Design & Remodeling

Design Build Team and The Art of Designing Light


The experts at Design Build Team craft great design by paying attention to the details that don’t often come from numbers.

Hidden up a steep hill in Overland Park, Kan. sits Design Build Team’s office. Not surprisingly, it resides in a house full of eye-catching detail. On this day, when the weather is the picture of a cliché—beautiful—the foliage that surrounds the space is fully green and whispering in the wind. Entering the office provides a surreal experience, as it feels similar to entering someone’s house, a house with the happy, lived-in quality of a home.

Above: David Dussair, Maggie Goss and Garrett Wilson of Design Build Team.

“What we do is really art. It’s not just getting the job done,” financial and office manager Merejo Dussair says.

Design Build Team was created in 1975. At the time, the firm was the only firm in the area working as a true master builder. The architect and builder, David Dussair, drew the plans and then built his own designs. Prior to this, a strict separation between the architect and builder was still upheld and considered the norm.

“It really catches the eye much better than a regular window would. Instead of looking like a big painting, it involves repetition, which the human eye loves. Designing light is a big focal point for us.” ~ Merejo Dussair

“The master builder concept had absolutely been lost at that time,” Merejo Dussair says. “What we were doing was completely foreign.”

From these innovative beginnings, DBT has been able to enjoy many successes in the marketplace, locally and around the country. What makes this firm so special is perhaps not even their approach—it is still hard to come by true design build firms these days—but the acute attention to detail that is the standard at DBT.

“See that window over there, “ Dussair says, indicating a large window segmented into smaller squares, “Dave does that a lot in his designs. It really catches the eye much better than a regular window would. Instead of looking like a big painting, it involves repetition, which the human eye loves. Designing light is a big focal point for us.”

As it relates to windows, light is one such detail DBT creates for its clients. By segmenting a larger window in such a way, the eye follows several different images of the outdoors through the progression of the squares. The window becomes a piece of interest, which everyone may not understand, but the eye subconsciously finds it interesting.

Soon after the eye finishes with the windows of a DBT home, it catches onto the vistas.

“A vista, arched or however it is shaped, does a lot to drag the eye along, too. It really makes for a gorgeous view,” Dussair says.

The vista, or a distant view shown through an opening, on show today is the long hallway between the DBT kitchen and drafting space. Staring down it almost makes one forget that this is a workplace and that the people in it are working hard to solve today’s architectural puzzles. Vistas, another detail that DBT consistently uses, often mimic the view one spies between long lines of trees. Paired with the greenery outside, it is difficult not to see that DBT is embracing architectural elements in their work that are incredibly natural, making their spaces feel very comfortable, even when they are unfamiliar.

Another aspect of this comfort that people feel in DBT homes is the proportion. These proportions are crafted to fit well with the human form and size. Surprisingly, this is not always a consideration for other architects, creating frustrating areas in homes that do not function well.

An impressive real brick fireplace warms the family space filled with shadow and light that changes throughout the day.

“Proportion is very important to Dave,” Dussair says. “He completed his education in architecture, so he understands all the principals of designing to proportion, but he also knows from experience what works well in a home and what does not feel right.”

In the drafting space, David Dussair is hunched over a table working intently on the plans he is drawing. One square of the window before him is open to the fresh air. As peaceful as it is around here, he could be an artist sketching landscapes in the park.

“Dave still draws everything by hand,” Dussair says. “And with his perspective as an architect and builder, he understands how things fit together, what proportions will be most comfortable and how things will look when they are built. He can also draw the details. I remember him drawing a detail into a plan as the carpenter was in the field building. The end result of this ability is good design.”

As intimidatingly artistic as this sounds, DBT seems very relaxed and calm. Dussair points out the presence of the office cat dosing under a table nearby, who, by now, does not seem at all out of place in the office. By now, DBT’s office seems homey, which is a byproduct of its design and the knowledge the team has collected over many years of working in the industry.

Dussair flips through the pages of an album on an iPad. With each new set of photos, it becomes apparent that DBT has experience designing in many different styles. From traditional to contemporary, the styles are expertly crafted, but the good design of DBT’s signature look does not lose its integrity.

Dussair stops on a photo of a house in Georgia. The inside is sleek and contemporary with lots of vertical height and clean colors and lines. She flips to the outside view of the house. Almost magically, it seems, the exterior view of the house morphs into a classic, Southern home, which looks nothing like its ultra-modern interior.

“The neighborhood had rules on what the façade of their houses had to look like, so we kept the outside classic and renovated the inside to look more contemporary,” Dussair says.

As with many businesses, these types of epic renovations have not been as prevalent due to the waning economy. “The deflationary aspect of renovating a home has taken away good design,” Dussair says.

After visiting DBT, it is clear that while not immune to the economy, having been around since 1975, DBT understands not only how their business and industry works, but also how the world around them works. The calming vibe of DBT comes from the comfort their design brings to the individual and from the comfort they feel in their ability to produce it. The team at DBT also exudes the thing that all great business teams project and that is a true love for what they do.