Shoptalk - Lane Williams, AIA

Who or what were the early influencers in your career?

WILLIAMS At the University of Washington, I had some excellent professors that included Bob Small, Galen Minah, Grant Hildebrand, and Doug Zuberbuhler. Most of what I needed to know about architecture was learned in my three years there. In my first couple years of practice, I was fortunate to learn from Richard Hobbs and Jim Olson. And then there were the works of architects whom I greatly admire, like masters of mid-century modern architecture Richard Neutra and Rudolph Schindler.

What is your take on sustainable design?

WILLIAMS We encourage clients to salvage existing structures, when feasible, and to not build more house than they really need. The addition of green features such as roof gardens and solar panels are great, but don’t necessarily offset what may already be a large carbon footprint. Nearly every new home is now super-insulated, with high efficiency heating and ventilation, so the steps we take beyond those requirements are often subtle. We like to use woods from the Pacific Northwest, which are a renewable and carbon-neutral resource, and minimize the use of materials that have a large carbon footprint, like steel.

As a specialist in custom home design, is there a particular size or type of project that you prefer?

WILLIAMS We see a fairly large range of projects, with some under 2,500 square feet and others exceeding 5,000 square feet. Most are intended to be true family homes, with serious budget limitations, and not a weekend getaway or expansive estate. There is still great satisfaction in working that middle ground. But the best project experiences are when I have the opportunity to design a new home for a former client. The communication and trust essential to good work are already established.

Best way to spend a weekend in Seattle?

WILLIAMS Our residential neighborhoods are what make Seattle special, with endless possibilities for walking tours and scenic drives. My own neighborhood, Queen Anne Hill, includes Kerry Park with outstanding views of the downtown skyline and Elliott Bay. Be sure to diverge from the well-beaten tourist path, and meander up the hill to Queen Anne Avenue and some of the tree-lined streets filled with a mix off classic and modern homes. Stop at one of our excellent coffee shops and enjoy an outdoor table to watch the passing scene. Lunch at the Hilltop Ale House, and enjoy dinner—be sure to book ahead—at How To Cook A Wolf.

What would you like to be remembered for?

WILLIAMS One of my greatest pleasures is revisiting homes I designed 10 or 20 years ago, and seeing them enjoyed by my clients, and sometimes by current owners who purchased from my clients. I stress the importance of livability in my designs, and the proof of that is when the design ages well, with durable materials, a comfortable floor plan, and flexibility in accommodating changing family needs. I want to be remembered as the architect who prioritized livability over fashion.

Has anything in your recent travels provided new inspiration?

WILLIAMS In a recent visit to the southern Pacific coast of Mexico, I toured Casa Wabi, a retreat for working artists designed by the superb Japanese architect Tadao Ando. It is elegant in its simplicity and understatement, with an aesthetic that has universal, timeless appeal.

For more information visit: