Contest Winners, Professional, Residential Home Design

The Walnut Cottage- A Charming, 1st Place Design

Walnut Cottage water color rendering

By Kendra Dorosh

The team at Lake + Land Studio, LLC, has won first place in the Chief Architect Residential Design Contest with their charming Walnut Cottage. The home’s quaint features like a wrap-around porch, exposed rafters, and exterior trim details conjure thoughts of rest and relaxation.

Located in South Mississippi, and operating since 2015, Lake + Land Studio focuses primarily on designing lake houses, boathouses, and retreats. They operate as a small business and take great pride in each project they design. They believe in designing spaces that are inspiring, resonate with their clients, and evoke a sense of calmness.

We pride ourselves in creating unique, one of a kind designs for every client we work with.”

Lake + Land Studio, LLC

“Every time we are able to walk our clients through their future home or project with Chief Architect 3D Software, it’s a success.  Many of our clients are not visual. Chief Architect helps bridge the gap between the 2D floor plan and grasping what the finished project will look like.  We hear constant feedback on how impressive the capabilities of being able to see the scale of the spaces, customize materials, try different cabinet configurations, etc.  We are able to save them so much headache and heartache in the design phase vs. going through a change-order process in the field.  Being able to offer the 3D aspect for our projects has truly set us apart from our peers.”

“We’ve been designing with Chief Architect software since 2010. We do high-end residential design, and we felt this software best optimized our needs for a program to design residential structures.

“Our Partners Luke Sippel and Bill Holloway were already using Chief Architect from their previous employer. Luke Sippel originally starting using Chief Architect in 2010 and trained exclusively through online training videos, Chief Talk Professional Forum, and the Reference Manual. We now employ 5 staff who all utilize Chief Architect daily.”

Winning Design

See more renderings of the Walnut Cottage plan below.

We’re inspired by the feelings of harmony with Lake + Land Studio’s designs. It’s an honor to share their story and we’ll look forward to seeing more of their work!

Team photo of the designers at Lake + Land Studio, LLC.
Lake + Land Studio, LLC Design Team

Lake + Land Studio, LLC is based out of Hattiesburg, MS. They’ve been operating since 2015 and have multiple custom homes featured in publications such as Southern Living Magazine, Art Food Home, Coastal Living, and Hattiesburg American. You can even see their work on HGTV’s hit series “Home Town”. They’ve been using Chief Architect software since 2010.

Connect with Lake + Land Studio on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.


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More Renderings of the Walnut Cottage Plan

This plan was designed exclusively for Southern Living Magazine. You’ll find the full plan here.

Photography and 3D images by Lake and Land Studio, LLC
Color rendering by Adam Trest

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Featured Customers, Professional

Pushing the Boundaries of Style

Portrait of interior designer, Rene Rabbitt.

Taking inspiration from a broad spectrum of influences, Rene’s goal is to draw you in, make you feel welcome, and spark intrigue.

By Kerry Hansen

Based out of Oakland, California, Rene Rabbitt has global reach with extensive experience working with people and projects all over the world. As a freelance Designer and Draftsperson, Rene offers a broad scope of services and experience, including but not limited to architectural and structural plan sets, Chief Architect training, and both residential and commercial rendering.

An Asian inspired bathroom design with large walk in shower, modern bathtub in a platform tub deck and elegant vessel sink and fixtures.
The Cavalero Conceptual Design

Rene began designing years ago when he was a General Contractor. “I once worked with a terminally-ill client whose only goal was to recreate her mother’s kitchen to a tee. After several iterations of attempting to achieve her goals through typical “spec design”, the space was still not reflecting what she remembered. It became clear that we needed to rethink our process. It was then that I discovered Chief Architect, through which I was able to help the client visualize and reflect every precise detail from memory. That kitchen still stands today and serves as an incredibly special homage to something that truly defined what design, to this day, means to me.”

…I discovered Chief Architect, through which I was able to help the client visualize and reflect every precise detail…

A contemporary kitchen design with Dark Cabinets and lots of natural light.
Chin Contemporary Kitchen

Rene has been using Chief Architect for over twelve years. According to Rene, “the differentiator with Chief lies in its simplicity and pliability specific to residential design.” You will often find Rene adding his renderings to the gallery or offering up advice on the ChiefTalk professional forum.

