Locating an architect with a reputation for good residential design takes more than a finger tour of the Yellow Pages. Baltimore has hundreds of architects who are good at all kinds of buildings, but the field narrows considerably when you are trying to find someone to create your dream house.
Since most architects don't advertise, the best method for finding the right professional for your project is to ask neighbors and friends for names of architects who've worked successfully for them.
You might also want to contact the Baltimore chapter of the American Institute of Architects. Ask for a brochure about the Residential Design Group, 13 firms that have joined together to market their services.
Although this listing concentrates on architects located in the immediate Baltimore area, there are a great many well-respected architects -- and indeed some of national renown -- in other parts of Maryland. They can be identified and contacted through the Potomac and Chesapeake branches of the institute.
When looking for an architect who designs houses, keep in mind that large firms may not specialize in residential design. Yes, they may design one or two great houses a year, but corporate, not residential, design may take up most of their time.
Many of the area's most respected residential architects can be found in small firms. And, since the late 1980s and early 1990s, when the bottom fell out of the custom home market, they have been eager to tackle less extensive projects. Even with the custom home market showing a slight upturn in the last year, the bulk of residential architectural work is still in renovations and additions to existing homes.
Once you have selected two or three architects, interview them. Ask to see photographs of their work and a copy of their client list. Call former clients for recommendations. Discuss fees early on. Hourly rate fees run about $65 to $110 while a project fee can range from 6 percent to 15 percent of the total building cost.
Check to see whether the architect is licensed by the state. Licensing is one of the requirements for membership in the institute (and only institute members may use the initials AIA after their names).
Lastly, be sure you have an easy rapport with the architect you are planning to choose. Residential design is a lot more personal than building an office complex. Feeling comfortable with your architect is essential.
To help with compiling this list of architects specializing in home design, we sought recommendations from contractors and interior designers, and we asked architects who they would hire to design their own houses. Limited by space, we tried to narrow the list to those architects about whom we heard most often, those said to be highly respected for their residential work. There are undoubtedly plenty of additional talented and reliable architects in the area who don't happen to be listed below.
Mark H. Beck, AIA.
Beck, Powell & Parsons Inc., 2204 Maryland Ave., Baltimore, Md. Mr. Beck is probably best known for his contemporary houses, but he is equally adept with traditional designs. He has been in business for 31 years, and his clients have such faith in him that they often return to ask him to update or enlarge his original designs. For a 1,200-square-foot weekend house in St. Michaels, for example, he designed years later a 1,400-square-foot addition. Mr. Beck's partner Peter Powell is nationally recognized for his active- and passive-solar heating designs for houses.
Jay I. Brown, AIA
Levin/Brown & Associates Inc., 15 Greenspring Valley Road, Owings Mills, Md. 21117.
Mr. Brown has been designing custom homes in the Baltimore area for 26 years. He teamed up with architect Mark Levin eight years ago. Their firm specializes in medical laboratories and offices, religious architecture and residential design. Mr. Brown handles all residential work. His custom homes range in price from about $250,000 to $1.5 million, but he also does renovations and additions. His work is about equally divided between traditional designs, including Tudor, Georgian and Colonial styling, and contemporary designs. Adept at special-needs housing, he recently completed a contemporary house for a woman who uses a wheelchair.
Bruce H. Finkelstein, AIA
HBF Plus Architects, 1777 Reisterstown Road, Suite 395, Baltimore, Md. 21208.
Six years ago, Mr. Finkelstein founded HBF Plus, a company specializing in residential design. He also created Design Reach, a business that provides architectural consulting services on an hourly basis for homeowners in need of design help for small projects. Recent jobs have ranged from laying out a basement remodel for a Design Reach project, to designing a very traditional 8,000-square-foot home in Baltimore County. Other jobs include a large addition to a 19th-century farmhouse; a rustic country home of stone, wood and glass; and a modern two-story house with an indoor swimming pool running through the middle of it.
David H. Gleason, AIA
David H. Gleason Associates Inc., 520 N. Eutaw St., Baltimore, Md. 21201.
In 1984, Mr. Gleason opened his own firm specializing in residential design and historic restoration and rehabilitation. He has designed several custom homes and is completing a 4,000-square-foot addition to a traditional house in Worthington Valley. He also is interested in smaller projects. He was one of the guiding forces in the formation of the Residential Design Group. Mr. Gleason believes that good architectural design should be available for any residential project, regardless of its size. He adds that "an architect brings a sense of the aesthetic along with a recognition of a budget to any project."
Richard Luxenburg, AIA and Michael Ryan, AIA
Luxenburg and Ryan Inc., 1 Reservoir Circle, Baltimore, Md. 21208.
Mr. Ryan and Mr. Luxenburg formed a partnership four years ago, concentrating on residential design. They approach projects with the aim of creating a one-of-a-kind design. Recent projects include a $700,000 addition/renovation of a house in Mount Washington. When not working on residential designs, they teach architectural technology at Anne Arundel Community College, where Mr. Luxenburg is head of the department.
