North Atlanta Residential Design

January 27th, 2012

Rand Soellner Architect recently was engaged to design a very nice house for a couple north of Atlanta in one of the residential suburbs not far from Norcross, Georgia.

Residential Design in North Atlanta

There will be a main house of about 5,000 HSF (Heated Square Feet), an attached 3 car oversize garage with interior and exterior storage, and a 4,800 SF related but detached separate car barn for collectibles (a hobby of the client).  Additionally, there is ongoing Master Planning of the site to accommodate a Porte-Cochere (a fancy word describing a nicer sort of carport) off the Front Porch, with two 12′ wide driving lanes passing through it.

north atlanta residential design

North Atlanta Residential Design (C) Copyright 2012 Rand Soellner, All Rights Reserved Worldwide. In the Master Planning and Programming stages, testing some 3D concepts in an animated movie Soellner put together to view the implications of the client's initial thoughts for their new project.

Out back, the tall gable roof of the Grand Hall (main central open plan living space of the house) continues to cover about 24′ of a Rear Porch/ Outdoor Living space, then there is the swimming pool, Summer Kitchen, pool bathroom and related hardscaping and landscaping.

Ah, this is the life!  All together, there will be about 13,480 square feet under roof, including interior and exterior covered spaces, but not including the full gable tall screened enclosure over the pool.  The building site will be roughly 10 acres in size, with plenty of buffering trees and other landscaping from the road.  Privacy is desired, as are beautiful views.

North Atlanta residential design

north atlanta residential design (C)Copyright Rand Soellner 2012, All Rights Reserved Worldwide. This is the preliminary view from the Rear Porch to the swimming pool area, with a 2-sided fireplace on the opposite end and a summer kitchen and a pool house. After seeing the movie Soellner produced, the clients decided to have him turn the pool 90 degrees and eliminate the pool house and move the fireplace to be in the porch. A picture says a thousand words and a movie makes it nearly real.

Like many of Rand’s clients, this couple wants this to be their retirement dream house.  There is something about Soellner’s designs that appeals to this special market segment.  Perhaps the vaulted ceilings with muscular beams and timber trusses, large stone pedestals and timber posts, or huge glass areas framing spectacular views.  All of these are part of the equation and the path that leads to Rand Soellner Architect.

Soellner’s work has been featured in books and magazines worldwide, including in a major residential design coffee table book published by Images Publishing, available through (log on to Amazon and type in: “House With A View.”  Soellner has several of his built house project designs in the book along with the likes of Richard Meier, Mario Botta and other luminaries of the architectural world).   Rand is quick to comment: “mine are the rustic ones that look like they grew from their sites and have been there for 100 years.”  Seeing the elegance in Soellner’s design for this new North Atlanta house belies his mountain leanings more toward “Rustic Elegance,” a flavor that seems to be appealing to more retirees these days.

north atlanta residential design

Rand Soellner's new North Atlanta project includes about 14,000 square feet of roofed space, one couple's retirement dream, with all the room they ever imagined for scores of grown children and grandkids and hobbies and collections, parking, swimming and just about anything you'd want to do.

Soellner takes it all in stride, enjoying the fact that so many people looking forward to their dream retirement houses contact him.  “I get 84,000 hits a year on my website ,” he says with a grin, “but no where near that many actually call me.  I wish they did!” Here is Soellner’s Contact Us page from his website–> Contact Rand Soellner Architect

He designs custom houses all over the United States and he confides, that yes, he actually lives in just one state, however he is licensed in multiple states all over the USA and enjoys creating projects anywhere.  He actually lived in Kuwait City for 2 months, while designing a major project there, on the Arabian Gulf.  “So me designing a residence for people in North Atlanta or Washington State, or South Carolina, or Virginia, Pennsylvania or Illinois is not a difficult thing to do, ” said Soellner.

tags: north atlanta residential design, custom, norcross, alpharetta, newnan, macon, timber, post and beam, pennsylvania, farm house



Planning Spring Projects

January 19th, 2012

You have been cooped up in your apartment or existing aging house, thinking: Time to start planning for my spring project!  And there is no better time than right now to get started on that new house or residential renovation.  Of course, before it can be built, it has to be designed.  And there’s no better professional available than a residential architect.

