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Tips on Designing the Perfect Home: An Interview with Sophie Piesse of the Sophie Piesse Architect Firm

By Sophie Piesse

Tell us a little bit about your company and the services you offer.

Sophie Piesse Architect, P.A. is a full service architectural practice that specializes in residential design. We design new homes and renovations of all sizes. I could say that I have been helping people design "green" homes in the triangle and surrounding areas for almost 20 years, but I like to consider it rethinking their homes to compliment and enrich their lives. Both functionally and aesthetically. I help clients understand all the options available to them with great respect to budget and need. I love helping people realize the potential of their homes and my company provides an array of services (from consultations to full construction drawings and specifications to helping select finishes, fixtures and even paint colors) to help you as much or as little as you need.

What are some of the biggest decisions that someone needs to make when it comes to the design of their new home?

There are many important decisions to make in the process of designing or redesigning a home, such as budget and priorities. But truly I cannot over-emphasize the value of a good team of professionals that work together to make your project a reality. Finding an architect and builder that compliment you and each other and work together to look after you and your needs are invaluable. You need to be able to trust them and know that they are listening to you and are mindful of your needs, wants and budget. The project is about bringing your dreams to reality. Having an enjoyable and low stress process helps you enjoy the finished project so much more. This is a personal journey and you need a talented, experienced and knowledgeable team to guide you through the process.

Can you briefly explain a few features of a green home?

A "green" home can mean anything from painting a room with no or Low VOC paint to building an "off the grid" or net-zero home (a home that produces enough energy to support itself completely). Most people want somewhere in the middle.

The qualities that are most often desired in a green home are;
A home that compliments the land by taking advantage of natural daylight, prevailing winds and great views.
That it is energy efficient; well insulated, well built and has an HVAC system that is sized appropriately for the size of the house with zoned areas so they work efficiently and effectively.
That construction waste is minimized to save on your wallet and the landfill.
That uses quality windows with glazing/insulation and Low E coatings appropriate for your region, that are located, for daylight and energy efficiency.
Finish materials are chosen to age well, require low maintenance and look good (people take care of a house they like).

What are some of the misconceptions you've come across about designing a green home?

The most common misconception is that green homes cost more for the same quality of house. This is really a comparison of up front costs to long-term costs. It is important to invest in good functional design and a good building envelope (insulation, roof, windows, insulation) because spending money there is an investment in the home that pays back dividends over time. A well designed home with a comprehensive system, works for you and your wallet. You can down size your HVAC system, since it is working with the site rather than against it, and then you save money on the initial cost of the HVAC and the cost to run it over time. The house is more comfortable to live in, and puts money back into your wallet in value and less money into the hands of the power company. This also helps your house retain value over time.

Building green means building for the long-term. You are investing in a home and your quality of life.

What are a few of the most in-demand green features for custom homes?

Good natural daylight, metal roofs, high quality air sealing and insulation, passive solar design. People also want to make spaces work better for how we live today- Not just adding more space for the sake of it but reworking the space we have to live better. We often don't need more space, just better space. Staying where they are, investing in the neighborhood and letting their homes grow and change with them.

What's the best way for people to get in contact with you and your company?

The best way to reach us is via email either directly at sophie@sophiepiesse.com or through the website www.sophiepiesse.com. We also have a lot of information on prior jobs, the process and some fun photos to enjoy.

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