Firm Profile: SBM Design

SBM, Sarah Blanchard Morrison’s one-woman shop came into existence after my family returned to the Bay Area in 2011. After leaving California in 1987, living in three other states and raising three children, it was time for something else.

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Rodeo Before

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Rodeo After

Educated on the East Coast, my early career was on the boards (does anyone say that anymore?) focused on commercial and institutional projects with mid-sized urban firms. But that type of work no longer suited me or my skills. Luckily, I met Geri Murphy of Murphy and Associates Realty Group. Today, I’m a sole practitioner, often working as part of a team that reimagines older homes for the 21st century buyer. We also handle small commercial remodels and renovations.

Alvar Aalto said, “Building art is a synthesis of life in materialised form. We should try to bring in under the same hat not a splintered way of thinking, but all in harmony together.” I approach my work with the perspective that the boundaries created by existing conditions, codes and costs are not an impediment to a building that is both practical and pleasing. I consider the necessarily collaborative nature of architecture one of the best parts of the profession. Finding consultants who can help a project become a reality is a satisfying aspect of every project. My work often focuses on the least glamorous aspect of building: code compliance. Again, collaboration is required to solve problems in a non-adversarial way.

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Lafayette Before

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Lafayette After

The unique personality of each client and the diplomatic and problem-solving skills each job requires are also something I like. And, I can say with honesty that this was not true in the early part of my career. Now more mature, I can think of Mr. Aalto’s philosophy and allow humor to find its way into my daily work.

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Lafayette Kitchen

The final element I bring to my practice is the idea that buildings, when well built, can have more than one incarnation. In this way, my projects and I have something in common– we are finding ways to use our strengths and experiences to reinvent ourselves for the next phase of life.


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