Design Of Our Lives: Meet Architect Christine Dayton
Open, airy spaces, clean lines, with views that bring the outdoors in, are signatures of the designs of architect Christine M. Dayton of Easton. Dayton, who has been in business 24 years as principal/owner of Christine M. Dayton Architect P.A., finds Eastern Shore architecture different because it offers a lifestyle — using residences for entertaining and outside living.
Dayton, whose firm has been located for the past 14 years in the historic Abbott’s Dairy building on Needwood Avenue in Easton, enjoys creating residential and commercial designs. Her projects dot the Shore, and range in scope from small residential homes, to grand estates, and from historic commercial renovations to industrial buildings. She is a licensed architect in the state of Maryland and the District of Columbia, and works with a staff of four in her Easton office.
“There is a large retirement and second home market on the Eastern Shore. A subset of this is the ‘legacy home’ market, where people want to build a home for their children and grandchildren to visit, and that can be passed on to the next generation. These homes are designed to accommodate weekend guests and families, and are often large in scale,” Dayton said.
“Clients are also interested in homes where they can age in place. Often, these homes are built for the sandwich generation, and may include a separate space to accommodate a loved one who is aging,” she said. “These are usually homes that are designed with larger doorway openings and spaces for a future elevator — features to provide accessibility.”
Dayton said, in general, more clients are interested in homes designed with sensitivity to the environment and involve greener thinking.
“Homeowners typically stay very involved in the design and size of the home. Clients bring new ideas to me all the time, sharing images they like from magazines and online applications, which helps us all share the same vision. Technology has helped with this process tremendously. A picture speaks a thousand words, so images really help in communication between the architect, the builder, and the designer. This visual scrapbook helps clarify that we are all speaking the same language and I am creating based on my clients’ individual lifestyle,” Dayton said.
Trends in home design include eliminating the formal living room in favor of more open living space, incorporating industrial style elements and rustic looks, as well as more glass to connect indoor and outdoor living spaces. More stone also is being incorporated into designs.
“Eastern Shore weather is ideal for outdoor entertaining and outdoor rooms are very popular,” Dayton said.
She said she enjoys designing renovations, as well as new homes.
“I look at new properties and love having a clean slate to work with creatively,” she said. “But, remodeling or renovating homes can be fun and challenging at the same time because they have existing parameters. It’s fun to transform or adapt living spaces in these projects. It’s like completing a puzzle. Our ability to visualize three dimensionally and communicate that design to the client is very exciting and rewarding.”
“Architecture is a building science. Scale and proportion are critical. We like our spaces to be overwhelming in beauty, but not overwhelming to the human being. We need to make sure that people are comfortable in the spaces we create. The effect is subconscious — it may be the view the room offers or the size and detail of the room that creates the comfort level. A combination of my experience and my clients’ desires achieve this scale and proportion,” Dayton explained.
Commercial architecture also interests Dayton, whose projects have included free-standing office buildings and firehouses, to spaces integrated within an existing historic structure. She finds this work particularly challenging, as it may involve creating architectural design for a new business or redesigning an existing building for a new use.
Photos by Steve Buchanan Photography
She has a passion for the downtowns on the Shore.
“We need to keep our downtowns energized with viable businesses and affordable quality living spaces. It’s about reusing buildings as much as we can,” she said.
Dayton thinks the best quality of a good architect is being a good listener, which translates to a good value for clients. She considers herself a navigator for her clients’ projects.
“The architect is the owners’ representative in both residential and commercial building. I’m responsible for getting my client what he or she wants. The property owner is making an investment and you want to get it right,” Dayton said.
Dayton shared that a great deal of legwork must happen before the creative aspects of a project ever begin, which can include meeting Critical Area laws and regulations, and local zoning requirements. Civically, Dayton has been involved with the Talbot County Historic Preservation Commission and has stayed abreast of Talbot County’s comprehensive planning process. She prides herself in keeping up with the changing trends and regulations on the Shore to steer clients in the right direction at the start of a project.
Photos by Steve Buchanan Photography
“Our staff is well-informed of the rules and regulations, often having to file the permits and deal with variances for our clients. The laws and regulations for homes near the waterfront can have a significant effect on the home design we create,” she explained.
Other issues impacting architects on the Eastern Shore include the effects of brackish air, which can be hard on building materials used in residential and commercial design.
“We are using more maintenance-free materials today that don’t require as much upkeep, as well as new building materials, which incorporate better insulation, improved air quality, and natural lighting. All of this translates to a more aesthetically pleasing and more comfortable and efficient building,” she said.
Dayton said the uniqueness of the Shore inspires her work.
“I realize how lucky I am to live and work on the Eastern Shore – the lifestyle and experiences we get to share here are unique. I love designing homes that embrace the quality of life here,” Dayton said.
For more information about Dayton, visit cdaytonarchitect.com or call 410-822-3130.