Saturday, April 30, 2016

Working on A Saturday Is Kind Of..Nice, Actually.

Owning an architectural firm is definitely not the type of career where you only work nine to five, (sing along with me.."what a way to make a living"). 

When we started our firm, Bonin Architects & Associates, almost nine years ago now, Jeremy and I knew that our hours and days would be sometimes crazy. We worked out of a bright, sunny office attached to our home at the time. We were in no way prepared to predict how many hours we'd need to invest into our firm in the first few years to bring it to the level of achievements and realization of goals which we are now enjoying.

Our first office attached to our home with me, pretending to work while Jeremy took my pic.

The reason we've reached a level of success is due to not only our invested hours, it is also due the amazing design team we've added over the years. Nine years later, with two offices in New London and Meredith, NH, and seven people (soon to be eight), we are a successful, respected, award-winning full service architectural design and landscape design firm. That feels great, and without the dedication of our employees working with us on projects we all care about, we would not be able to achieve these goals. We are thankful and grateful for our wonderful clients and our talented design team.

Today is Saturday. Jeremy and I are working. We actually work most weekends in some capacity. We do not ask or expect our employees to work on weekends, unless there is a meeting that we need to schedule due to our clients' travel schedules, which happens mostly during the summertime. We are working in our New London office, catching up on some emails, discussing a design for a new project, writing a proposal for a potential client, reviewing project timeline projections, discussing resumes for another position we are creating, and just some miscellaneous things like watering the plants, getting rid of some desk clutter, hanging a bird feeder outside of my window, this list goes on and on.

My paperweight frog. Jeremy bought this for me years ago at a trade show. I love it.

As much as I like the active, busy office environment during the week, working on weekends is pretty nice too. The phones do not ring as much, vendors don't pop in trying to promote their products to the nth degree, and Jeremy and I are able to freely discuss some of the more confidential business decisions. It is kind of a nice balance, and by Monday, we're always ready to enjoy the office environment again when everyone returns.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

National Take Our Daughters & Sons To Work Day

My son, Justin, is with me today in the Bonin Architects' Meredith, NH office location. It is National Take Our Daughters & Sons to Work Day. Oddly enough, it is just a coincidence that he's with me on this particular day. We didn't even know that it was a "thing" until we heard it on the news on SiriusXM Radio driving over during our one hour commute from New London, NH. We both looked at each other and started laughing-what a joy Justin is to me and a huge part my life every day.

Occasionally, Justin comes into work with me whether I'm working in our New London or Meredith, NH offices. He doesn't actually do any work for us, he mostly watches videos on his computer, takes walks to watch the boats dock at the town docks on Lake Winnipesaukee, or gets an ice cream from Ben and Jerry's down the street. 

Justin is twenty one years old and has autism, the high functioning kind (formally known as Asperger's Syndrome). He works part time as a dishwasher for our local country club, he drives, and for the most part is pretty independent. He is never in a bad mood and loves to make people laugh. Someday, I may tell you a bit more about Justin, perhaps in a different blog or a book. But for today, here's a photo of Justin sitting in our office on this beautiful, sunny day.
Justin-Always Smiling!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Then My Computer Died...

My computer died. I'm not too upset about it; we budgeted for a new one for me this year anyway. You'd be surprised how much we need to allocate each year for our firm's computers, software, licenses and online programs in order to run our business. I was using a Surface Pro 3 and I really loved it for the three years I owned it. There were never any issues with it, it was compact and light, and I could use it as a tablet as well as a replacement for my much larger, clunky laptop. 

In replacing my Surface Pro 3, I chose a Surface Pro 4 (yes, this is kind of like replacing our company truck with the same make and model, do you see a behavior pattern here?) There were a few changes that are making me pretty happy; it is faster, the stylus is easier to use, and we installed Office 2016 which I'm finding is making my life a bit easier.

I guess the only downfall is setting up and remembering all of my personal preferences and bookmarks; it is pretty time consuming and I've spent the better part of this week setting those up between my other daily tasks here at Bonin Architects & Associates.

A picture of my dead Surface Pro 3 is below along with my new Surface Pro 4. Thanks to Esscor Electronics for helping repair my SP3, which we're going to give to Jackie to use for bookkeeping to replace her clunky laptop.

Surface Pro 3 & 4

Friday, April 22, 2016

We Can Work From Anywhere in the World!

