“A career invested, not ‘spent,’ significantly influencing the residential design and construction field, one that allows us to experience our lives in the ways that we do.” So reads the criteria statement for the NAHB’s Best in American Living Awards’ Hall of Fame. During the 2019 International Builders’ Show® in Las Vegas, the three 2018 inductees have brought vision, innovation, leadership, and fearless execution to their work. What was extra special about this year’s class of inductees was their camaraderie and history of working with each other.
Mike Kephart, founder of Denver-based residential architecture and land planning design firm KEPHART; Jillian Pritchard Cooke, founder of Wellness Within Your Walls; and Arthur Danielian, founder of Danielian Associates, collectively have given our industry a legacy of new product ideas, designs, and innovative solutions that have become part of our lexicon today. We are grateful for their creative, pioneering vision.
In accepting his award, Mike Kephart recounted the story of starting his firm in 1974 in a single rented room above a garage: “Today, they would call it an ADU…then we called it, well, a garage,” he reminisced.
It’s an apropos story for a man who has invested much of his energy in housing for later life; he even co-authored a book about it called Building for Boomers. Kephart built his company on the mission “everyone deserves a well-designed place to live, work, and play,” and doubled down on this commitment when he founded Sidekick Homes, a design and consulting firm dedicated to accessory dwelling units that start at 360 sf with two-story structures up to 1,160 sf and can function as beautiful backyard cottages, guest cabins, and living pavilions.
Today, architects, designers, builders, developers, and elected city officials all struggle with the very real need for attainable, flexible housing. Kephart has delivered proof that it can be done. When he left the stage at BALA, he left us with this charge: “I’d like to challenge you to look for ways to make big homes smaller, protect our environment, improve accessibility, and find ways to create affordable homes. I did my part and now I pass the torch to you.”
Jillian Pritchard Cooke recognized the support given to her throughout her career from both Kephart, who served with her for many years on the NAHB Design Committee, and Danielian, who provided her first interior design project right out of college. Her firm, Wellness Within Your Walls, serves as a bridge between consumers and the building and design communities; its primary goal is to provide education on building and designing healthier interior environments. Her aim is to connect the global community with healthy, eco-sensitive products that result in beautiful, sustainable, and nontoxic environments.
She credits work done with the NAHB Design Committee and her contribution to NAHB’s Design Trends Roundtable, ultimately shared with The Prince’s Foundation in the UK, for helping her focus her work.
“Engaging in a conversation with The Prince’s Foundation, many NAHB members, and staff, it became apparent that in order to further the conversation about health and wellness in housing, it should start with thoughtful design and a deep dive into the toxins present in the building process,” she said.
The real catalyst, however, was much more personal: her diagnosis with a rare environmental cancer. In 2010, she took her passion direct to consumers with the Atlanta opening of BEE, a unique retail boutique that promotes fashion and home furnishing products that meet the Global Organic Textile Standard, Wellness Within Your Walls, the Sustainable Furnishings Council, and Cradle to Cradle standards. Pritchard Cooke has more than 30 years of experience with design projects in many markets, but it is her commitment to bridging the gap between knowledge and execution of building healthier interior environments that is truly changing the world.
Arthur (Art) Danielian celebrated 50 years last year at the helm of Southern California-based Danielian Associates. In true Art fashion, and as one of the most giving members of the design community, he shared his award with those he truly credits for his success.
“This award is not about me, it’s about all the people around me,” he said. “I would like to honor and thank our clients and industry friends for the opportunity to be of service throughout the years.” A tireless industry mentor, Danielian is generous in heart and spirit and with his time. He delights in making space for young leaders to shine and creating connections between students and industry veterans.
Danielian was one of the first architects to embrace a market-driven design approach, committed to really understanding and sharing how people want to live. Residential housing and community design concepts, such as wide and shallow lot configurations and innovations to “z-lot” design, are physical proof of his commitment to creating places with incredible community character.
Often still among the first to arrive and the last to leave the office, he has never considered his work to be “work.” It is both fun and his life’s purpose. In accepting his induction into the Hall of Fame, Art left us with this challenge: “Get out there and volunteer, join a committee, mentor future young professionals! Pay it forward!”
While the 2018 BALA Hall of Fame inductees celebrated a moment at the awards ceremony to recognize their individual work, the true lasting recognition comes in how these industry visionaries have pioneered design innovations that have changed the way we live. And collectively, they’ve done it by generously supporting those around them.