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AN ARCHITECT WHO WANTS YOUR IDEAS (cont.)
©2000, The Litchfield County Times.  Reprinted with permission.

 A redesign drawing by Lydia Straus-Edwards.

 Straus-Edwards Helps Homeowners Redesign

      Ms. Straus-Edwards said that using a flat fee for the service makes the process more enjoyable.  "It's very relaxed,” she said.  "When people hear about me one way or another - I've done very little advertising and most of it is word of mouth - they are down to the point of desperation.  They can't see how it will work out.  But when I leave they have a plan that is attractive, if not gorgeous.  It's always beyond what they could have imagined, and what an ego boost for me to have clients who are so happy." 

      When the session ends, the homeowners have a scale drawing of the plan they have approved, "good enough for understanding the project."  This drawing can be taken straight to a contractor, if the changes are relatively simple, or can be referred to an architect - either Ms. Straus-Edwards or another - for further design.  Or the plans can be shown a realtor if the property is to be put up for sale.  "A realtor could take a look at them and tell the homeowner if the changes would be too much for the neighborhood and not worth the expense before a sale," the designer said. 

      Ms. Straus-Edwards said the plans she leaves with the homeowners are their property.  She does not keep files on the projects unless the homeowners commission additional design services from her. 

      “A plan could need more architectural design or it could be given to a builder to execute - sometimes that could be a very good plan.  If the changes are simple, a builder would probably be capable of taking the master plan and completing it," she concluded. 

      She said she is looking for more builders in the region who can take plans through to completion. 

      This new direction for Straus- Edwards Associates is only one of the changes for the firm.  Ms. Straus- Edwards moved to Woodbury in 1978 and bought an old Victorian on Main Street that had been converted into apartments.  In one, she set up living quarters and her office.  The former art teacher and sculptor completed her practice on the site in 1982.  

      She began her practice in an upstairs office in her tiny apartment, but the business thrived and she soon had a number of associates working with her in a remodeled barn located behind the Victorian.  She married David Pintsov and the couple purchased another home in Woodbury, where they lived for some years before he changed companies and moved to California.  This started a dual practice for the architect, and since 1989 she has lived much of the year in California, where she has developed another branch of her firm, while still dealing with clients in Connecticut. 

      “About a year ago I decided I didn't want to deal with so many buildings,” she said, "so I gave up our home here in Woodbury and moved back into the apartment.  And I have leased out my office space in the barn to a software company.”

 

‘If you want to be successful as a newcomer, you have to find a place that no one else is paying attention to,’  
                                                                       - Lydia Straus-Edwards

 

      "I have worked with associates in Newtown, Danbury, Meriden and San Diego through a 'virtual office' for the past seven years.  Everything is done electronically," she explained. "I have a phone service that forwards calls anywhere I am, so when someone calls, they get me - they may not know where they are reaching me, but I am the one who answers the call."

     She says she is always able to meet with clients - when needed, adding that most architects schedule meetings a week or two in advance, so this gives her plenty of leeway to cluster meetings while she is in Connecticut. And if there is a problem, I am only a plane flight away," she said.

     To date, Ms. Straus-Edwards has concentrated most of her effort in Connecticut, but now she is working to increase her client base in California. “When I first moved to California we were in the midst of a recession - and what two states were hit worst, Connecticut and California. I had a certain loyalty from my clients in Connecticut, so I kind of ignored California for a number of years. Now, 10 years later, I am trying to build my practice there again." 

     She feels her mini-charrettes may be just the ticket for building that practice. “If you want to be successful as a newcomer, you have to find a place that no one else is paying attention to," she said. I see myself as a house evolution specialist. I get to see how people are using their houses and then to write how the house will continue in their story. I understand and respond to the continuing story of their lives. My architecture is not about me - I respond to their lives and dreams and then make them concrete."◄

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