The differentiator with Chief lies in its simplicity and pliability specific to residential design.

Minimalist living room at sunset with vaulted ceiling, large windows, and clean design.
Sunset Living Room
Rene & Kelley's Wedding

Rene’s inspiration is drawn from a broad spectrum of mediums, individuals, and places. The first being his “designer wife, Kelley and her innate ability to tell a story through design.” His biggest Chief Architect success story happened when his wife’s favorite artist, Taylor Swift came to town.

“I needed those tickets to surprise her. I fired up Chief Architect, hunted down the blueprints of the stadium where Taylor was set to perform, and even found a CAD drawing of Taylor’s exact stage layout. What better way to choose a concert seat than to build the venue in 3D? I proposed to my wife in the morning with that concert as a surprise in the evening – she said yes, so I would consider that a pretty decent success.”

Other professional influences include the 1995 Gold Medal recipient, for a lifetime of distinguished achievement in architecture from the American Institute of Architects, “Cesar Pelli and his residential works; Ramon Zancanaro’s insane renderings; Winy Maas for his vision, his upside-down/sideways approach, and his use of color; and Bali, Indonesia with its stunning people, culture and landscapes.”

Tranquil bedroom with natural wood elements and lots of light.
Diablo Bedroom

Rene’s goal in design is to push the boundaries of the particular style he is working with. Light-play, with its opacity, sheen, and movement, has always been a focus in his work. The goal is to draw the viewer in, make them feel welcome, and spark intrigue. The most important outcome for any project is to have the client feel like they are actively designing through the designer’s hands. “When I’m done, you should feel like you designed it yourself.”

The backyard view of one of Rene's residential designs with white siding, a metal roof, and spacious deck for entertaining.
Backyard View – Residential Design by Rene Rabbitt

We’d like to send our sincere thanks to Rene for sharing his story with us about all of the ways Chief Architect has impacted his life both professionally and personally. Take a look at more of Rene’s inspiring work below.

Contact Rene Rabbitt on ChiefTalk or by email,

Rene uses Thea, Photoshop, and Procreate to enhance his Chief Architect renderings.

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Professional, Remodel-Addition, Stories

Capturing As-Built Measurements for Remodel Projects

The as-built home with an overlay drawing of the proposed remodel and addition.

By Kendra Dorosh

How do remodeling professionals capture as-built measurements?  Paper, Napkin, App, or Laptop software?  Chief Architect software surveyed remodelers and found 75% measure as-built homes by hand using paper and pencil.  The compounding effects of repetition have made this an efficient process. If the system works, why change?

What is an As-Built plan?

The As-Built plan refers to the original condition of the house before remodeling. Remodeling projects and home additions start with as-built measurements, also called red-line drawings or record drawings. It’s vital to map out the as-built plan as precisely as possible.

In August 2019, Chief Architect surveyed over 50 remodelers asking three key remodeling questions:

1) How do you get your As-Built Measurements?   

2) How do you import As-Built Measurements into Chief Architect

3) What is your biggest need for Remodeling software?

1. For Remodeling Projects, how do you get your As-Built Measurements?

75% of remodelers measure as-built homes by hand using paper and pencil from the survey responses.  Less than 8% use software.  Reasons people are not using software vary, but many cite the efficiency of using technology at a client’s home. 

There are many specialty apps designed to capture as-built measurements, the majority of people are still finding the most success with taking these measurements by hand and then later importing them into their remodeling software. Remodelers can simply do it faster on paper than struggling with a tablet app and they want to avoid being in a client’s home any longer than necessary.  A detailed checklist for as-built measurements helps to avoid missing key information.  You will find an As-Built Checklist below from David Heimann. 

Respondents said they have tried one or more of the various mobile applications designed specifically for capturing as-built measurements. The overwhelming consensus seems to be that these apps can be frustrating because they cannot model real-life remodel conditions, such as misaligned walls, multiple stories, vaulted ceilings, etc.  In fact, Chief Architect discontinued its own Room Planner app because it lacked the sophistication of Chief Architect’s desktop version.  And now that laptops, such as the Microsoft Surface, are easily portable and work with Bluetooth lasers, remodelers have access to Chief Architect’s most powerful software for as-built measurements and conditions. 

Survey Results for how re modelers are getting their as-built measurements.

