Foster Dale Architects

Word of mouth often is key to helping companies grow their business, and it was along this line – encouragement from a friend – that brought Foster Dale Architects (FDA) to where it is today. Principal and owner Foster Dale had experience working with firms in Philadelphia and Chicago, when he started doing smaller, custom residential projects in Chicago. He launched FDA 17 years ago when he designed a custom home for a friend. Earlier this year, FDA worked with that same friend’s father to complete a historic renovation on a home to make it accessible. 

The ongoing goal of FDA, Dale explains, is to create projects that “delight and inspire” its customers. By delivering on this goal, the firm continues to drive that word-of-mouth business.

“Referrals are so important,” Dale stresses. “Clients come to us with an architectural problem that we can help solve, and when they are happy with the outcome that leads to more referrals. It shows they were comfortable with the process we led them through. When they refer their friends, it says a lot. 

“We really try to listen well,” he adds. “When we offer them design alternatives, we show we implicitly understood what they asked for.”

FDA’s portfolio includes custom residential, commercial, institutional, offices and mixed-use, multiresidential projects. It strives to always work collaboratively with its clients to deliver a space that best meets their needs.

“We like to work with smart people who know what their goals are – we help them meet those goals,” Dale explains. “We work throughout the city of Chicago and the suburbs, and some repetitive themes come up. Right now, clients have a fascination with outdoor space, and they like us to integrate the inside and outside. That’s a fun thing to play with.”

Teaching and Guiding

Earlier this year, FDA completed a new house on a wide lot, which is not the norm for its work in the city of Chicago, but Dale stresses that FDA enjoyed working on a project like that.

“The space had a nice backyard, and we made sure the design really relates to the city and the outdoor space with the material choices and general forms we used,” he says. “The owners didn’t have any kids, but they had a great art collection, so we put a lot of emphasis on displaying their art – the second floor looks down on the living room. We also addressed future accessibility issues so the house can accommodate them as they age. It was a really fun project for us.”

FDA approaches its projects by always listening to clients first. Clients will give the firm ideas, and then FDA shows them different options. Dale notes that FDA never forces a particular style on clients, but instead allows them to choose the option that reflects their personality and needs. 

“We find that as the project goes along, the building will talk to us,” he says. “We take inspiration from lots of places – other projects we like, a photograph, great architecture, a painting and clients’ inspirations.”

He explains FDA aims to deliver what clients really want in a home, instead of just crossing off items on a checklist. Right now, clients are looking for homes that have a lot of light and flow well, and FDA plans to continue to deliver that, as well as whatever else clients are interested in. 

“We love custom residential projects,” Dale says. “We love integrating sustainable elements when clients are open to them. We see ourselves in the role of teaching and guiding our clients, and we take that seriously. We collaborate with our clients to create their vision, and then we collaborate with the builders to build that vision. We learn a lot from all the trades, especially about how we can make our designs better to build.” 

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