Founder of Visbeen Architects Inc., Wayne Visbeen, AIA, IIDA, is a licensed architect and registered interior designer. Visbeen has the skill and vision to make any dream become a reality, whether it be a commercial or residential project. Striving to make every plan unique, his designs are both functionally efficient and visually stunning.
Visbeen is the winner of dozens of Best in American Living Awards, and over a hundred Residential Design Awards.
He currently lives in East Grand Rapids, loves to travel, and is continuously inspired by interior design, architecture, and everything around him.
How did you become an architect?
Basically, I wanted to be an architect. My dad was a builder and my grandfather was an architect, self-taught home designer and a builder of luxury homes in Ridgewood, New Jersey. My other grandfather was a graphic artist in New-York city. Between all that art, architecture and building around me, and I had the gift of drawing as a young kid, I always loved designing things. I went to job sites, worked construction, and ended up working as a mason. My dad wanted me to have a trade to be an architect, so I ended up doing a lot of masonry, brick laying, block concrete fireplaces, so I have a little bit of history building those things in my past.
How do you view the use of a fireplace when designing a home?
A fireplace is integral to the home and I find it to be one of the most compelling pieces of architecture that’s created to the style of the home. If the home is a Tudor style home, the fireplace will most likely have elements of that historic style. If it’s a prairie style home, I’ll try to play off that prairie style with horizontal lines and bricks. If it’s a mountain lodge, it will probably have large roughed stone and timber. I definitely use the fireplace as an interior reminder of the exterior architecture.
I put fireplaces everywhere. I put them in living rooms, kitchens and bedrooms. In our building, we have one in our garage. We have outdoor fireplaces, outdoor firepits, tables, etc.
What should a homeowner consider when wanting to add a fireplace in their home?
Obviously, you have to determine if you want to burn wood, if you have access to gas, natural gas, propane, or if you need to use electric because you’re in a place where you can’t use gas. So, first you have to figure out what source of energy you’re going to use, and then, you need to look at the style of the home. Following the style of the home, if the style is traditional, it’ll more likely be a traditional firebox. If it’s a contemporary home, it very well may be a linear fireplace. I think that it’s a huge part of the decision-making process, but also the fact that the Hot Spot research Napoleon did really spoke heavily to the fact that people gather around fireplaces, that the memory-making moments of a home revolve around a fire. I’m sure that during this corona virus time, people are spending a lot of time around their fireplaces as families. Just gives more than warmth, it gives a good feeling.
Does a fireplace add value to a home?
It’s the anchor, in my opinion, of interior design. You’ve got your kitchen, your range, your range hood and your fireplace, and those are the couple of elements that I think are some of the most important elements of a home to create a look and a credibility to the architecture. I think that the fireplace adds a lot of value to the home in that I think a home without a fireplace feels like it’s missing something. Certainly, if you can have more than one fireplace, it’s even better.
Do you have a fireplace or several fireplaces in your own home? What do you like most about them?
We have a linear fireplace in our living room. We have a design studio in the lower level in which I have a traditional fireplace with a mirrored TV over it. I have a fireplace in the garage that I use as my heat source. I have a Napoleon fire table on my porch, and a Napoleon grill. I’m pretty pro Napoleon as you can probably see.
I have an electric fireplace in my exercise room, I have two others downstairs on the lower level, and I have an electric fireplace in my conference room on the second floor. So, let’s see, I have 7 fireplaces in my home. Yes, I am a fan.
In your opinion, what are the key features or elements when designing an outdoor room?
Outdoor rooms, to me, have a couple of really important elements. Number one is that I like to have an outdoor room transition beautifully from the interior so that there’s a seamless transition between inside and outside in a home. This allows for the outdoor room to be used as if it were an interior room. Once the connection is made, I think it’s very important to have the ability to screen that room. I most often use Phantom screens because I don’t always want the screens down. I like Phantom screens because I can put those around electronic motorized screens that go up into the soffit.
I also like to put heat in the ceilings of my porches so that I can use them longer in the season. I live in Michigan, and I like to play cards outside on the porch, I did so last night for about 2 hours, and it was literally 50 degrees out, but we have heat in the ceiling and we were able to be on the porch.
Whether it’s a fireplace or a fire table, I think fires are really important elements for gathering on a porch and giving heat and warmth.
Is there a percentage of the total value of a home that should be spent on an outdoor room?
That is an interesting question. I would say that if you’re taking a home in its total, you’re probably going to spend 5 to 10% of the home’s value on the outdoor living space. Whether it’s the porch, the patio, the fireplace or the outdoor kitchen. And then certainly you’ll spend more money landscaping depending on the size of your lot. I would say that if you’re building a million-dollar home, 50 to 100 thousand dollars would be a legitimate price point to spend on a beautiful outdoor room.
Does an outdoor room really add value to a home?
Yes, it adds value to the home for sure. I think that today, the two top trends in home design are storage solutions and outdoor living. If you don’t have good outdoor living spaces, I think you’re really missing the boat. Whichever climate you’re in, everybody wants that outdoor living space. Like today, it’s a sunny day, and just getting outside makes such a difference, especially in times of quarantine. I can’t imagine not having outdoor living right now for people.