When we first started our firm, Bonin Achitects, almost nine years ago now, we were somewhat limited by technology. We had a dial-up internet system, much slower computers, no off site file storage capabilities, limited cell phone ranges, and archaic design software. We didn't travel for vacations for more than long weekends mostly because we were tied to our business by our lack of sufficient technology options. Luckily, times have changed! Our firm has grown to eight people and we can work from anywhere in the world. We we've been fortunate enough to work from afar in places such as St. John, USVI, Haiti, Jamaica, and Mexico.

Jeremy working from The Hilton in Boston the night before our trip
Jeremy studying for continuing education credits 

Jeremy and I were in Key West last week while the rest of our awesome design team was holding down the fort at our offices in New London and Meredith, NH. We've known about this trip since last summer. We won it actually, it was for a local charity benefit auction for the Fells Estate in Newbury, NH. We had a great time, plus it feels good to be able to support a local non profit; we support our community as often as possible. It was a challenging balance of work and play, but we did it! Here are some photos of how we work during travel.

Me, working from our room in Key West last week during a quiet morning
And so is Jeremy

Both of us - not working!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Renderings of New Home Design on the New Hampshire Seacoast

We recently began a design of an architectural design and landscape architecture project on the seacoast of New Hampshire overlooking the Great Bay. Our clients and their entire family are as excited as we are; that's always fun when the clients are involved and interactive with us throughout the design process.

One of the ways in which we communicate and display the initial design with our clients is through realistic renderings, they are so incredibly detailed that it is often difficult to differentiate between the renderings and the finished interior and exterior photos of the home.

This is NOT a photo, it is one of our firm's interior renderings of a spa, pretty cool, eh?

Last week, our clients came into our New London office for the unveiling of the first draft, we call it the "Ta-Da" moment. It is always fun to watch our clients' reactions, when they are able to visualize the home they've been dreaming about for years for the first time on the large screen monitor in our office. 

We're able to turn the renderings in several directions since it is designed in 3D. We typically will use photos from the site and incorporate those into the views showing the actual travel of the sunlight  and shadows as the sun travels along the property.

Here's a short movie showing the rendering of this specific project. Enjoy!

Monday, April 11, 2016

Our New Spiffy Truck

At Bonin Architects our company truck is part of our overall image. Our logo and graphics are on the doors and tailgate with our contact information with locations in New London, NH and Meredith, NH.  

Many of our job sites are way out in the boonies, we need some way to get there safely, and my BMW just won't make it to those places. For those really snowy days or muddy sites, having a four wheel drive is essential. We've had our 2010 Chevy Silverado for quite some time and it has served us well. Our employees use it to travel to job sites too, we haul equipment in it, and our dogs travel in it occasionally. Bailey is a Bernese Mountain Dog, she's four years old, and Ringo is a 7 year old rescue Great Pyrenees. Sometimes our truck is full of dog hair.
Jeremy and I with Ringo and Bailey on a recent hike

We've also had some bumps and bruises, dents and dings with this truck. One of our former employees backed into a Bobcat (the piece of heavy equipment, not the animal) and caused a huge dent. It was starting to rust plus, there were miscellaneous scrapes and scratches that drove us crazy too.

Bumps and Bruises
Our Old Trusty Rusty Truck

Our accountant told us about a tax benefit for businesses when you purchase new equipment or vehicles, so we decided that it was time to trade in our trusty Silverado for a new truck. 

We explored all of the different makes and models of trucks, which meet the tax criteria and decided to go way out on a limb-we purchased a Silverado! Yeah, I know. But it has some very cool things in it that our other one didn't, and it meets the tax criteria! It has amenities such as a back up camera (you're safe now, Bobcats, both the machines & the animals) built in navigation system, along with Bluetooth, heated seats and tons of storage, and these mean looking hood contours which really make it sporty-looking. I really like the heated seats option, my car has them too. I use my heated seats in August, well, because we live in NH.

The new truck has these mean looking hood contours
Our Spiffy New Truck

Thanks to Tyler, our accountant for the tax tip. Check out the IRS tax benefit if you own a business too. 

Friday, April 8, 2016

Heath Insurance & Healthy Employees

I like to exercise very early in the morning. Exercise has been a huge part of my life since I was a young child. If I don't exercise, I feel as if I'm never really awake during the rest of the day. Feeling the blood pumping through my veins, my increased heart rate, those aching muscles-it gives me the feeling that I'm truly alive and not just living.
I'm not THAT old, there were color photos back in 1984, right? I'm in the first row, 2nd from left.

