VICTORIA – Design-builder Flashhouse is shamelessly modern. Founded six years ago by Ian Roberts M.Arch, LEED-AP, the firm began with the vision to focus on creating stunning modern homes in the Greater Victoria Area.
“When I first started, I was very strict about doing only modern homes,” says Roberts. “We had opportunities to design-build homes that would have been major contracts for us, but we turned them down because they weren’t modern.”
Today, that initial rigidity is paying off. While the industry standard conversion rate from query to job is about 10 per cent, the Flashhouse conversion rate sits around 70 per cent.
The company’s success is primarily due to Roberts’ passion for modern architecture and eye for detail. His homes have been featured in magazines and books, and some have already established themselves as iconic structures in prominent Victoria neighbourhoods.
When asked why his company has decided to focus on modern design-builds, Roberts responded, “It’s hard enough to do what we do without being passionate about it. When it came to design-builds, I needed to be true to what I believed in.”
Roberts completed his Masters degree in Architecture in 2006 and received his LEED AP (accredited professional) designation about a decade ago. After working in several architecture firms, he decided to leave his desk job and pursue a more hands-on approach to his field.
In the spring of 2013, he founded Flashhouse, allowing him build the type of homes that he is so passionate about.
“There’s a lot of technical academic discourse about what modern architecture is, but ultimately, modern isn’t a style; it’s a way of being and a way of thinking,’ says Roberts.
“Early modernists characterized modern buildings as being a ‘machine for living.’ Like a machine, a modern structure has just the right amount of parts. You don’t go to a machine and cover it in decorations. It has everything it needs to function and nothing that it doesn’t.”
This minimalist philosophy attracts homeowners from a variety of age ranges. Owners of Flashhouse homes include everyone from young families to retirees.
“I built a house for a one couple who moved from a large mansion-type home to one of our projects,” says Roberts. “They had never lived in modern before, and they instantly fell in love. I find that people often don’t realize how much they want this kind of living until they have a chance to experience it.”
Though it fluxuates, the company will typically work on four projects per year, with two jobs in the ground and two on the board at any given time. In addition to Roberts, Flashhouse has three core employees who specialize in carpentry.
Each project also relies on reliable sub-trades who are uniquely qualified to work on modern-style homes.
“We have put a lot of effort into educating our tradespeople,” says Roberts. “This type of building requires a lot of details that are outside the norm, so it’s important that our sub trades understand our expectations. We typically work with the same guys, and we have good relationships with them.”
Over the last six years, the company has focussed on custom home builds. The first conversation with a client will involve a visit to the worksite where they Roberts will learn about their intentions for the project. This is followed by a questionnaire, asking them about what they love or hate about their current living arrangement, how many rooms they want, general size of the house, etc.
“Most clients give me carte blanche to design a house that fits those parameters,” he says. “I then present designs to the client and tweak them until they are happy. This is followed by a budgeting phase and permitting phase before ground is broken on the project.”
In addition to these custom home design-builds, Roberts does some design work for other builders on the side.
“That’s something I’d like to expand: doing more design, including for projects in other places where I don’t typically build,” he says. “I like to be building what I design, but I’d like to expand this other side of my business as well.”