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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Announcing our Residential Plan Collection

Announcing the release of our Residential Plan Collection: 

Brown Design Studio has put together a collection of single family house plans that our Studio has produced over the last 16 years.  These plans are the result of our Studio working to create great traditional neighborhoods, communities and places across the country.  We are pleased to announce that we are making this collection of homes available for purchase as pre-designed home plan sets for the first time.  They may be viewed at or via our main website at 

Our plans are focused on fitting into a traditional neighborhood context, whether a New Urbanist development or historic / urban infill.  The exteriors are based on traditional proportions and detailing.  Most of the plans are designed to fit on more narrow alley fed lots with parking in the rear.  These can be used on larger lots and they often will rotate on a larger lot or form more of a compound arrangement.  

The core design intent of these plans are to bring great timeless proportion and scale to the home.   This proportion is evident in the pleasing exterior elevations but also in the scale of the interior rooms, something most plans miss.  While each plan is unique, most do focus on a more modern open floor plan that is flexible.  We also strive for flexibility in offering spaces that can be converted or used in different ways.   A flex room that might be used as guest room or study or even a dining room as a great example.  Many of these plans do either offer floor plan options or can be easily modified.  

The traditional nature of our practice of architecture means that these plans, and particularly the exterior design, will reflect the climate and location that they were originally designed for.  Most of the elevation reflect a more southern or south-east vernacular style.  Many of the plans have alternate elevations available, brick versus a lap siding for example.  If you like a floor plan but the elevations seems off for your area, please check with us about design options for that plan.  We’ve built these all over the US and can adapt many of the plans to many areas of the country.

The interiors are such a large part of the enjoyment and experience of a home.  We have also designed a specific interior package for each of these plans that may be added to the base set of plans.  This allows us to fully integrate the traditional design them in the home and helps us to take the interior rooms to a next level.  The typical set of interior plans add all the interior trim and millwork details, ceiling details and helps to set up for an easy set of selections to finish off the home.  

Our Studio enjoys producing great traditional design work and we are pleased to offer this collection of plans. We also offer limited custom design residential work in most areas of the country.  Additionally, these set of plans do also serve as a great starting point for a semi-custom or modified home.    Lastly, we do consulting and product development work with a wide range of builders/developers, from small single home builders to full production builders.  

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Book Review: "City Planning According to Artistic Principles"

This is another book review for a must-have classic.  City Planning According to Artistic Principles is an amazing read and is one of our office’s core design books.  If you have any interest in urban design or city planning, then you not only need this book, but, more importantly, you need to know Camillo Sitte.  

Sitte was a nineteenth century Austrian city planner who struggled with modern planning methods in his own city of Vienna, most of which were more utilitarian-based approaches (sound familiar?)  In response, Sitte turned to ancient and medieval urbanism for inspiration in planning.  The book is full of his sketches on observations illustrating his points and theories.  They alone offer enough reason enough to purchase this book.

One of the major points of design theory is that the urban space is much more important than the urban form.  Modern architects are especially guilty about this point. Sitte asserts that the urban space should be designed as an urban “room” and that this includes the importance of height & spatial closure. 

The other major point is to design urban spaces as “picturesque” experiences.  That is, to design the space or street as a series of experiences for the person using the space or street.  This was a much different approach than that of Sitte’s peers, and still quite different from typical planning methods employed today.

Sitte’s book advocates for the consideration of design and beauty in the city planning process.  He also urges the designer to consider how people will experience and view the spaces they are working on.  This work has given us great insight into how to design urban spaces and we recommend everyone own this book if it is not already a part of your library.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Introducing Carlos Paz, meet the intern, Fall 2014 edition.

Introducing Carlos Paz

Carlos is our current Fall 2014 intern.  Carlos attends the Savannah School of Art and Design and is set to graduate soon.  We asked Carlos to write a short bio about himself and some thoughts he has so far on being in an architectural office.  Carlos has responded with a not so short bio about himself but we are going to post it all anyway. Carlos is an articulate young man and his  observations as a native of South America, add a lot of good dialog in the office here and also provide good insight to how others view the City of Savannah.  We are glad to have him.  

My name is Carlos Paz, I am an architect and graduate student at the Savannah College of Art and Design, in Savannah, GA, where I am currently obtaining my Master of Urban Design degree. 