Spring Project Planning

The winter, just after the major holidays,  has always been a time of new projects at Rand Soellner Architect and this year is no exception.  Soellner’s trademarked term: HOME ARCHITECTS TM says it all: they design houses all over the USA, the Americas and the World.  The Soellner firm often begins planning for client projects during the winter, so that when warm weather arrives, work might hopefully begin on his clients’ proposed new houses and renovations.

spring project planningThe Economy is improving: get started now:—> Residential Architect

Click here to see Rand Soellner’s Contact Us form: —> Contact Us

Soellner is receiving record traffic on his website: , as he typically does in the early months of each year.  People seem to want to get through Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day in order to have the time they need to focus on efforts for a major new undertaking like a new house or renovation of an aging residence.  Soellner is seeing from 72,000 to 84,000 hits on his website a year, and visitors are on the rise.  That’s about 7,000 people a month, and 230 average a day, however, recently Soellner noticed a spike of 315 visitors on a Sunday.  That’s over 13.1 visitors an hour, or 1 visitor approximately every 4-1/2 minutes.  That’s a lot of interest in residential design and planning for spring projects!

spring project planning

(C) Copyright 2004-2012 Rand Soellner, All Rights Reserved Worldwide. One of Residential Architect Soellner's projects underway.

Soellner enjoys getting projects started early, so that his clients can understand how his designs fulfill their functional and aesthetic requests, long before they are built.  That’s one of the advantages of starting Before you need a residential design: so that you have the time to understand the physical and economic implications of your project well before you want construction to begin.  Planning early is what it is all about.

Some people prefer to wait until the warm weather is here, but they discover that they can’t immediately begin to build then.  They first need a design.  And this is going to be their dream retirement house.  So do you imagine that they want a quickie design out of a magazine or other source of designs that have nothing to do with their desired lifestyle and their site?  No, of course not.  They want a design custom tailored to what they want.  And how to you find such a design?  You engage a residential architect who designs the sort of houses that appeal to you.

That bears repeating: How do you find the design that works for you?
It can really be that simple.  It is suggested that you Not try to cobble together bits and pieces of portions of houses that you have torn out of publications and hope that you can put it together.  You can’t.  That will be a frustrating exercise, as many of you have already discovered.  It takes a lifetime of designing houses to know how to design a residence properly.  That’s what an architect brings to the table.  Allow him or her to do their job on your behalf.  When you find an architect whose style of houses “speaks to you,” that is the main hurdle.  Once that is established, your residential architect will listen to you explain what you want in your house and plan it accordingly.  It will typically look like what that architect’s body of work has been doing for the last several decades.

spring project planning

(C) Copyright 2011-2012 Rand Soellner, All Rights Reserved Worldwide. All of Soellner's documents are produced on CAD, like this partial wall secion.

The architecture of houses is complex.  The AIA (American Institute of Architects) indicates that residential design is one of the most complex design tasks an architect can undertake.  There is a lot going on between the walls and many issues to resolve and a host of regulations and functional and aesthetic concerns.  Your house architect is the one, through education, training, licensure and experience that brings it all together for you.

And starting your project in the dead of winter is an excellent time to get your project planning and design going and perhaps even done before the new year’s warmer weather breaks, so that your project can get a jump on the year before other people’s projects book up the builders.  Speaking of builders, the recession has taken its toll: there has been attrition.  There are not as many residential builders available to to quality custom construction as there used to be.  But there continues to be more people.  As our economy continues to improve, peoples’ pent up demand for new custom residential housing and renovations will increase and eventually make today’s smaller pool of available quality builders busy.

Call to Action: Get Started Now by Engaging Your Residential Architect Now!

Rand Soellner Architect: 1-828-269-9046.

tags: planning spring projects, custom design, atlanta, orlando, hendersonville, cashiers, highlands, lake toxaway, chicago, wisconsin, timber, post and beam, boulder


Listening to You Talk About What You Want

January 11th, 2012

Good residential architects design nice houses for their clients.  Great residential architects listen to their clients first, then design wonderful houses for them.

listening to what you want

Rand Soellner and clients at a Programming meeting.

Rand Soellner Architect starts every project with what he calls the “Programming.”  As the word implies, this begins by Mr. Soellner asking you: “What do you want?”
Soellner takes notes, listens carefully, asks an occasional question, then documents the discussion in written form, usually in an e-mail to the client.  When the client receives the Programming, he and/or she is welcome to make comments, typed right into the Programming and send it back to the architect.

Soellner reviews what you have written, might make a few more comments and then sends it back to you.  This cyclical process continues, until the program is in its completed form.