2. Do you import As-Built Measurements into Chief Architect Software? 

Just over 30% of respondents that use software for As-Built measurements import it into Chief Architect. Many manually input the measurements due to compatibility, such as files that are created as images, pdfs or proprietary formats.

Survey results for whether or not remodelers are importing their as-built measurements into software.

3. What is your biggest need for Remodeling software?

The most commonly cited request for remodeling software is help to isolate the “as-built” from “new” in a remodel project.  In the construction drawings, people want to show walls that will be removed or how a new addition will be overlaid on the home.  Some building departments may require the as-built overlay.  A similar overlay in 3D could help the remodeler show the client how the new project compares to the current as-built.  Chief Architect’s reference display can accomplish both of these tasks for overlaying an as-built in 2D & 3D – you can see how in this summary video

At Chief Architect, we’re always striving to keep up with the latest trends in the remodeling industry, so that we can provide the best remodeling software available. Remodeling software enhancements are an important focus which is why we asked the survey questions and we will continue to ‘remodel’ our software.  Thank you to our customers who took the time to answer the survey questions! Leave a comment below to let us know how you’re capturing your as-built measurements.

Remodeling Resources

How-to resources on remodeling using Chief Architect software

  • Learn how to configure a Leica wireless Bluetooth laser meter with Chief Architect to help improve your as-built capture process
  • Learn to use reference display to show as-built, demo and new construction components in plan views and 3D views
  • Remodeling video playlist

As-Built-Existing Plan Checklist

Have you ever spent hours on-site only to get home to your drafting table or software to realize that you’re missing key information or measurements? The table below was provided to us from David Heimann at East Wind Designs

Checklist for Capturing As-Built - Exterior
Take Pictures of Exterior Elevations
Take Pictures of Exterior Perspectives
Take Pictures of Site, Lot, Terrain, Vegetation
Exterior Wall Thickness
Siding Material and Size
Ext. Window and Door Trim Material and Size
Locate all Ext. windows and doors
Locate Utilities, Meter Location, Electric (overhead, bury, etc.)
Phone, etc.
Foundation Type, Size, Height Above Grade
Roof Pitch and Material
Sketch Elevations (Exterior)
Sketch Perimeter of Building or Dimension Google Earth Image
Site plan- Google Earch, MTCADASTRAL, Survey, etc.
Locate and Dimension as Needed to Fill in Missing Info
Decks- Locate on Sketch, Note Railing Height, Spacing, Height above Grade and Related to Subfloor
Exterior Stairs, Locate on Sketch, Note Riser Height and Tread
Checklist for Capturing As-Built - Interior
Take Pictures of Interior Elevations
Take Pictures of Ceilings
Take Pictures of Floors
Interior Wall Thickness
Interior Wall Finish (Gyp. Bd, Plaster, etc.)
Sketch Floor Plan
Locate Interior Doors, Note Sizes on Sketch
Interior Door and Window Trim (Size, Material, Finish, Window Coverings)
Base trim (Size, Material and Finish)
Crown Molding (Size, Material and Finish)
Flooring Type (Per Room, Note on Sketch)
Fireplace-Locate and Detail on Sketch
Vaulted Ceilings- Which Room, Height at Peak
Ceiling Height(s), Note on Sketch Per Room
Cabinets (Locate, Describe and Detail on Sketch)
Stairs-Locate on Sketch, Note: Rise, Run, Tread and Riser Height
Checklist for Capturing As-Built - Electrical and Plumbing Fixtures, HVAC
Outlet Locations (Kitchen and Bath)
Electrical Panel (Interior) Location
Switch Location and Lead to FIXTURE
Light Fixture and Locations
Furnace/Heat Source- Type, Size, Location
Water Heater
Plumbing Fixtures Located on Sketch

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Interior Design, Professional, Stories

Design for Living

Accessible bathroom with dual vanity and floating cabinets.

By Adam Gibson, Architectural Designer, CMKBD, CLIPP, CAPS

There’s a growing need to make homes safer and healthier with thoughtful elements that don’t compromise aesthetics.

Many of us use assistive devices that have become part of our everyday lives, things we consider normal… take glasses and hearing aids, for instance. Why not take this same approach when designing a home?

Baby boomers are retiring at an astonishing rate, creating issues not often addressed. Aside from them, many families have specific needs (outside of age) for features embedded in design. We are doing them a disservice if we don’t educate ourselves, and in doing so, them, on how to contribute to their health and welfare.

