The idea of designing your own home, it seems so romantic. A house to most of us is more than a structure. It is a place to shelter our loved ones, a place to retreat to when we’re tired and worn, to entertain or relax. The idea of creating the space you will live in has a lot of appeal and in order to really make it a functional living space that meets today’s building codes the average person usually needs assistance as they lack the skills necessary to design and create specific plans.
Building a home is no easy job. A house becomes a home when it gets accustomed to the daily routine and lifestyle led by its inhabitants. Regardless of how small or big your space is, proper planning can make a huge difference. Take, for example, double hung windows. This type of window is ideal for saving space and if you’re a person who doesn’t enjoy leaving any space unused, this one might be for you. There are numerous examples like this, with every nook and cranny, and an architect could be a huge helping hand.
We spoke with Suzanne Marie Allen of Allen Guerra Architecture one of the few women architects in Colorado, let alone in our mountain town communities. Suzanne is a woman who knows the design-build world. From the time she was thirteen, she began working for her dad’s general construction company. From construction cleanup to welding, pouring concrete, soldering copper, banging nails, painting, and more, you name it and she did it. Suzanne learned the various skills needed to build homes and buildings and this was a pretty rare skill for a woman to acquire especially at such a young age. As she looks back on the experience she doesn’t ever remember feeling out of place in this male-dominated industry.
As Suzanne grew her interest in design blossomed. She studied Economics and Architecture in Egypt and then completed her Master’s Degree in Architecture at the University of Colorado at Denver. In the early nineties, she opened her own firm in Breckenridge and since that time, she has expanded into Houston with a longtime friend and architect Courtney Saldivar as a partner. Suzanne has designed houses in Colorado, New Mexico, Vermont, California, Wyoming as well as Hawaii, Egypt, Canada, and New Zealand.
Her lifetime of building skills has served her well. Being multi-faceted in your line of work is a huge benefit and assists your operations especially when you’re trying to solve a particular problem. Living on a ranch has also assisted her in helping her clients. She is very enthusiastic about Ranch design needs and is familiar with the rigor and need of ranch living and able to incorporate functionality into the aesthetics of her design projects. It is amazing what architects have to learn to support their career, from knowing about the best type of stone for an interior statement wall all the way to watching Doorknobs on Teachable (german) seminars that can add to their design scope.
Suzanne is proud of her accomplishments and looks to Mary Coulter for inspiration. Mary Coulter was an architect during a time when being a female architect was unheard of. This petite Victorian-era woman built a variety of homes and commercial structures. While Suzanne was attending the University of Colorado – Denver she began researching Mary Coulter. At the time, there was hardly a word mentioned of her accomplishments in American Architecture publications.
Suzanne takes pride in assisting people in creating the structure of their dreams. We got into a brief discussion about being a mother and I was wondering if this would be a great career to have children Suzanne has two kids and her response was really surprising. “Architects are remarkably busy, the job is incredibly time intensive. An unspoken standard in the field is that when there is a deadline everyone stays until the plans are complete. This often means you’re going to be up all night for days on end.” It was eye-opening; however, she pulls it off and is very focused on her children.
On a side note, Suzanne’s sister is an Electrical Engineer who invented forced air solar panels and manufactures these high-efficiency panels to assist low-income families to offset the cost of heating in Minnesota through state grants. She is currently in Liberia working with hospitals installing electric solar panels on hospitals that are hours away from the electrical grid.
Suzanne helps her sister by designing the structures that house these solar panels as her donation to this effort. Although Suzanne certainly serves a high-end client she also has made an effort to assist the average homeowner and lower-income residents in her community. She takes pride in assisting people in creating the structure of their dreams and is willing to assist clients of all income levels.
When asked what her favorite design style is she said that she is “way into French Castles, the turrets and different roof forms”. She has recently incorporated some pieces of French Castle architectural styles into two of her home design. Learning is not static and inspiration comes from many places at different times in life. Although she seems laid back and carefree her intellect and creative nature is powerful and dynamic. To us, all of her projects are inspiring.
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