Testimonials

 

House Renovation - Sprinkle

“My husband and I asked Stephen to help us consider redesigns for our home in Spring 2017, and we are glad we did. We’ve renovated numerous homes, but we wanted to take on something that would be more challenging. We also wanted new ideas and some imposed structure that would help us keep to a budget (both a budget for a house and what we were able to pay an architect). Stephen delivered on all those items. He took his time walking through the home, listening to our thoughts. What we liked. What we hated. How we planned to live in the house. He was very mindful of our wishes, giving us ample opportunity to provide feedback to several plans he came up with for our home. We were able to narrow in on several key concepts and come up with a plan that shaped our future home. The detail he provided was above and beyond what we paid for, really helping us to build out what was on paper and making the securing of permits a breeze. He also suggested alternative ideas for things we were convinced *had* to happen to make the house what we wanted. Our initial ideas were very expensive, but after working with Stephen, we could see they weren’t needed. The cost savings from those items alone more than paid Stephen’s fee.  Our design will play out in stages to spread the costs over time, and with every new project, we appreciate Stephen’s overarching vision for the design. He was very friendly to work with, and even offered to help after the drawings were complete if we needed questions answered.  We’ve gone on to recommend Stephen to several friends. He has great ideas and takes you on the design journey with him. He listens, involves you in the process, and warns you if you’re venturing into an area that will take you someplace you don’t want to be. Our home was so quirky, but he maximized its perks while addressing robust flaws. Our home is truly unique, functional and an extension of us – everything you want a home to be.” -Matt & Kristin Sprinkle

House Renovation - Belmont

“We began working with Stephen Balut after purchasing our first home. We heard horror stories from friends who had remodeled, and we were terrified of the process and had no idea where to start. As we discussed remodeling, we were worried that an architect would have a grand vision for our home that we would never be able to afford. Around the time we first met with Stephen, he was finishing plans for a high budget house that was enormous. We had a limited budget and our house was small.  I remember the first evening we toured our new home with Stephen. My wife and I expressed what we liked and didn’t like, how we hoped to use the space, and we described our style. Rather than telling us what we should and shouldn’t do, he asked us how long we hoped to be in the house, how much we wanted to invest, and asked thoughtful questions about our lifestyle. As we walked from room to room, we told him our ideas. He listened and instinctively told us which of them would add value and which ones would not. He was careful not to make any recommendations at first but instead he listened and asked far more questions than we expected. It was clear that he understood this process was about us and not him.  After a few weeks, and a few more questions, Stephen came by to present a few options. We were blown away. Not only were his plans very simple and beautiful, but they were so far beyond anything that we could have dreamt for our space. What impressed us even more than the design, was the fact that he had found a way to make it work within our limited budget. He stressed to us his how important it was to him personally that things were priced accurately and that his projects stayed on budget throughout the entire process.  Stephen did such a tremendous job of understanding our style, that to this day we are convinced that he likes everything we do. From the materials he chose to the size of the windows, our use of space and the overall aesthetic of our house, we feel like Stephen understands who we are, and does an even better job describing it than we do.  It was truly a delight to work with Stephen. We have enjoyed every aspect of it. Now that the plans for our house are completed, we no longer think of Stephen as our architect but as close and trusted friend.” -Ryan & Danielle Hill