I was born and raised in Maracaibo, Venezuela, where I obtained my Bachelor of Architecture degree in the Universidad Rafael Urdaneta. During my undergraduate studies, I was able to explore the many areas and aspects of architecture through a wide range of projects that included: family housing, residential and commercial developments, and educational facilities, among others. As part of my undergraduate studies I did my internship in the CRU, the office in charge of the urban developments and preservation of the downtown area of the city. As a result of that experience, I developed a great interest toward the urban aspect of the cities and their historic downtowns, which led me into perusing my master degree in urban design.  

While looking through the different opportunities, I thought that the best way to expand my knowledge to the fullest would be by studying abroad. Since I had visited the country on several occasions, the United States was my first option. I have admired the country’s urban aspect, architecture and whole culture since I was young. While browsing though different colleges and majors, I found SCAD Savannah, and decided to visit the campus during the summer.  I was captivated by the city’s charm and character, the downtown of the city offers a perfect representation of how important the history of the cities are, and why it is essential to preserve it. In addition to that, the downtown area of Savannah finds a perfect way to merge the architectural aspect of the city with the city’s urban and pedestrian characteristics. The squares, big trees, sidewalks, water features, and many other elements, allow pedestrians to walk through the downtown and experience its prominence in a great way. Along with their great urban design program, and all the remarkable aspects that Savannah had to offer, I decided to apply to SCAD and pursue my master of urban design degree.

During my time in SCAD, I have been able to obtain a closer look into the city’s rich culture and history while expanding my knowledge on urban design and architecture in the United States. As a result of that, and due to my undergraduate background in architecture, I knew that it was essential for me to do my graduate internship in an office that would allow me to learn more about the traditional architecture and urban design of the United States, and that’s when I found the Brown Design Studio office.  While going through their website and reading about their projects and design principles, I though it would be a perfect place for me to do my internship and fulfill my desire to learn more about the traditional architecture of the United States.  

Up to now, I have been able I have been able to learn more about the different types of traditional buildings and structures of the US while browsing and updating the extensive catalog of the firm. I have been able to appreciate a wide range of buildings and structures, from mixed-use buildings, carriage houses, multi-family units, and many others. In addition, I have been able to learn more about the urban and planning aspect of the city by doing research and contacting one of the planners of the Chatham County-Savannah Metropolitan Planning Commission. As everyone knows, architecture is a complex process of creation, during my time in the office, I have been able to appreciate how some projects have been designed and materialized. I have been able to participate in a discussion regarding the results of a design charrette, along with the site visit of a project that is currently being constructed on Bluffton, SC. As an international student this experience is truly valuable for me, because it allows me to get a closer look into the American construction system and how it takes place.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Grubb Road Redevelopment

This week, Brown Design had the privilege of working on a proposed redevelopment of a site in Franklin Township, New Jersey. The site would primarily feature a CCRC (Continuing Care Retirement Community) alongside houses to be available on the market, and a small town center / market area with commercial space.

We started by investigating the surrounding area to see what sort of historical urban design techniques had already been utilized. Just down the street were two Christian camps (one active, one former). Pitman Grove, on the National Registry of Historic Places, was a Methodist summer camp built in the 1880s, laid out like a wagon wheel. The "spokes" were streets lined with houses, all pointing to a meeting hall located at the center. Down the road in the other direction is the Malaga Camp, laid out in a grid, but again featuring a design strategy that is built around a strong sense of community.

Using these camps as inspiration, we developed simple parti drawings at a very small scale to figure out how to divide the land, orient the lots, and run roads and streets. As we progressed, we increased the scale and detail level until we had a working concept site plan. We tried to divide the large plot of land into smaller neighborhoods located around central gardens.

After feedback from the clients, we refined the site plan to better illustrate our core themes of “pocket neighborhoods”, with cottages facing each other across a shared lawn or garden. We then constructed a Sketchup model and sketched over top of printed views of the model to produce some concept renderings, to better convey how we envision the site might appear.

It was a great experience for me, learning how to plan for the various levels of continuing care, including independent and assisted living, and how to design in such a way that caters as best as possible to both of them. We feel the result we’ve come up with is a great example of New Urbanist goals of designing to create a sense of community, of place, and provide many different unit types and sizes of residences for diverse age and income groups.

Written by David Easterday,
Designer at Brown Design Studio

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Book Review:  A Living Tradition, Architecture of the Bahamas by Steve Mouzon

This is one of my favorite books, by a great friend and colleague Steve Mouzon.  This is an earlier book (2007) of Steve's and I am still so impressed with it that I wanted to formally review it and continue to get it in front of people who may have missed it, it's that good.  Everyone interested in architecture, placemaking, and preservation should read this book.  