Here are some common aging in place design considerations

Read on for more detail…

Incorporate a horizon line in the shower

Contrasting tile colors are proven to help people with vertigo by giving them a horizon line in the shower. That horizon line should be about five feet above the floor. It could be several rows of accent tile, or even contrasting tiles.

Horizon line, Multilevel vanity, curbless shower
Horizon Line, Multilevel Vanity, Curbless Shower

Have towel bars serve as grab bars

How many have had their children accidentally pull a towel bar out of the wall? Keep this quiet, but I’m a grown man and have done it. The bathroom floor can get pretty slippery. We’ll grab the closest thing to steady ourselves. Why not have every towel bar serve as a grab bar? Grab bars can be beautiful, not like the ones in public restrooms. Most decorative hardware manufacturers also make designer grab bars. Obviously, they have to be installed correctly. Not so obviously, that doesn’t necessarily mean into studs or solid blocking. Check out companies like Wingits and Moen for installing bars the right way. How can you know you haven’t created a crack in the stud or blocking when fastening those monster screws? You don’t want to find out by an emergency room call from your 250-pound client.

Design vanities to incorporate varying heights

When designing a vanity, why not incorporate varying heights? This enables someone to be seated or standing, accommodating for a wheelchair or seat if it’s more comfortable.

Door Outswing graphic

Have doors open out

Here is an unfortunate scenario: Grandpa visits and falls in the bathroom against the door. You can’t get to him because the door opens into the room, so you have to call paramedics and you hope they arrive in time. A door that swings out would have saved time by providing immediate access. We know shower doors must always open out.

No-barrier shower entry

Speaking of showers, a curbless, or “beach entry” shower used to be seen as a luxury but is now common. There’s rarely a reason to step over a curb to enter a shower. This feature also allows access for a wheelchair or other supportive device. Schluter, True Dek, and many others provide systems that require little floor framing modifications.

Horizon line in shower
Image courtesy of LIPI

Lever-style door handles

Door Lever with Return
Image courtesy of LIPI

More people are gravitating to lever-style door handles for their aesthetics. They’re also better than doorknobs for those with trouble gripping, especially the elderly and very young. A healthy adult with slippery hands may grab the handle and lose their balance, almost falling as their hand slides off. For the elderly or those with special needs, this is even more common.

This could be prevented by specifying a lever with a return. The return can catch the hand before slipping off. A lever also reduces the risk of the handle catching one’s clothing.

Never place a microwave above a cooktop

Microwave over Cooktop NO

One more safety concern and also a pet peeve: Why place a microwave above a cooktop if you don’t have to? First, there is never enough ventilation, even on the off chance that it’s actually vented to the outside. If it is, it’s probably only 150 CFM, which in my opinion is severely lacking. More importantly, when you have a vertically challenged person or a child removing extremely hot liquid reaching above shoulder level, possibly above a hot element, there’s an accident you can count on.

Exterior doors with flush thresholds

Many door manufacturers now offer exterior doors with flush thresholds so people with a walker or wheelchair can enter without stumbling. All interior doors can be framed for a 36” door, but by extending the bottom plate and infilling the studs for a standard-sized door, and with judicious electrical placement, a wheelchair-width door can be installed in a matter of hours.

Wall detail for an accessible doorway

With 74.9 million baby boomers, and most planning to live in their homes long-term, clients will appreciate the longevity of your plan.

Stack closets for future elevator

Why not plan ahead and stack closets above one another for a future elevator? With 74.9 million baby boomers, and most planning to live in their homes long-term, clients will appreciate the longevity of your plan. An aside: If you specify a residential elevator, they have a typical swing door on each level and an accordion door in the elevator car. Kids can get trapped between what’s sometimes a 5-inch gap. Always specify a space guard on each door at each level. It’s not expensive and will save lives. If you have a client with an existing elevator, refer them to this article.

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These are just a few items to incorporate into our plans. There are many more. I encourage designers and builders to check out the Living in Place Institute for tips on how to address the needs not just of those who want to age in their homes, but anyone with requirements outside the norm. For me, it’s been great to confront issues with aesthetically pleasing solutions for homeowners and their visitors alike.

