Photos by Alyssa Lee. Project done by Marcy Townsend as architect while at Charlie & Co. Design.
Nearly every residential architecture firm purports to design homes that reflect their clients’ needs and desires. But how many of these firms have a trademarked approach to residential design? Chisel Architecture, a Wayzata firm founded by Marcy Townsend, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP, and Sara Whicher, Assoc. AIA and designer, does. It’s called Pattern of Life®, and “The approach is deeply rooted in discovering, achieving, and sustaining the homeowner’s wellbeing,” says Townsend.
Whicher and Townsend both work with clients on every project. Prior to founding Chisel, they spent more than two decades in Twin Cities architectural firms fine-tuning their listening skills and design expertise. They often worked in the same firms, and noticed not only that their capabilities complemented each other, but also that their design philosophies aligned. By founding their own firm, they been able to hone in on a design process that integrates a unique approach to wellbeing, and emphasizes function over form. In doing so, they’re also modeling how women bring singular value and expertise to clients—and to the design profession.
Right from the start, says Townsend, “We discuss with our clients the varied ways in which a home can influence their health and wellbeing, and in granular detail how they spend their day.” Whicher adds, “We get to know them intimately. We need to know how you like your coffee or tea in the morning, how you do your laundry, who does the grocery shopping, and so on. It’s a judgment-free zone! We intensively listen and co-create language with clients for their particular project. It gives them true ownership and involvement. We circle back, dig deeper, and get it right.”
This approach, which they call Pattern of Life, “allows us to understand function at an exceptional level. The classic debate in design is form versus function. Knowing that a home’s function profoundly influences one’s wellbeing drives the Pattern of Life design methodology, which requires an understanding of function at an unparalleled level,” adds Townsend.
So, then, let’s talk about form. “Most designers call this ‘style,’ and it’s the first question they ask a homeowner in the design process—abetted by architecture magazines, social media, HGTV and the like,” Townsend continues. “As a result, designers sacrifice function for form, which is like nails on a chalkboard to us!”
As an example, Whicher says, “We’re currently working with a client who loves Montana Modern and traditional log cabin and refined rustic and Scandinavian shiplap. My gosh; how do you wrangle that into a design? We’re blending all of her interests into her own style, which continually circles back through her desires—which includes an area of the home that houses her beloved 1947 Chevy.”
Pattern of Life, in other words, is an approach through which Townsend and Whicher analyze clients’ singular characteristics to customize or tailor a home that fits and support them like a handcrafted glove. The results, Whicher says, “bring everyone joy!”