STUDIO UPDATES: The Essential Meaning of Inspiration


Inspiration:  Something that makes someone want to do something or that gives someone an idea about what to do or create: a force or influence that inspires someone.


Architects are stretching boundaries of physics and imagination to develop creative design solutions from innovative, eco-friendly residential homes to gravity-defying commercial designs.  How do they get inspired to deliver such excellence?  From Studio H at NSPJ Architects, we give attention to what inspires them.


Michael Mitchelson, Designer III/Project Manager of Studio H, passionately described what inspires him.  Michael provides leadership and development to his projects and his team helping daily to make everyone’s time useful and meaningful.


In one of Michael’s latest projects, an historic, dry-goods grocery warehouse has been designed by him and is under construction.  He said it is more about giving life to the client’s vision that motivates him to go that extra step.  This transformation is estimated to take almost two years to complete, and he will be there every step along the way to make sure that vision is fulfilled.



Theresa Curtis, Vice President / Associate Principal Architect, says, professionally she enjoys collaboration.  When she hears the hopes and wants of a client, when she sees the site and context of a new building – that generates ideas.  Then Theresa works with another Architect or designer on our team.  They discuss ideas and concepts with the client which adds another layer to the design.  She says “It is really inspiring to create work together with people you admire and respect.  The feeling of equal contribution and working toward better and better designs and solutions is really very gratifying.”


Theresa also happens to love interior trim work design.  She explains how seriously fun it is to create a design motif for a series of interior spaces which creates texture and personality in homes and public spaces.  It takes a lot of 3-dimensional thinking and she is always really excited to see the final trim work come to life when a project is built.




Personally, Theresa tries to remain pliable about style so that the client’s preferences come first.  For her home life however, it’s another story.  In her personal life and style, she is inspired by capturing a feeling of calm by minimizing or being strategic about color, unnecessary objects, and complex geometry and filling a space with texture, light, and natural materials. Theresa feels that modern life is so incredibly loud that the ultimate goal for her home is to create a “mental reprieve”.  Less noise and more serenity.   For this reason, she really loves Scandinavian design, and she is really intrigued by the Dutch concept of “hygge” which focuses on well-being and the coziness of home.


“I think that apart from our primary responsibility in design, which centers mostly on health and safety of the residents who inhabit our projects, we need to understand the function of the architecture” says Cade Brummer, Architect I/Project Manager. “The function of multifamily residential design is really multi-faceted, but at the end of the day, those individuals or families who live in our projects have the privilege of choosing where they call home. I like to think my inspiration comes from first considering how the spaces we design function in reaction to human emotion of those who choose to live in a community. As a home, we need to first satisfy emotions of comfort and security. Then we can look at how the project reacts to the community which supports it.”  George Higgins, Senior Specifications Writer and Quality Assurance Architect, ensures that all plans and designs are successfully translated to specifications and materials for contractors.


Having access to 3D modeling software allows clients to virtually walk around a designed space that inspires Audrey Knight, Designer II, Audrey Walsh, Designer I and Aurora Wilson, Student Intern.  Using a graphic application gives the architects an opportunity to communicate the ideas down to the shadows and lighting. 


Audrey Walsh, Designer I adds that she is inspired by exploring new spaces. She loves getting to experience how volumes, lighting, and materials can affect the way we feel in spaces.  Audrey also enjoys observing how people interact with the built environment. The idea that design is art that must work inspires her as well.  She says, “It feels like each day we are trying to solve puzzles to understand how all of the elements in a building can fit together seamlessly.”


The infinite possibility of design inspires Aurora Wilson, Student Intern. No two designs should be exactly alike and with the changing world of new materials and the ever-evolving understanding of design, new buildings are often very unique and always progressing forward.


In one of the newest historic projects, Sara Wells, Architect I/Project Manager, shares that highlighting the existing older features and creating something unique and new is inspiring to her especially in the hospitality industry.  The renovations will include an indoor pool, banquet hall, exterior façade, and courtyard.  This specific project will change the location of the hotel’s entry and porte cochere which will help create a fresh, distinct splendor for this building. “Giving new life to an existing building is something I’ve always had a passion for. We get to write new chapters for a story already in progress, which feels so good. It connects me to the past and makes me feel like I’m part of something bigger.”


Nick Ouellette, Designer II, explains the drive to create a new, exceptional project better than the last design inspires him. The ability to learn from the mistakes that were made and create a sharpened design. ‘Your next project is going to be your best project’ is something that one of his professors told him in college is at the top of his mind when the opportunity arises for a new rendering, or new detail to design/develop.


As a new member to NSPJ’s Studio H, Richard Kniss, Designer III/Senior Project Manager, states that one of his main inspirations is to lead a diverse group towards a common goal.  While collaborating and mentoring younger staff in the studio, he helps develop a design that responds to a client’s program and goals and finding creative solutions when challenges arise.  Personally, he finds inspiration cleaning up streets in low-income neighborhoods or supporting non-profit organizations that help others.  He is also actively involved in his autistic son’s personal development and watching his growth as he navigates through challenging situations on his way to adulthood.


Abby Eleeson, Designer I, also new to the team, believes that inspiration is a term the design industry uses more commonly than any other word. Many may think that it is a feeling, but personally she views it as a tangible component that makes a good design great. “Inspiration is around us daily; the light streaking through the window, the fabric on our seats, the colors reflected by the morning sun. You can easily find inspiration, it’s just a matter of recognizing it.” Abby chooses to immerse herself into the design of a project so that she can truly understand the client’s vision for the space. If they can provide her with one word describing their space, Abby hopes to bring that word to life through inspiration and design.  She also commented to the team that chocolate breaks are the best and everyone in the studio agreed.



Our team brings your vision together with our extensive experience to accomplish client’s goals.  We continue to create timeless designs with distinctive detail and proportion.  Our work is inspired, holistic and innovative with unmatched expertise in residentially focused environments.


NSPJ Architects is celebrating our 60th year!  Learn more about our core values and see our recently completed  Custom Homes, Mulitfamily and Commercial designs.

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