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5 Questions for: Architect Jeff Pelletier

Why he says dimmer switches are always your friend. (So true)

by GRAY Editors Photographed by Alex Hayden

Jeffrey Pelletier in office with modern chairs and white paneled walls

“IF YOU ENJOY CONSTANT LEARNING AND SEEKING CREATIVE SOLUTIONS FOR COMPLICATED PROBLEMS, THEN YOU MAY LOVE A CAREER IN ARCHITECTURE,” says architect Jeff Pelletier, founder and principal at Seattle’s Board & Vellum. The self-described lighting nerd recently wrapped up an extensive build-out of his firm’s new space on Capitol Hill, featured in our June/July 2018 issue, during which he and his team put that complicated problem-solving practice to the test.

Why choose a career in architecture?

Architects are fundamentally problem solvers. It is one of the few professions where there really isn’t an endpoint to your professional progression. Architects face all sort of challenges almost daily, of both the technical and the creative variety. It is a constant cycle of questioning, learning, and problem-solving, which I have found incredibly rewarding.

Finish this sentence: The one thing I cannot live without is… an incredible team who has each other’s backs.

In the June/July issue, you mentioned that you sweated every detail regarding Board & Vellum’s new office space. Was there one detail in particular that you weren’t sure about but, in the end, turned out fine?

Our space has very little access to natural light and so getting the artificial lighting correct was critical (especially in our sometimes-dark Pacific Northwest weather). I’m a little bit of a lighting nerd and so I obsessed over the mix of types of lighting, where the lights should be and how to balance cost considerations. Just following standard lighting calculations would have left us with a space that felt too dark. We were able to achieve the right mix of accent and task lighting that keeps what would otherwise be a very dark space feeling bright and friendly. It is also a reminder that dimmer switches are always your friend.

What’s your favorite trend happening in architecture right now? And what’s something classic that will always stand the test of time?

I’m currently appreciating the increasing trend towards smaller, multi-functional spaces. Without being a tiny house, you can still incorporate a lot of the brilliant packaging ideas small spaces require into a regular-sized home and make that home live larger. This is especially important in the city, where space is tight and you don’t always have the option to add on to your home. And this applies to commercial spaces, too: every square inch matters. From Murphy beds to offices tucked behind casework to utilizing small lofts, and usually plenty of creative storage, we have more and more clients looking to maximize every cubic foot of their spaces and I think it is wonderful.

As far as something that will always stand the test of time, the concept of covered outdoor spaces is key. From a front porch on a Craftsman bungalow to a contemporary outdoor room with a fireplace where your team or clientele can relax in the fresh air, people love being outside and staying dry in the Northwest. That will never get old.

What inspires you?

I’m always inspired by the gorgeous landscape we are blessed with in the Northwest. I grew up in a cold climate where everything was dead and gray in the winter. Here, even with the clouds, we have these lush green backdrops. Wherever possible, I want to bring the outdoors in, as well as create living spaces that wrap the exterior of our homes and offices. The beauty of where we live should be part of our daily lives.


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