My wife and I formed our company in 1989. After graduating from college in 1981, we worked for the next eight years with firms in San Francisco. I was eventually designing high rises, airports, and other large commercial projects, while Maureen began with multi-family housing and commercial tenant development. I was traveling quite a bit, and realized I was going to be a largely absentee father if I didn’t make a change. Shifting to custom residential architecture was the solution. The problem was my last two clients were the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Chevron Research who didn’t exactly provide a client base upon which to start a residential practice. So we decided to turn a few houses in Marin. In doing so, we met a lot of folks that would be key to developing our practice, especially real estate agents and contractors. We were off and running and haven’t look back.
Is your company design only or design/build?
What strengths do you rely on to make you good at what you do?
I think the two most important attributes an architect must exhibit are the capacity to listen to the client and the ability to solve problems. Everybody has heard a story from someone who hired an architect that seemed to be designing for someone else–someone else’s budget, someone else’s style, someone else’s program. Attention to detail is very important to us, and that begins with locking in on the client’s goals and making them ours as well. Also, having designed more than 350 projects in the Bay Area, we can rely on our experience gaining planning approvals to minimize the damage to our clients’ dreams by bureaucrats and neighbors.
What is your education and training in architecture?
We both have Bachelor of Architecture degrees from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo and became licensed in 1983. We have consecutive license numbers.
What excites you the most about architecture?
Solving problems and seeing the excitement and delight in clients when they experience the final result of months or years of design and construction.
How did you come to pick architecture as your profession?
Maureen and I came to it in completely opposite ways. She just knew in high school that’s what she wanted to do. She was an excellent student, artistic, and had a great uncle as a mentor who was a prominent architect in Argentina. On the other hand, I couldn’t figure out what I wanted to do. I bounced between majors for several years before finally coming to architecture. Looking back, it seems odd that I didn’t get there more directly, because as early as grade school I would sit for hours drawing house designs, but I don’t remember ever thinking about becoming an architect. Girls seem to focus sooner/better than boys. It was at least the case with us.
How would you summarize your philosophy of design?
We are dedicated to the creation of unique, dynamic environments born of the needs, desires, and aesthetic preferences of the client and the specific dictates of the site and neighborhood. We are not devoted to any particular architectural style. We are equally comfortable and experienced with both traditional and modernist design principles and forms.
What are the top three things that make a client or project an ideal fit for you?
A client interested in good design and engaged in the process. Good design, by the way, does not require a large budget.
A client that listens. It is just as important that the client listens to the architect as the reverse. The client and architect are a team. Effective communication is key to a functional team.
A client that trusts the professionals he/she hires. The most successful people in business are those who surround themselves with smart, capable people and let them do their work.
What do you do for fun when you are not working?
While our kids were in the house, our lives revolved around them and their activities. Now that we’re empty nesters we have time for tennis, golf, and travel.
Share a brief bio about yourself in less than 250 words.
I grew up in Portland, Oregon and moved to San Jose, California at the start of 7th grade, so have been a west coast boy all my life. Maureen’s family is from Argentina, though they immigrated to California before she was born. When she graduated from grade school, the family moved back to Argentina, so she started high school in Buenos Aires. Due to the adverse political climate, the family moved back to California for Maureen’s senior year. We both found our way to Cal Poly and met there.
The Bachelor of Architecture degree is a five-year program and we had the opportunity to spend our fourth year attending schools in Europe. I chose Copenhagen, Denmark and Maureen went to Florence, Italy. Those were transformational years for us. Though Maureen had lived in Argentina, I had never been outside of the U.S. We both travelled extensively throughout Europe and northern Africa and were able to experience the architecture and cultures we had only learned about in books and lectures.
We continue to love travel and do so as often as our schedule and budget allow.
Learn more about Dave and Maureen Jochum personally and professionally
Gaining Approvals for a Design That Strays From the Status Quo
This project focuses on a critical issue that every homeowner must deal with when they desire to make changes to the exterior of their house in the form of an addition, exterior renovation, or building a completely new house. The owner and architect must wade through the design review process convincing the board members and especially neighbors that their design will have no detrimental effects on others or them.
This requires significantly more than simply meeting zoning requirements. It means developing a design that sits comfortably in its setting and respects the fabric (scale, materials, placement, relationships, privacy) of the neighborhood. Referred to as "contextual design", it does not mean you design a house that mimics houses around it, but in fact, if well executed, allows for a very large palette of designs.
