1. Congratulations on winning the Million Dollar Pool Challenge. Tell our readers how you came up with your design inspiration for the project.
To be honest, it's kind of hard to narrow down one solid place where my inspiration for this design came from. I certainly started with being aware of where the project was located (Chicago), and I wanted to make sure to capture architecture and design ideas from its rich history and apply them to the design. Once I had some solid ideas based on location, I knew I had to make the property feel very Zen and relaxing (according to the project’s fictitious client). Hundreds of photos later and by reviewing different Google images, Houzz backyard photos and Instagram posts, I was able to paint a better picture in my head of what I wanted the project to include. Lastly, I was able to just work on the design with a bunch of trial-and-error ideas until it resulted in something I believed the client would think was great along with a design that I thought was cool.
2. What was your goal with this design beyond the synopsis you gave in the project submission description?
The goal for my design this year was to really slow everything down. In previous years while submitting designs to this competition, I could tell everyone tried to put as many items as possible into the pools and backyards and it was just a lot to pay attention to. Playing into the fact that our fictitious client was looking for a relaxing/Zen style project, I wanted to do as much for them with as little as possible. I really wanted to make sure every space I used was very intentional and served a purpose.
3. What was the most challenging aspect of this mock design? What was the solution you came up with to make the design work?
The most challenging aspect of the design without a doubt was the rendering video I submitted for the entry, which you can see online or on any of my social media pages. To a non-designer, my lingo may be difficult to reference, but the video included animated phasing (this is what made all my elements pop up at different times). This was the first time I ever tried using animations. The solution was to watch multiple YouTube video tutorials and allot myself plenty of trial-and-error time to figure it all out. I can now confirm it is possible to learn and apply these effects on your very first attempt.
4. What tips can you provide other professionals about helping their work stand out in a design competition?
It may seem simple, but I would suggest just trying to be unique in your presentation and starting with an idea you love. I personally had many design ideas, but when I fell in love with the idea of the entire home opening to a courtyard with a massive live oak tree in the middle, the rest of the design just fell into place. For my presentation, I had a good idea of how everyone else's submission videos would look, so to stand out I put in the extra time and effort to be unique with animations. It worked in my favor this time. It always pays off to think about your competitors' submissions and figure out unique ways to set yourself apart!
5. What are you going to do with the award money?
I'm currently engaged to my wonderful fiancé, Katie, and we are eloping next July to Lake Como in Italy. A good chunk of this money will go toward that, and for an additional two weeks we’ll be traveling throughout the country on our honeymoon.