What is included in a program?  Several typical subjects might be the following:
–  BEDROOMS/BATHS: Number of Bedrooms and Bathrooms desired.
–  SIZE: Approximate total Heated Square Feet (HSF)
–  GARAGE: If you want a garage, how many car parking bay spaces?  Workshop?  How elaborate?  Storage shelving along the available walls?  Access to outside trash can parking?  Any special electrical requirements?  Electric charging requirements for an electric car?  Golf cart?  ATVs?
–  PORTE-COCHERE: do you want an additional outdoor covered parking area (commonly called a “carport”, but more interesting, and possibly at the front door?  For how many cars?
–  STARTING POINT DESIGN: Basing the design on an existing design that Soellner is modifying and customizing for you?  Which one of Soellner’s many designs appeals to you as a starting point?
–  STYLE: Any particular “style”?
–  ELECTRICAL NEEDS: anything special in the way of power needs?
–  ROOFING: Any particular materials appeal to you?  Cost implications of this decision.
–  FLOORING: many people want wall to wall wood flooring.   How about you?  Species?  Cost implications.
–  COST: do you have a particular construction cost that you have in mind?  Discussion of what this is likely to buy for you and implications for your wish list as compared to the cost/HSF.
–  OUTSIDE LIVING AREAS: want a nice covered and screened back porch where you can enjoy your view and stay clean and dry?  How about a Summer Kitchen back there?  And a welcoming Front Porch?  How many people would you like to accommodate on the rear porch?  Materials?
–  KITCHEN: large, medium or small?  Large central island?  30″, 36″, 42″, 48″ or 60″ wide range/oven?  Make a major feature of the cooking area or not?  Cabinetry preferences?  One or two cold boxes?  Widths?  One, two or more sinks and locations.  One or more dishwashers and refuse containers in cabinetry.  Pet feeding built-in areas (something Soellner’s clients seem to appreciate).  Windows.  Openness to the other main living areas.  Number of people you would like to accommodate at one time during meal preparation.  Utilities.
–  MASTER BEDROOM: king bed or California king?  Nightstands and circulation space.  Access to outdoor living area, possibly even a Sleeping Porch (one of Soellner’s historic references that clients seem to enjoy)!  Fireplace?  TV (popup or on display)?  Dressers?  Makeup/grooming vanity for her?  Shelving?
–  MASTER CLOSETS/DRESSING: one larger, or separate His & Hers?  Implications for size of house.  Shoe stacker shelving for all those shoes!  Center dresser island?  Want a coffee maker in there and a flat screen TV?  Exercise equipment/area?  This can be as simple or elaborate as your imagination and budget allows.
–  MASTER BATHROOM: large, medium or small?  Separate toilet room?  Fancy toilet with all the bells and whistles or simple normal toilet (yes, there are a whole range of toilets these days, some with hot water cleansing, automatic lid raising from motion sensors, auto-flush and much more!).  Garden tub?  Whirlpool?  One larger vanity with 2 sinks, or separate His & Her vanities?  One person or 2-person shower?  Soellner often designs his clients’ showers to accommodate future possible wheelchairs so they can continue to enjoy their homes for as long as they live and not have to go anywhere else unless they want to do so.

Rand Soellner Architect—> Contact Us .

When the program is complete, Rand Soellner then asks you your permission to allow him to proceed into the next phase: Schematic Design.  But that’s a subject for another article.

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Protecting Your House & Plumbing in Winter

January 4th, 2012

Your house is like a big toddler.  It needs guidance from the experienced adult: you.  You can’t just leave it in the middle of winter and expect for everything to be alright when you return.  These preparations are simple; you just need to think about them to protect your investment in your house and in its plumbing.  Protecting your house and its plumbing in winter just takes a few quick steps.  Rand Soellner Architect wants his clients to be able to prepare for winter and protect their houses and the plumbing.  Step one: if you are not familiar with Winterizing houses, obtain the services of a licensed contractor experienced with this special service and have him or her supervise or perform all of the following…

Protecting Your House & Plumbing in Winter

protecting your house and plumbing in winterTHERMOSTATS: first, what Not to do: do Not turn your thermostats off or to such a low level that you will have frost inside your house.  That will eventually melt and saturate the wall and floor and ceiling finish materials which is sure to grow mold.  What to do: turn your thermostats down to perhaps 60 degrees F.  In reality, the low limit switches in your AHUs (Air Handling Units) will turn on when the thermometer in the thermostat reaches about 58 degrees.  The high limit switch in the AHUs will probably turn off the heat source and related distribution fans when the temperature at the thermostat reaches about 62 degrees.  Why is this important?  Because there are water pipes running through your walls, ceilings and floors.  These pipes are heated typically by the water itself, if it is running through them, and/or from the heat inside your house.  If you turn down your heat to an extremely low level or turn it off, you will have a Cold Structure that will not be able to provide any heat to the piping in structural spaces, thereby allowing the pipes to freeze.