Jeffrey A. Penza, AIA
Penza Associates Architects, 2203 N. Charles St., Baltimore, Md. 21218.
Mr. Penza, who has been practicing in Baltimore for the last 15 years, believes in a strong relationship with his clients. For a house "to breathe and have life," he says, "it must reflect who is going to live there." Recent projects include a large master suite addition and the updating of an early 1960s rancher. He concentrates on clean detailing whether he is designing a contemporary addition or updating a Baltimore County farmhouse, he says. His partner is his wife, architect Laura Penza.
Warren A. Peterson
Peterson and Brickbauer Architects Inc., 823 E. Baltimore St., Baltimore, Md. 21202.
Mr. Peterson, a graduate of Yale who has a master's degree in architecture and who studied in Italy for two years, opened his firm in 1965. He has worked recently on an extensive renovation of a contemporary house in Rockland; a traditional addition to a stone house in Pennsylvania; and the custom design of a French-style traditional house in Butler. Mr. Peterson is intrigued with the detail features of his houses and designs most of them, including woodwork, moldings and windows.
Donald B. Ratcliffe, AIA
Donald B. Ratcliffe AIA Associates, 10404 Stevenson Road, Stevenson, Md. 21153.
Mr. Ratcliffe has been in business since 1954; his son, architect Peter Ratcliffe, also works for the firm. Donald Ratcliffe's houses range from pure Georgian to striking contemporary. His clients come from a referral base that includes prominent families in Worthington and Greenspring Valleys. Recent projects include the design of a $1.5 million stone contemporary in Greenspring Valley and a million-dollar renovation of a house in Brooklandville that included an indoor pool and rain forest.
Charles H. Richter, FAIA
Charles H. Richter & Associates, 2005 Ridgecrest Court, Baltimore, Md. 21204.
After 40 years designing commercial and residential architecture, Mr. Richter retired two years ago from Richter Cornbrooks Gribble Inc. to devote all his energies to residential projects. Although Mr. Richter is well-trained in traditional house design, his primary focus today is contemporary architecture. His designs dot the Ruxton, Greenspring Valley and Worthington Valley areas of Baltimore County. His houses are noted for their balanced light; he often bases his houses on a pavilionlike design allowing natural light to pour into every room. The F preceding his AIA designation stands for fellow, for distinguished achievement within the institute.
Walter Schamu, AIA
SMDA Architects, 11001 Cathedral St., Baltimore, Md. 21201.
Mr. Schamu opened his business in 1982. His residential projects have ranged from garden pavilions to kitchen renovations to custom homes. In the planning stage is a 12,000-square-foot house with a basketball court in the basement. Recently, he has become involved in designing smaller houses for middle-age professionals who are scaling down.
Craig L. Stewart, AIA
Stewart/McCready Architects, 8329 Main St., Ellicott City, Md. 21043.
In 1974, Mr. Stewart began designing and building houses in the Columbia area. His first house, with its shed roof and open spaces, was considered modern for the period. Today, he still likes to design in a contemporary style. With his partner of five years, architect Robert "Tico" McCready, he has done some commercial and church design, but custom home design, renovations and restorations are their forte. Recent projects include an under-$30,000 renovation and addition to a townhouse in Columbia and the design of a $2.2 million ultramodern house on Kent Island.
Patrick Sutton, AIA
Kaplan Sutton & Associates, 8 W. Madison St., Baltimore, Md. 21201.
Five years ago, Mr. Sutton joined architect Robert Kaplan, a pioneer in the 1970s development of Columbia, to form a small firm devoted to residential and church design. Recent projects include the extensive renovation of a late 1960s-early 1970s post-and-beam contemporary house in Phoenix; a 4,000-square-foot, starkly modern house in which he is involved "right down to the pulls on the cabinetry;" and a new house in St. Michaels designed by Mr. Kaplan to capture the style of the old telescope buildings of the Eastern Shore. Mr. Sutton says, "I can work with any budget as long as the people want something that is truly unique."
Rebecca B. Swanston, AIA
Rebecca B. Swanston, AIA, 2809 Boston St., 421 Tindeco Wharf, Baltimore, Md. 21224.
For the last eight years, Ms. Swanston's one-woman business has been specializing in residential design. She works just as easily in the downtown neighborhoods of Federal Hill and Fells Point as she does in suburban Baltimore County. She likes to take historic properties and restore them with a contemporary twist. In Greenspring Valley, she recently converted an 1890 carriage house into a family home; she also has turned a three-apartment building in Federal Hill into a single home that
boasts a two-story bay overlooking the harbor.
Steven G. Ziger, AIA and James A. Snead, AIA
Ziger Snead, Architects Inc., 1006 Morton St., Baltimore, Md. 21201.
Mr. Ziger describes himself as a "modernist whose work reflects both a sculptural and metaphorical quality," yet the partners design traditional houses as well as contemporary. They founded the firm nine years ago. Mr. Snead is renovating traditional houses in California, including the oldest house in Pebble Beach. "We have a very strong sense of materials in the design of our residential projects," and often work with stone and wood, Mr. Ziger says.