With some of my closest friends last year during a mountain mucker

Many of my closest friends exercise as well, and I enjoy working out with them as part of a group just as much as I enjoy doing it alone. Lately, I've been walking around one of our local lakes several times a week, sometimes with friends, sometimes alone. The sun is rising towards the end of the three mile loop and there are several loons, their beautiful songs echo across the lake. It is one of the favorite parts of my day.

I genuinely feel that maintaining a healthy lifestyle is important. When Jeremy and I first started Bonin Architects almost nine years ago, we decided that we would provide as a benefit for our employees, paying their health insurance premiums in full-100 percent. As the cost and complexity of health insurance options have increased, this has become increasing difficult over the years. It is, however, something that we will continue to provide for our employees, because annual check ups, preventative care and being able to choose your own physician is critical. We understand that millions of people struggle to obtain heath care or do not have any at all. We want to make a difference, even if it is a small one, for our employees because we care about them and about their health.
My friend Carol took this photo. This is Keysar Lake, she and I like to walk around this beautiful lake.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Meet Jackie Lampiasi

Here's what my desk looks like every Thursday at Bonin Architects!

I'm on the left, Jackie is on the right

Meet Jackie Lampiasi she's on the right in the leather jacket. Yes, we're sharing a desk. We don't have to, we just naturally ended up that way somehow years ago. It makes it easier for us to chat while Jackie and I catch up on the endless amount of paperwork which passes through our office. Jackie handles all of our payroll, invoicing, bills, tax preparation, insurance reviews, projections, budgeting spreadsheets, along with assisting with marketing projects, and anything else we throw her way. She's awesome.

We've worked together for about twelve years now, we think??? We have lost count exactly how many years we've actually worked together; we gauge it on how old our kids are because we met when my sons and her daughters were in Middle School, and they are adults now. 

Jackie was instrumental in assisting us in starting our business. When we first started, it was  endless days and long nights creating our website, setting up our accounts, marketing and the minutia of starting our firm. Jackie was with us through the entire process.
Jackie and I recently during a girl's night out

She's so much more than someone who makes sure that our vendors are happy and our employees are paid; we're very close friends. In times of crisis, Jackie is the first one there with mac and cheese and chocolate for me, and there have been a few of those over the years. We share in each other's happiness, sadness, family issues, celebrations, and now we are excitedly waiting the birth of Jackie's grandchild! Her daughter Paige and Paige's husband Ryan are expecting a baby boy soon! In addition to working with us, Jackie works at Ellen's Interiors in New London, NH, and she also owns Special Events Catering with her husband, Santo. 

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Do You Only Design Really Large Homes?

Staying with the theme of some of the questions I'm most commonly asked on a daily basis, here is another one: 

"Is my project too small for your firm?" Here's the answer, no project is too small, but the question is, will we be able fit it into our schedule to meet your time frame?
One of our larger projects on Lake Sunapee in New Hampshire

Bonin Architects specializes in designing new custom homes for clients in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire, but sometimes there is time in our schedule to design smaller homes, additions or whole house renovations for our clients. It certainly doesn't hurt to ask us! It is not about the size of the project, we enjoy all types of designs, it is always about scheduling. Designing a custom home for clients generally takes between four to six months or longer, depending on the size and complexity of the home. Most people seeking a design of an addition or renovation would like a pretty fast turnaround, which most of the time we can accommodate if scheduling allows.

"How can we accomplish that if we are working with other clients too?" Good question!

If we are working with several clients on their custom home designs, our design team is focused on those projects, which allows little free time for smaller projects, however, sometimes life happens. Projects are sometimes put on hold by our clients due to personal reasons-such as busy work schedules, busy lives, illness, vacations and travel,to name a few. When this happens, it creates a gap we need to fill in our schedule to keep our employees, well, employed!

A "Before" photo of a small summer cottage renovation
An "After" photo of the same summer cottage renovation

So, please don't hesitate to call me, I'm always happy to speak with potential new clients. Perhaps we will be able to assist you with your project. My email is and my office number 603-526-6200.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Purchasing Land For Your New Home

After years of dreaming and saving for this moment, you may have found the perfect piece of property, now what to do next? Even before you purchase a piece of land in which to build your new home, call us, please. You may save yourselves a lot of headaches, heartache and expense. Why? Here's a few scenarios which we often run into with potential clients.
A beautiful building site for a new home in Sunapee, NH

Some people are under the impression that building a new home costs less than purchasing a previously owned home of comparable size. In almost every situation, this is not true. Others may compare the price of recently sold houses in the area in which the land is located, and assume that the cost to build a new home should be around the same cost as the home which recently sold. In most cases, this is unfortunately not the case as well.

