How to Create the Home of Your Dreams

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Interview by Rita Goldman

tropical bali style home
When the owners of this Wailea home decided they wanted a more tropical look, the architect recommended rethinking the roof form; this design element proved an affordable way to create a Balinese effect.

Granted, if that dwelling is on Maui, you’re, well, halfway home. Still, there’s a lot to designing a residence that will make you happy just being there. We sat down with four Maui architects and asked them to share their advice and insights. Jim Niess, of Maui Architectural Group, and Frank Skowronski, of Territorial Architects, Ltd., have been designing residences and commercial buildings on Maui for decades. Jim’s son, Peter Niess, also with Maui Architectural Group, and Atom Kasprzycki, of Kasprzycki Design, are newer to the profession, but grew up on Maui and have an intimate understanding of the island. All four are members of the American Institute of Architects’ Maui Chapter, and three are past presidents — Peter Niess last year. Atom Kasprzycki is the chapter’s current president.

MNKO: Why is it wise to hire an architect when planning a home?

Jim: There are a number of reasons. Architects go through rigorous training, maybe fifteen years in the preparatory phases, apprenticeship and licensure. We’re trained to understand the nature of building materials, what they can and can’t do.

There’s also the issue of accountability. I’ll give you an example. I was called as an expert witness in a court case. The people I was representing had a home built right in front of them; it was designed by a drafter who didn’t investigate the environment very well. They put a two-story structure as close as they could to the plaintiff’s property, and took out [my clients’] entire view.

MNKO: How did the case resolve?

Jim: The plaintiff was successful.

MNKO: But the house was already built!

Jim: Yes, but there was a big money award.

MNKO: Let’s talk about money. How much do an architect’s services add to the cost of a home? I can imagine people thinking they can’t afford an architect, even if they’d like to hire one.

Jim: Actually, there could be savings. You asked earlier for the best advice we can give a client. Mine is, tell me the truth regarding your budget. Clients will tell you one figure, and have a big shopping list, and when you try to narrow it down, they say, “No, I need this.” [The item] goes back into the plan, and when the numbers come out, they’re 20 or 30 percent over the budget. Then the client will say, “Oh, I guess we can do that.”


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