From Then to Now… Residential Architect

By on November 15, 2016. Posted in , , .

Why did I choose to be a Residential Architect?

I found myself speaking to a room full of my peers at the CRAN (Custom Residential Architecture Network) Symposium a couple months ago and one of the first slides of my presentation asked the question, “How did you go from working on huge steel structures to residential architecture?” This is the first question most people ask when they hear about the project I was working on before I started my own firm….

From Calatrava to Residential Architecture


Today’s post is part of the ArchiTalks series in which a group of us architects write about the same topic on the same day and share each other’s posts. These group posts are a great way to promote our peers and talk about the value of architecture. Today’s theme – courtesy of our ringleader Bob Borson – is “From Then to Now” or, “what you thought you’d be doing when you graduated vs what you’re actually doing.” Be sure to check out the links to our friends’ posts below!


Forgive me if you’ve heard my story before – Over the past 3 years blogging in The Architect’s Notebook I’ve written a bit about why I love being a residential architect and how I didn’t exactly start out heading in that direction. So I’ll tell the story this time through my favorites of those prior posts…


My “First Project”

Posted November 9, 2015

When I first got out of school I didn’t think I wanted to do residential architecture at all. I thought I wanted to build bridges or sports complexes… I got a job working for a well-respected architecture firm in Tampa and began working on anything I could get my hands on. Some were very fun, and some a little less so…

Channelside Loft Project: Tampa

Channelside 212 Loft Project, Tampa

Loft Design Project: Channelside Lofts

I remember one of the buyers, who was extremely excited about all of it and loved our design, stopped me at one point and asked if I was really sure it was a good idea to have exposed concrete floors and exposed block walls. We had been working together for a few weeks on custom details for their space, so I was getting to know better what they liked and how they lived. We talked more about the materials and the space, and the conversation ended with her saying, “Ok, if you think we’ll like it then I’m sure we will.” They trusted me. And after they moved in they told me how much they loved it.

Why I Love My Craft: Residential Architecture

Posted March 30, 2015

My first job out of design school taught me the most about architecture. I was in a firm that gave us more responsibility than we could have asked for, challenging us to learn as much as possible about any and everything related to design. We were encouraged to use the furniture shop that our firm also owned and “get our hands dirty” making and creating things.

Planche Table construction

This is when I fell in love with architecture as a craft.

Making furniture taught me about materials and details and how things go together. Designing furniture made me think about how we as individuals use space – how we move through a space, how we converse, how we sit in a chair and read, how we sit at a desk and work, and how we live day to day…

In 2003 I moved to New York City to pursue my Masters of Architecture degree at Parsons School of Design. I fell in love with all of the excitement and hustle and bustle of the city, and after I graduated decided to make NYC my permanent home. Following my dreams of one day designing bridges I had to apply to work for Santiago Calatrava when I saw the job posting online in early 2007. I worked in Calatrava’s New York office for 3 years from 2007 through 2010.

From Dreams to Reality – THIS is Exciting

Posted August 21, 2014

Calatrava and #ArchiTalks - THIS is Exciting!

Calatrava and #ArchiTalks - THIS is Exciting!

…Even more than the amazing architecture, I’m excited to share this story here because I was a part of this project from the very beginning… When I worked for Santiago Calatrava I was part of the team that brought this project into the office… And on Friday I got to see so much excitement from the community, and hear the ambitious stories from the students, and watch the smiling faces of the many that are so proud to work in and around the building. Architecture is exciting. And it makes a difference in people’s everyday lives.

It was while I was in Calatrava’s office and began working with he and his wife on their own home that I realized my biggest interest was in residential architecture. So I left Calatrava’s office in early 2010 and founded Studio MM…. From that point, well, it is still an ongoing adventure and I absolutely love what I do!

Reflecting on Design : Lake Wylie House

Posted October 27, 2016

We started designing the Lake Wylie House over 2 years ago and it’s now almost complete and looks amazing! On the flight back I was remembering some of our initial meetings and noting how very far we’ve come from that point. In the past 2 years I have gotten to know my clients and their 2 boys much better and so, to see them truly excited about their new home makes me extremely happy. I know, I know… I say this a lot about the process of working with my clients,  but the very best thing about being a residential architect is seeing my clients genuinely excited about their home!

How Far You've Come


Check out more ArchiTalks links from our colleagues below!


Bob Borson – Life of An Architect (@bobborson)
Then and Now – Architectural Design or Accounting

Matthew Stanfield – FiELD9: architecture (@FiELD9arch)
Where It All Went Right

Jeff Echols – Architect Of The Internet (@Jeff_Echols)
Well, How Did I Get Here

Mark R. LePage – EntreArchitect (@EntreArchitect)
The Biggest Surprise of My Life as an Architect

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
Then & Now…and the middle

Nicholas Renard – Renard Architecture (@dig-arch)
15 Years of Architecture

Lee Calisti, AIA – Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
then and now

Emily Grandstaff-Rice – Emily Grandstaff-Rice FAIA (@egrfaia)
Being the light in darkness

Eric T. Faulkner – Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
Then-Now: A Schematic Story

Stephen Ramos – BUILDINGS ARE COOL (@sramos_BAC)
Big Ass Buildings

brady ernst – Soapbox Architect (@bradyernstAIA)
Pens & Fizzy Drinks: Or How to Set Measurable Career Goals

Brian Paletz – The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
How did I get here?

Michael LaValley – Evolving Architect (@archivalley)
Reflection on My Wonderful, Unexpected Career

Jarod Hall – di’velept (@divelept)
The Joys of Being an Architect

Anthony Richardson – That Architecture Student (@thatarchstudent)
Then and Now

Kyu Young Kim – Palo Alto Design Studio (@sokokyu)
Career Path: Follow Your Heart

Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)
then and now

Nisha Kandiah – TCDS (@SKRIBBLES_INC)
Then & Now : Still Chasing the Dream

Jim Mehaffey – Yeoman Architect (@jamesmehaffey)
The Reluctant Code Guru

Tim Ung – Journey of an Architect (@timothy_ung)
10 Lessons Learned from a Young Architect

Mark Stephens – Mark Stephens Architects (@architectmark)
#Architalks 22 – Then and now



  1. Marica, I had no idea that you worked on those types of projects before! Thanks for sharing. I really like this ArchiTalks topic because it seems to be a great way for people to tell a larger story of their careers. Even though some might consider the switch you made fairly drastic, residential design is no less important. It’s great that you were able to take your passion and run with it. The last image you have says it all.

    • Thanks Mike! Definitely agree on the last image. I’ve come back to that a few times in my blogging and always makes me stop and think.

  2. Marica, I love your story of transitioning between firms, working on so many different types of projects, finding your passion for residential architecture, and starting your firm! I’m looking forward to discovering my own path like you did. Great post and thanks for sharing some of your work.

  3. Hi, Marica,

    This was a wonderful retelling of some of your history, although it’s doesn’t include all of your other projects and successes. You have a great deal to be proud of. It’s very obvious that you love what you do because you’re so very good at it.

  4. Wow Marica that’s some prestigious work, well done. Often residential work is perceived as the poorer cousin of the ‘big-jobs’ whereas it’s in the detail and personal interaction that you get with your clients that happiness can lie.

  5. I loved how you tell your story through older posts. Having read some of the posts before, i was somewhat familiar with your story. Yet the succinct retelling made it fresh and i learned even more about your history.

  6. like the experiences the comrades have gone through. Its really healthy to reflect on where we have come from.

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