Adam Gibson, Architectural Designer, CMKBD, CLIPP, CAPS
Adam Gibson
Architectural Designer, CMKBD, CLIPP, CAPS

Adam Gibson is an architectural designer living in Indianapolis, Indiana. He is a Certified Master Kitchen & Bath Designer, Living-in-Place Professional, and Aging-in-Place Specialist. He’s been leveraging Chief Architect software for his business since 1995.

Connect with Adam at Adam Gibson Design.

Want more from Adam? See his previous blog post- The Virtual Tour.

If you’re interested in learning more about how you can leverage the tools in Chief Architect software to meet specific accessibility needs, click here.

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Contest Winners, Professional, Residential Home Design


Modern two story home with rooftop balcony, and lots of natural light.

By Kendra Dorosh

Brent Julius’ 1st place modern lake house in the Chief Architect Residential Design Contest is a stunning example of turning clients dreams into reality.

Brent Julius with 306 Drafting and Design.

“I started designing while in college as an architectural student. Shortly after, I worked at an architectural firm learning a lot about the construction and design industry. A few years later, I transitioned to a job specializing in residential design. It was there that I started using Chief Architect. Fast forward a few more years. I now own a residential design firm, 605 Drafting + Design

“I have been using Chief Architect for 8 years. Influenced by the user-friendliness and capability to help clients visualize their homes, it was a no-brainer to use Chief Architect over other design software.”

Chief Architect has helped me successfully assist in the new construction, remodel, and renovation projects for over 200 clients.

Winning Design

Brent is a very talented designer and we’re grateful to have him in the Chief community! You can see more from 605 Drafting + Design on their website here.

Kitchen Design Options image

If you’d like to learn how to create design options for your clients, like Brent has demonstrated below, check out our training video on the process…

More from Brent

Exterior Options

Kitchen Design Options

Additional Designs

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Contest Winners, Professional, Residential Home Design

Award Winning New England Coastal Inspired Home, by Joey Martin

New England coastal style home, complete with multiple decks and patios, stonework and shake siding.

By Kerry Hansen

New England Coastal Inspired Home by Joey Martin of Martin Design and Planning, places second in the Chief Architect Residential Design Contest.

Portrait of Joey R. Martin, 2nd place winner in the Chief Architect Residential Design Contest.
Joey R. Martin of Martin Design and Planning

“Born and raised in Elwood, Indiana, just north of Indianapolis, I knew from a young age that residential architecture and construction were what I wanted to do.

My first design project, to layout a new home for my family, took place in an advanced drafting class at Elwood High School. Working with the drafting instructor, and a local architect, that I ended up interning with, I created a set of plans and we built the home the next summer.

“I was fortunate enough to attend the University of South Florida for architecture school and to work in the greater Tampa Bay area for a while before returning to Indiana. Martin Design & Planning was started in 2004.

“During downturns in the building industry, I have kept busy teaching algebra in high school, and also worked in the engineering department for Chrysler. I am always drawn back to design and creating construction documents.” 

I have two American Residential Design Awards on my resume, both won using Chief Architect Software.

“I have two American Residential Design Awards on my resume, both won using Chief Architect Software, and hope to add another this year! One of the winning designs is currently featured on the Chief Architect Samples Gallery. With one son at Ball State University, one in High School, and one entering Jr. High School, I will need to keep designing for many years to come!

East Elevation of the New England Style Home that won 2nd place in the Chief Architect residential Design Contest.
East Elevation of New England Style Home

“This project, I love!” The client wanted the look and feel of a New England coastal home, complete with multiple decks and patios. You can find homes like these all along the Eastern coast. The only catch was that this is Indiana. The client didn’t want an overdone kitchen or extravagant baths. They wanted to invest in the details that made their home feel exactly the way that they wanted it to feel. The design includes lots of stonework, shake siding, plenty of outdoor spaces, and a functional floor plan with convertible flex spaces that allow them to change as their needs change.

“I love the results, and so does the client!”

Thank you, Joey, for sharing your stunning New England Coastal style home design. For more information about Joey Martin and his design and planning firm, find them on Facebook at Martin Design & Planning.

Winning Design

Take a closer look here at the full plan set for this home.

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Contest Winners, Featured Customers, Professional, Residential Home Design

Modern Mountain Rustic- An Award-Winning Design by Todd Wilderman

Modern mountain rustic home with timber framed accents and cooperating materials.

