The new norm

Home is where the heart is. And the wave pool, home gymnasium, movie theatre, and guest quarters.

"Those things thought of as extras 10 years ago are now the norm," says Jeff Frame, president of Frame Architecture Inc. Things such as radiant heat and whole-house lighting controls. And now, he says, increasingly, a home theatre is expected, and its design must buffer sound from the rest of the house.

"Things once considered upgrades are now considered standard," Frame says.

Standard, anyway, in the 5,000-square-foot homes that dot the foothills in southwest Reno where the average new manse boasts five bedrooms, each with a private bath.

The owners of those properties, says Frame, are primarily Californians, but not retirees; they're still working after making the move to Nevada. Meanwhile, they want the house to work for them.

"They want the house to do everything," says Frame. "They expect a high degree of comfort. A house has to fit them like a glove."

And that, he says, is "an environment we create. People can sense when a design is thought out. It's an intrinsic value that fits."

In future, he sees a trend toward more environmentally sustainable green building. And that includes small houses but not to save forests from being felled. Rather, it's due to the soaring costs of construction materials.

"The McMansions are going to be gone," he says.

Until then, the 5,0000-square-foot McMansions are costing $300 to $400 per square foot to build. Figure a cool $2 mil, total.

Add to that the architect's fee, which can range from $30,000 to $100,000 depending on design. However, the fee is based partly on the effort needed to get the design through the review process. A lot of the hassle depends on location.

"Everyone has a homeowners association," says Frame. The homeowner wants something unique and custom, while the association is about standards. "It's a delicate balance."

It all starts with the question: "What do you want your house to do?"

As a person, are you public or private? Formal or casual? Do you like cozy rooms or vast spaces? Plus, the all- important amenity question: hobbies.

"Adding an art studio later may not be easy," says Frame. "It's all about flow."

All that information is gleaned before talking fee. In fact, says Frame, the very first thing is to look at the lot. It can make a big difference in extreme cases, such as that of the northeast Reno house precariously perched on a rocky outcrop overlooking Wildcreek Golf Course.

Frame started his firm four years ago, and has three employees. While he wants to grow the business to employ eight, he says, "With the labor shortage, it's tough to find good employees to grow the firm."

Another challenge he deals with daily is the threat of becoming pigeon-holed as a residential architect. When architects start out on their own, doing residential is easiest, he says.

However, he says, "An architect should be a Renaissance man."

So he also does commercial and industrial. Among his portfolio: Snippets and Helley Hansen at Summit Sierra. Both are corporate properties that must reflect the core design, yet look remade to conform to the overall standards of their location. His design for Fresh Energy, a food store on South Virginia Street, is being taken by the owner as a prototype for a chain of stores.

And, Frame designed the River's Edge restaurant building at Sierra and First streets in downtown Reno. There, in contrast to the hotel-sized homes in southwest Reno, the challenge was this: Not enough room.


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