Inside the Designer's Mind: Curtis Gelotte, AIA

Curt Gelotte-1

Find a need and fill it” has been a marketer’s mantra for years.  Today, savvy architects are turning entrepreneur, finding unmet needs and creating new business models, products and services. After 26 years of design, Curtis Gelotte and Scott Hommas of  Gelotte Hommas Architecture, a Seattle area custom design firm, saw the need to simplify the process of creating the one-of-a-kind home by artfully blending spec-house-economy with custom-house-method.  I recently talked with Curtis Gelotte about his entrepreneurial journey.

Did you always know you wanted to be an architect? As a young boy, I was always drawing houses. When geometry class appeared I discovered that I visualize space really well. My first job at 14 was running prints and sweeping floors for an architect. By 15, I was drafting. At 17, they had me designing.   I was hooked!

Does today’s architect need to be an entrepreneur? With two designs under my belt I started my own business 26 years ago. I still design for that builder.  It takes an unrealistic confidence to step out on your own or present an idea.  It takes faith that no matter what comes along, you’ll be able to figure it out.  That mindset has never been more important for architects.

What skill should architects be cultivating? Become a great listener.  Architects are natural problem solvers. But it takes a willingness to listen to discover the true problem.  If you listened to my client consultations, you’d find them doing 90% of the talking.  I ask questions to clarify and help them articulate their vision. We find our best opportunities by observing and listening.

What are today’s unmet needs? My partner and I saw the need to simplify the process of creating a one-of-a-kind-house , so we”ve blended spec-house-economy with custom-house-method.  There’s a large segment of the population who would like to build a custom home, but don’t because they’re afraid the cost will be too high.  What causes budgets to get out of control is the thousands of decisions they have to make – just selecting a refrigerator can make you crazy. By getting to know our clients and streamlining their choices for them, we can eliminate budget uncertainty and prevent it from getting out of control.

Biggest misconception about architects? That we”re not practical.

What is the biggest opportunity for architects today? Being facilitators: connecting people with others who can provide missing links casino online to get projects moving.

How do you prepare for creativity? Beauty in all forms inspires me – nature, art, sculpture and music. I flip through books and magazines and absorb images of great works of architecture and paintings.

Do you have a special ritual or exercise that gets your creativity flowing? Usually I start with a gridded pad of paper and start exploring ideas. Once the germ of a concept appears, I move on to larger paper.  I sketch a lot in meetings to try to convey ideas.

How do you cultivate creativity in your own firm? One of the problems I see is that younger architects are great at 3d computer, but they don’t know how to draw by hand. People aren’t used to describing moods and emotions in their house and they don’t know architect lingo. So, I try to help them articulate what they want and confirm with visual images. Being able to sketch in the presentation can be really helpful.  We encourage our staff to draw more. We do watercolors in the office and have a Christmas card design competition that’s become so popular, our mailing list is over 1,000.

2009 HolCard

3 things we probably won’t find in your bio: I lived in Haines, Alaska until I was 8 years old;  I own three types of bicycles: road, mountain and cross; I paid for part of my college education with a bowling scholarship.

I”d like to thank Curtis for sitting for this interview after a long day of judging the Gold Nugget Awards.  His entrepreneurial spirit undoubtedly comes from the energy and enthusiasm he has for  his work. GH has even embraced social media!  Follow them for a great example of incorporating a blog, Facebook and Twitter into a marketing program.