By: Kendra Dorosh

With a long history of experience in construction, Todd Wilderman creates a top design in Chief Architect’s Residential Design Contest.

Todd Wilderman hiking in the mountains.

“I started doing residential drafting at about the age of 12. My father was an industrial arts teacher at the local high school but drew plans on the side to supplement a meager teacher’s salary. I walked by his drawing table one day and said: “I could do that, doesn’t look that hard”. The next day, there was another drawing table in the room and I had a garage plan to draw.

“After that, I eventually went on to do many other things… construction trades, sign-making, welding, and carpentry. I also managed to get a BA in Art with studies in Math and Physics, a Construction Management certificate, a diploma in Surveying, and a Masters in Architecture. 

“I started my own design company, Wilderman Designs, LLC in 1990. I started out drawing everything by hand, then I ‘graduated to CAD’. 

“I was always frustrated with the CAD because it was limited in 3D designing. Also, I felt like software should be able to do the more mundane things (like dimensioning) in a more automated fashion.

“I had experience with DataCAD, AutoCAD, Revit, Rhino, etc. but it seemed to me that Chief Architect was a better solution for me since I focus on residential design. I find the software relatively easy to learn and usually very user-friendly. I say this from of perspective of NOT being a computer-type guy.” 

…Chief helps me get it done faster. I think it probably has reduced my drafting time to about 30% of what it used to take.

“I like that I can do everything 3D, all the time. The fact that I can send clients the 3D model to browse on their own time, helps me find more time to do other things and the designs get communicated more clearly and more quickly. Changes are usually quick and easy, and the client is generally more satisfied with the direction of the design from the first rendition.

“I have a pretty steady workflow of about 15-25 jobs at a time and Chief helps me get it done faster. I think it probably has reduced my drafting time to about 30% of what it used to take.”

Winning Design

More from Todd

We’d like to thank Todd for taking the time to share his journey with us and our community!

We were happy to learn about how he’s leveraging the use of the Chief Architect 3D Viewer! If you’re interested in sending your clients 3D models to browse on their own time, like Todd has mentioned he’s doing, you can learn more about sharing Chief Architect 3D Viewer models here.

Professional, Remodel-Addition

August’s Remodel/Addition Design Contest Winners

Elevation view showing the as-built and the remodel.

Congratulations to our three Chief Architect Remodel/Addition Design Contest Winners!

Thank you all for sharing your designs with us and our community.

1st Place

Design by Gabriele Pizzale of Pizzale Design Inc. using Chief Architect Interiors X9.

2nd Place

Design by Kaylen Eckert of Port City Design & Build using Chief Architect Premier X11. 

3rd Place

Design by Mark Supanchick of 3DSpaceplans using Chief Architect Premier X11.

September’s contest is Kitchen/ Bath & Interior Design. Submit your Design!

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Contest Winners, Featured Customers, Professional, Remodel-Addition

Jerry Heckendorn Places First with His Craftsman Style Addition

Layout sheet of a residential second story addition and interior remodel.

By Emily Black

Jerry wins 1st place in the Chief Architect Remodel/Addition Design Contest. His level of detail and craftsmanship show his passion and experience.

Jerry Heckendorn
Jerry Heckendorn

“Soon to be 63 years old, I was born and raised in the Detroit Metropolitan area.  After high school, I attended the University of Michigan, graduating in 1980 from the School of Architecture with my Bachelor of Science in Architecture.  Shortly after graduation, I married my beautiful and brilliant high school sweetheart, Debbie, who often helps me when I’m struggling with project designs… and is also my best critic (soon to be celebrating our 39th anniversary!). 

“Debbie and I bought our first home right after getting married, a fixer-upper, where I completed my very first residential reno design.  When I submitted my plans to the St. Clair Shores Building Department for the building permit, the Building Inspector called me and asked who prepared the documents and shared how impressed he was (you may not remember or know that this was before the advent of Computer Aided Design for Architecture, so everything was drawn by hand back then).  Shortly after, I was contacted by several of what became my first ‘paying’ clients.

