As Seen In: William T. Baker Interviewed by Bontena Online Magazine

This interview was originally featured on Bontena.

It is not certain that a big house is a very nice house and a very stylish house is a comfortable house. However, when everything is designed in a balanced way, a Great American Home can emerge. I wanted to get information from an expert. William T. Baker is an award-winning residential designer from Atlanta. And he's not just designing houses, he's an author of two books. In 1996, the Krone House he designed was housed the Olympic Committee during the Centennial Olympic Games. I had the chance to interview William T. Baker about his career and the details of his projects.

William, before talking about architecture, could you tell us about yourself? Who is William T. Baker?

Don't let my easy-going manner and Southern charm fool you. When it comes to forming a vision, assembling a team, and executing a plan, I am an expert. But my natural affability is only a part of the reason for my success as one of America’s greatest designers of fine homes. My ability to connect with people has given me a special talent for understanding consumers in order to give them what they want.

I am as hard driving as I am driven. I am a true renaissance man – an internationally recognized designer, author of two books, a student of history, and holds an MBA from Emory University. I have has proven myself to be an adept manager of scarce resources to achieve maximum effect. My work reflects a keen eye for detail and an understanding of materials and of the manufacturing process.

When did your interest in architecture has begun? What inspired you to pursue a career in architecture?

I was born in Nashville, Tennessee. My father was a noted furniture designer in his own right. My talent for design was no doubt inherited from my father, a famous furniture designer. As a child, I would sit at my father's drafting table watching my design furniture. My father taught me how to draw three dimensional shapes when I was four years old.

I was inspired by the grand Georgian architecture of my home town, I pursued architecture and then worked for another well-known architect before founding my own firm. And the rest, as they say, is history. During my time I strengthened my already high regard for quality. It's not just about passion, it’s about proportion, scale, and rhythm. It is not difficult to tell that I am a passionate designer - I eat, live and breathe design.

Could you tell us about William T. Baker & Associates and your team?

I founded my firm in Atlanta in 1985 and quickly came to dominate the market with my exciting designs. My houses immediately became the talk of Atlanta’s toniest neighborhood known as Buckhead. I re-energized the architecture of Atlanta my way. My fresh new designs embraced craftsman-ship and used fine materials in inventive new ways.

In order to connect with the larger community, I have built strategic alliances, partnered with charity fundraisers, and have enlisted the press to publish my work. In other words, I have mastered the game and understands its rules. I concentrate on designing modern classics, whether they are houses, furniture, books, and, more recently, interiors- all of impeccable taste and quality. These two factors - taste and quality - are the keys to my success. And above all, I design for my client’s needs first, not my own.

What kind of projects do William T. Baker & Associates specialize in? How could you define your architectural approach?

Each of my designs has an elegant appeal that seems almost effortless. Time is the ultimate arbiter of a design’s success. If a work looks beautiful years after its inception, then you know you did something right. My goal is for my work to reflect the personality of its ultimate user and, in some way, the culture of its time. The furniture I have designed, like my architecture, is timeless as well. I take inspiration from the past to create something fresh and new that speaks to our own time. A bespoke table in my office, which I designed and commissioned, references the 18th century work of Robert Adam. Its rich carvings and embellishments add a level of detail seldom found in furniture design today. I think it’s a wonderful piece that I enjoy looking at every day. There is something new for the eye to see every time you look at it. That is the trademark of fine design.

What kind of services do you offer to your clients?

Designs that seduce through their good taste is the key to my success. By shying away from trends that quickly fall from favor, I am able to define myself in a unique way that has made me a favorite among industry insiders. I can’t even begin to count the number of industry leaders who have come to me over the years, it’s been too many to count.

My use of subtle detail makes me an expert in inconspicuous consumption. Today’s consumers are more discerning than ever, and have many options when it comes to their purchases. For the wealthiest of these, they have the means but not the desire to show it off. They like their wealth to be understated, whether it is their cars, houses, planes, boats, or clothes. However, while they may choose the understated, the one thing they will not compromise on is quality. They are discerning shoppers and want to maintain their high standards for quality. I find they often ask themselves, ‘Which product is going to give me the best value?’ Ultimately, their decision is about value and quality that meets their personal preferences.

What are the advantages of being an Award-Winning architect? Could you tell us about the awards that you won?

I have received some very impressive awards and media attention. I have been awarded the prestigious Arthur Ross Award in New York and the Urban Design Award for Excellence, and the ICA Southeast Chapter's Schutze Award. I have been published in national publications such as Veranda, Southern Accents, Traditional Home, Suburban Classics, Trends, and The Modern Estate. Many of my "Before and After" projects have been featured on HGTV.

What is your signature on your projects? What are you paying attention to make your projects unique?

As for the classic look, I have so skillfully developed. I have seen many highly touted designs that simply do not hold up to the test of time. Unfortunately, many of today’s designers are just out for shock value. They are designing with the photographer in mind instead of the ultimate consumer. Sure, their work looks dramatic in professional photographs, with special lighting effects, but in real life, it looks ridiculous. And, ultimately, it is real life that counts.

For me, creating homes for real life is what it is all about.

All the responsibilities of millions of dollar mansions are on your shoulders. You always have to adjust to a specific time schedule. How do you manage this situation?

When in the office, I am focused like a laser on the task at hand. I am a very efficient manager of my time. I make the most of what time I have - not just my own, but also my employees’ and my clients'. Balancing many jobs in the air at one time takes discipline and I have shown myself up to the challenge.

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

They should have some idea of the scope of the project and how they want their house to live.

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

Perhaps the house of which I am especially proud is the Krone House on Tuxedo Road. When Atlanta hosted the Centennial Olympic Games, this was the house chosen by the Olympic Committee as their official house for hosting official events during the games. It is a grand Georgian with hand-carved limestone facade and is a landmark home for the City.

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

Train your eye on the best architecture you can find. Go and visit it in person because no building can be fully understood without experiencing its spaces in person.

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What is coming up next for you?

A major project in India for one of the country's most prominent industrial families.