The book is about the architecture of the Bahamas and it does a great job developing the patterns and traditions and organizing them into a pattern book format.  The reader will be able to learn about everything about Bahamian architecture, from fences to window details and everything in between.  All of these items are complimented by great color photos and black-and-white sketches, which help to illustrate the concepts.  Further, each of the patterns is also shown along the Classic-Vernacular spectrum, that is, from the most refined to the more organic in terms of the detailing. 

The bigger point of the work here is much broader and much more important than the details of the Bahamian architecture.  Steve starts by talking about placemaking principles.  Taking strong cues from the works of Vitruvius and Christopher Alexander, the author develops principals for creating the most loved places.  These are important because they are the reason that the architectural and building patterns were developed in the first place.  The resulting unique methods, materials and patterns then become the Living Tradition of that place, which then continues to reinforce the sense of a place.  It is the designing of a building to be true to a place that makes a place even better.  It's unfortunate that what used to be common sense is now largely misunderstood in our collective society today.

This brief review doesn't do Steve's book the justice it deserves.  This work is a must-read for anyone who is interested in how to develop (or preserve) a true place and gives us the blueprint for then developing an architecture that comes from the place, not a style of architecture that tries to define a place.  This key point is where architects (and preservationists) fail to understand the placemaking process, as they fall into the trap of trying to force a style onto a place in order to "brand it".  Even with good design and execution, you cannot create a real place without understanding and developing the Living Tradition.

More information on the Living Tradition , Steve Mouzon and the New Urban Guild Foundation can be found by following the links above.  

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Relocation to Savannah

Brown Design Studio is pleased to announce the relocation of its office to the downtown historical district of Savannah, GA! Please note our new address and telephone number:

24 Drayton St. Suite 604
Savannah, GA 31401

Phone: (912) 349-5628

Built in 1921, the Reality building is located at the heart of the downtown area on Drayton Street, between Johnson and Reynolds Squares.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Brown Design Featured in Better! Cities & Towns

Brown Design Studio’s work in Beaufort, South Carolina will be featured in the March-April, May-June and July-August editions of Better! Cities & Towns ( The three-part article will outline the City of Beaufort’s vision for the future. The first, written by Robert Steuteville, is titled “Civic Master Plan Points the Way.” This feature provides an overview of the first steps in the updated City Master Plan and will touch on several of our projects that we have worked on over the last several years. 

One of the projects is Lafayette Street, which is a Public-Private partnership between Brown Design and the City of Beaufort.  Lafayette Street is the first of the projects to come out of the Civic Master Plan and into the implementation stage.  The project will consist of six market-rate infill cottages ranging from 1000-1300 sq.ft.  Construction starts this summer. 

Lafayette and Rodgers Street Infill Project

Stay tuned to our blog for more information on the exciting projects happening at Brown Design Studio.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Berean Presbyterian Church is Complete

We’re proud to say this is our final update on the renovation work for the former Berean Presbyterian Church. After months of design work and construction, the USC-B Art Studio is complete!  The roof has been completely restored, and all the wood rot has been removed and replaced. Have a look at some of the before and after imagery!


Monday, March 17, 2014

Brown Design Featured in Best In American Living

Brown Design Studio’s projects were recently featured in the Winter 2014 edition of Best in American Living, a publication of the National Association of Home Builders ( The publication discusses the many different aspects associated with home building in the United States. Our work is featured in the article, “The Missing Middle,” which looks at the current home building trends and discusses the “forgotten group,” consisting of empty nesters and single-person households that don’t require a large living space. The two projects featured in the article were Habersham Village (, located in Beaufort, South Carolina and East Beach (, located in Norfolk, Virginia. These projects include small to large single-family units, multi-family units, and row houses catering to this group. Flexibility in the design of these units allows us to adapt to the area’s density by altering the buildings from a single-family unit to a multi-family unit. We have been refining this design approach over the past 16 years developing walkable neighborhoods and town centers. We would like to thank Daniel Parolek at Opticos Design Inc. for featuring us in “The Missing Middle” article.

Writing by Andrew Boughan,
Co-op Student at Brown Design Studio

Friday, February 21, 2014

Presbyterian Church Update

Great news! Since our last update on the Berean Presbyterian Church, we are seeing different aspects of the project starting to come to fruition. The roof has been completely stripped of all wood rot and the team has installed new wood boards and waterproof installation.