DEHUMIDIFIERS: many people think that just because they are not present to smell any moldy odors that they can turn off their dehumidifiers when they leave.  That is Not a correct assumption.  If you have dehumidifiers in your crawlspace or other location in your house that would otherwise have dampness you really need to keep your dehumidifiers on.  They do not use much electricity and can prevent the building materials and furnishings in these area from growing a green, fuzzy coat.  That is not an exaggeration.  Rand Soellner Architect’s wife is a real estate broker in the Blue Ridge Mountains.  Some of her clients turn off their dehumidifiers to “save” when they leave.  Invariably, their houses smell like an 1820 root cellar.  You must keep your dehumidifiers on at all times.  Dehumidifiers have a humidistat setting that you can typically adjust to whatever level of dehumidification you desire.  The Soellner’s set theirs at 35% to 40%.

PLUMBING “WINTERIZATION”: if you are going to be gone for more than a few days, like weeks or months and you  expect that there may be freezing temperatures during that time period, you would do well to engage a residential licensed contractor who is experienced in “Winterizing” houses.  This mainly involves draining all of the water from your house.  First, turn off your hot water heaters.  When all the water is gone from them the elements can burn out or other damage can occur if they are left on.  Have your local gas company advise you about turning off a gas-heated device and have them come to your house to do this.  Now, to drain your house piping of water, typically, the exterior valve at the street is turned off first.  This valve box and all the other subsurface valve boxes should be filled with bundles of plastic bags (like what people at your grocery store bag your food purchases inside for you to carry to your car).  This advice is actually given by Utilities, Inc., a large water and sewer provider serving communities in the SouthEastern to MidCentral United States.  The bundled plastic bags serve to insulate the valve and pipe.  Even though the water inside this piping is very cold, it still retains some heat and the bags serve to insulate them from the even harsher temperatures above the valveboxes.

Now, drain all of the water out of your house, by first connecting hoses to the lowest point of water piping in your residence, which often will be the bottom of your hot water heaters in your crawlspace.  Have the hose drain ends lead to the outside before opening their drain valve.  Okay, open these low point drain valves, then proceed around your house and open up all the other water valves in all the kitchens and bathrooms and anywhere else.  Flush all the toilets, several times.  Your Winterization contractor should look for other possible low points in your piping, which can also occur in horizontal runs of piping that is inadequately supported, causing low spots.  When all of the water has been drained from your house, make sure that all of the water valves inside your house and crawlspace are turned back off.  Otherwise you will get a big surprise when you turn on the Main when you return.  Your contractor may also feel it is prudent to pour in non-freezing fluids into toilets, which is based on his or her experience in your climate.

GARAGE: First of all, Close all the garage doors and windows completely.  If you do not have weatherstripping around your garage doors (all the garage doors of all types and sizes), then take this precaution.  Stop infiltration (infiltration is the entrance of unwanted exterior air blowing into your house from outside).  You do Not want to leave your garage interior to freeze.  More than likely there are some water pipes flowing through the structure of this area and you do not want them to freeze.  Your plumber may have installed a special shutoff valve in your garage that allows you to turn off water to any exterior hose bibbs on the exterior garage wall.  You should have turned this shut off valve off, then opened the hose bibb connected to it.  Also, provide at least a small heater in your garage set to a low temperature and if you know where water piping is in your garage walls, ceilings and other areas, you might want to direct the heater in that direction.  Even if you believe you have drained all the water from your house, there still could be some low spots with water remaining in them and you do not want these to freeze.  Why?  Because water expands 10% of its volume when it freezes.  This is why if water is contained within a fixed volume, like a closed pipe, the pipe is doomed.  The freezing water inside will become rock hard as it expands, and can easily split and break even metal piping.

