Real Talk: Dan Eckelkamp, AIA

Dan Eckelkamp found his passion for modern and contemporary residential design – becoming an architect as his second career. After years working at firms in Dallas, including with well-known architect Lionel Morrison, he started his own architecture studio, Eckxstudio for Modern Architecture, about six years ago. He and his wife are residents of Preston Hollow, and their house was featured on the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Dallas Home Tour last fall.

When he isn’t working, you may see him cycling on the Northaven Trail and around White Rock Lake. He also enjoys designing and building furniture and is involved in the arts community.

How long have you been in architecture & design, and what led you to this career?

I have worked in architecture and design for about 15 years. My undergraduate degree is in business management from the University of Texas at Dallas. Right out of college, I worked in the telecommunications industry. In telecom, I found myself unsatisfied in my job, and I recall every work day watching the clock until 5:30 pm when I could go home and work on my personal home renovation. I resigned from the telecom world so I could focus on my love of architecture and design and went back to graduate school for a Master of Architecture degree.

If you could go back in time and give just-starting-out you any advice, what would it be?

Follow your passion. Think about what you’re really good at and what types of things brought you joy as a child and now. Growing up, I was always building things with LEGOs and woodworking with my father, building furniture and helping him with house renovations. If you find yourself doing what you love, the days will fly by and you’ll be far happier. You can always make a change like I did in my career!

What is the best thing about being an architect?

I love working with my clients – they are as eager to see my designs come to life as I am. I spend a lot of time at the beginning of a project getting to know my clients so I understand how their wishes, dreams and needs start to shape the project. My designs, all of which are unique and personalized, bring them so much joy when their home is completed.

Best advice for anyone looking into building a custom home?

Allow enough time. I believe there is a misconception about how long it takes to thoughtfully design and also build a home. Even after interviewing architects and hiring one, there are many moving parts and details to consider to get everything right. Good design is thoughtful, well planned and thorough, and it is worth investing enough time to achieve a really great outcome. Your home will be your space for years, perhaps decades, and as an architect, I want you to love it.

What is a design trend you are excited about?

Flexibility in where the master suite is situated. There is the standard, old thought of “the master suite always on the ground floor” and for some of my clients this makes great programmatic sense. However, I’ve designed several houses where I’ve placed the master suite upstairs, opening up a whole new set of possibilities and views for my clients. On the technical side, I am putting more building science into my designs and although these techniques are largely things you don’t see that get buried within walls or other parts of the structure, they greatly increase the durability of my clients’ homes and make the homes far more comfortable and therefore enjoyable to live within. There are a lot of details to this and I love working through them to get better results for my clients.  

What is the most-used room in your home?

It’s for sure our living room/dining room/kitchen space that’s all open-plan and connected as one large space. My wife especially loves the space because it overlooks our pool and courtyard which feels resort-like to her. Plus, we cook and bake quite a bit!

Favorite building that you’ve been to?

There are many – and many building types to consider. I love LEGO House in Billund, Denmark which is a fun and energetic museum-like place for LEGO fans of all ages. Closer to home – NorthPark Mall for how it blends shopping and art in a well-designed and thoughtful environment. And lastly Mies Van Der Rohe’s Farnsworth House in Illinois which at the time it was designed and built was innovative and a departure from the thinking at the time.

Can you give us a couple of fun facts about yourself?

I’m an avid cyclist and have been riding and racing bicycles since I was 13 years old. Not the case now, but when I was in my teens and competing far and wide, I logged thousands more miles on my bicycles than I ever put on my cars. I’m also a pretty serious cook. I generally make things from scratch without recipes, and Beef Wellington is one of my specialties.

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