Ryan Thewes, the owner of Ryan Thewes Architect, has been a licensed architect for 10 years and discussed his business and some of the trends he is seeing in the stone and tile industries.
Talk a bit about your company.
RT: We are a small architecture firm in Nashville, TN, that specializes in high design and energy efficient projects. Primarily residential with the occasional commercial project for businesses looking to set themselves apart.
How did you first develop an interest in architecture?
RT: When I was very young, I was very good at drawing and art. Being from a small town and not knowing any better, people would often ask if I was going to be an architect when I grew up. So it was always on my radar as a career path.
I attended architecture school at Ball State University in Indiana and it wasn’t until I was there that I really understood what architecture was.
A fellow student had a poster of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater behind his desk and I decided one day that I was going to emulate that for one of my projects. However, the more I studied the photo, the more I realized how little I understood about it. After that, it was a challenge to learn as much as I could about Wright and his philosophy of design. That started my infatuation with the process and the profession.
What were some of your first design experiences as a professional or as a student?
RT: The most influential opportunity of my career was working for Don Erickson after graduation. Don was a former apprentice to Frank Lloyd Wright and he was practicing up in Chicago. The way he approached the process of design was different than anything I had experienced at the time.
He was a very small design firm as well so I was able to get amazing firsthand experience that shaped my career.
How often does your company use stone in its designs?
RT: While we specialize in modern design, our roots in Organic Architecture and the connection with nature lends itself to the use of stone frequently. Pairing this natural material alongside steel and glass creates a unique timeless design aesthetic.
Natural materials like stone and wood soften the often harsh and sterile modern forms, which is desirable for clients.
How would you describe your company’s design philosophy?
RT: Modern, clean simple forms with a connection to nature.
What’s a project that you have done with stone and/or tile that you’re proud of?
RT: I think a very interesting project that we were able to integrate stone into is an Orthopedics office in Dickson, TN. Typically, doctor’s offices are very cold and sterile and strictly utilitarian which isn’t a conducive atmosphere for healing or for working. We used natural materials such as stone and wood to emphasize that connection with nature as well as making sure every room had access to natural light. The school of thought is known as Biophilic Design and the whole philosophy is that the inhabitants of these buildings will be healthier and more productive, and in a medical setting, patients will heal faster. It also helps reduce the stress levels of both patients and employees.
How do you go about choosing stone for a project?
RT: As always, it is largely budget driven. If I can reduce the amount of stone to high impact areas, I may be able to work in a natural stone. However, we have had good success with some of the higher quality synthetic stones as well. We have had a few projects where we have tried to match stone from areas around the building site to further our connection with the area.
What advice would you offer to a young architect?
RT: Thick skin and develop your voice. Success doesn’t happen overnight. I think that the most successful architects that I come across put their time in early on to make sure and learn the profession and to hone their design skills. Too often young architects get in a hurry to start their own firm. If you have the opportunity to apprentice with someone, take it. The experience is invaluable.
What are some trends you are seeing with building stones?
RT: I am seeing less use of stone for whole building facades and it being more used for accent walls and details. This is most likely a result in the increased cost of the material as it is now viewed as a luxury item. Fireplaces are still holding strong as the main element for the use of stone, but as the demand for fireplaces becomes less and less, vertical stone elements that emulate the fireplace mass are being used in their place.
What are the trends you are seeing currently with quartz surfacing? And where do you see it going in the future?
RT: Quartz countertops have been growing in popularity over the past years to the point where they are now the number one option for most of our clients. What is very interesting is the use of quartz for an external cladding material. We have not had much experience with this yet, but are getting some interest from the more high end clients looking to set their projects apart from traditional stucco or hardie board clad homes.