Testimonial From Kevin Buckby and Jo McKinlay
“We retained Wencke and Russ to design our dream home and we have been thrilled with them through every step of the process. Russ and Wencke are both thoroughly decent people who care deeply about their work and their clients, and through the journey of building our home they have been a joy to work with.
We came to Russ and Wencke with our vision for a 3,000 sq’ custom home to be designed in the style of a modern farmhouse barn. We interviewed many architects and were surprised by how few had the versatility to design a home outside of the conventional cookie-cutter modern style. Russ and Wencke stood out as truly creative, and from the outset they were passionate about our vision and the challenge of making it a reality.
Russ’s knowledge of the planning and permit process was invaluable in helping to manage the process, both with local agencies but also with neighbors in our community. As a result we passed planning first time, with no amendments and with the full support of everyone in our neighborhood, which was extremely important to us. In fact, at the conclusion of the city planning meeting each member of the commission took the opportunity to commend the design of our home.
Our good fortune in finding Russ and Wencke to design our home ran dry when we chose a general contractor against Wencke and Russ’ advice who quickly proved to be out of his depth and as a result became hostile and divisive. In what became a very difficult working environment Russ and Wencke showed incredible patience, grace and poise in dealing with a very toxic personality, and always without complaint. Eventually we terminated our GC and began working with the contractor who Russ and Wencke initially recommended, who has proven to be awesome.
As the house began to take shape Russ and Wencke have always been available to troubleshoot questions that come up on site, or work with us on the small design flourishes that define a custom home. The small things that individually seem trivial are, collectively, what create the overall impression of something unique and special, and it’s in these details that Russ and Wencke truly excel. Their creativity, instinct for how things should come together and their impeccable taste have been essential in helping us achieve our dream.
Working with a husband and wife team has been a great experience. We are building a dream home where we intend to raise our family, so having an architect team who are married and can relate to us and anticipate the needs of our family as it grows has enabled us to create elements in the house we would have never considered.
Building a house has been an intense experience and along the way we have met many different people, but Russ and Wencke stand head and shoulders above them all for their professionalism, creativity, commitment to achieving the best outcome and for being true partners on our journey. Our home is beautiful and beyond what we could have dreamed was possible. If you’re in the Bay Area and considering working with Dotter & Solfjeld you are welcome to visit and see for yourself…just ask Russ and Wencke and we’re happy to host you.”
Testimonial From Brian Byun
“Russ and Wencke designed and managed the build of our new 4000+ sf contemporary custom home for our family. After interviewing many firms, we chose to work with Dotter & Solfjeld as:
- We liked that we were getting two integrated designers on a home starting from an empty weed lot, where we had broad range of unformed as well as specific ideas. We liked that the two are an experienced team that fully designs and project manages from concept to details, instead of delegating a lot of detailed design to a less experienced project architect.
- We wanted our unique style/home that reflected our pragmatic and quirky inputs. Because they had worked such a wide range of client projects and vernaculars, we felt they could help us discover our own unique “California Modern” design, not a look alike from their or someone else’s portfolio. We wanted a modern home that could entertain well but also was a livable, warm and functional family home. With some other firms we sensed a tradeoff between the photogenic vs. livable!
- They were easy to work with on fees and process, and understood where and why we wanted to stay on budget and scope and where/why we wanted to stretch.
Our experience proved out all of the above expectations. We were largely on budget and schedule on the design and permitting (with Russ steadily pushing the project thru a dis-organized County permitting process), and only a few months behind on an aggressive construction schedule. The design outcome was fantastic and non formulaic, and what we wanted and imagined both aesthetically and functionally. Of note is how Russ spent a full summer day observing sightlines and daylight on the lot, which resulted in creative siting, views and and indoor/outdoor layout that we cherish every day.
The overall design iteration–from outside to interior details–was steady, collaborative and easy. The “Eureka” solutions and adjustments came out of fluid brainstorms between the four of us (two architects and two clients), and often the good-humored collaboration extended to our pre-picked contractor & landscape architects.