House Renovation & Addition - Donovan  

"We are writing this letter to encourage you to choose well in deciding which architect to use for your home improvement project. From our experience, we declare you cannot do better than Stephen Balut.  Eileen and I worked with Stephen in 2017 to develop a plan to revitalize our 1920’s stone cottage into a real home with more space. He helped us decide how best to design the space we had, raise the roof and create a dream come true.  Stephen designed my needed work space for an office, an art room that doubles as a crib room for visiting grandbabies, an en suite master bedroom and a guest bedroom.  Stephen Balut is wonderful. Beyond his recognized expertise as a talented architect, Stephen has personal qualities that make him exceptional. We found him easy to work with. He listens. He designs what you need. He brings a superlative imagination to the work. He gave us really good options with wonderful graphics which brought the ideas to paper, where we could see them. This visualization allowed us to appreciate the reality of the job.  This architect is a patient  communicator who does not talk over you. We never felt rushed or pressed in our dealings with him. We feel we really received good value for his professional services and his fees were reasonable. You can spend more on an architect, but you won’t get more. This man is a jewel. Needless to say, we highly recommend Stephen Balut to you. Good luck on your project." -Jim and Eileen Donovan.

House Renovation - Washington DC  

"Stephen was recommended to us by a friend who had a great experience working with him. He was phenomenal. He took time to really listen to us. This was crucial in understanding our aesthetic and functional vision. He was intuitive, responsive and patient. This was our first home and first renovation and we needed a lot of guidance. Our home is a small DC row home, and we wanted to maximize the efficient use of the limited space, creating a more open and light atmosphere. In addition to the immediate renovation goals he also helped us visualize some ideas we had for an addition which integrated with our large back yard and love of outdoor entertaining, which will be the next project we embark on. We had permit issues early on and we had to submit several permit drawings, which often required multiple revisions, in a very short space of time. Stephen created and edited these drawings and diagrams often within hours of talking on the phone. He was a life saver. The only regret we have is that we did not engage Stephen to manage the project from start to finish…on our next project we definitely will. Our experience with Stephen was an absolute pleasure and we highly recommend him." -Nicolaas Fourie

New House - Floating House[s] 

"Stephen Balut worked closely with my husband and I for some 18 months on the design and build of our new vacation home. My husband and I first met this fine young man through our son. At that time, mid-2012, we were thinking about building a vacation home on a piece of hillside, forested property that we own at our local state park in rural Marion, Virginia. We wanted something special, unique, something that worked in a very pristine setting, and after looking at some of Stephen’s design work, we knew we wanted him to design our home. We were impressed not only with Stephen’s talent and energy, but also we were so appreciative of his loyalty to the project, his quick follow up and superb customer service. Stephen made multiple trips to Marion in the first phases of the design to discuss and listen to my husband, asking questions, brainstorming and ensuring he understood our vision for the home. Stephen then provided multiple drawings - each conceptually unique but in line with our vision – and then worked with us to fine tune the final design. We especially liked the way Stephen could work with the local environment to make a small space architecturally unique, and at the same time deliver a WOW effect. Stephen has a keen eye for space, and a building fit to the local environment. For us and for Stephen, the “narrative” we wanted to capture in our new home was so important (we took our small, old cabin down by hand and reclaimed the wood and stone from it, and wanted this incorporated into the new home and surrounding site). We are thrilled with new family home resulting from his consultation, collaboration, dedication, ideas and design. But most importantly, Stephen became our valued friend during this project. He is inspired, energetic, committed and so trustworthy, and a very talented young man to boot. We feel honored to be a reference for this hard working architect. We hope we have an opportunity to talk with people who are thinking about having Stephen design their home. We would also be happy to have a prospective client come see our home in the woods that Stephen designed. Stephen gave us a gift that our grandchildren and their families will enjoy for many years to come." -Suzanne & Richard Jennings

New House - Rockfish River House

“When you meet Stephen, it is clear that he is passionate about his work and takes the time to listen to your ideas. Our initial thoughts on [our new carriage house] were welcomed by Stephen, but in the end, he had a much better fit for making everything tie in together. He is very knowledgeable with local building codes, building materials and structural integrity. His drawings were very simple to understand, and he worked in our current design/style into something far better than we would have ever dreamed of. Every single general contractor that got a copy of the drawings were also very impressed with the amount of detail. We look forward to working with Stephen again, on any work that we have planned for the future.” -Michael & Kristi Roper

