"My husband, Bill, and I started the process of building a home two years ago. I was very leery of working with an architect. I had very definite ideas of what I wanted in this house and was anxious about whether or not my own ideas would conflict with those of the architect. I have heard stories from friends through the years of architects who refused to incorporate things into a house that were suggested by clients because it was the architect’s name that was going on the plan. I was not interested in our house being a showplace for the architect – I wanted it to be a showplace for Bill and me. We had previously remodeled a home in Baltimore and I actually designed a small house for my sister who lives next door. In both cases, the builders were fine with working off of plans I had drawn with my computer. I would have done the same thing here except that I could not have generated plans detailed enough to pass the ARB Board and in this case, we were building the North Carolina house while living in Maryland; I would not have been on-site everyday to oversee the construction as I was when I had done the design work myself. As a result, we reluctantly decided to interview architects. Within minutes of meeting Mark, I knew we would be a good fit. Not only did I love all the plans in his book, but I could immediately see that Mark was anxious to understand my vision of the house and that his ego was not going to interfere with the design process. His prices were in line with the other architects we interviewed and so we signed with him. Working with Mark was one of the best decisions we made regarding the house. This is for several reasons: (1) Mark is a team player, as I have stated. Our builder, Thompson Properties, is an excellent builder and John Thompson had some ideas, also. So Mark was working with two other people who felt free to interject their own suggestions. Mark was always open to everyone’s ideas. If something wouldn’t work, he would explain why – he didn’t just reject the suggestion out of hand. I was surprised to find that I enjoyed the team approach even more than working alone, but that was because we were able to build on each other’s ideas to ensure that the best decisions were being made. (2) Mark is extremely knowledgeable. He understands the features that comprise each style, for example, English Country or Piedmont. He kept me from mixing too many different styles together, which would have resulted in a hodgepodge house without any defining look. He also understands all the construction issues so he could intelligently communicate with our builder about the best way to physically build the house once it was drawn. This is particularly important when you are building a complicated room like our great room which is two stories high, has a curved wall on the end, a sloped ceiling in only half the room, and numerous heavy beams and trusses. In addition, the curved wall has several large windows and the interior side of the curved wall is built of stone. This was the first time our builder had done an interior stone wall and I was very worried about the room all coming together properly. But the end result is amazing – both Mark and John (our builder) did an incredible job together. (3) Mark is very bottom-line oriented. Mark doesn’t believe in wasting your time and always gets right to the point. We had conference calls with our builder and Mark every Friday and were able to get through all the issues quickly. (One of the other architects we interviewed was very nice, but I wouldn’t have used him regardless of his skill because he loved talking on the phone and I knew that the process would have entailed my being on the phone with him for hours at a time.) I loved the fact that Mark was direct and always to-the-point. (4) Mark understands interior design. When we got to the point where we had to make interior design decisions, Mark was extremely helpful. I found that I relied on his advice and judgment more than that of my interior designer. For example, Mark helped us with all our wood stain selections, including walls and floors. (5) Mark had a very fast turn-around time. It always amazed me how quickly Mark would respond to my e-mails and send changes back to us. Despite the fact that he was working with several other clients at the same time, Mark always made us feel as if we were his first priority and that we always had his full attention. (6) Mark uses 3-D renderings. Initially, Bill and I were a little skeptical about paying extra for 3-D drawings but in the end, we were so glad we did. It is so much easier to communicate ideas when there are visuals – it even helped the discussions between Bill and me when we had to make decisions. I have no doubt that the great room would not have turned out as well if we hadn’t had the 3-D drawings. They were also indispensable to the cabinet makers who built Bill’s office. There was a lot of detail to his office and the cabinet makers were absolutely thrilled when they saw we had the 3-D renderings. (I will never forget the look of relief on their faces when we pulled those renderings up on the computer during our initial meeting!) The bottom line is that we loved working with Mark and that we were thrilled with the end product. Our house was a little unusual in that we wanted both his and her master baths along with his and her offices. That made for a lot of rooms on the main floor but Mark put it all together beautifully. I never thought that an architect could satisfy my requirements in terms of both knowledge and creativity, but Mark truly surpassed my expectations. And what made it even better is that he is honestly just a really nice, decent guy with a lot of integrity, which is also very important. If we were to build another house in the future, our first phone call would be to Mark. I whole-heartedly recommend Mark Shattuck to anyone who is thinking of building a new home."