“Several years later, knowing that a graduate degree would be required if I was to become a registered architect, I was accepted and enrolled in Lawrence Technological University’s unique, graduate-level ‘BArch’ architectural degree program recognized by the American Institute of Architecture (AIA) (at the time, LTU’s BArch degree program was the only non-Masters program accepted by the AIA to meet the licensing requirement).  I completed my graduate thesis on the “Design and Development of Comprehensive Health Care Facilities.”

“Graduating with my BArch degree in 1983, I took a job with a local architectural firm where I spent most of my time as a ‘go-for’ for the owner and principal architect.  I was charged with taking a lot of as-built dimensions of existing residential and small commercial structures along with providing a number of as-built drawings for the firm but never was permitted to work on any ‘design’ projects.  Staying in touch with a friend I made in my thesis class, we decided to give it a go together and formed an architectural design firm called Hensel & Heckendorn (my partner won the straw draw, so his last name went first)!  We worked on several projects together before succumbing to an economy that had taken a turn for the worse.  We chose to go our separate ways and I ended up taking a job as an Engineer with General Motors Corporation.

A residential second story addition and interior remodel.
“I was quickly blown away with everything Chief Architect software and customer support had to offer!”

“As architecture, particularly residential architecture, has been and will always be my absolute passion, I’ve had the fortune of a very successful, albeit moonlighting, a career spanning over 38 years.  Everything from residential additions, renovations, new single-family residence projects ranging from small to large (largest to date has been a 4,800 square foot 2-story with, believe it or not, a 2-lane bowling alley located under a 5-car garage, complete with gutters and pinsetters), as well as several small to large commercial projects.  Ironically, at the time I was to lose my father to cancer, I was actually commissioned to design a rather large Funeral Home.  Unfortunately, the timing was such that we lost my father before the project was completed, however, the clients who then became friends took very good care of my family through the process of saying ‘goodbye’.  One of the very unique and wonderful outcomes of the ‘residential’ design profession is the amazing opportunity to meet, and often become friends of the clients we work with!  Though I am currently not a registered architect, when necessary, I will collaborate with one of my college professors as well as my old business partner who are both licensed to practice architecture in Michigan.

“Somewhere in the middle of my moonlight business, Computer Aided Architectural Design (CAAD) software programs began to pop up and caught my intrigue.  As a family-proclaimed tech geek, I saw the potential CAAD had for my architectural work.  AutoCAD was the first program I purchased and taught myself.  Shortly after becoming awkwardly proficient, AutoCAD came out with a 3rd party Architectural add-on.  I thought that was ‘awesome’!  I buried myself into the program and was professing the need for my architect friends to embrace the change.  They were very reluctant to abandon the historically rich and romantic craft of ‘hand-drawn’ designs and construction documents.  But I saw the bright light and believed that CAD would definitely be the way of the future for all architectural practices. 

“For a number of my friends, all I had to do was show them how I could flip a completed plan over by drawing a simple line down the middle and all annotation presented itself as if it was always drawn that way, they were hooked.  I can’t tell you how many times that request was presented by a client when I had invested hours in annotating the documents, only to bring out the eraser and get to work removing all of that text only to re-draw it on the backside of the sheet, all the while hoping I did not bore a hole through the sheet… which also happened more than once!  Thank goodness for the ‘power’ erasers we had to work with back then… I still have mine!

Though I saw ads for the Chief Architect program, I did not think it would be advanced enough to use in my business… boy was I wrong.

“Over the years I’ve watched a number of architectural CAD programs hit the marketplace, becoming more and more useful and user-friendly.  In the early nineties, I even had the opportunity to teach CAAD at a local community college for several years using AutoCAD and a new (at that time,) 3rd party add-on called ASG.  Though I saw ads for the Chief Architect program, I did not think it would be advanced enough to use in my business… boy was I wrong.  I started using what I believed to be a high-end architectural software program but was seriously struggling, trying to come up with macros and shortcuts to help speed up my productivity.  I began to dig deeper into researching programs that were geared more to residential work as that is where my true passion lies.”

Large covered entryway with a patio area for outdoor living.

“It was in late 2014, to early 2015 that I thought I would give Chief Architect a try… I believe it was with Version 6.  I was quickly blown away with everything the program and the company (customer support) had to offer!  The very expensive, very difficult and unyielding ‘high-end’ program that had taken me several years to learn and become proficient, paled in comparison to what I could do with Chief Architect!!!  I quickly and literally cut my turn-around time on projects by more than half what it was taking me before and I was able to do things, provide additional types of information, and bring much of the lost, what I like to call, ‘romance’, of the ‘hand drawing’ era of construction documents.

