Architect Crush: Mary Maydan

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Founder and principal architect of Maydan Architects, Mary Maydan’s approach to the practice focuses on minimalism, airiness, careful use of materials and a deep connection between the indoors and outdoors. Located in Palo Alto, their contemporary designs can be found throughout the Bay Area, floating like art amongst the lush landscape. Here, Maydan shares with us how she started and what is taking the firm into the future.

Photos by John Sutton

-How did you get your start in architecture? Prior to founding Maydan Architects, I was the U.S. Correspondent of the prestigious newspaper, Globes, the largest and oldest financial newspaper in Israel. I lived in New York City, where I spent my time interviewing and writing feature stories about some of the most inspiring figures of our time. I relocated to Silicon Valley after meeting my husband.  

When we were planning our first home, I fell in love with design and with the idea of making my own mark, as opposed to writing about other people who did great things. I designed an ultra-modern house, which stood in sharp contrast to the traditional and Spanish architecture that dominated our area. It drew a lot of attention and even before it was completed, people came to our construction site and asked me to design for them. The rest is history.

Photos by John Sutton

-Which architectural elements do you feel are most important to take into consideration when choosing furniture and decor? Windows and glass walls are incredibly important to take into account when placing furniture and decor. Our structures are defined by glass walls and large operable panels that create seamless indoor-outdoor flow, and we are mindful of placement of furniture in a way that will not block openings. We also consider placing furniture and decor where it, ideally, won’t get faded by too much direct sunlight. 

We think about furniture placement during the schematic design stage so that each space will be perfect for its intended use. Another important objective is scaling furniture appropriately to the house. Our living rooms tend to be large and tall, so we choose rugs that help with the acoustics. Our sofas, other furniture items, and accessories are carefully selected to make large spaces feel cozy and personal. 

Photos by John Sutton

-Describe one of your most memorable projects and what made it so special.  The new house I designed for my family is probably my most memorable. After years of designing for clients, I loved the idea of being my own client and making all the decisions, without needing  approval. However, it turned out that I had seven pretty demanding clients: my parents who have an attached guest unit in our house, my husband and our four kids. Each of them had long lists of requirements. My two teenagers wanted to live in the basement and insisted on separate sides of the basement. When I told them that plan didn’t work, my son replied, “Mom, you said everything is possible in architecture”. I found a way to create private suites for everyone, and I am really proud that three generations live in the home so comfortably and love it.

Who are some of your biggest professional role models and why? In my practice we strive to deliver the extraordinary. We are always looking to reinvent ourselves and find the next material, next trend, next statement. I admire people who have the vision and courage to set the tone and create something new. In furniture design, Paula Lenti’s revolutionary journey of rethinking outdoor furniture using textiles is inspiring. In architecture, I admire Rem Koolhaas. His designs are phenomenal and he is one of the most important architectural thinkers of our time. He was, like me, a journalist before becoming an architect – one more aspect that I love about him.  

Photos by John Sutton

-What’s your process for getting to know a client? Just as potential clients interview us, we interview them. It is important to us to design for clients who not only share our aesthetics but are also nice people to work with. My background is in journalism, where I often had to sit down for in-depth interviews with a person and write a feature story about them. In a way, in our first meetings with clients I do the same. I ask them many questions about their routines, how they currently live and how they want to live their lives. Our ideal clients have a vision about what they want from their homes and they trust us to realize their dream. We have been very lucky to work with wonderful people! 

-Describe your dream vacation. My dream vacation is a combination of city and nature. I love city life, visiting museums and buildings that inspire me, and exploring my experience in the space and why the buildings make me feel the way I do. As a family we love nature and seeing beautiful places. However, the first condition for any vacation to be dreamy is for my four kids to get along and not fight.

Courtesy of Maydan Architects

LIGHTNING ROUND

-Favorite ice cream flavor?  Anything chocolate, but I prefer frozen yogurt over ice cream.  

-First concert?  My first American concert was Taylor Swift with my daughter. The fantastic production combined with Taylor’s charisma and her affect on her teenage fans were incredible to watch.

-Who would you want to play you in the movie version of your life? Julia Roberts

-Most quotable TV show or movie? Grey’s Anatomy. I have been watching Grey’s with my eldest daughter since she was five and now the little one is falling for McDreamy as well. “It’s a beautiful day to save lives”. Grey’s puts things in perspective. Architecture is inspiring and has the power to shape our lives, but we are not dealing with life and death issues. Watching Grey’s helps us take hiccups in stride. 

Courtesy of Maydan Architects

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