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REAL ESTATE - INTERVIEW

Interview with Principal Architect Jennifer Tulley, Founder of Jennifer Tulley Architects from San Francisco

After a professional career in notable architectural firms, in 2002, Jennifer Tulley established her own architectural firm in New York and moved to San Francisco in 2006. I talked with Jennifer Tulley about her career and the basics of residential projects.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Jennifer Tulley

Jennifer Tulley

REAL ESTATE - INTERVIEW

by Meryem Aksoy

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Jennifer Tulley decided to be an architect when she was 13 and she pursued her dream. She started her professional career in New York. Since she established Jennifer Tulley Architects in 2002, she has been creating commercial and residential projects with her own style that she defined as contemporary and approachable. I asked Jennifer Tulley, Founder and Principal Architect of Jennifer Tulley Architects, in order to learn more about her career, projects, team, and the basics of architectural projects. Enjoy this interview.

Jennifer, before talking about architecture, could you tell us about yourself?

I have a Master of Arts degree in Architecture from the University of Virginia, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Architecture from the University of Illinois. After graduating, I lived and worked in New York City for 12 years and my first job was with Richard Meier, the modern architect responsible for many iconic buildings including the Getty Museum in Los Angeles and the Jubilee Church of the Year 2000 built for the Vatican in Rome. After several years with Meier, I joined Peter Guggenheimer, Henry Myerberg, and Margaret Helfand, winner of the Rome Prize. My projects at HMG included the Swarthmore College Science Center, a new commercial campus for Automated Trading Desk, and the American Museum of Folk Art in midtown Manhattan, in partnership with Tod Williams and Billie Tsien. I began my own practice in New York in 2002 and moved to San Francisco in 2006 where my firm has designed many residential and commercial projects in the Bay Area.

Jennifer Tulley Architects

Jennifer Tulley Architects - Natoma Street Office

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

I knew I wanted to be an architect when I was 13 and saw a set of floor plans for the family home my parents were building. My father was a history buff and on our many family trips to Civil War battlefields, I was able to tour grand plantation houses and discover amazing architectural cities like Charleston, SC.

When I did my first architecture history class at the University of Illinois I was amazed when the slide of Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth house was presented as one of the best examples of modernism. I realized that this was the “glass house” that was near our childhood sledding hill and only could be seen in the winter when the leaves were down. Maybe there was a subconscious influence of modernism even in my simple upbringing in a small town outside of Chicago.

How did you decide to establish your own firm?

I established my own firm when I started a family and wanted to be able to be a mother and keep working as an architect, on my own terms and I needed flexibility in my schedule that typically only comes with being your own boss. Fortunately, I had an offer to design a new church for the congregation my family belongs to in Illinois which was a great opportunity and launched my solo career. Then came some amazing loft apartments in New York City and we were off.

Jennifer Tulley Architects

Jennifer Tulley Architects - Jackson Square Office

Jennifer Tulley Architects had been located in New York for the first four years. Why did you decide to relocate Jennifer Tulley Architects to San Francisco in 2006?

After having been in New York for over a decade, I was ready for a change and my husband had an offer to take a job in San Francisco. We jumped at the chance to relocate to such an amazing city and it has been wonderful to learn about the history and architectural styles of San Francisco as I gradually grew my practice here.

Could you tell us about Jennifer Tulley Architects and your team?

We are a small firm, currently 6 people, all architects, and we recently moved to a fantastic new ground floor office in Pacific Heights. Our work here started with additions and renovations of San Francisco residences and office spaces, and has now expanded to a lovely variety of projects of different types and a size, all around the greater Bay Area and Wine Country.

Jennifer Tulley Architects

Jennifer Tulley Architects - Natoma Street Office

How could you define your architectural approach?

Our collaborative process allows us to understand our clients' design preferences, lifestyle and practical requirements, and to complement their own thinking with fresh and innovative ideas. We strive to ensure that the creative process continues through all phases of design and construction, creating modern, contemporary and stylish spaces with perfect functionality.

What is your signature in your designs? How do you make your designs unique and creative?

Our style is contemporary and approachable, with a preference for clean and uncluttered design, whether is it a traditional or modern project and an insistence that spaces work beautifully for those who live and work in them. Our designs feature a blend of material and textures, crisp detailing and a clear floor plan favoring site views and openness to nature. Our work is informed by a rich modern aesthetic and by the belief that form and function can be perfectly married, that high design can be accomplished on an economically rational basis, and that buildings foster uplifting experiences for their users.

