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Interview with Architect Howard L. Miller, Senior Associate at The Johnson Partnership from Seattle

Since 1979, The Johnson Partnership has been providing architectural services, environmental planning, and historic resources consulting. I talked with Howard L. Miller, Senior Associate at The Johnson Partnership, about his career and the basics of residential projects.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Howard L. Miller, Senior Associate at The Johnson Partnership

Howard L. Miller, Senior Associate at The Johnson Partnership


by Meryem Aksoy

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Howard L. Miller has started his journey of architecture in his early ages. After he decided to pursue a professional career in architecture, he completed his architectural education at Cornell University in 1988. After six years of specialisation at residential and commercial projects, he has joined The Johnson Partnership in 1995 as a senior associate. His skills in furniture design, woodworking, painting, and ceramics give him an advantage and different point of view to add details to his residential projects. I talked with Howard L. Miller about his career, services of The Johnson Partnership, and the basics of residential projects.

Howard, before talking about The Johnson Partnership, could you tell us about your educational background, career and architectural experience?

Bachelor of Architecture, 1988, Cornell University, School of Architecture, Art & Planning. I am a registered architect working in the field since 1988 on both residential and small commercial projects, and have worked with the Johnson Partnership since 1995. I am currently licensed to practice in the states of Washington and Oregon.

Why did you decide to pursue a career in architecture? What inspired you?

My parents are artists and I was handed a sketchbook at a very early age. In junior high, I took a drafting class and loved it. Ever since then I have pursued architecture.

Could you tell us about The Johnson Partnership?

The Johnson Partnership is a small firm specializing in single-family homes, remodels, and historic structures. The firm was originally established by Larry and Lani Johnson back in 1979.

What are the advantages of being an Award-Winning architect?

Awards bring a level of exposure and respect that other firms cannot get through advertising. In the past, we have won the AIA home of the month, for a new home in the Schmitz Park area of West Seattle. In 2008 our remodel of a house on the shore of Lake Washington won the REX Award for Remodeling Excellence from the Master Builders Association. A new timber frame home in the Skagit Valley that we designed won two awards at the Timber Framers Guild National Convention: an Excellent Achievement Award, and a People's Choice Award. Our work has also been featured in trade publications, magazines, and books about various aspects of the craft.

The Johnson Partnership

The Johnson Partnership

Which type of projects does The Johnson Partnership specialize for? What type of services do you offer your customers?

The Johnson Partnership is a small firm specializing in single family homes and remodels and historic structures. We work with our clients from project inception to completion, which includes site planning, pre-design, design, permitting, construction documentation, construction observation, and coordination.

Could you tell us about Historical Resources Services?

We work with clients to research the history of their building and assess its historical significance. We also submit applications for the state or national historic register and work with owners of buildings already listed on the registers to comply with the associated regulations.

Could you tell us about your team?

We have a small team that has been working together for many years. We are all skilled architects and bring our own expertise and creativity to every project. We can design homes from the ground up or remodel a historic home to look as though the addition is original. We always put the clients first.

Where is the most popular location for new residential projects in Seattle?

Any vacant lot you can find! Most lots already have a home on them, and if you want a new home you are lucky if you can find a poorly-maintained home in a great neighborhood and tear it down. Otherwise, remodeling an existing home can usually achieve the goals of most clients.

The Johnson Partnership

The Johnson Partnership

Could you explain to us the full process of a residential project?


- Client interview and preliminary site visit

- Prepare record set (if remodeling an existing building)

- Research and review the Program & building restrictions

- Preparing conceptual designs (Schematic Design)


- Refining the design (Design Development)

- Permit documents (For obtaining the building permit)

- Construction documents


- Finding a contractor

- Construction administration and observation

Do you offer turnkey projects to abroad customer? At which steps should your client have to be next to you after the first moment of the project?

To Date, we have not worked internationally, though we have worked out of state and have completed projects in Hawaii and Oregon. For an international client wishing to develop in Washington State, we would suggest an in-person meeting during the preliminary project phase to either walk the lot or existing building whichever is the case. The client would also need to work with us to engage a contractor to build the project.

How many months does it take to complete an average residential project?

There really is no such thing as an average residential project. But a client should expect anywhere from three to twelve months of design and permitting with more time needed for construction. The time all depends on the size of the project. A timeline should be clear once the scope of the project has been determined.

What are the most important factors that affect the project cost?

Project scope typically drives the project cost. If a kitchen or bathroom is included those add more cost per square foot than a bedroom or closet. Windows, cabinets, plumbing and electrical are all costly.

The Johnson Partnership

The Johnson Partnership

You have lots of completed and in-progress projects. Which one is your favorite? What was its story?

I have several favorites, all for different reasons. Of the new homes one an I particularly like is the Freeland Residence on Whidbey Island, which appears small from the exterior, and yet feels so big from the inside. Of the remodels the Magnolia Remodel really brought new life to a grand old home.

What would you recommend to customers who want to work with an architect to build their new home?

Customers should identify an architect whose portfolio includes projects in styles similar to what they want in their home. They should also keep in mind that good communication is key to establishing a good working relationship with your architect.

In your opinion, what is the relation between Low Budget - Short Project Time - High Quality? Is it possible to combine all in one project?

Keeping costs reasonable, a quick project timeline and quality craftsmanship are the goals of almost all projects. We strive to achieve all three.

What is the best advice you have received, and what advice would you give to young architects?

One of the best pieces of advice I received and would pass along to a new architect is to listen to the client. If you can provide a design that meets their requirements, you will have a happy client. There is no better advertising than a happy client.

What is coming up next for you?

Next up for The Johnson Partnership is to continue to design homes and remodels to meet our clients' needs as well as continuing our historic resources work.

Anything you’d like to add that I haven’t asked?

We are always up for a challenge. Solving the puzzle of a complex design project is one of the real pleasures of being an architect.

Thank you Howard for this enjoyable interview.

For more information, please visit the website of The Johnson Partnership