Over the last 15 years, Architect Karen Smuland has made a name for herself in Bend designing custom homes, remodels and additions. We traced her story back to the beginning in Warren, Ohio–an hour east of Cleveland in the steel belt.
Karen grew up in the suburbs and recalls the excitement of seeing natural materials, adventurous lines and generous use of natural light in the homes near where her family would vacation along the Great Lakes. With an aptitude in both math and art, Karen was naturally drawn to architecture. She signed up for a drafting class in high school which is where she designed her first of many homes.
Karen’s growing passion for architecture led to her six-year enrollment at University of Cincinnati where she was able to travel the country as an architectural intern. Through her internship, Karen gained invaluable first hand experience and insight from a broad range of projects that would equip her for nearly every design challenge in the years to come. Karen later went on to work for Architect, Peter Stoner of Seattle, WA for seven years before opening her own firm in 1997.
Karen speaks of her journey as a young female architect in the late 80’s and 90’s. “Contractors didn’t expect to see any women on job sites, so I had to prove that I knew what I was talking about. That’s really hard when you are right out of college with little experience and still so much to learn about construction. When I was younger and just starting out, I was hesitant to ask questions or to stand up for what I believed to be the right decision. Now that I have many years of experience (and am older) I feel very confident in leading project teams and right at home on the jobsite.”
“I feel that the building industry (at least in Bend) has finally accepted the authority of female architects. There are many family and women-owned businesses, more female architects, designers, landscape designers, building officials and technicians. Yes, it is indeed still a male-dominated field but it’s exciting to see more women gaining traction in the industry.”
Karen feels that it is by a unique and explorative philosophy that she differentiates herself from the competition. With over two decades of experience and an eye for form, scale, proportion and functionality, she strives to bring a new and refreshing approach to the forefront of residential architecture. Karen’s philosophy and options-wide-open approach may be what draws so many owners to her for their projects. She feels that her biggest strength lies in exceeding a client’s expectations by considering any and all design possibilities. Teamwork is at the core of her process; by prioritizing open communication and decision making between owners, contractors, and consultants, she ensures that every detail aligns with her client’s goals. Karen feels that being accessible at all times throughout the duration of the project is key to proactive problem solving and ensuring homeowner’s needs being met.
Karen also understands that custom home design and construction can be a daunting venture. For this reason, her objective with every new project is to prove that it doesn’t have to be.
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