Project 10


Sometimes the story behind a project is just as interesting as the project itself. 

This story begins one day when I received an email from a prospect whose first language was not English. This email was from a Californian who had just bought a foreclosed duplex in Miami.  He realized the future potential value it had and snapped it up.

As it turns out my future client was born in Vietnam during the war, but his parents were from Taiwan.  He had moved to California and was working for a software company.   On vacation he had met a lovely South American woman and married her.  Since they liked Miami and it was half-way between Peru and California, they thought this would be a good investment as well as serve as a vacation home.

In the beginning it was a struggle to communicate, but as time passed it got easier.  Architecture is a collaborative effort.  No architect can design something for a client without communication, a lot of communication.  So it was important for me to get the information he was trying to relay right.

We mostly communicated by email, sometimes in words, sometimes in drawings, and sometimes we looked at things we both liked in photos.  Over time we got better at it.

I don’t know if he held back everything that was wrong with the house because he thought he would scare me to death, but I got the story in pieces.  First, I saw the house and he explained what he wanted and he sent me The Disclosure and Findings Report issued by an architect, but it was very incomplete.  Later, he told me about all the actual written code violations from the county.  These went on for pages. 

Besides the fact that the roof was falling in, the bathrooms were dated, the electrical was a mess, and the septic tank broken, there was no fire separation between the two sides of the house.  There was an entire part on the back of the house which had been built without permits and had to be torn down.  That part of the house contained the illegal kitchen which had been moved from its original location.  There was another illegal addition to the front of the house. It too had to be torn down.  The house was a mess.  Don’t take my word for it, look at the "Before" photos below.


One of the best parts of this project was that my client was an engineer.  Although he was a software engineer he knew enough about engineering in general, that he intuitively understood construction.  He particularly understood mechanical, electrical, and structural issues.

I think the best clients are the ones that know what they are trying to achieve but are not closed-minded.  This client was one of these.  He knew enough, but was very willing to listen to my counsel and my ideas. 

The original house, where the roof was caving in, was framed with 2 x 6’s.  I explained that with today’s wind codes, this could not be re-framed this way. They would likely need to be 2 x 10’s or 3 x 10’s, but the final design would be up to the structural engineer.  In addition, because the roof had such a low pitch, we also needed to install collar-ties to secure the two different rafters which create the slopes from pushing outward, causing the roof to fall in.

So I sent him a few photos of houses framed with joists and collar ties.  I think it was he who found the photo of the house with the double collar-ties.  He said he liked that look, so we went with that solution.  You can see the roof in the photos below.

There were many issues with the house which had to be detailed in the drawings. Later, when we started construction we found additional issues which had been covered up but came to light as we removed drywall. The contractor, I must say, had a lot of patience.  It was a painstaking process resolving the many little issues that had to be resolved along the way.

I think in the end, the client was very happy with his project, and I was happy that the client was pleased.  He was a pleasure to work with throughout the entire process. 

You can see the "After" photos of the finished house below.


Dining Room looking to the back of the house on left; looking out the front of the house above; another view out the front below

Master Bedroom at left; kitchen below

"After" Photo Front of the house 

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