Today’s guest is Kevin Gossen, President of Gossen Architects in Lafayette LA. Kevin specializes in traditional and historic design for custom residential dwellings. He’s followed his dream of being a residential architect that began when he was a young boy of five years old and began sketching home designs.
Kevin’s work has been published many times, highlighting the attention to historic vernacular design. His designs can be found throughout the south, spanning from Texas to Florida. People who contract with Kevin Gossen or buy his custom homes know that they are receiving quality designs that will stand the test of time. A “Kevin Gossen” design is a mark of excellence.
A graduate of USL in 1981 with a Bachelor of Architecture, Kevin comes from a large family raised by Alberta and Jerry Gossen, both of whom were much admired in our community. One of seven siblings, all of his brothers and sisters live in Lafayette and remain close by making plans at least once a week to gather for lunch.
Growing up on Ronald Blvd. in the heart of Lafayette, Kevin’s love of architecture was nurtured by his dad, Jerry Gossen, who was a commercial architect and engineer who made his living in commercial and governmental work. His grandfather was a contractor. Design and build are concepts he grew up with.
“As early as I can remember, when I was a young boy, five or six years old, I was sketching houses on a large pad. In fact, I wish I still had the pads depicting those sketches. I’ve known I wanted to do this my entire life. His dad, Jerry, focused on the commercial architectural sector; he would look at Kevin’s sketches and tell him: “You need to get those houses out of your mind. You’ll never be able to make a living doing houses.” His dad meant well, with his message coming from the experience gained at his firm, O’Rourke and Gossen, with fourteen architects who exclusively designed commercial structures. Jerry was well-known for his work on Chase Tower downtown (formerly the FNB building) and Women’s and Childrens Hospital, among others.
However, his mother’s creative influence on him gave him the direction to follow his dreams. “There was nothing she couldn’t do. Her influence probably had a greater influence on me than my father.” He was also greatly influenced by the beautiful work of A. Hayes Town, whose late-career was focused on traditional residential structures, after a lucrative career as a commercial architect.
“He’s been a great influence on the type of work I try to do. In the beginning, I tried to emulate Mr. Town and as I got more comfortable with my abilities I brought them to the table. I used his work as a strong influence. However, I threw my own spin into the architecture. As an example, Mr. Town’s work focused on “living space” and downplayed the kitchen space, closets, and bathrooms. In his day, people wanted kitchens out of site and bathrooms were not the luxurious spacious ones we see today. However, Town’s love of salvaged bricks and wood, and earthy textiles, is one Kevin shares and which you will see in many of his designs.
“My first love is beauty in a home and I have learned functionality along the way from clients and living life. Our homes are both functional and beautiful. We design how people live, with an eye for resale. Don’t design for the two events in your life….design for the everyday. That’s what makes a home happy. People’s habits don’t change when they move.”
When a client hires Kevin, they get not only an architect but also a professional who guides them in design choices inside and outside the house. He helps clients select paint, flooring, textiles, as well as the look of the gardens, patios….all of these elements need to be integral in the design. Sometimes an interior designer can select a look out of sync with the architecture of the house; Kevin guides his clients to ensure a cohesive design from inside and out.
Kevin also works on renovations and additions to historic properties assuring the architecture is respected and preserved. “Location is a premium for so many people. They may want a great location so they will buy an older property, gut it and start over. Like in the Memorial area of Houston.”
He shared that Lafayette will see more demand for older properties to be remodeled as people want to move closer into town in developed subdivisions. There is a trend of people buying homes and tearing them down. He cautions clients with an older home who are considering a major renovation….”if you’re not happy with how it is, you may spend more money remodeling than just tearing it down and starting fresh. Major renovations are more costly than new construction. You spend money and have to make a lot of compromises with the existing structure. The more you are doing to an existing home, the more starting fresh is the best option. For a renovation to make sense, you don’t want to destroy more than half of a structure.”
A 3400 square foot is a good size. The cost of building a 2000 square foot home as compared to a 3400 square foot home is not that different when you look at the cost per square foot. The bigger square footage just tends to provide space for larger rooms.
What are the trends today? Your parent’s living room has been gone for a long time. Some clients want dining rooms, others desire more casual space. “A dining room is a space of luxury.” It’s good not to make the dining room so formal. Use that dining room! Make that a valuable space. You can let it double as a library with bookshelves. A new trend is having multi-uses for rooms.”
Another trend is for new homes is not to be totally open….to have semi-division. You don’t want to feel as though you are in a gymnasium. “A sense of separation and a sense of openness.”
“Good architecture doesn’t equate with excessive funds being spent. The most important thing in a home is proportion. You can take humble materials, much like the Acadians did using materials of the earth, with great proportion and you can create beautiful architecture. Proportion is your biggest friend: from the exterior, the proportions of window sizes, roofline….. it all comes into play. It takes a mind that recognizes all of those differences. Mixing those proportions differently, out of proportion, can lead to a nightmare.”
Kevin’s son, Crawford, recently earned a Master’s in Architecture and works with Gossen Architects. So now there are three generations of talented architects in the Gossen family.
Gossen Architects is located at 220 La Rue France in Lafayette. Kevin may be reached at [email protected] or (337)233 6272.