We’re heading into the Seattle MA+DS Modern Home Tour this weekend, and as we gear up for some Pacific Northwest modern, we sat down with Ian Butcher of Best Practice Architecture. Ian and his design team are responsible for a modernizing and breathing life into a 100-year-old grand house for a sophisticated and stylish family in Roanoke Park neighborhood of Seattle, which will be featured on Saturday’s tour. We chatted with Ian about levity, design-as-choreography, and inspiration.
Q&A w/ Ian Butcher, Best Practice Architecture
What would you say is your company ethos? What qualities were important to you as you built the Best Practice Team?
We are very serious about our work, but we don’t take ourselves too seriously. I often joke that we are deadly serious about levity. So when building a team, I look for people who are talented and committed to all things design, but interested in having fun while we work.
One thing that really struck me on the ‘About’ tab of the Best Practice website is your desire to “choreograph intuitive experiences.” Can you tell us a little more about what you mean by that, and how that plays out in your designs?
We do have a fairly contemporary design aesthetic sensibility, but I think the most successful projects are those that the inhabitants (or homeowners) love to spend time in, but are not really sure why. The spaces just feel good to them and works really well. I spend a lot of time on space planning and think of design as creating unique opportunities for interaction. I think the role of an architect is kind of like a director but with no specific script.
In your own words, you really cut your teeth on residential work before moving into more commercial endeavors. How has your work on residential projects translated to the commercial/retail world? And conversely, when you do have residential projects now, what carries over from your work on commercial projects?
Residential projects tend to be way more detailed and have longer timelines than commercial and retail, so my experience in Residential taught me how to navigate the layers of complexity all while taking the time to push for a unique or aggressive design ideas. Through this experience I gained the confidence to trust my instincts and am now better able to make smart decisions quickly which is so important in commercial work where the deadlines are often very tight.
Conversely, in the commercial and retail world, it is more appropriate to develop eccentric or more conceptual ideas than residential, so we have had the opportunity to explore and realize some more abstract or thought provoking conceptual work. This has led us to push our residential projects in a more abstract and conceptual direction.
You used to serve on the board of ARCADE Magazine, a Seattle-based publication devoted to fostering dialogue about design — a mission we share as well! How would you describe the culture of design in Seattle and the Pacific Northwest more generally?
Though I no longer serve on the ARCADE board, I remain a vocal advocate for the organization. As for your question, I think there is a great culture of design in Seattle, and it is a treat to see all the new and exciting projects popping up all over the city. I also think the community is really supportive of one another. While there is a healthy competition with design firms, I feel like most everyone is happy for others to succeed in creating great spaces for everyone to enjoy.
What’s been the most challenging project you’ve had recently? The most exciting?
All of our projects present a unique set of challenges from a tight budget or timeline, to clients being out of sync with what they want. As for the most exciting, we are working on a series of new restaurants for a dynamic restaurant group around Seattle.
Tough one: what inspires you?
I am impressed by the strong architectural work by my peers in Seattle, but I love to see great art installations and am always excited and get a creative charge after watching a great movie.
Click here for tickets to the 2017 Seattle MA+DS Modern Home Tour!