This house replaced a post-World War II single story ranch house in Sleepy Hollow. Though this area was developed with custom houses (rather than tract), there was very little divergence from the standard ranch style, and square footage typically was between 1,800 and 2,400. The program for this house, on the other hand, included two stories, upwards of 4,000 s.f. of living space plus an additional 700 s.f. of storage, and absolutely no relation to the ranch styling predominant in the neighborhood.
There were several design decisions made that were key to gaining favorable responses from neighbors and the planning department:
No wall visible from the street is more than one story tall. Though the house is a full two stories, and so taller than all houses around it, the eave line maintains the neighborhood single story scale.
This effectively hides a majority of the second story square footage and is executed in part by use of a steeply pitched roof and dormers. The width of the street-side roof is relieved by the two gable dormers scaled to minimize the visual mass of the house and provide a friendly, recognizable face. Nobody would guess the floor area the house contains by viewing it from the street.
The house is placed on the site matching its neighbors', so spacing between houses and from house to street is consistent.
Though the siding and landscape construction materials of stained cedar shingles and local quarried stone were not present anywhere else in the area, they are very common, non-controversial materials used in traditional manners. Who doesn't like stained shingles and stone, especially when kept natural and trimmed in earth colors?
Windows facing side neighbors are kept to a minimum and buffered by new and existing trees, maintaining privacy for all. That has to be done very deliberately when poking a full story above its neighbors.
Landscaping is a very important aspect of this house. Three flowering pear trees form the (west) street edge. They not only continue the traditional streetscape, but as they mature provide a screen from views and summer afternoon sun into the house. Low ranging plants and lawn provide a green, sculpted foreground to the front elevation. There is no anti-social front fence, iron gates, or tall hedges–nothing to set it "above" and apart from its neighbors. The rear of the house, though not visible by the public, opens completely to the rear terraces and gardens, melding outdoors with indoors.
What were the top four driving values of the project?
Since the existing house was non-conforming on both side yard setbacks, we could maintain those foundation locations, though we were not allowed to exacerbate the non-conformity. This was very beneficial in allowing the ground floor plan to spread a little wider than zoning prescribed.
The lot is virtually flat which is a huge asset in hilly Marin. The downside is the views from the property are not as spectacular as they could be from a hillside position. A second story not only saved valuable ground space, but also formed a great perch to view the surrounding hills.
The property is located in a serene valley (Sleepy Hollow), a uniquely tight community with many amenities, and a dead end street, which provides coveted privacy.
What specific requests did the client make that the design needed to incorporate?
Since we were our own clients, the requests were obviously self-imposed.
Meet the budget. This is key to any client no matter how low or high the budget is.
Incorporate our architectural studio into the heart of the house.
Design a house that would not only meet our needs (the “client”), but would also showcase our ideas, values, and talents to our future clients.
Connect indoors and out, often and boldly. The U-shaped plan opens with large French doors from every room facing the rear yard. Window areas are very large. Every room in the house has large glazing areas on at least two walls and there are fourteen skylights.
Maximize the functionality of the outdoor spaces well beyond something just nice to look at. Terraces are designed for specific functions–dining, lounging, fire pit seating, private contemplation. A fountain provides white noise. The rear lawn was sized to accommodate a regulation volleyball court for our kids. Deciduous street trees were chosen and placed not only to maintain the fabric of the streetscape, but protect the house from the west summer sun, while allowing the winter sun to warm the interior.
Were you the designer, builder or both?
We were architects and general contractors, though our primary contractor was a general contractor himself.
How long from the point of submission did it take to get the permits for this project?
The property is in the Marin County jurisdiction, and the standard turnaround time for plan check is six to eight weeks depending on their work load.
This was technically a remodel and addition, so the fee would not be charged on previously existing square footage.)
What was the approximate cost of the permits?
This project was submitted for permits in early 2001 and fees have risen exponentially since that time. Total fees at that time were approximately $11,000. Today they would total approximately $43,600. Total fees are the addition of planning ($5,600), building ($14,000), schools ($11,000), and what the county calls “Affordable Housing Impact Fee” ($13,000). (Note: the Impact Fee would be $38,000 if the house were built on a bare lot. This was technically a remodel and addition, so the fee would not be charged on previously existing square footage.)
What was the cost per square foot of the work done?
