04 . 08 . 15


We recently sat down with Del Mar architect Jim Sneed, one of the leading creatives at Bokal and Sneed Architects. Jim and his team have worked in San Diego for more than 20 years, focusing on a range of projects from new construction to remodels in local communities such as La Jolla and Del Mar.


This is the first installment of a 3 part series created in collaboration with Jim. Here’s a list of the articles you’ll see in this series:

 In this article, we focus on:

  • Architect Tip #1: Focus on Quality, Big Entrances First
  • Architect Tip #2: Think Like a Set Designer
  • Architect Tip #3: Travel, Brisk Walks, and Scrapbooks

We Can’t Help but Judge a Home from the Curb

We’ve all been warned against the perils of judging a book by its cover, but we still do it. There’s just something about the look of certain books that either turns us off or makes us want to pick them up, thumb through the pages, read the reviews and excerpts on the dust jacket, and ultimately, re-shelf or buy and bring home.

Think of the last time you were in a bookstore (bonus points if it was a used bookshop): what did you gravitate towards? What did you eventually pick up? Why?

Was it the title or author? The typography selected for the spine and cover? The colors used? Odds are it was likely an unidentifiable mix of everything.

In the end, we’re left wondering: did I choose the book or did it choose me?

Book : Cover :: House : Curb

Homes are the same way. We have no qualms about judging a house from the street, and for good reason. From the very first glimpse of a home, we’re developing that all important first impression, a subconscious checklist we run through en route to arriving at a “feeling” about the house: is it safe to enter? is the yard well cared for? do I like the walkway and front door? is this the house for me and my family?

The closer you get to the house the stronger this feeling is. By the time you’re ready to open the door and enter the house, you have fully formed expectations for what this home will look like inside, all based solely on the exterior appearance of the house. And when it all comes together, you feel as though the home chose you.

This indescribable feeling and first impression is now commonly referred to as curb appeal.

Architect Tip #1: Focus on Quality, Big Entrances First

Curb appeal is extremely important because it colors the way we experience the rest of the house.

When homeowners are trying to increase the appeal of their homes from the street, Jim says they should first focus on three areas because they take up the largest percentage of that street-facing real estate:

  • Garage Door
  • Front door
  • Windows

He stresses that quality is extremely important as you consider replacing these items:

“A typical garage door is 16’ wide, visitors and potential buyers will catch their first glimpse of your home through the windows, and enter your home through the front door. Don’t go to your local hardware store. Focus on finding a quality replacement that enhances the mood you’ve worked so hard to create.”

The quality of your experience with these items is important as well: find the garage door you are excited to pull up to each night; the front door and knobs you look forward to opening on your way in from vacation or to welcome friends and family into your home; and the windows you enjoy looking at, as much as you do looking through.

Architect Tip #2: Think Like a Set Designer

How we experience a space is often affected by mood, which is affected by the movies we watch, the books we read, the people we meet. For this reason, Jim says a major source of his inspiration comes from the set design of movies and TV shows:

“Not a lot of people are aware of the time and effort that goes into set design and how meticulous that can be. I spend a lot of time thinking about how homeowners will use a space in their homes, walk through it, experience it, and interact with it.”

As a homeowner, whether preparing to sell your home or not, thinking about the space you’ve curated within each room and how you interact with it can really help define what it is you like about a certain room, and what needs to change.

For sellers, by thinking like a set designer and trying to engage with the rooms of your home through another more meticulous, outside perspective, you can improve the way potential buyers experience your home.

And for buyers, as you walk through a home for the first time and try to picture yourself and your family and friends here, don’t get wrapped up in what you see. Concentrate more on the story you will be able to tell once you’ve set the stage.

Architect Tip #3: Travel, Brisk Walks, and Scrapbooks

 Whether staging a house to help sell it, remodeling a home, or landscaping to improve curb appeal, different perspectives are always helpful. The Del Mar architect says travel and brisk walks provide an inspiring shift in perspectives.

 “I like experiencing different places first hand. Travel has always played an important part in attaining a fresh perspective. But I don’t always need to travel to a new place for a change in perspective. A few years ago, I made a conscious decision to walk to more projects. I see a lot more as a pedestrian. Walking through neighborhoods to job sites, different things catch my eye, I’m able to absorb my surroundings at a different rate than if I were driving by in a car.”

To help gather these perspectives and build from these initial inspirations, Jim urges his clients to build a notebook of images, colors, textures, materials and more. Regardless of whether his clients are close to beginning the process or not, having a book full of specific inspiration elements will help everyone involved embody the same headspace and get more accomplished in each stage of the iterative home design process.

Have a Home Design Tip You’d Like to Share?

Don’t forget to add your tips and tricks to increasing curb appeal below in the comments section.

And stay tuned for the next installment in our collaborative series of articles written with Del Mar architect Jim Sneed.