Success Is All About Communication And Connections for Xiomara C. Paredes, AIA, In The AIA New Jersey Women In Architecture Showcase

March 16, 2022

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Success Is All About Communication And Connections for Xiomara C. Paredes, AIA, of Paredes-Grube Architecture

When I flew from Caracas, Venezuela to New York more than forty years ago to enter the Master of Architecture program at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, I never imagined that I would spend my future professional career (and personal life) entirely in northern New Jersey. But here I am, celebrating more than twenty-five years in my own practice, and considering myself lucky for my long career in small and medium-size architectural offices in Bergen and Passaic Counties.

Most of my work experience and primary practice has been based in single-family residential design – an ironic career path for an architectural graduate whose education focused on large institutional projects and low-income multi-family housing. But that is the beauty and flexibility of training in architectural problem-solving, gaining skills that apply in all categories of design. I went from seismic design and reinforced concrete structures to wood framing, plywood, and pitched roofs.

While I enjoy the different challenges of occasional small commercial projects, I found my calling in working directly with homeowners who come to my office seeking guidance in realizing their dreams for their family homes. I am naturally a good listener and communicator, sensitive to client requests and their lifestyles. That awareness allows me to respond to their needs with creative and efficient

As a woman Architect and mother, I often compare the design and construction of a home to having a baby: the design phase is when you are planning the baby’s room how is going to look and visualizing the baby being there; interviewing contractors is like shopping around for furniture and finishes, and the construction phase is labor! There is a lot of pain, frustration, and sometimes blame. But when the project is done, the home is renewed and ready – when the baby is born – you’re so excited and happy that you forget what you went through and are ready for the next one! 

Over time I developed my professional vision to focus on transforming my clients’ lives through good design. I realize that the design and construction of our clients’ homes is a very personal and emotional process. Recognizing that is a key to my firm’s success and our solid reputation in our area.

When I worked decades ago for a Bergen County architectural firm that did commercial and residential design, I was assigned to concentrate on residential projects for my client management skills. When I realized that the clients preferred dealing with me directly, I thought, “Why not go on my own?” I can do this. So, as soon as I became licensed, I started my own business and never looked back.

I began in the basement of our first home in Westwood, sharing a small office space with my husband (who was on a parallel entrepreneurial track), where we could trade responsibility for keeping an eye on our young daughter playing nearby. That was a risky, but optimistic and exciting, time. Eventually, we moved office and family to Glen Rock, where we’ve worked in the same downtown Glen Rock office for more than twenty years. Now I am lucky to have a talented and dedicated staff of four, whose hard work is a key component of our success.

I still spend all my design time at the drafting table, working most efficiently with parallel rule, pencils, triangles, and that most precious of commodities, white tracing paper. For me, the thinking process runs through Flairs, Razor Points, and HB lead. But I am also proud that my practice evolved over time to a server-based CAD environment as we also became savvy in social media.

In today’s world, Houzz, Google, and local Facebook groups provide the forum for word-of-mouth recommendations. There’s no better marketing than positive client comments posted on the Internet for the next potential client to read, so I don’t hesitate to ask my clients for a review when their projects are complete. Of course, a collection of beautiful digital images shown on an iPad help to make the sale.

Our social media ‘investment’ earned my firm the Houzz Best in Service designation for seven years running, the Houzz Best in Design for three straight years, and a consistent presence at the top of Google searches for architects in Bergen County.

Being a residential practitioner provides a natural path to greater involvement in my community. My firm continues in the same downtown Glen Rock office for more than twenty years, and my family lived in town for a dozen of those years. I’ve participated in many Glen Rock activities, but my ongoing interest has been volunteering with the Glen Rock Historical Society. That connection has provided the
the special privilege of getting to know the work of Karl Kemm Loven, a prominent mid-twentieth century architect and member of AIA NJ.

Handling and archiving Loven’s drawings and documenting many of his local built designs was my contribution to helping preserve local history. But that experience also awakened me to the satisfaction I feel each time I deliver a well-designed home that will also become
part of local history.

Looking back, my experience has spanned not only changing technology but more importantly, the change of our architectural practice from a male-dominated profession and business culture (where I was a minority in so many ways), to a more equal and respectful environment. Sure, I still face the occasional uninformed comments from zoning board members or rude challenges from contractors who
don’t know my work, but I am proud to report that my consistent good work over the years allows me to work in a more enjoyable and respectful environment here in the 21 st Century. As a seasoned practitioner with a younger staff of Architects and interns, I enjoy and look forward to mentoring and sharing the wisdom I have gathered for many years to come.

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