I’d recommend Dotter & Solfjeld highly. We’d be happy to provide a reference.”
– Brian Byun
Letter of Recommendation From Brettkelly Residence Project
“Russ and Wencke “got” us immediately. We wanted a modern, light, fresh and colourful home with a Kiwi Coastal slant and that was exactly what they delivered with artistry, decisiveness, grace, speed and incredible good humour. We owned a 40’s Brady Bunch -like home in Oakland which we took back to the studs and added to. I loved every minute of working closely with them for 18 months and now they are our very good friends and our lives are richer for that. They worked seamlessly with everyone else on the project and were able to get plans passed with a minimum of fuss. They were always there when we had concerns and for the million and one decisions you have to make. Although ours is a very minimal, eclectic style, the amazing thing with this couple is that can do any style – Colonial, Spanish, Tudor, ranch, mid century, they have done them all beautifully. Anyone who hires this couple has just made their lives and project so much more fun, efficient and easier. We cannot recommend them highly enough.”
Jody Brettkelly and Kevin Coldiron
Testimonial From Karen and Ross Werner
“We are so pleased with the home Russ Dotter and Wencke Solfjeld designed for us. From start to finish it was a real pleasure working with them. Specifically, they were:
Easy to work with: Before we even bought the property, we asked Russ to come down and take a look at the lot and on very short notice he drove down to access the feasibility of designing a home on a lot that was 75′ wide with 20′ setbacks. The responsiveness we received before we even signed the contract continued throughout the project. Whenever we put a call into them it was always promptly returned. Russ was always able to accommodate us in scheduling meetings, usually in the evenings.
Creative: Designing for our long, narrow lot and coming up with an interesting, attractive house was a challenge. We both liked the first design concept, and the final plans were just small refinements. They were sensitive to our budget constraints and helped us come up with cost effective solutions. They really listened carefully. Whenever we casually mentioned an die or something we wanted to have in our home, the next set of plans would incorporate this change.
The Planning Department and Architectural Site and Review Board in Woodside are notorious for being difficult to work with. Our design moved easily through the review process. Our first set of plans was unanimously approved by the ASRB. We received an unsolicited letter from our neighbor, the town mayor, saying how much he and his wife liked the plans for our home. In addition one of the members of the ASRB has since selected Russ and Wencke to design the home they are building. We continue to get compliments from people about how our home really suits the rural character that Woodside is striving to maintain.
Detailed and thorough: Throughout the design process, Russ worked closely with the Town Planning department staff to understand the local ordinances and design requirements, both written and unwritten. This up-front effort paid off in a quick and easy trip through the design approval process.
While we thoroughly enjoyed working with our architect we had a real nightmare experience with our builder. Russ was very patient and helpful in resolving some major difficulties we encountered
in the building process. Each time there was a problem with our builder, we were grateful for the thorough set of plans and specifications that Russ had put together. While our friends building homes hired a designer in addition to an architect, Russ and Wencke helped us select tiles choices, paint colors, fixtures and even furniture layouts.
Over the course of the entire project, Russ and Wencke were always a pleasure to work with and we really enjoyed their enthusiasm and obvious love for their work.”
Karen and Ross Werner
Testimonial From Persson Residence Project
“We worked with Dotter & Solfjeld to design a villa on a steep hillside in Saratoga, CA which several other architects and contractors had deemed an unbuildable site. As soon as we bought the lot, Russ began studying the landscape, spending significant time at different points in the day to intimately understand the light, the views and the flow of the hillside. Once he felt he knew the property, he and Wencke spent time with us to understand what we like and dislike and then began designing our house based largely on Italian building principles of thick walls and simple, yet elegant, construction. Russ and Wencke involved us in every step of the process and ensured we were completely comfortable with each phase of the design before moving forward. Once we were ready to build, they totally went above and beyond the call of duty by negotiating with our planning department and even mediating a heated dispute with one neighbor, that resulted in Planning Commission reviews and appeals. The appeal, which we easily won, was argued on the night their second child was born, but they were by our side nonetheless! Russ was our advocate with the City and was clearly extremely well respected by everybody he worked with.