Another scenario we find with potential clients is that they have not sufficiently researched the property to ascertain whether or not they are able to build in the location they've chosen for their new home. Especially in the lakes region, we are required to abide by the Shoreland Water Quality Protection Act if the intent is to build within 50'-250' of bodies of water.

We work with many real estate agents in assisting their clients in the search for properties which will fit their client's design wishes and investment expectations. This is the best case scenario for everyone involved. We are able to help answer many questions, such as how much to budget for designing and building a new home, how long it takes to design and build a new home, how to select a builder, is the property a build able lot, where to place the new home for the best solar and views orientation, where should the driveway and septic system go, etc. 

That tree!

Feel free to contact me anytime with questions about Bonin Architects and how we may be able to assist you in designing your new home.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

An Insider's View of Our Work Spaces

When we work on our clients' projects, it is a collaborative effort. In our Bonin Architects' office in New London, NH, the work spaces are wide open, bright, and for the most part always neat, clean & organized. I'll show you a few photos of the inside of our office. Today is Sunday, our design team has the day off, so I thought it would be a good chance to take some photos without interrupting the office during a normal work day.

Our open work space, it is bright, sunny and comfortable

Headphones are worn by all who work here each day; it is not a requirement, we all just do it. Everyone listens to music, NPR, or pod casts without interrupting anyone. It works especially well when someone takes a call from one of our clients. It is a pretty quiet working environment, similar to being in a library. Everyone is busy with projects, and focused on the tasks needed to be completed by the end of the day. Although it is a quiet place to work, there are times when the headphones come off and we all stop to chat for awhile. Many of us have worked together for a very long time, so our employees become a natural extension of our family. 

Jeremy and I share an office in the rear of the space. People always ask-how we can work and live together 24 hours a day? For us it is easy, first of all, we love and respect each other, so that helps, but we also are pulled in several different directions during the week. We're not always together, for instance, Jeremy might be at a client's job site with one of our project managers, while I'm in the office working with Jackie, our bookkeeper on weekly paperwork. Or, I could be working in our Meredith, NH office and Jeremy is here in New London with our design team. Jeremy and I enjoy bouncing different ideas off one another, yet at the end of the workday, we are usually able to decompress and not talk about our firm every waking minute...usually...When you own a business, it is definitely not a nine to five job, hence, here we are here on a Sunday. There are so many different scenarios, but the bottom line is...we just work well together and we love what we do.
Look closely, you can see Jeremy working behind his gigantic Apple monitor?

We even have a psychiatrist's couch, used often & by many who enter. All are welcome, five cents, please.

Our conference room doubles as our employees' lunch room. We all like to eat lunch together and catch up with what's happening in our lives.
Kitchenette complete with coffee maker, microwave, fridge with ice maker. Cabinets by Crown Point Cabinetry

We feel blessed to have such a great design team. Everyone here cares about our projects, our clients, our reputation as much as we do; our employees take pride in their hard work. It is a really comforting feeling knowing that if something happens while Jeremy and I are away on vacation or a long weekend, our office managed well by our employees.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Can I Buy Your Plans?

Without a doubt, the number one question I'm asked most often is, "I saw photos of one of your home designs, can I buy a copy of your plans?" 

Actually, a larger percentage of people still ask to buy "blueprints" which automatically causes my eyes to water and my nose to twitch, remembering earlier days of my career in the late 1990's and early 2000's, when I stood for hours in front of a Diazo printer loading Vellum into the feeder in order to make blueprints to send off to the contractors. At the time, I was the newbie office person, so that was part of my job. I can still smell the ammonia mix used in the machine to make the copies, while I stood in the little closet of a room without windows which many times made me dizzy and a little nauseous. Here's a picture of one of those machines, that's not me, but you get the idea.
I guarantee you, this guy is holding his breath and is a little nauseous
Luckily, now there are large format printers which allow us to print our plans (not blueprints) much more quickly and without offensive  odors, here's what ours looks like in our New London, NH office.
Our Canon large format non smelly printer
Sorry, I digress...Back to the question. Through our website and other methods of contacting us, such as, Pinterest, Facebook, other online links, etc. people will find photos of a house they would like to build on their property and they would like to know if they could see the layout of the home or purchase the plans. I answer all of the requests directed to our firm. Some days, I receive dozens of emails from people all over the country, and I do my best to answer each one of them whether or not we would be able to work with them on their project. 

