Firm Profile

Alan Nicholson established the Design Studio in 2005 as a multidisciplinary building  and environmental design practice in Northern California.

Our experience ranges through commercial, multi-family housing, new contemporary houses, residential remodels and additions, to innovative offices, galleries, arts installations and furniture. With a focus on contemporary residential and light commercial environments, anDesign Studio is a small personalized architecture and design practice working with an emphasis on the honest use and expression of materials. We believe that every project has the potential for great architecture to be created when it is derived from sensitivity to the clients’ goals and the context of the site.

With years of hands on experience in architecture and building, and possessing a broad knowledge of design history, materials, and fabrication; our projects have a unique expression of detail and craft.


The office philosophically and aesthetically expresses modernist traditions while working very closely with our clients to thoroughly understand their needs and to develop solutions that are unique and appropriate responses to the constraints and opportunities of the project. This approach integrates function, art, and context in an effort to create a poetic statement within the practical constraints of our projects, turning the apparent limitations of budget, codes and other design restrictions to positive architectural experience.

Design Approach

Good architecture fundamentally begins with good relationships with our clients. Design is a collaborative process in which the clients’ knowledge of their own needs is as important as the expertise of the design team. A successful project engages the people who use the building, and brings a sense of harmony and vitality to the our environment.

Building design is not simply a service. Every building is an opportunity, not simply a necessity. We believe every building is an obligation to improve the world, to inspire humanity and leave it a better place.

The design process consists of five essential phases: programming, schematic design, design development, construction documentation, and construction administration. Each phase of the design process is integral to the others and to the success of the project.

The quality of a project is not necessarily related to how much it costs, but rather how wisely the resources of time and money are spent. Cost management and life cycle building cost is of great importance.

The difference between an average designed building and an exceptional design often hinges upon the level of design detail. No matter how wonderful the shell of a building may be, the space will not feel exceptional unless the design theme and vocabulary are carried through, from the landscape and into the smaller interior and exterior materials, details and lighting.

Compelling architecture is contingent upon the quality, not quantity of the space it inhabits.

Materials create space, and light shapes and gives life to that space. Natural light marks the time of a season and each day. Lighting is subtle, but profoundly important to our lives. Although we tend to think of architecture as floor, walls and roof, space and light are the essentials in creating an enduring building and with study will enhance the experience of the occupant.


Our commitment is to create an enduring architecture which reveals the client’s dreams, connects the natural  and human world, and revitalizes communities through a sense of design integrity.

Our office approaches each project as the continuation of an ongoing inquiry and expression of materials and the spaces created within the built environment. We have become a resource for finding creative and unique solutions to the most difficult budgets and programs. Careful consideration is given to the appropriateness of design choices in terms of context, program and construction, as well as the quality of life for clients and the larger community we live in.

Our goal is to leverage the latest thinking, balance “need” with a conscious effort to step lightly on earth. We commit to lead by asking: is it good for people, good for society, good for the environment and does it inspire?