“I continue to be hugely impressed with the updates and additional tools and routines, new functions, and improvements Chief Architect regularly does with their program.  The ‘User Center’ is incredible, and the customer support, who I seem to challenge often as I am always seeming to try something out of the ordinary, is outstanding.  I’ve yet to stump them, and I promise I’m not trying to do that, I just seem to have clients that ask me to do some unique or different from normal-type things.  Chief Architect always seems to come through.”

Dollhouse view of a residential home design that features a large kitchen, family room and library.

“Years have gone by using Chief Architect now.  I’ve completed numerous fun projects and I seem to be getting much better at using many of the program’s productivity and fun functions.  I have even received a collection of outstanding compliments from contractors, builders, but most importantly, several municipalities Building Department Chiefs & Inspectors complimenting me as much about my ‘design’ as the look and content of the working drawings I produce using Chief Architect.  I absolutely give all the credit to the program. 

“As I get ready to retire from my day job working for a large company, I am very excited to dive back into my architectural business full-time.  I mean this sincerely when I say that Chief Architect has provided me the ability and desire to do so.  Thank you to everyone at Chief for what you have and continue to create… and thanks to those of you who ‘liked’ my project entry.”

Winning Design

Thank you for sharing your journey with us and including Chief Architect in your work! For more of Jerry’s wonderful designs, see the projects listed below.

Rumble Design

Osiecki Design

Babisz Remodel

Wyklige Design

Beaulac Addition

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Contest Winners, Featured Customers, Professional, Remodel-Addition

Modern Remodel Design by Eric Hoff

Modern home design with metal and brick siding, roof top patio, and two car garage.

By Emily Black

Eric, an Idaho native, places third in the Chief Architect Remodel/Addition Design Contest. His artistic talents were a perfect fit for a career in home design.

Picture of Eric Hoff
Eric Hoff

“I was born in Pocatello, Idaho and then moved to Idaho Falls and lived on the family farm and worked with my father who flew airplanes and was a metal fabricator. I took on a job as a laborer that placed me in the building industry framing houses and building cabinets. I was very intrigued by the plans that we worked from. I am an artist and planned to go to college in Boise, Idaho to study Art, Advertising and Design. To pay my way through college, I worked construction at various levels including building houses.

“I eventually started my own company and found myself enjoying the designing process and started hand drafting our projects. Clients would often rely on me to help explain what they were looking at when we were studying the floor plans and elevations. I realized that most people I worked with had a difficult time understanding what they were looking at when viewing 2D plans and elevations. I started trying to hand draw in 3D but the time involved was prohibitive.”

Front elevation view and renderings of a single story home design.

” I discovered Chief Architect’s 3D Home Architect product in the early ’90s… which later became Home Designer. At first, learning the program seemed daunting, but as time and practice moved forward, so did the skill set. It was amazing to see clients understand what they were looking at. I HAD to master 3D design – visual graphics. I started creating my own textures and objects so that I could better portray what I wanted our clients to see. Chief Architect is nearly the perfect platform to do this.  We now know that if clients can see it…they will do it once you align design with a budget.

Because he could see, because he could visualize it, he changed his mind from a no, to a yes.

“When I worked with Strite Construction in Boise, Idaho, I spent nearly 3 months on an 18,000sf project and we were very close to presenting the final design and proposing the numbers to sell the job… just before the proposal I received a call that my father died unexpectedly… I had to leave and could not be there for the meeting.  My colleague said that the client did not like the cost and decided not to move forward.  The client stood up and noticed my plans sitting on a table behind him (which they did not use in the meeting).  They were in the corner, 20+ sheets printed 36” x 48” just sitting there.  I had them printed before I left town.  The client opened the plans and slowly reviewed every single page…everyone sat quietly, waiting…watching.  Finally, after an eternity the client said, “you have really spent a lot of time on this, it is very detailed… you guys are serious about this project.” Everyone nodded.  Then he said, “What the heck, let’s do it!” Because he could see, because he could visualize it, he changed his mind from a no, to a yes.”

Winning Design

Eric’s work is truly outstanding. Make sure to connect with him at Hoff Design Build and view more of his designs below.

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