Babble Interview: Katrina Evans

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!

Katrina Evans

Katrina Evans

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.

Before the renovation and expansion

Before the renovation and expansion

 

 

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.

Completed house

Completed house

 

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.

Playroom window

Playroom window

Day-lit living space

Day-lit living space

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.

Handmade light fixture

Handmade light fixture

Custom designed and built light fixture

Custom designed and built light fixture

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.

Lights and custom handrail

Lights and custom stair rails

Master bedroom

Master bedroom

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.

Designed and built by E+E architects Katrina and Chris

Designed and built by E+E architects Katrina and Chris

Recently completed outdoor dining table

Recently completed outdoor dining table

Child photo-bomb!

Child photo-bomb!

 

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.

Upstairs

Upstairs

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!

 

Curbly obsession

I have a new internet obsession:  Curbly.  Have you been there?  It’s a site devoted to DIY, with tutorials on everything from crafts to home decor to easy construction solutions.  This morning I made an envelope pillow with simple-to-follow instructions from Curbly:

Pillow

This is a terrible depiction of the pillow, but this is what happens when I wait until 10 o’clock at night to take a photo.  There is no natural light and I am too lazy to use the nice camera and I resort to my phone.  Sorry about that, but trust me, I’m proud of the first ever pillow cover I sewed today.  It’s actually a pillow for our future baby girl’s room, and the fabric is a vintage table cloth my mother-in-law bought at a yard sale.

Here are a few of the other tutorials I’ve found recently and put on my “I can do this” Pinterest board:

plow-hearth-outdoor-sideboard_large

Fold Down side board (side note, just 10 minutes after I had pinned this, I had 16 Repins and Likes.  Pinterest just blows me away sometimes)

Leather Strap cabinet pulls

LeatherCabPulls

These are just so unusual and I could see them on a cabinet in a room where there isn’t much competing furniture, like on a media console.  Or to make something from Ikea look a little less like it came from Ikea.

And here’s something so cool, making use of an old dresser or thrift store find:

Succulent Planter

What a gorgeous way to display succulents, or any plants for that matter. 

And last, but not least, because I am overtaken by Easter this year:

Easter Egg Garland made from paint chips!

EasterEggGarland

I think better get myself over to Ace Hardware this week and find some easter-iffic paint chips!

Curbly has everything from DIY tutorials to tips on cleaning, home maintenance, fun craft projects and inspiring reader Before and After projects.  Check it out if you have a moment.  I plan on hanging out there a lot!

Pope-Leighey House adventure

This morning Dr. Jay and I packed up the toddler and traveled a few miles south to a little architectural gem that’s been on our list to visit for a while, the Pope-Leighey House designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.  I realized once we were there that it was my first time in a FLW house- a big deal for me.

JMD_9550 

The house was originally built in 1940, commissioned by Loren Pope and his family.  It was first located in Falls Church, and the family lived there for about five years until they needed a larger home for their expanding brood (the house is only about 1200 square feet).  Mrs. Marjorie Leighey was the second owner and lived in the home until 1964 when it was condemned to be torn down by the oncoming expansion of Route 66.  Mrs. Leighey struck a deal with the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the house was moved (sort of) to its current location in south Alexandria, the grounds of Woodlawn Plantation.  She was permitted to continue occupying the house and did so until her death in the early 1980s.  In 1996 the house was again moved, but just 60 feet from its previous spot so as to more accurately portray what the original site orientation would have been.

woodlawnplantation Woodlawn Plantation home

Our tour was given by C.J. Lamora, a local designer and devotee of Frank Lloyd Wright.  He stressed that the house is a prime example of FLW’s Usonian house ideal, the concept being that the house is modest in size so as to be affordable for American families, efficient in design and well-sited for the surrounding environment.  FLW relied on three major materials: brick, cypress wood and concrete.

JMD_9553

JMD_9554

He also used these geometric cut-out shapes as a motif throughout the house at the clerestory level, a theme fairly common in the Usonian houses.

We weren’t permitted to take photos inside (major bummer) but I’ll share some photos I took of the exterior and talk more about the interior with some images I’ve gathered from the world wide web.

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You can see the deep overhangs, typical of a FLW design.  I was once told that these serve to limit the amount glare from the sun in that particular site line, so that you would have a more even view of the horizon.

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Spring was out in bloom today.

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I loved the use of built-in planters around the house.

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As our tour guide mentioned, you can see the strong use of horizontals throughout the house.  This is part of Wright’s ideals of connection to the land.  There is a 6’8” datum line for most of the ceilings (doors reach this datum line as well) that serves to reinforce a human scale and make the spaces seem more intimate.  In this house, it is broken only in the living room, where the space expands and light from the south facing wall fills the room.

Photo of the living room found online:

LivingRoom

Kitchen:

kitchen

Original drawing of the plan:

PopePlans

Here’s a link to more interior photos, which seem to be protected so that I can’t reproduce them here.

While flipping through one of my books on Frank Lloyd Wright, I found that there was an article written by Mr. Pope (a journalist in Washington D.C.)  in House Beautiful in which he praised Wright’s efficient design for the home.  Because this article was so well-written and widely read across the country, it served to catapult Wright’s popularity and gain him clients at the end of the WWII and into the 1950s. 

We enjoyed the short tour and ability to walk around the beautiful landscape in spring.  I definitely recommend a trip to the Pope-Leighey house if you are in the area and appreciate historic architecture or just want to be inspired by Wright’s work, as I was today.

Living with Kids

Currently, one of my favorite bloggers is Gabrielle Blair of Design Mom.  I discovered her blog sometime in the fall (probably through Pinterest) and she continues to entice me with relevant topics and photographs.  She leads a pretty charmed existence, living in France with her husband and six (!) children. 

BlairsChristmas

|image care of Design Mom|

I love her series Living With Kids, interviews with other designer-type moms who balance the creativity of parenthood with creative spaces for their families.  This past week she interviewed Rachel Peters, who lives in their “Swiss Family Robinson” house in Ohio.  I was pretty amazed by what I saw.  I think you will be, too.

rachel-kitchen

|image care of Design Mom|

This house is very intentional and honest, but still fun.  I adore these photos and the interview, and I hope you’ll swing by Design Mom and read more about it.  And then read more of her posts.  I promise you’ll become addicted, too.