During the building process, Russ worked closely with our Contractor and foreman to ensure that the project ran smoothly and stayed on budget. Often times, there is tension between architects and contractors, but our contractor loved working with him…basically everybody loves working with Russ and Wencke. Speaking of tension, building a house can be a stressful time, but doing it with Dotter & Solfjeld was a complete and total pleasure. We can unequivocally and enthusiastically recommend Dotter & Solfjeld!”
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Testimonial From Bill Hurlbut and Erica Goldman
“Russ Dotter was the best part of our entire house renovation project. His design was tasteful, practical and innovative, he was responsive to our requests and suggestions, and he was completely accessible for questions and revisions during construction. Moreover, he was tactful but effective in mediating matters with the Woodside Planning Commission. It is wonderful to work with a professional who really loves his work … we could not imagine a better architect for our project.”
Bill Hurlbut and Erica Goldman
William B. Hurlbut, M.D.
Department of Neurology and Neurological Sciences
Stanford University Medical Center
371 Serra Mall – Stanford University
Room 345, Gilbert Hall
Palo Alto, CA
Testimonial From Diane Rosland
“I have known and worked with Dotter & Solfjeld for approximately 10 years now. They have designed two of my homes and were amazing to work with. One project was a completely new house and the other an entire remodel of an existing home. They listened to our needs and were able to translate those into exquisite designs with well thought through & comfortable living spaces. We are repeat clients and have referred them to a number of our friends and acquaintances who are also happy and impressed with their work. Each time they come up with fresh new ideas. I highly recommend you contact them!”
– Diane Rosland
Testimonial From S.R. Ram
“Russ and Wencke helped us redo our entire house in Menlo Park. They were involved from the inception of the process and incredibly helpful in understanding what we wanted to do, and then took the images in our head and created a blueprint out of it.
They were always willing to listen , understand our perspective and inform us of the pros and cons of the approach we were taking – and helped steer us away from some changes that would not have been consistent with the vision we had for the house.
We highly recommend them. The home we enjoy now could not have been accomplished without their experience and close professional collaboration with our contractor.”
– S.R. Ram
Testimonial From Ray Marshall
“Our house was sorely in need of a makeover – it was old, dark, and had a clumsy out-dated layout, however it had great redeeming feature, it had a great bay view that we wanted to capture that wasn’t there when the house was build in 1940.
When Dotter & Solfjeld walked in they immediately made suggestions as to how to turn our house around. Within minutes we knew this was the team to hire. Now the house is light, airy, contemporary, flows well and – captures our view very nicely!
Dotter & Solfjeld also recommended the contractors, Strand Builders. Their performance was everything that you rarely hear about – they were on time and within budget! Steve Strand gave us a flow chart of when everything would happen, what our deadlines and responsibilities were, and when they’d be finished. He even found time to add little extras that weren’t thought off for no extra cost!
I would recommend Dotter & Solfjeld to anyone considering remodeling their home.”
– Ray Marshall
Testimonial From Rock Irvine
“Total makeover of our 60 year old country home with fantastic results. Expanded from 1600 to 2800sq feet, opened up the formerly cramped living/dining/ kitchen to bring them together and give a great sense of space.
Walls gave way to numerous french doors which give access and a visual connection to our large yard.
Guests, workman and most everyone who visits comments on the house, how unique it is and how much they like it.
Architects were very responsive to our needs and questions and a pleasure to deal with. Our contractor was positively impressed by their design and seemed to get along very well in his interactions with them.
Used them more recently for an upstairs screened porch which turned out great and are now having them design an outdoor Scandinavian style structure with a sauna and changing/sitting room for the backyard.”
I recommend them highly.
– Rock Irvine