My husband and I have had the pleasure of working with Mark Elster and Dennis Marsh at AOME Architects for the past two years as they have been instrumental in helping us to design our dream house. Their attention to detail, ability to anticipate our needs, aesthetic design, and responsiveness have been second-to-none, and working with them has been one of the easiest things I have ever done - not a small statement, given the scope of our project!
Neither my husband nor I ever had any inclination toward doing a custom build; we simply decided that we wanted lakefront property in Seattle and, after an exhaustive search, realized that we wouldn't be able to find the location + the house we were looking for. We had done very little research on what this project would entail, and we were building remotely from San Francisco - so we knew that choosing an architectural firm that clearly understood our needs, would meld design and function seamlessly, and would represent us in our absence was of the utmost importance. After interviewing several firms, my husband and I settled on AOME and we have never once questioned that decision (just the opposite - on many occasions I have said to my husband, "This process could have been horrible if we didn't choose such an all-star team!").
Before Mark and Dennis even met with us, they had us complete a fairly extensive questionnaire about what we wanted, what we liked and didn't like, how we envisioned using the house through different stages of life, etc. It took into account so many details that I wouldn't have considered - yes, it asked about basic planning issues such as the number of kids and number of pets we anticipated having, but it also asked about more obscure things, like whether or not we anticipated the need for a home theater or perhaps a soundproof room for musical instruments. It was my first experience with the level of detail and thought that Mark and Dennis would demonstrate throughout our project.
At our initial meeting two years ago, my husband and I were shocked to walk in and find they had already created a bubble diagram - which basically showed the room layout for every room in our house. More than that, we were amazed at how they got every room positioned in exactly the best location! We discussed a few things I had thought I wanted that weren't accommodated, and ultimately realized the tradeoffs that existed - Mark and Dennis, having already considered those, were quick to explain them to me and let us make the decision, but in the end we realized that their layout made the most sense and we only changed one small thing (we switched the location of the master bathroom and master closet). It was darn near perfect.
At our second meeting, I was blown away when Mark and Dennis presented us with high-quality rendered imagines of one possible exterior of our house - a beautiful, Cape Cod shingle-style house with a fabulous outdoor patio, beautiful architectural detail, and fabulous lines. While my husband asked to see it rendered in a different exterior finish, it ended up being that Mark and Dennis had designed our exact future house, and now as it is nearly completion my husband and I constantly marvel at how stunning it truly is.
Throughout the design process, Mark and Dennis made themselves available to answer questions, offer suggestions, and incorporate my feedback (and trust me - I had a lot of it!). I custom-designed drawers, added outlets in the house and under the eaves specifically for Christmas lights (Mark added a dedicated outlet for our Christmas tree AND showed me placement of it), incorporated built-in benches, added drawers, and asked for - quite literally - miles of trim to be added to the interior of the house. When it came time to select items like fireplaces, windows, or outdoor tile, Mark and Dennis literally went shopping with me to explain the pros and cons of all these products, as I know nothing about them. Mark and Dennis never batted an eye with any of my requests or questions, have managed to remember each item I've asked to have included, and have seamlessly incorporated all of them into the project. In fact, they have incorporated design details that I was unaware of, but that I love - whether it is a slight tapering on the balcony railings or the wood paneling that was included under the exterior eaves, Mark and Dennis have made certain that every inch of our house is well-designed, beautifully crafted, and cohesive. Numerous neighbors have mentioned to our construction crew how beautiful they think our house is (and it's not even done yet!), and more than one neighbor has reached out to AOME to inquire about their services, based entirely on what they've seen on our property. That fact in and of itself speaks to the incredible quality of work that Mark and Dennis provide.
Truthfully, though, what has amazed me the most is the attention to detail that Mark and Dennis have. My husband will tell you I am a detail-oriented person; in fact, he would have told you I was the most detail-oriented person he knew... until he met Mark. Mark is exceptional at navigating the permitting process (making it almost painless - the only thing I had to do was go write the check to pay for the permits); he has the most comprehensive elevation set I have ever seen (I can literally look at any wall in any part of my house and Mark's diagram will show trim, molding, cabinets, every function that the cabinet is expected to have, special notes, etc. - it makes it so easy for me to know exactly what is being built in every square foot of my house); and my builder has told me that AOME is one of their favorite architectural firms to work with because the communication is always so clear and easy. I don't doubt that at all, because in the two-plus years that my husband and I have worked with Mark and Dennis, we have never once has a miscommunication. I can live two states away, visit my property only every 4-6 weeks (if that frequently), and remain completely unconcerned as I know Mark and Dennis are overseeing it and will make certain everything is perfect. They have made a process that could have been stressful and exhausting one that is fun and exciting.
And, lastly, Mark and Dennis are just good people. They are friendly, fun to work with, proud of their work (as they should be), and truly want to make their clients happy. One of the things my husband and I worried about was whether or not the architects we selected would be receptive to our thoughts, needs, desires, and feedback - but that has never been a problem. Mark and Dennis do not have any ego whatsoever; they know their designs are exceptional, but they also know that they aren't the ones living in the homes they build, and their focus is entirely on client satisfaction. Their design is a perfect blend of function and beauty, and it is always done with the client's interests, requests, and feedback as their guide. You needn't worry that Mark and Dennis will design a home they love; they will design a home that you will love.
We're about five months from completing our dream home, and my husband and I are so thankful that we chose Mark and Dennis to assist us in the design of it. We truthfully had no idea what we were doing when we bought our waterfront property two years ago; now, we cannot believe we will be lucky enough to call such a beautiful structure our 'home'. It is truly the most beautiful house we've ever seen, and we can't wait to move in and enjoy it!