Throughly Modern Design

Liquid Design
Liquid Design

As Michael Williams drives down a curvy road at Lake Wylie, he passes a mix of homes — ranch houses from the 1960’s, modest lake cottages, brick McMansions. It’s the usual architectural landscape found in the Carolina’s, but the home he’s heading for is anything but typical.

His destination is Whitehaus, the contemporary house at the end of road that he designed with his business partner, Michael Standley, at Liquid Design. This 9,000-square-foot home sits atop three acres on a seawall cliff, offering expansive views of the water. Straight lines expressed through a mixture of glass, river slate stone, stainless steel, textured finishes and tiles exhibit the design principles the two architects founded their business on 15 years ago.  

“”Our design style is less about pushing Charlotte’s established traditional design boundaries but more about designing in the style that we know and have a deep-seated passion for,”” Standley explains. “”As a designer of buildings you better make sure you are excited about what the end result will be.  And for us, it’s sophisticated, contemporary design solutions.””

The two believe modern contemporary design should reflect the owner’s lifestyle and it should be personal. “It’s important that a space is more than just a collection of rooms,” says Williams. “This house is like a book. You have to go all the way through it to experience all of the architecture.” With this project, as with any other, Williams and Standley talked extensively with the client to build a solid synergy. “At this level of trust, clients feel comfortable sharing how they live their lives and their daily routines, what’s important in their lives, and what is just clutter. “We have to help our clients wade through life’s distractions to understand what’s really important to them,”” says Standley,

“Once we can get to the heart of their family’s inner workings, we can then design a home to reflect their lifestyle.”

As Standley and Williams walk through Whitehaus reminiscing about how they came up with design solutions for the space, the excitement they have for modern design is palpable. This is their passion. This is why they went into business together. They are problem solvers by nature, and they have a forward-thinking aesthetic which flows through their work.

Their love for contemporary design dates back to their days in architecture school. Standley went to Virginia Tech, while Williams attended the University of Tennessee — both design-oriented schools. Standley studied in Italy, and Williams studied in Poland. During school Standley also spent a year working in Chicago at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP, a large architecture firm with an international presence.

These experiences informed their design preferences while growing their love of modern architecture. “”Good design decisions are influenced by the past, but are not meant to be direct replicas,”” says Williams. “”It was always the creative use of materials and creating space. It was about creating the volume and what do you experience when you’re in that space.””

The two met in the late 1990s while working for an architectural and engineering firm in Charlotte. Their skill sets meshed well. “”Michael is the visionary, great at seeing the big picture, and my strength is in the process, how to implement ideas and make them work,”” explains Standley. “They decided to open a firm dedicated to contemporary modern design, and two years later they were creating the U.S. National Whitewater Center, a client they continue to design for to this day.” 

Liquid Design

From the beginning they have included residential and commercial work in their practice. “We will design anything so long as the goal continues to be design excellence, and our portfolio shows that,” says Standley of the variety of their projects. “There’s no reason a sophisticated, modern environment shouldn’’t be available at work and at home. This dichotomy of project types also allows our firm to challenge our uniquely qualified and talented design staff.”

As Liquid Design approaches its 16th anniversary, the partners are excited about the future and continue to lobby for modern contemporary design. Standley and Williams believe in a holistic approach to architecture, which to them means understanding all aspects of design and construction. This includes the interior design aspects of the project, in addition to them both being licensed general contractors. Both skill sets further strengthen their invested vision for the end product.

““We are not trying to be a general contracting business,”” says Standley, “”We just want to make the process more efficient. Our construction background helps minimize the traditional disconnect between the architect and contractor.””

The biggest change that they have seen over the last 15 years is in how educated their clients are about contemporary design. As for the increased understanding by residential clients, they contribute it to several factors — the proliferation of the internet being the most obvious. Now that everyone has access to images of architectural solutions from all over the world, there are more choices. People can look beyond the architectural norm of their region to create an aesthetic that speaks to them.  

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“In 2015, style is very important for everyone,” says Williams, adding that their clients want homes to enhance the lifestyle they represent, which is often a clean, clutter-free contemporary style. “”It’s about open living environments where the kitchen, dining area and living room work as one,”” says Standley. “”It’s about larger windows that allow light to play a bigger role, and it’s about using different building materials that set the structure apart.””

For Williams and Standley, it will always be about the experience, how someone feels in an architecturally sound space that is both functional and welcoming. “We want the design to be about our clients. We don’t want it to be about us,” says Williams. “They’re living or working in it. We’re just bringing our contemporary experience to the table to craft unique modern spaces for them.”


Liquid Design