Built today this would cost approximately $400 per square foot, possibly a little more. This does not include design fees, planning and building fees, or sitework outside the building envelope (landscaping, etc.)
How many months did the project take from start to finish?
It took 13 months including landscaping, but could have been done a bit quicker by a top tier general contractor (instead of us ;-)
Was the environment a conscious focus for this project? If so, what steps did you take to minimize environmental impact?
The best thing an architect can do to minimize environmental impact is design a house that serves the residents well, offers them maximum value, and is built to last a hundred years or more. These are goals for every project we design. We design houses that are efficient with materials and energy, and properly respond to the microclimate of the
site. By protecting the clients’ interests and designing a house that will stand a very long time, we minimize environmental impact.
What are the seven most important questions you like to explore with a client prior to beginning the design?
If project is a remodel: What is lacking in the current house? If project is a new house: Describe it as you envision it.
How do you live in your house? (How many cooks? Where do the kids do homework? Home office? How often do you entertain and how many people? …etc.
Do you like or dislike any particular architectural styles?
What is your budget?
What is your timeline?
If your budget does not align with your aspirations, would you reduce the scope and/or quality, retain the quality but phase the construction over time, or retain the quality and build the project in a single phase, but delay the construction until the budget can catch up.
Not a question, but we emphasize the importance of constant communication between all team members, and the client is the most important member of the team.
Summarize the design process on this particular project?
Though we were both architects and clients, the process was not unique. Every project begins with the programming phase–determining the required spaces, the amount of space they occupy, and their relationships to each other and the outdoors. We then develop these spaces with 2D sketching and in 3D on the computer.
Maureen and I worked side-by-side designing the house. We built on each others ideas. We had the same goals, but often different perspectives for achieving those goals. It was a very collaborative and exciting process.
Were there any things you would do differently if doing it all over again?
There are a few technologies available now and that are cost effective, but either weren’t available or weren’t affordable twelve years ago when we were designing the house. Hydronic radiant floor heat is something we have done in all our new houses in the last three or four years. It provides far more comfort than forced air systems. For allergy sufferers, it’s a godsend. We’re also using spray foam insulation whenever the project budget allows. It costs 2-3 times what standard batts cost, but the payback period in reduced energy costs is coming down and adds value for many clients.
Were there any surprise curve-balls on the project and how did you incorporate those into the design?
Not really. Surprises are not uncommon on remodels (you don’t really know what lies within the walls and floors until you begin demolition), but new houses on flat sites, which this house was, don’t afford much opportunity to bite.
What did you do to make this project an ideal example of your niche (i.e. if your project is aimed at the low-budget niche, what were all the things you did to save money?
We don’t look to fill a market niche. We simply work to create good architecture that responds to the needs of our clients, whatever their budget or style preference. We have designed $10,000 bath remodels and $5.2M houses–Neo Tudor to modernist.
Is there some aspect of the project that for you personally was really fun? If so, why?
Because this was the first new house we designed for ourselves, it was extremely fun. But we love what we do and we have a blast designing all our projects. It’s very rewarding to see how excited clients get when the finishes start coming together in the final months of construction and they see their house come to life.
What else would you like to share about this project that you think would be valuable for a Marin reader to understand and learn from?
Something we emphasize to potential clients in our introductory meeting is that it is a costly mistake to rush the design process. That doesn’t mean that it must be a slow exercise. I encourage clients to take as much time as necessary to absorb everything we discuss in a design meeting. Imagine themselves living in the spaces, moving through the house, entertaining during the holidays. This is the time to make grand changes in direction. If they need two or three weeks to decide if a design idea is right–fine! Everybody assimilates information at a different rate.
Q. What vegetable can you throw away the outside, cook the inside, eat the outside, and throw away the inside?
What was the approximate cost of the permits?
This project was submitted for permits in early 2001 and fees have risen exponentially since that time. Total fees at that time were approximately $11,000. Today they would total approximately $43,600. Total fees are the addition of planning ($5,600), building ($14,000), schools ($11,000), and what the county calls “Affordable Housing Impact Fee” ($13,000). (Note: the Impact Fee would be $38,000 if the house were built on a bare lot.
Buying a house and promptly starting a remodel, though often necessary, doesn’t allow the owners time to understand how the sun tracks across the site throughout the year, or how inconvenient a particular relationship of rooms is. We lived on this property for ten years before tearing the house down and building this one, designing the entire time. Now that’s extreme, of course, but we intimately understood the site, our needs, and desires.