EXTERIOR HOSE BIBBS: not many people do this.  They really should.  First, remove all of your exterior hoses that are connected to your exterior hose bibbs.  If you do not remove the hose from the hose bibb, water can be backed up in the hose bibb, causing it to freeze.  If you have Frost Proof hose bibbs, that is great; they will hopefully be safe, however, even these will need to have any hoses connected to them removed.  If you are not sure if your hose bibbs are frost proof, you may want to insulate them with something like flexible rubber or plastic hose bibb protectors that you may be able to find at Lowes or Home Depot, or use what you have as scrap material in your house, if you know that harsh weather is on the way, or if you will be gone.  Drain the hose bibbs of all water before doing this, if you are winterizing your house for an extended period.  Oh, if you’d like to have your hoses continue to function, drain them as well, after you disconnect them.  The best way to do this is to pull them out straight, then pick up one end, and keeping a continuous high point, walk along the length of the hose, constantly draining the water out of it.  Otherwise, water left inside the hose can expand, freeze and rupture the walls of the hose, ruining it.  If you do not remove hoses from even frost free hose bibbs, the faucet can be ruptured inside the wall, and you will not even know it, until you turn on the faucet in warm weather and water starts spurting inside your wall, causing much more water damage than if you took these simple precautions.

IF YOU ARE NOT GOING TO WINTERIZE: if you are not going to drain all the water out of your house and turn off your main water valve, then consider this precaution: on each floor of your house, turn on a faucet just enough to allow it to slowly drip.  Perhaps even do this at all fixtures in your house, if you will be leaving for several days and you know that the pipes in your house are susceptible to freezing.  The idea is to keep the water flowing (even just a little) so that it does not have the chance to freeze.  Open under cabinet doors where you know plumbing lies behind it so that the warm air in your house can better warm the walls where the piping is located.  If you expose anything not suitable for infants and small children, take necessary precautions.

IF YOU HAVE ACCESS TO YOUR PLUMBING: Rand Soellner Architect specifies that ALL plumbing piping be insulated with synthetic insulation.  The reason is to protect the piping from freezing and from losing heat (in the case of hot water piping) and from have moisture condense on them (in the case of cold water piping) to prevent mold from growing.  If you see any plumbing distribution piping without insulation, then call a plumber and pay him or her to insulate the piping with a quality pipe insulation like Armaflex.  This will also help avoid freezing.   If you have the ability to do so, install additional insulation between the outside surfaces of areas in walls and ceilings and your plumbing piping.  Never allow water bearing pipe to be installed in areas where cold weather can directly contact it.

DOORS & WINDOWS: Doors and windows are often responsible for a great deal of infiltration in a house.  Infiltration is the unwanted and uncontrolled entrance of exterior air entering your house.  Wet your fingers and run them around the perimeter of your exterior doors.  If you feel a cold chill coming onto your fingers from the exterior side of the door gap, then you have infiltration.  You want to stop the infiltration.  First: have a tradesman that is experienced at installing and repairing doors make sure that your door is square and level and not warping and seated properly into the door frame.  Second: if you don’t have proper weatherstripping firmly contacting your door when you close it, provide and/or adjust the weatherstripping until you do.  Third: if you still experience some remaining infiltration, especially with warping wood doors, you may need to have your handyman install another thin strip of wood trim around the top and side of your door to further block the door gap.  Fourth: make sure you have a proper threshold and that your door bottom is level and completely horizontal and engaging weatherstripping along the exterior bottom door face.  Rand Soellner has actually seen exterior doors in some houses that have a bottom gap through which you can see the outside!  Obviously, any air outside can easily slide under such an improper opening and into your house, along with a host of creepy-crawlies.  Fifth: if you have a non-insulated or non-solid core door, you may want to consider replacing your exterior doors with a better quality new entrance.

Windows can have a tremendous amount of infiltration and you should think about replacing older windows that leak a lot of air into and out of your home.  Newer windows are also double pane with Low-E coatings that help dampen heat transfer from inside to outside and vice-versa.  You want windows that have low infiltration levels and low heat transfer frames.  If you don’t want to spend money to upgrade them now, you may want to consider temporary measures like sealants and other insulation to make them perform better.  Such measure may render the windows inoperable, however, depending on how you have installed the fixes.

For additional information on how your house can be designed to deal with the winter and other seasons and conditions, please click here —> Contact Rand Soellner ArchitectHome Architects website

tags: protecting your house & plumbing in winter, custom, residential design, cashiers, atlanta, newnan, hendersonville, asheville, murphy, chicago, los altos, orlando