House Addition - Vista Addition

"My wife and I live in a 94-year-old home on Garth road in Charlottesville.  For the past twelve years we have thought of adding a great room to the house, but our main concern was keeping the style of the original look and stucco finish. We met Stephen Balut and he completely understood our desire.  Stephen made some very sound suggestions while clearly respecting our vision of the addition.  He spent time at our home and then in his office where he presented several ideas, each in line with our hopes.  He worked quickly and after a few alterations (that he accepted and adopted to quickly and inexpensively), we had a set of drawings to begin the contractor bidding process. The construction was recently completed, and we could not be more pleased with the result.  We highly recommend Stephen Balut as an architect for your addition or new home design."  -John Lauer

New Building - Scout Center

“I am pleased to highly recommend Stephen Balut with whom [our local council of the Boy Scouts] has had the pleasure of working for the last eighteen months. We plan to construct a new Scout Center and sought an architect that would be both engaged in our vision and aware of the budgetary constraints faced by every non-profit. Stephen came highly recommended by one of his clients who is a strong supporter of the Scout mission, and who thought Stephen’s sensitivity to the needs of his clients would make him a perfect fit for us. I am happy to say the prediction was perfectly accurate. At the outset, Stephen told us that he knew very little about Scouting, but he is a listener and a learner and it was apparent very early on in our relationship that he recognized those qualities as fundamental to our success. By listening carefully, he absorbed the tenets of Scouting, and our goals for the center which permitted him to produce drawings that very accurately reflected both. His insights into the design process and experience with construction allowed us to arrive at an exciting plan that was well within our budget. Ours has proven to be one of the most pleasant professional relationships that I have encountered in over four decades of my involvement in development. I could not recommend Stephen more highly.” -Craig Redinger

New Building - Sky Studios & SIA+IX

“I have known and worked with Stephen both personally and professionally over the past three years. As property owners and developers in Charlottesville we have utilized his design, planning, consultation and visioning for our organization on every project we have considered since we first met him. Stephen epitomizes the best in an architect, designer, visioneer and building/construction advisor. Not only does he have cutting edge ideas and radical concepts of beauty, he is able to seamlessly integrate imaginative visions with a grounded understanding of implementation reality, particularly the realities of making successful development projects. So working with him is a dream come true as he is able to provide not only a very high level of design and aesthetics, but is also able to help us calibrate our financial objectives by considering the practical needs of a development plan including logistics, costs and return on investment. I have consistently experienced Stephen to be an incredible person, extremely kind and considerate, with his heart and mind balanced with regard to how he treats others. His practical skills in the building trades are apparent in his pragmatic approach. His work in the developing world, his dedication to art, his ability to move ahead in the fields of architecture and urban planning, his incredible achievements in design and creative process all exemplify his status in my mind as a ‘Renaissance Man;’ further set apart from his peers by his ability to work hard and effectively execute projects. Your organization, team or endeavor would be extremely well served with Stephen as a member...Stephen is an incredible asset to our team and likely will be to yours. It is truly a privilege to work with him."  -Fabian Kuttner, Monticello Associates.

Commercial Office - Relay Foods

“After many years of month-to-month arrangements and sublets, my company finally had an opportunity to move into a home of its own. As we signed the lease on our new space, we knew that we had to fully embrace the word “potential” in order to transform our office from dull and uninspiring into something more. It was ours and it would ultimately become our home, but it initially wasn't much to look at. As we started the initial design phase, we took to heart of a quote from Pixar's Brad Bird, who notes that: The mistake that a lot of people make is thinking that you can force ideas to come; You can’t really. All that you can do is observe what kind of environment puts you in a creative State of mind and then try to create that environment.  From the beginning, Stephen Balut shared that same philosophy and ultimately led us towards a design that exceeded our long held desires. As the project unfolded, it would have been easy to instinctively dismiss our often pie-in-the-sky ideas. Instead, Stephen provided an open ear, tempering our concepts with his professional expertise to arrive at something tangible that perfectly fit both our vision and budget. On that note, Stephen was always very conscientious with respect to what we realistically could and couldn’t afford, and provided excellent guidance on how to stretch our limited dollars. He worked tirelessly to provide creative, high “bang-for-buck” solutions, rather than simply defaulting to “Sorry, you can’t afford it,” and settling for the path of least resistance. As a result, we were able to create our own version of the environment that Brad Bird describes something that we’re proud to call home and that wouldn’t have been possible without Stephen’s guidance.” -Kase Luzar, Relay Foods.

