Partner Spotlight: Richard Laffin, Saint Paul Architect and AIA Member

richard-laffinOur next Partner Spotlight is on Richard Laffin, one of the architects we’ve had the pleasure of working with. As a member of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), he’s committed to continued education, personal growth, and building strong relationships with clients.

Richard is also a Minnesota Greenstar Associate, the Chair of the Saint Paul Heritage Preservation Commission, and has served as a juror for both BATC and NARI competitions.

We worked with Richard on our Lake of the Isles project, and we appreciated his diverse experience and knowledge that helped this project become a success.

His long-term relationship with the client helped this project flow through each stage of the process, and offered us a unique insight we don’t often have: one of not only an architect, but a close family friend.

The Role of the AIA in an Architect’s Career

As a member of the AIA since 1994, Richard is an advocate of its role in an architect’s career. The AIA was founded in 1857, and now has over 90,000 members with over 260 chapters. One of their roles is to advocate for the value of architecture in society, as well as providing the resources architects need to develop their skills.

When you hire an architect that is a member of the American Institute of Architects, you know that they follow the highest standards in their industry, specifically regarding antitrust compliance and attribution of credit.

Each member is bound by the AIA’s Code of Ethics, which shows their commitment to treating clients and other industry professionals well. Richard counts membership as a natural extension of the commitment and endorsement of architecture as an industry, including the principles and integrity that has helped shape the industry.

Young Architects Need the AIA

Joining the AIA is a critical part of an architect’s career, and offers a diverse range of support, beyond the benefits listed above. Richard offers three reasons young architects should join the AIA:

  • Fellowship
  • Education
  • Vendor relationships

As an AIA member, your chapter becomes part of your professional network. Your fellow members can introduce you to contractors, designers, and other industry professionals. If you’re a recent graduate, the mentorship (formal or informal) can offer the confidence you need to grow your career.

The educational resources offered through the AIA, specifically at their yearly conventions, offers an opportunity for professional growth. This is critical in architecture, as guidelines change and procedures develop each year.

The seminars and workshops you have access to as a member can also help you offer additional services to your clients.

Building vendor relationships is an important part of your role as an architect, and the AIA conventions will introduce you to new products. These conventions are also an ideal time to reconnect with colleagues and meet new members.

The AIA Supports Your Career

Richard credits the AIA for introducing himself to colleagues that have also become lifelong friends. They’ll offer each other recommendations on new products, contractors, and suppliers, and offer guidance or support if needed.

He has also chaired the annual RAVE Awards for several years, which offers the chance to increase attention on the value of superior residential design. This is the type of professional benefit you’ll receive as an AIA member; working with your colleagues to help expand your industry’s reach.

Designing the Lake of the Isles Renovation

Richard has worked with the owner of Lake of the Isles in four other residential projects, which has resulted in a strong friendship. As he describes, “They manifest an old-world sense of generosity of spirit and inherent trust.” Once the client began looking for a home renovation company for this project, Richard knew that he wanted to bring us on.

We appreciated the collaborative nature throughout this process. This project had a beautiful result, and we believe it was because everyone involved respected each others’ skills and expertise.


With a renovation of this scale, we were able to incorporate the client’s desired aesthetic throughout their entire home, creating a cohesive and unique space. The bathroom uses the available space efficiently, and offers enough storage, along with dual sinks, tub, toilet, and shower.

Completing a Home Renovation as a Team

The Lake of the Isles renovation is an example of great teamwork between the architect, designer, and contractor. Personal relationships are at the core of what we do, and Laffin agrees. His personal connection with the client is what makes a project a success, and helped build an air of trust.

Aside from the personal relationship, Richard enjoyed recreating the space with a clean, minimalist design. Its gardens and the materials used all contribute to the aesthetic, and we’re thrilled with the final result.

The kitchen encompasses the owners’ desire for a minimalist kitchen that was built for their lifestyle. The pendant lights and additional décor also help add their personality and design aesthetic to the space.


Our goal is to always blend function and aesthetic so that clients feel comfortable in their space, and that their movements are efficient.

Learning from Architectural Challenges During a Home Renovation

Every project we take on as a contractor will have challenges, and the same is true for architecture. Richard focuses on finding solutions within the nature of the problem, instead of overplaying them. If we take the time to examine the details, solutions will appear.

There are an array of possible challenges that can arise from a project, like the site itself, zoning, or budget. When we look at the heart of the problem, we’ll often find the answer.

“The more difficult a project appears to be at the outset, and the greater the apparent limitations… the more satisfying the eventual solution.” – Richard Laffin

The living area in Lake of the Isles offers stunning views of the property, and we wanted to highlight that through the design and décor. It’s important for a room to be comfortable yet beautiful, and Richard helped make that a reality.


Building a Quality Team is Critical for a Project’s Success

One of the reasons we enjoyed working with Richard is his expertise and passion for architecture. Richard mentions our team of subcontractors and suppliers, as well as our foreman that helped make this project a success.

“Tim Purcell got this job because he was the only contractor on my list of recommended builders who came to the first meeting fully prepared.” – Richard Laffin

We’re proud of the team we’ve built, and honored that Richard recommended us for this project. Our goal is to be as prepared as possible for every meeting, including the project, design, and our intended approach for the project. The teamwork from everyone involved in this project contributed to its success, and we’re looking forward to the next project we have with Richard.

One of our favorite elements of our work is partnering with designers and architects that love their work and contribute to a successful project. Richard Laffin is a perfect example of this, and shows how an architect can build their career with the AIA.

While working together on the Lake of the Isles project, we were able to overcome challenges as a team and create a unique finished product for our client. The unique home shows the owners’ aesthetic, and that was largely due to Richard’s expertise.

If you would like to see what we can add to your home renovation team, give us a call at (651) 748-1304.