Keith Baker Design: Specializing in designing energy efficient homes
By: Jesse Champagne
KB Design is a full service custom home design studio that specializes in designing energy efficient homes that are bright, space-conscious, and built with natural materials. By understanding the unique needs of their clients, KB Design is able to deliver the highest quality custom residential homes, additions and renovations. Building a home is a team effort, and as a result KB Design has built strong relationships with local builders, engineers, interior designers, and landscape designers in order to consistently deliver the very best homes to its clients.
Keith Baker, the Founder and President of KB Design, was born and raised in Victoria, British Columbia. Keith has been designing locally and internationally for over 30 years. With a prior history as a cabinetmaker and joiner, Keith has practical building experience to go along with his impeccable design skills. On top of that, his creative background as a professional musician has given him a unique insight into design work.
“[I’m] very much interested in how things are made and why things go together… [I’m] also very keen on the idea of how space affects people… not just the functional level of walking around or sitting or looking out at a view but the energy of the space, the materials you use, the context, how you relate it to the natural world and things like that. That’s been a focus and an interest from the very beginning for me.”
The company motto, ‘We create our homes – then they create us’ is a play on the famous Winston Churchill quote, ‘We shape our dwellings, and afterwards our dwellings shape us.’
“What he means by that is, we’re going to be influenced and impacted by where we live. If you have no windows and they paint the walls black you’re going to have a hard time feeling good. If you don’t have enough protection you aren’t going to feel good either. Somewhere between these two extremes is the place where we feel most comfortable. I pay attention to how things feel and therefore how they affect us… I hope that every house I design has a positive influence on the people that live in it. Hopefully that value that I put into it—that makes it something that affects you in a positive way—will always affect the people that live there.”
His creative designs have won countless awards, including the gold SAM Award in 2012 and 2008 for Best New Single-Detached Home over 4,000 Square Feet in Canada. How was this possible? Was there a secret formula behind his success?
“I think it’s that uniqueness, it’s that willingness to stretch. In a way it’s more of that instinctive way of doing things rather than the trained way of doing things… It’s that creativity and that willingness to think outside the box. Coming up with unique solutions rather than repeating what other people do… I see a lot of people who do design work that try to take a little bit of this and a little bit of that and they try and piece it together and turn it into something, [but] it lacks focus, it lacks a unity and [it lacks] a continuity.”
Keith believes that too many interior designers around the world have forgotten that simple does not necessarily mean stupid. “A lot of interior designers ‘shout.’ They do stuff that is loud and distracting and exciting… Your house can be stimulating but I think it’s also important that it’s a place that can be restful. Not sleepy and boring, but somewhere that is at peace with itself.”
Keith elaborated, “I believe home design should strive for authenticity. For me, that means creating a home that both fits the site and provides a vibrant, light-filled and harmonious place to live. Often people get caught up in where the walls should go; I focus on where the space should be.”
All that being said, creativity isn’t just a switch you can turn on. It has to be carefully cultivated. “I think that [it’s not] easy to train people to be creative. I think you can train technicalities but I don’t think it’s as easy to train people to be creative…[By] thinking of it as a unique piece that serves unique people in a unique place… then that turns into better projects than if you’re more technical about it [and use] that tried and true ‘by the book’ [technique].”
Despite his success, Mr. Baker isn’t interested with working in the commercial sector. “[My work] is strictly single-family residential. I don’t even do multi-family. I don’t do townhouses or condominiums or whatever. I do single-family [homes] for the people who are going to build that building and live in it. It’s really for the user. That’s what I’ve always done, that’s my focus, and that’s what I love. Commercial work is, I’m sure, satisfying for those who love commercial work, but this is more important to me because this is where you live. People spend a lot of time in their homes and the quality of that space and how it affects you is a pretty important responsibility.”
Another responsibility for KB Design is to create environmentally friendly homes. “One of the most important things to being environmentally friendly and green is the use of energy that it takes to keep a house going after it’s made—keeping a house warm or cool… The idea is to not need the heating energy if you can help it. If you make something that is well insulated and well fueled then you don’t need as much [energy].”
Keith reiterated, “Do your due diligence—build walls and insulate them properly—so you don’t need as much heating energy to keep people comfortable…. [We] try to source materials as locally as possible and keep the energy efficiency high, the insulation values high, [in order] to avoid the heating costs down the road… All of these things add up to a comfortable house that doesn’t cost as much to run… Does it cost more in the short-term? Yeah. If you put in more insulation it costs more, [but] ultimately down the road it costs far less to operate.”
When asked about his short-term and long-term goals for the future, Keith was focused on the long-term future. “I don’t really think short-term. Carrying on, short term is giving impeccable service and quality of design to my current clients… One of the long-term goals would be to work internationally and to be able to work for people who appreciate what I bring to the table and [who would] want something creative and interesting and unique. That kind of involvement from a client is ideal… I think we all want to be appreciated.”
With a focus on sustainability, green design, and creative aesthetics, KB Design will continue to push the boundaries of innovation, conservation, and beauty. Keith Baker wouldn’t have it any other way.