For many reasons, both ethical and legal, we do not sell our plans. Each of our designs is unique. We are a custom, full service, architectural firm and it is imperative that our plans meet code requirements, the clients' specific site and aesthetic preferences, budget expectations, just to name a few. Plus, it would not be fair to our clients who've spent literally months of their lives working with us in designing their dream home for us to turn around and sell their unique design to someone else. I wish we could sometimes, we'd be rich! 

We do, however, design custom homes for people who live all over the country. If you are in need of an architectural firm to design your custom home, please reach out to me via email, or 603-526-6200. I'd be happy to answer any questions about Bonin Architects & Associates.

A Hit and Run? Or Not?

About a week ago, on Easter Sunday, Jeremy and I were home, baking a ham along with a few other casseroles in our oven, and getting ready to enjoy time with family & friends. On Jeremy's side of the family, there is a long standing tradition on Easter Sunday, where everyone gathers together and brings a dish of food to share for brunch, it is a great time. People travel from as far as three hours away. There's even a special "adults-only" punch recipe as part of the tradition. It is the one time of the year when we get to utilize our very large, ornate, glass punch bowl with the matching little dainty glasses. I love that set. We've been carrying on Jeremy's family tradition for the last five or six years. What does this have to do with Bonin Architects you wonder?  I'm getting there, but I want you to see the punch bowl and dainty glasses first.
Punch bowl with dainty glasses hanging above the bowl

This year, Jeremy's dad asked if we had a nail gun for a project he was doing at his house. Jeremy thought that it might be at work and said he'd run to Bonin Architects office to see if it was there. Our New London, NH office is quite literally a minute away from our home. Jeremy came back to our house looking frazzled, and said that I needed to come with him to our office, someone demolished a large section of our building. Wait? What?! 

It is a handicapped access ramp with railings
At that time, we were not sure when it happened, or even WHAT happened. There was no car or driver there, and so we called the police. It was a hit and run, and the person who did it left part of the vehicle's tailpipe on the ground with skid marks from trying to pull the car away from the damage.  The officer wrote a police report, took measurements and photos and everything else which is needed for a police report, while Jeremy and I were thinking about our guests and the food in the oven, hoping that someone would take the stuff out of the oven when the timer went off. 

We just barely built this porch last fall-at least we still have the drawings

After the police report was finished, we went home to greet the rest of our arriving guests, thankfully, our daughter, Miranda took care of the food in the oven when the timer went off. We had a great day with our friends and family and we tried not to let the hit and run affect our mood too much. I posted a Facebook alert in case anyone saw something or noticed a car with some pretty heavy damage. We made the local news, take a look,  The reporter even pronounced our last name correctly (Bone-in, by the way, as in a bone in rib eye steak, not Bonn-in, although we answer to both).

Look, there's the portion of the tail pipe in the center of the picture
On Monday, a Good Samaritan called me, he witnessed the accident! He said that the person who hit our building was about 90 years old, seemed confused and embarrassed, and said that he did not need medical help. The elderly gentleman said that he would contact the owner of the building and drove off with pieces of our building in the rear of his car. The Good Samaritan gave me the license number and a description of the car, and said that he did have concerns that maybe he did experience a medical issue, plus he said that if it were his building, he'd want to know if someone hit it and drove away. I called the police with the information, and said that perhaps there could have been a medical problem, and someone may want to check in on the elderly man?

The local police followed up right away, and within a half hour, the elderly gentleman called me to say that he was the one hit the building. He said that the police told him to call me, he is OK, and he said that he did not know that he needed to call the police. He said that is was "obviously not a hit and run because he hit a building and not a person."  I almost started to laugh and argue at the same time, but then I thought, well, there will be no convincing him otherwise, and it is not that big of a deal. Nobody was hurt and it could have been a lot worse! We're just happy that he called and he will take care of paying for the damage through his insurance company.

We live in such a great community, so many people reached out to ask how they could help, it is why we live here, and we hope to live and work here for a very long time.
Thanks for coming out on Easter, New London Police Dept.