Today we’re presenting an exclusive interview with the Carol Cioppa, from Cioppa Architects LLC. This amazing award winner architect is an expert in renovations and additions with a special taste for antique homes. Let’s know a little more about her, the projects and the inspirations.
NYDA: Why have you decided becoming an architect?
CC: This is a bit convoluted! When I went to Pratt Institute (college) I studied Interior Architecture. I actually thought I was going to be a decorator! But this course was very architecturally oriented including construction drawings etc. Much later, my own firm in NYC had around 15-17 employees and we did large corporate interiors and commercial lobbies etc. Sometime in the 1980’s, NYS changed their licensing laws and stated that any construction work (like my firm was doing!) was now going to be considered ‘Architecture’! And had to be performed by a licensed architect! What did I do? I got my architectural license! Since I had been doing what they called ‘architecture for over 20 years, I qualified to take the 5 day Licensing exam. I studied and took refresher course…but passed. And the rest as they say is history. Residential architecture on a concentrated basis really began when I moved my office the Westchester. As a student of American History and American furniture, work on older & antique homes came my way.
NYDA: How would you describe your style? Do you have a signature touch?
CC: My success has been not having a style! The projects I do are renovations and additions. Thus it is important that the style be lead by the existing house if it is historic…OR what my client’s are looking for it their house needs a complete makeover. My signature touch? Integrating the architecture with the landscape (which I also do) and not letting the addition eat the house.
NYDA: Can you talk about one of your favorite projects that you have developed?
CC: My first AIA Award-winning house makeover was called ‘Raising the Ranch’. It was a pretty horrible and badly constructed & really small ranch. Almost no kitchen – it was smaller than most apartment kitchens, no real front entry, certainly no master suite – and my client was raising 4 children in this house and 3 of them were big boys over 6 feet tall! They didn’t even fit into the kitchen anymore! They did not want nor could they afford a ‘Mcmansion’. They wanted a cottage with a front porch. And they got it along with a great kitchen, second floor master suite and studies for each. Simple design.
NYDA: Is there anything exciting that you are working on at the moment that you can tell us about? Any new projects?
CC: I am just finishing up a renovation and small addition to a four story house with many levels that was built in the 1980’s. The challenge was to design an addition over a flat-roofed garage that would integrate with the existing house, create a new and more open kitchen and to design an new entryway that looked like…an entry! Making the house both green and energy efficient was also on the top of my client’s list. We used some new techniques and materials and this winter I am sure will be a true test.
Another brand new project is rather small but very special to me. An older couple whom I know (in their late 80’s and early 90’s) wish to continue living in their small but utterly charming Pound Ridge Landmarked antique that has been the family home for 65 years. We will be looking at the possibility of adding another stair that is more navigable than the existing one in their 1700’s home and some other modifications so that they can continue to enjoy it.
NYDA: What do you love about being an architect?
CC: No day is ever the same, no project is ever the same. The excitement of seeing what you have envisioned come to reality during construction….that never, ever gets old!
NYDA: Where do you draw your inspiration from?
CC: Sometimes I have very challenging projects. Parts of houses that were really bad additions and how to make them really work & integrate better. Trying to create a project with some style that has none! Sometimes while driving around to meetings or seminars, I might see something – an old barn, a piece of a house – and a light goes off in my head. A spark on how I can re-purpose that idea to solve my dilema. Books, history…I tear up magazines not only for inspiration but sometime my clients need to see what 50 other kitchens look like!
When I travel to Europe, I visit every new shop, every hotel I can, I peak into restaurants, new museums, lectures etc. Domus Magazine!
NYDA: Which architects do you admire?
CC: Frank Loyd Wright of course; Mies & Le Corbusier, Henning Larsen Architects for their HARPA Concert Hall in Iceland! Morphosis Architects, for their Perot Museum in Dallas; Tadeo Ando for his Chichu Art Museum Naoshima, Japan took my breath away.
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NYDA: What is your philosophy on architecture and life?
CC: My projects are my client’s visions. I make THEIR dreams come true – not mine. BUT if they are happy, I am very happy & that is my dream! It takes a great client to make a great project! Life is too short to work with people you don’t like.
NYDA: Describe yourself in three words.
CC: Dedicated (to my profession and giving back to it and my community); (She’s got) style! and a great listener (to my clients).
Don’t you just feel inspired to make some renovations in your home? Tell us everything in a comment bellow!