“It’s not as sexy as most architects’ stories,” Douglas Wilk says about his circuitous road to an architecture career. But it took bravery, financial sacrifice, and four years’ separation from his wife.
Wilk says that, as a kid, he would “have lots of conversations with my mother about how we could renovate our house—and I would draw floor plans.” Somehow, he took a wrong turn into banking. While he realized quickly he didn’t want to be a banker for the rest of his life, it took some urging by his wife to take the hard road: Get his Masters of Architecture at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in upstate New York while his wife worked as an attorney in Manhattan. It quickly became clear it was the right decision. He found he “didn’t mind staying up all night doing work.” Instead of being “laborious,” like banking, “it was just fun.”
The work may be fun, but Wilk takes his clients’ needs and finances very seriously. “We’re dealing with people’s nest egg,” he says. His experience in banking means he pays very close attention to the bottom line, but Wilk’s vision is also fixed on the horizon. The resulting home should “fit its setting perfectly, look like it always belonged there, and stand the test of time. Architecture is complex geometry and it needs to be dynamic. If you try to force the home design to make it fit a vision, you make a “compromised home.” And that just doesn’t add up.
The House: Soundview, an English castle built in 1907, has “beautiful stonework and an incredible presence on the site” overlooking the Long Island Sound. However, the previous owner’s renovation attempts “almost destroyed it; they just ripped all the charm out of it.” Wilk redesigned every room, replaced every floor, wall, door, and added more than 2,000 square feet of additions to return Soundview to its proper stature.
Contractor: Howie Dym, DHI Construction Services Inc., Flushing, NY, (718) 639-3200
Interior Design: Peter Balsam and Jayne Goldstein, Peter S. Balsam Associates, New York, NY, (917) 340-7773