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Meet Danny Martin, Architect in Sandy Springs

Today we’d like to introduce you to Danny Martin.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
Atlanta is my home and probably always will be. I grew up here, met my wife at Dunwoody High School, and went to college just down the street at Georgia Tech in the late seventies.

I decided I wanted to be an architect when I was a junior in high school after writing a paper on “some famous person,” selecting Frank Lloyd Wright. I started seeing pictures of all of these really cool houses, unlike anything I had ever seen. It was Wright’s modern house over the waterfall, “Fallingwater,” that really intrigued me — I later wrote my thesis on it.

Heading into architecture school, I thought it was just drawing pretty buildings, but soon found out it was far more than that! I discovered “Design” and it became my passion. Countless nights working on projects in our studios, never an end to perfecting our designs, until the professor marches in and says “times up”. One Semester, I literally lived in the studio and showered in the student center. It was a demanding and thrilling time.

After grad school at Georgia Tech, I was fortunate to get a job with Atlanta architect, Fred Bainbridge.

He was a great artistic designer and mentor for me. Later we would become partners and practiced together as Bainbridge and Martin, Architects for a decade or more. We were a small and efficient firm that produced a lot of work for our size.

In 1995, I got to live out every architect’s dream, designing my own home for my wife, two young children and my business. We have spent the last twenty years here and it’s only gotten better with time.

About ten years ago, my partner retired and I really had to start from scratch and develop my own clients. I asked fellow Tech grad David Brown to join me. By chance, I met a couple in Atlanta who owned a beach lot in Seagrove, Florida — Atlanta’s favorite gulf beach vacation spot. I designed a house for them there, and as a result got some referrals to do several other houses in the area and in the beach communities of Watersound and Watercolor.

About four years ago, my daughter, Carolyn Reichert finished college at University of Georgia and came to work with us to handle our interiors. We now offer complete coordinated design services “down to the doorknobs.”

She helps out on the architecture side as well which leads seamlessly into our interior work.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Architecture is a challenging profession to begin with. You need to understand site and building engineering as well as codes and energy usage. You also must be proficient with drafting, design and presentation skills. And, if you hang your own shingle, you need to know the basics of how to run a business and how to market your services.

Getting clients is one of the biggest challenges we face — the other is workload consistency. Marketing is a constant endeavor and we are always learning new ways to get our work out in front of potential clients. Personal referrals and repeat clients are still the way we tend to get and retain work.

We are also very dependent upon the ups and downs of the economy. Developing custom products, we can sell such as lighting fixtures, decorative doors and artwork is something we are working on to smooth over the down times.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
Our practice is about customization. Every project starts with a specific site, a place, a time and a particular user of client. We start by carefully analyzing the site, it’s context, its history, it’s orientation, shape, access, utilities, vegetation, good and bad views, etc. It’s important to let the site influence what sits on it. Then we listen to the client and ask questions about how they live, work and play. Only then do we start designing.

Living in, around and through buildings should be an uplifting experience — one that enriches the activities of everyday life, enhances its site and community, excites the senses and brings order to our lives.

We’ve been told by our clients that their house ” live well.” When I hear that, I feel that we have done our job. I think this is what sets us apart from others.

We continue to do custom homes and large renovations in the Southeast. At the moment, we have a custom home under construction in Navarre Beach, Florida. We recently finished converting an old cotton warehouse into a microbrewery, Oconee Brewing Company, in Greensboro, Georgia. And we have an office/retail building going up on the Beltline fronting Piedmont Park.

We are starting work on a concept for “next generation office planning” for an internet security start up firm. The office will include several collaborative spaces, a cafe style kitchen and lounge area, a virtual reality play zone and private decompression pods to get away from it all and a lab space to develop the latest tech gadgets.

Adaptive reuse of old buildings has become a second passion for me next to custom home design.

Nothing thrills me more than taking an old useless shell of a building, overgrown with weeds and bring it back to life. All the while, retaining the charm and craftsmanship of old brick, stone and heavy timber and mixing in updated modern fixtures for “new inhabitants” to enjoy.

So, what’s next? Any big plans?
If nothing else we are forward thinking and optimistic. We have always had to adjust our work with the times. As I mentioned above, we are beginning to look at how the way people “work” is changing and how it is changing office design.

On the residential side, we are seeing young families moving into older neighborhoods because there is less inventory of new affordable single family homes.

As vacant lots become practically nonexistent in Atlanta, there doesn’t seem to be any end in sight for renovation work. We will also continue to pursue custom home design in lake, mountain and beach areas in the southeast and beyond in hopes of designing the next great house.

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