The Custom Residential Architects Network (CRAN) is a professional community through which residential design architects exchange and cultivate knowledge of custom residential design. Nichiha is a proud supporter of CRAN and we are pleased to share an interview with Matt Tindall, Tindall Architecture Workshop, Greenville, South Carolina. Matt is a residential architect and president of the Greenville chapter of CRAN.
Please share with us information about your practice and your background in architecture?
I have been practicing architecture for about 15 years and residential architecture, specifically, for the last 11. Before starting Tindall Architecture Workshop, I was the residential studio director for a larger firm based in Greenville. They were a great firm, but they were a very large corporate entity. About three and a half years ago, when I decided there were some things I wanted to do differently, I left that firm and founded TAW.
At the beginning it was going to be just me working out of my house doing residential work only. About six months in, I was way under water with work so I hired my first employee. Three years years later, I now have four full-time employees including my wife, who is a partner.
On your Houzz profile, you mentioned that you are not corporate, and describe your company as intentionally “small, local, normal and easy.”
Yes, we try not to be a “firm.” To try to give you a sense of how we operate, we all work from home. Obviously my wife and I work together at the house. Our three full-time employees, who are all registered architects, work out of their homes. It just so happens that we all live in the same neighborhood in downtown Greenville, all within walking distance.
Sounds like an interesting approach. Please share more.
We have a small office we use for presentations and conferences with clients, but that’s it. So we have little to zero overhead, we’re flexible, and we can be anywhere we need to be at any time. All the tools we need follow us around.
We’re not trying to play the architect’s role, even though that’s our profession. I get up and go to work in shorts and flip-flops. That said, I haven’t had a single client complain that I don’t come across as professional and presentable. Architects tend to speak their own language and then use that language when they are trying to convey something to their clients. And it’s like a lawyer talking at you in legalese and you’re nodding your head like you understand, but you really don’t. We try to be people the clients relate to. Not dumbing it down, but putting things in ways that clients understand. We realize that we are not talking to other architects. We’re talking to people that hired us because they don’t know architecture. For that reason, we’ve intentionally stepped back from the corporate notion of what an architect looks like and sounds like. We don’t wear round wire-rimmed glasses, black turtlenecks and all that stuff. We are who we are. And I’ve found especially in the residential market it makes people feel more comfortable because you are just a normal person.
What is the service area for Tindall Architecture Workshop?
We work primarily in South Carolina, but we are licensed in North Carolina so we do projects there as well. Our work generally extends an hour and a half radius around Greenville. It’s approximately a 40-mile radius.
Please share your approach to residential design. What philosophy animates how you work?
From my experience, I’ve learned that every project can be a great project. For that reason, we purposefully entertain anything residential for our clients. Right now in our studio we have everything from a screen porch addition to a $4 million brand new house out at Lake Keowee and everything between. That has kept us very grounded as a practice and kept us attuned to our local community. We don’t live in a community where there are large neighborhoods with super-fancy expensive homes. There’s a lot of renovation work where we live. The surrounding resort communities, like the Cliffs and the Reserve, provide us with bigger opportunities for new construction. We’ve focused on residential as our primary focus and anything within that is a potentially great project for us.
We saw a note you wrote about “gut jobs,” which we very much liked, and you mentioned “banishing ugly thoughtlessness” and helping people setup their homes so that they work for an individual or family’s lifestyle. Can you elaborate?
The number one question we always get is “do you have a style?” I have a favorite style, but that is a personal thing. But as a practice, I specifically say we have no style. Nothing against architects that have a recognizable style, if that works for them, but for us it’s more about providing the client with what they are looking for. I tell them quite honestly that at the end of the day I want to be very proud of the design, but the reality is that I am not going to be living in your house. The client has to like and appreciate everything we do. If that trumps some wild idea I have about what would look great, well then, so be it. That is the reality of our practice and I feel most will agree that we can do any style really well. If you were to drive through a neighborhood where we have done numerous projects my hope is that you could not pick out the ones we did.
Tell us about your approach to exteriors? And specifically, please share your approach with regard to selecting cladding.
From a design perspective, a good part of my practice, perhaps 50 percent, is renovation work. For the majority of that work, clients convey that any renovation or addition to the house should look authentic. There are variables, of course. You might have a client who says, “I want a cool, contemporary glass box added to the side of my Victorian home.” We’ll do what that client wants, but for the most part it’s about matching what’s there and making it look like it fits in the neighborhood. I often tell my clients that my initial intent in designing is that when their friends and family come over six months from now they’re not really able to tell what’s new and what’s old. It all flows together.
From a new construction standpoint, it goes back to achieving the look, or style, or intent that the client conveys. That being said, and aesthetics aside, hands down, the biggest factor these days we see in exterior design is a demand for low maintenance. That ties very well into Nichiha’s line of products.
Exactly . . . like traditional wood siding versus fiber cement?
Right. For what it’s worth, we put Nichiha siding on our house when we renovated about two years ago. We picked the Nichiha product specifically for the benefits it provided over other competitors with similar products. Now this is just a personal thing, but I don’t like corner boards on a home. Nichiha offers half-inch lap siding that allows us to miter the corners. I try to employ that detail on a lot of our homes.
Another factor that we’re seeing more of is contemporary design. Greenville is in the southern Bible Belt, and even though contemporary design was slow in coming here, it is gaining momentum. We’re seeing more and more contemporary design requests. Trying to pair a very contemporary design with low maintenance materials is a bit of a challenge, especially when a client wants the look most people associate with contemporary homes like you might see on the west coast. Nichiha has a good contemporary collection of materials that simulate that look while still being low maintenance.
Having the variety of options Nichiha makes available with essentially the same material, helps us present our clients with a lot of options that all go toward the same goal. Different looks. Colors. Options. Rarely does it come down to clients simply asking me what would look good on the house. I’ll tell them what would look good, but I am also able to provide them with options so that they are the ones making the final choice.
Did you by chance see Nichiha’s new Modern Home Lookbook?
Yes, I have it here in my office. It’s helpful. I have a box full of Nichiha samples, but clients sometimes can’t see past the little samples. The Lookbook allows us to say this is how the sample I am showing you would look in real life, or on an actual project, at a 1,000 times scale from this little sample.
We understand you are the president of the Greenville chapter of CRAN. How did you become involved with CRAN?
Back when I was working at my previous firm, a colleague of mine had participated in that year’s CRAN symposium, which I believe was in Austin, Texas. We didn’t have a Greenville chapter of CRAN at the time. After he returned from the symposium, he was excited and he worked to start the CRAN chapter here. So while I wasn’t leading the charge at that time, I’ve been involved with CRAN since its inception in Greenville. This is my third year as president of the organization.
To learn more about Tindall Architecture Workshop, visit their website at www.tindallarch.com and see samples of their residential designs on Houzz. If you are a CRAN architect, Nichiha would love to hear from you and help you explore the possibilities our fiber cement could open for your residential designs.