Franklin Report New York City
Franklin Report Report Card for Belsey & Mahla Architects in New York City

Belsey & Mahla Architects

41 Union Square, Suite 836
New York, NY 10003
(212) 924-7948
www.belseyandmahla.com
erika@belseyandmahla.com
Main Contact: Erika Belsey
FR Rated

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Architects

FRANKLIN REPORT RATINGS
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4.5
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Services & Specialties
Tailored, individualistic, residential architecture

FR Review:
Hailed by clients as "immaculate professionals," Erika Belsey and Philip Mahla approach each project with the natural enthusiasm of people who do what they love. Luckily for their clients, what they love is thoughtful, full-service, sleeves-rolled-up, residential architecture. Though Belsey cut her teeth on Milanese Modernism and Mahla his on Texan ranch houses, both shy away from stylistic proclamations, preferring to focus on developing a home that fits the needs of its inhabitants. Known as relentless editors, Belsey and Mahla continually add and subtract in all phases of a project, from hand-drawn schematics to installation. They are also sticklers for detail: if it makes sense to widen a hallway by six inches, they'll find a way to do it.

Belsey received her M.Arch at Yale and worked at various international firms before a stint at Skidmore, Owings and Merrill. There she met Mahla, who earned his degree at Rice University. The two quickly discovered a kinship that ran from a mutual respect for Rosario Candela to a childhood obsession with the World Book encyclopedia sets. Conveniently, Belsey and Mahla also shared a dissatisfaction with the impersonality of large-scale architectural firms. Hence, the formation of this boutique company in 1994. Though there have been opportunities to grow, Belsey & Mahla Architects remains a two-person operation. Says Belsey, "There's no part of the process we don't enjoy, so we never saw the need to pass it off to anyone else."

The firm charges a standard markup on construction and usually spaces payments out on a monthly plan. Clients often ask for interior design advice, and while the pair is happy to oblige, their official responsibilities are limited to "everything that's not soft." Though Belsey and Mahla prefer to take on large residential projects, they have been known to make an exception if the creative challenge is unique. To ensure that each job receives its due, the firm will only take on a small number of projects at a time (around five). This can make Belsey and Mahla difficult to book, but devoted clients say it's worth the wait.

Representative Client Comments:
"Erika and Philip don't stop listening to you throughout the process, and they don't stop improving on the original design." "They took what I had in mind and made it better." "Their attention to detail reaches a near-neurotic level. They even shopped for shoe and tie racks." "We have weekly meetings with them, and they keep minutes, which allows us to track the progress of the job." "Very present on the job site. They breathe down the contractor's neck." "They gave us the most thorough bid proposal I've ever seen." "They wanted to use pear and I wanted walnut. Rather than trying to argue with me, they worked out a compromise." "Their attention to detail—from the doorstops to the moldings—was impeccable." "Expert at taking seemingly insoluble problems and creating showstoppers." "They were worried the process was slowing down, so they scheduled emergency meetings and we got back on track." "People ask me how I can run an office, practice law, raise three kids and renovate my home. 'Erika and Phil,' I say. They worry so I don't have to."

 
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