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Architects follow different paths to success in tough climate
Steamboat Architectural Associates designed the Scully home in Elkins Meadows. (John Robledo/Courtesy)
Tom Ross/staff

Keith Kelly, of Kelly & Stone Architects, told an audience of business people last week that he and his partner, Tim Stone, are fortunate to have a growing list of clients outside Colorado during the economic downturn.

“I’ve worked here since 1999, and we opened our business in 2007 just as the market was peaking. In 2009, our business was off 50 percent,” Kelly told the group at the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association’s Business Outlook Breakfast on Wednesday. “In 2010 and 2011, we regained 25 percent of that work, but the reality is that we’re working more out of town, and Steamboat is still 50 percent off 2007, 2008.”

Kelly said that after a rugged 2009, he and Stone aggressively increased their marketing budget in order to pursue work in California and internationally.

“Our marketing expenses have more than tripled, but it’s given us the ability to maintain our workload,” he said.
After the meeting, Kelly said his firm has several clients in Canada and one building a home in the style of the American West in a rainforest in Brazil. Kelly & Stone Architects has worked on projects near Lake Tahoe and Yosemite National Park in California.

Architect Bill Rangitsch, of Steamboat Architectural Associates, said he has enough business to keep two architects, four drafts people and an office manager busy with a variety of homes in a variety of locations. Two-thirds of them are in Northern Colorado and others are in Utah, California, Florida and Texas, as well as one overseas, he said.

He’s finding that clients are taking more time having their homes designed in this economic climate.

“We’re doing a lot of schematics and conceptuals right now,” Rangitsch said. “People are spending more time in the design process, and that’s fun for us. They’re looking at options, pricing and then adjusting.”

Scott Myller, of Scott Myller Architect, has adapted his business model to stay close to home doing design/build projects for which he draws the buildings and also builds them.

“I did six or seven budget entry-level homes last summer,” Myller said. “A lot of them were in Hayden and some in Stagecoach.”

Myller, who built his first custom home while he was a college student, finds himself building the workforce housing the community fretted about for so long in the middle of the past decade.

“It’s not what I used to do, but by budgeting my time, I’m able to make a great wage,” he said.

Architect Joe Patrick Robbins said his office is busy with six homes in different stages.

“We’re moving two families into their new home right now, we have two being framed and two poised to begin construction this spring,” he said.

One of the newest houses will be built in the county and another is in the city, Robbins said. He also has a home under way in Houston for a client who previously hired him to design a home in Steamboat.

“It’s good to stretch our horizons,” Robbins said.
Robbins is finding that his clients are interested in building smaller homes than his clients five years ago.

“One of the houses we just finished is a big home; it’s 6,500 feet,” Robbins said. “But everything else is 4,000 square feet or smaller.”

It’s clear to him that people aren’t building smaller homes because they can’t afford larger homes. It’s out of a desire to build more efficient, sustainable homes.

“It’s a smaller house with a high-end budget,” Robbins said. “We’re seeing a lot of built-ins and high-end finishes.”

In order to downsize the homes, clients are willing to plan more flexible spaces, Robbins said.

“We aren’t seeing large home theaters, but we’re seeing spaces intended to have multiple uses, an exercise room with a Murphy bed or an office for two people with a hide-a-bed.”

There’s no doubt that sustainable resort homes are the new status symbol, Robbins said, but that’s just fine with him.

“They’re proud of owning a more energy-efficient home,” he said. “It’s a wonderful thing.”

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com

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