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Firm Profile: Shelterwerk

“Shelter”: a position or the state of being covered and protected.

“Werk”: (derived from Old High German) a piece of art, an achievement, the result of one’s labors.

Established in 2009, Shelterwerk is a creative collaboration headed by architect Heather Sanders, AIA and interior designer, Lisa Wai, IIDA. Lisa grew up and received her degree in the Midwest, while Heather, a California native, completed the bulk of her education in Oregon. Both relocated to the San Francisco Bay area, and became colleagues and friends while working in other firms, eventually opening Shelterwerk in Oakland several years later.

“Our services include integrated architectural and interior design services for both commercial and residential projects. Programming, space planning, tenant improvements, and selection/acquisition of furnishings describe some of our offerings to commercial organization. On the residential front, we take on anything from bathroom and kitchen remodels, additions, conversions of existing spaces to secondary units, as well as ground-up construction. We are also a resource for entitlements and permit expediting services. We work throughout the Bay Area and beyond: past and current projects cover Monterey, the South Bay and Peninsula, San Francisco, North and East Bay as well as the Sierra Foothills and Tahoe area.

We are down-to-earth, approachable advocates for the people we work with, attempting to create spaces that are a reflection of who they are, and not who we are. We see our role as educators, empowering our clients with a knowledge that allows them to make informed decisions about their projects that are appropriate for their budgets and objectives. We don’t limit ourselves to doing business with humans, and have been known to occasionally take on canine and feline clientele.

Shelterwerk strives to achieve a level of social responsibility in their practice, working with groups like Satellite Affordable Housing Association, Tenderloin Neighborhood Development, Pivot Learning, and Project Commotion among others in the housing, education, and health realms. For these clients, we offer our design services at a discounted rate, or occasionally pro bono, dependingon the level of need and the magnitude of their challenges in their respective communities. We are also registered on TheOnePlus.org, subscribing to the belief that the benefits of good design should be within reach for all.

Shelterwerk likes to see itself somewhere in the middle of whimsical experimentation and exacting precision in their approach and craft. We believe our product reflects a thoroughness and care, and while we understand that that requires a lot of hard work and intelligence, laughter and a lightheartedness should be part of the equation. The very definition of our name requires that we embrace the poignant and the banal of any structure or space, and that we make something beautiful, memorable, and meaningful out of it.”

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