Commercial Development - IX Warehouse, IX Art Park and more

"As a property manager for commercial and residential properties, and as a representative for a team of Charlottesville developers, Stephen has proven to be a valuable asset for a variety of projects.  I have worked with Stephen for two years and he has quickly become my immediate resource for projects. Stephen is my resource for architecture, design, construction advice, and ongoing education. Working with Stephen has been a pure delight.  Stephen is both a creative mind and thorough architect.  Our organization has used him for both pragmatic and creative purposes.  His skills are endless and we have consulted with Stephen on development, urban planning, and artistic endeavors.  He has provided clear guidance and design in many challenging situations.  His insight to development and design, while understanding our creative motives, place him above and beyond  other architects.  While outstanding design is essential to the success of any architect, Stephen has also proven to be a patient and extremely kind person.  He not only attacks each project with a thorough and balanced approach, but he takes the time to educate those around him.   Stephen makes every project a teaching moment.  His willingness to take the time to share and educate along the way also sets him above and beyond his peers.  Stephen continuously exceeds our expectations and his work is always extraordinary.  There is no question that we will continue to partner with Stephen on future projects.  I recommend Stephen with the highest confidence.  He has proven time and time again to be an invaluable asset to our team and I am confident that he will be of great value for you."  -Erin Hill, The Terraces, Central Place & IX

Commercial Office - Peter Jefferson Place Buildings I, II, VI & VII

"I have had the pleasure of working with Stephen Balut on a number of projects of various sizes over the last few years. I initially met Stephen when he was working as an architect for a tenant leasing space in an urban office/warehouse we were redeveloping. The space was dated and not appealing in any way. Stephen reimagined the space into a very hip, forward-thinking creative office environment that was a huge hit with the tenant. Ugly office space was dramatically transformed with the addition of windows, numerous skylights, open ceilings, metal ducted HVAC, stained concrete floors, barn doors and even little “phone booth pods” to provide some private area in a now very open atmosphere. Stephen also worked with a very limited budget for this new start up and helped the client achieve the greatest impact with limited funds. Our firm then hired Stephen to work on space planning and construction documents for a number of tenants. Stephen listens to what is needed and turns around very thoughtful plans with great speed. It is a pleasure to work with Stephen and I would be happy to discuss his efforts in greater detail if desired." - Lisa Jones, President of Pavilion Properties

Previous Architectural Experience

“Stephen was self-directed, capable and thorough. [He] has a strong commitment to sustainability and enjoyed the challenge of developing Passivhaus wall details...His details evidenced a sophisticated design sensibility -- resolving tricky junctures with elegant solutions…Stephen is a real pleasure to work with. He’s enthusiastic about design and detailing. Practicing architecture is not just a 9-5 job - Stephen loves the profession and seems indefatigable…I recommend Stephen highly.” -Allison Ewing, Hays + Ewing Design Studio

Previous Architectural Experience

"I have no hesitation recommending Stephen. He is highly efficient, ethical, and extremely dedicated to whatever he is tasked with. He has a remarkable ability to get along with people, which is evident from the success of his collaborative work. His kindness and enthusiasm are delightful and inspiring. His design abilities, formed by an amazing variety of experiences worldwide, are unique, thoughtful, strong, and beautifully articulated." -Brendan Kelly, Hart Howerton, San Francisco Office