They’ve also added new canopies over the doors and replaced some of the wood trim that was in disrepair. The stairs and wheelchair ramp are finishing up and should be done within the week.

As the projects starts to come to a close, we should expect to see the new red metal roof installed, the final paint job of the exterior, and a complete landscaping of the site over the coming weeks.

Photos from Huss Construction
Writing by Andrew Boughan,
Co-op Student at Brown Design Studio

Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Berean Presbyterian Church

A current project Brown Design Studio is working on, alongside the Beaufort Branch of the University of South Carolina, is the exterior renovation of the Berean Presbyterian Church. USC-B acquired the property in 1993 and has been using the space as an art studio for their students. The current goal of the project is to stabilize the building’s foundation, replace the roof and stairs, and remove all lead paint.
Located along Carteret Street in Beaufort SC, the Berean Presbyterian Church has long been a place of gathering for community members. The Berean Presbyterian Church, built in 1892, was the dream of some very prominent African-American figures who endeavored to introduce a new Presbyterian congregation in Beaufort. It operated up until the late 1920’s, when the majority of the congregation relocated to nearby churches. In 1931, the Beaufort Township Library purchased the property and transformed it an African-American library branch with a space reserved for community meetings. But by 1965, the branch was forced to close because of the desegregation of the South. A year later, the county purchased the property and the building underwent major renovations over the following years. In 1993, the Beaufort branch of the University of South Carolina began utilizing the space as art studios.
The pictures below show the work that’s being completed on the site and some of the improvements already made.

 Stabilizing the Foundation

 Working to Repair and Restore the Exterior Trim

The Removal of the Lead Paint (Top of Structure)

 Investigating Original Wood Shake Roof and Original Wood Board Substrate

Photos and Writing by Andrew Boughan
Co-op Student at Brown Design Studio

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

An Afternoon at I'On

As a relative newcomer to the Charleston-Savannah area and a recent college graduate focusing on Traditional New Urbanism, seeing examples of TNU developments in the area was high on my priority list. I’d heard great things about I’On from friends and professors, so that was a must-see for me. As soon as I could come up with an excuse to drive up to Mt. Pleasant, I gave myself an afternoon and decided to see it for myself. 

I was not disappointed.

Though there are certain overlaps in its design strategies with most other New Urbanist communities, I’On is uniquely and unequivocally Charlestonian. The only other large-scale New Urbanist development I’ve been to is Celebration, Florida, which I’ve visited a few times with family. What I’ve found to make a great TNU development stand out can only be discovered when you get out of your car and walk it. Whereas in other developments, you won’t miss anything driving past at thirty-five miles per hour, an exceptional development leaves prizes scattered about for the pedestrian. One of the most enjoyable parts of meandering through an urban environment is to come upon a vista—a framing of a particular space or structure by other buildings or natural features. It’s hardly accidental, but is usually the result of intention on the part of the urban planners and architects. It is these vistas and the plethora of small, precise details that work together to separate the mundane experiences from the memorable. It’s just as wondrous at a distance and it is under close inspection.

I’On isn’t afraid of a few wrinkles in her dress. It’s not afraid of crooked streets creating sharp, triangular parks, usually overgrown with vegetation climbing up fences and an abundance of trees that help to add character to the built environment and provide for a unique experience walking down the street. I could have parachuted right into I’On blindfolded, had my blindfold removed, and been convinced I was standing somewhere in a historic area of Charleston as opposed to a development outside of it. The character of Charleston is perfectly captured. The houses are where they should be—closer to, engaging, and acting to frame the street. Just like an enormous puzzle, it’s not simply a “collection of many great houses”, but instead fits and functions together to produce a wonderful community.

I love that each corner of I’On feels unique. You don’t know what you’ll see around the next corner (and you can actually walk through it all, the size is not daunting). A street could end on-axis with an impressive house or a church. The terminus of a street is not an “accident.” Everything feels deliberate.

My favorite moment was looking through a canal framed on both sides by houses and trees. Just where the vanishing point of the perspective should be was a grand house with a temple front looking over a lake. There’s such a care in the way I’On was designed that makes the whole so enjoyable. It is architecture and urban planning working together, and the end product is something far greater than either of them could have achieved on their own.

Writing and Pictures by David Easterday,
Designer at Brown Design Studio