“Twenty years ago when I was looking for an architect, a colleague recommended John Watkins, a young man fresh from college, just starting his practice. The design of our new home was very important to me; after five years of search, I had finally found a wooded property that both my wife and I liked. I wanted the new home to represent our joint vision, unlike the bachelor’s pad I had built before meeting Kathleen.
In our twenty-five acre forest populated by hundreds of mature trees, we wanted to build a contemporary home, using natural materials and an open-floor design. We handed John a three-page wish list, specifying the highlights of our vision: bank of windows that would allow us to enjoy the lush forest from inside, a spacious kitchen where we could cook and entertain, a state-of-art theater where we could watch Hollywood classics, and a circular staircase.
John produced a design that conformed to our specifications. Over the next three years we tinkered with the plans, placing a triangular Jacuzzi in the master bedroom suite, using natural stone for the exterior that required modification in the foundation, and substituting coal stoves with gas fireplaces, which created space for a larger entry door. Throughout this prolonged process, John remained patient and attentive to our wishes.
I had retained a construction manager, instead of a general contractor, which offered me the flexibility to choose my own subcontractors: a local plumber, electrician, and stone mason, with whom I could develop a working relationship. But this new format also increased my reliance on John, whose advice I constantly needed to ensure compliance with architectural details.
My wife, who has an innate talent for visualizing the space, wanted a dining room with multiple 45-degree angles. John incorporated her vision in a stunning design that he duplicated in the dining area of the downstairs apartment. The design of the living space in the basement was entirely John’s creation; we provided him with no input, concerned only with the space allocation upstairs. Years later when we had finished the basement, we appreciated John’s intelligent plan for the independent apartment. He had even found space for a spacious kitchen, incorporating the hallway in the layout.
More than thirteen years have passed since that day in February 2004 when we moved in our dream home, but we admire it every single day: standing near one of the huge windows and looking at the densely green woods outside, or relaxing in the small room that John added to the master bedroom suite, a sun room we use for reading.
Building the new home was not only the realization of a cherished dream, but also a transforming experience that belongs in the same league as my coming to America with no financial means and getting a doctorate in economics. If I weren’t an octogenarian, I would find another picturesque parcel of land and ask John to design another spectacular home for me. Working with him was an unadulterated pleasure. Mr. Watkins is a talented architect, with the perceptiveness to understand his client’s vision and the professional expertise to translate them into an aesthetically appealing design. I recommend him enthusiastically and unequivocally.”