As an architect, designer and entrepreneur, I believe everyone should be able to have a stylish home at an affordable price. I spend my time providing people with the tools they need to do just that in a variety of ways, including my YouTube channel, where I have taught viewers how to make everything from a concrete stool for $5 to an outdoor sofa that takes fewer than eight hours to construct. It is my belief that technology is key to making home renovations more accessible for all types of homeowners.
When I was in architecture school, my classmates and I would gush about the brilliant design work commissioned by the likes of Prada and Guggenheim. Back then, design and architecture felt like an elevated and stylish pastime that culminated in exotic destinations and flashy clientele.
But eventually, my friends and I wanted something more down to earth and became more interested in sustainable architecture. After school, we became successful at this endeavor, but still, we were primarily serving wealthy customers for their second homes. I love architecture, but the business model of a professional service firm tends to focus on clients with deep pockets. It takes just as long to do a custom design for an affordable house as it does an expensive one, so it’s economically natural for talented designers to seek the more valuable commissions.
I wanted to go back to the basics. Design is about creating access to new things no matter someone’s resources. That’s why I started sharing free designs and how-to videos on the internet: to equip anyone with the tools to create a stylish home.
Factoring in Technology
Technology such as artificial intelligence (AI) and 3D scanning has been huge in making curated kitchen and bathroom designs accessible to everyday homeowners. When you do a fully manual design, the initial documentation process alone is expensive, and those fees get pushed down to the homeowner. Taking the initial measurements with 3D scanning technology and generating floor plans using AI is surprisingly cheaper for the end user. Not only that, but they also receive a level of accuracy that is rarely ever seen in the renovation process.
So, AI and 3D scanning not only make the process cheaper and easier for the end user, but it gives them access to architects and designers they wouldn’t have otherwise been able to work with. The reason is twofold:
Because of the streamlined process that AI and 3D scanning provide, AEC professionals are readily able to access current conditions, plans, takeoffs, materials schedules, robust construction documents and fabrication files, among other things. Access to all of these elements is invaluable for an architect or kithen and bath designer who does not have the internal resources or overhead to handle this. This gives the pros the ability to do more of what makes them passionate and/or take on more clientele and expand their brand.
The sad truth is that many people get turned down by firms to do their renovation because their budget isn’t large enough. Cheaper homes take just as many resources to complete as the more expensive projects, so oftentimes the smaller ones are the ones that are turned down.
I am one of the designers involved in rolling out a collection with Skipp Renovation, a company that has found a way to resolve both issues through technology so customers can get access to fully customizable design collections. For the exclusive collection, I pulled inspiration from the materials and finishes from my own renovations.
Included in the line is Walnut, where mid-century modern meets natural minimalism that marries fine lines with curves, whites with walnut woods, and stones with metals, and Oak, which offers a contemporary and warm oak-centric design that brings the glow of nature into a space through honeyed tones, light stones and brushed metals.
In an ideal world, I’d be able to work with everyone who wanted to work with me. Thanks to technology, I’m able to work with people in a totally different and innovative way.
Ben Uyeda stepped away from the award-winning architecture firm he co-founded, as well as an Ivy League teaching position, to develop media companies that deliver affordable designs to the masses. In the last four years, his design ideas have reached more than 50 million people and his designs are being built on six different continents. His designs have been featured in an exhibition and workshop at the Vitra Furniture Museum in Germany. Follow him on Instagram: @benjaminuyeda.