What happens when inspiration hits at the wrong time

I had just awoken from a short night. Having flown in the night before to Salt Lake City to meet with my clients for a new home, my schedule was already busy early this morning with last minute binding of drawings and sketches. I was presenting my two-week’s intensive conceptual design work in less than an hour. While they are always prompt and I certainly try to be on every occasion, I had to call them to do the unthinkable: Postpone the first presentation. This is a scary moment for a designer. If late to the first meeting, they may have second thoughts about their decision to hire an out-of-state architect. Trust lost is the doom of any project.

Sometimes you have to take risks. That was just the first one.

I wasn’t just late because of miss-timing my morning but rather something potentially life-changing … in a good way. While looking into the mirror shaving, I was slapped in the face with inspiration. Rather, INSPIRATION. I had to respond and it had to be right at that time. I phoned my client and they were pleased that I called to let them know I was running late and I’d explain when I arrived.

I have not always responded to inspiration’s knocking but I’ve learned over the years of practice that one must be available to it. Any time. Any place. It can mean the difference between a great project and a mediocre project; a great detail or color and a missed opportunity for architecture, or the difference between a well-configured floor plan and a flop. The danger of missing that moment of inspiration is that it can be extremely difficult to go back to your client later with a “new” idea after having sold them on something else – often something less.

The long meeting went well but toward the end, I then explained my tardiness. Although, I had worked diligently for weeks on five designs, none were quite right and it dawned on me just minutes before our scheduled appointment. I then explained that inspiration had taken my breath away minutes before our meeting and that I simply had to spend time to explore these feelings. It resulted in sketches for this sixth house concept – their new home. They loved it.

A hugely successful meeting, an excited client, and a pleased architect.

The adage “90 percent perspiration and 10 percent inspiration” is 100 percent accurate. However, without the inspiration, the perspiration and hard work that goes into each project may ultimately produce a dull project. Why would anyone want to spend 90 percent of their time on an uninspired home? Not this guy. So I seek those opportunities to be inspired.

Inspiration comes at unlikely moments. Practice responding to inspirational moments. Embrace them and learn to listen to your inner-self (your “gut” as my father said). You may find it is challenging at first because of all of our various professional and personal deadlines. However, the rewards in my practice have proved themselves much greater than the risk.


Todd Mather is a licensed architect and a member of the American Institute of Architects. He specializes in both custom home design and residential remodel/addition projects. His work is primarily focused in the mountain-west resort towns. Mather is the managing partner of a tridisciplined firm consisting of 12 architects, civil engineers and structural engineers.

Learn more about Mather and see his work at www.ToddMatherArchitect.com and www.GaryDavisGroup.com or follow him on Twitter at @ToddGMather. He can be contacted via email at ToddMatherArchitect@gmail.com.