanks for letting us take a peek into your life, Katrina. And Happy Birthday!