Jennifer Tulley Architects

Jennifer Tulley Architects - Octavia Street Residence

Which type of projects does Jennifer Tulley Architects specialize in? What type of services do you offer your customers?

Our commercial work includes creative office renovations, a Firehouse conversion to event space, a warehouse conversion to office space, a wine tasting room, and an exercise studio. Our residential work includes renovations of Victorians, Edwardians, Craftsman style, Classical and Mid Century Modern. We are very versatile and generally bring a crisp modern style to our design, and are able to tackle ground-up work as well as renovations.

Where is the most popular location for new residential and commercial projects in San Francisco?

San Francisco has changed dramatically in the past 5 years with the Tech industries moving into the city. The biggest new building area is in and around Mission Bay where there is enormous development. Downtown continues to see more high rises under construction. The area around Jackson Square and SOMA and Market Street have been popular for tech companies and their employees have made neighborhoods on the south side of the city, like Noe Valley, the Mission and even Bernal Heights, the new hot spots for their sunny locations and proximity to Silicon Valley.

Jennifer Tulley Architects

Jennifer Tulley Architects - Russian Hill Residence

What are the main steps of residential? How many months does it take to complete an average residential project?

We spend many weeks on floor plan options, the shape of the building, and making sure the layout is taking advantage of the site and the reflecting the lifestyle of the client. Then we move to finishes, fixtures and details to make the project come to life. We utilize computerized 3D models to convey the ideas to the client and to help us all make design decisions. A small project could be done in a few months from design to start of construction, but additions or new construction tends to be close to a year of design due to the complexity of the project and approvals required from Planning Departments.

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?

We can handle a project from inception to the final construction punch list. We have the ability to do video conference calls and remote screen share to markup drawings in real time, or do fly-throughs of 3D models.

Jennifer Tulley Architects

Jennifer Tulley Architects - Jackson Square Office

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

Most people think that expensive finishes drive the price but in the US the labor price is expensive. So it actually comes down to the amount of infrastructure and how much space you are renovating or adding. If there is a tight budget, I try to lightly touch as much of the secondary spaces as possible, in order to have the budget to create the Wow factor in the main living areas.

What should your clients decide before contacting you? What is your first question in your first meeting with a new client?

Clients should consider whether they want a personalized experience with their architect or a big firm with a larger team. They should also get a sense of whether their aesthetic is in line with the architect, which will make for a smooth design process.

My first question to clients is What are you looking for? What is your wishlist? and How do you like to use your space?

Jennifer Tulley Architects

Jennifer Tulley Architects - Russian Hill Residence

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

I have many favorites for different reasons. I love the Russian Hill project with its iconic presence and views, the Jackson Street and NatomaStreet offices for the blending of brick, glass and wood beams, the Sonoma Farmhouse for the history and serenity of the place.

Jennifer Tulley Architects

Jennifer Tulley Architects - Jackson Square Office

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

Find someone who has a personality you enjoy. It is a long journey to the end of construction and it is good to have an architect who will guide and keep you calm through it all.

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

It is certainly a challenge to get all three! I think you can be creative with materials and layout if you have a low budget, make reasonable yet stylish finish choices, and then have all decisions made before construction starts to avoid surprises, change orders, and project delays. This approach will give one the best shot at combining low budget, short timeline, and high quality.

Jennifer Tulley Architects

Jennifer Tulley Architects - Natoma Street Office

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

I host High School interns from a local public school and I tell them that this is not an easy profession, but if it is something you love, it is absolutely worth all the hard work. Our profession is notorious for long hours and low pay, but we are architects because it is our passion. Thankfully the next generation of architecture firms are striving for reasonable workloads and a mentorship process with a collaborative approach.

How can our readers follow Jennifer Tulley Architects?

We are on Houzz, Instagram, Dering Hall, and Mortarr and have been featured in recent online publications such as Forbes and Re-Thinking the Future. We will soon be in print in a “book/magazine” called Country Modern.

What is coming up next for you?

We have a Mid Century Modern style house renovation and addition under construction in Silicon Valley, a Wine Tasting Room in Healdsburg that just opened, a Cycle and Barre exercise studio in Healdsburg that will be starting construction, and a Townhouse Development that is in the Planning process. It will be an exciting 2019!

Thank you Jennifer for this enjoyable interview.

For more information, please visit the website of Jennifer Tulley Architects





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