Years before starting the Renovation Design Group, partners Ann Robinson and Annie Vernon both dreamed of using architecture to enhance people’s lives. “That’s the very reason I wanted to become an architect,” explains Annie.
When the two women became friends while working at a Salt Lake City architectural firm, some aspects of their work situation weren’t fully allowing them to fulfill that dream. “I enjoyed designing things like high schools, business offices, and resorts, but I didn’t have the satisfaction of seeing firsthand how my work was helping people,” explains Ann. “I found myself wanting more interaction with the end-users.” Annie also began to feel frustrated because of the disconnect between herself and the people who would use the architecture she designed.
While Ann enjoyed the years of experience she gained working on a wide variety of projects, she began to see the wisdom of narrowing the focus of her practice. “Wouldn’t it be nice to become an expert in just one area?” she thought.
Ann and Annie had long been aware that many homeowners seeking design help with remodels were being turned away by traditional architectural firms which are usually set up to handle multi-million-dollar projects. The two women began to talk about how they’d like to design renovations for these homeowners. This would provide them the personal interaction they wanted with clients, while allowing them to improve people’s lives and to become experts in one area. But neither of them dreamed of actually starting their own company. “I’m not a big risk-taker,” Ann
explains “and I had worked long and hard to become an architect, so I didn’t want to go back to school again to get the business background we knew we’d need to start a company.”
A School Project
In the fall of 2002, Jared Bulloch was taking a business class at the University of Utah in which he was assigned to write a business plan. When he told his wife, Lori, about the assignment, Lori mentioned that her sister, Annie Vernon, had recently talked to her about her idea for a company. Maybe Annie and Jared could help each other out?
Jared, Annie, and Ann began to casually meet to discuss the idea, though none of them ever thought it would lead to anything more than a school project for Jared. Then Jared suggested they enter their plan in a statewide business contest. “The Entrepreneurial Challenge” offered $40,000 to the winner to use to start up a business, so the three began to step things up. They spent a combined 1,000 hours on the project, which included designing a few remodels for friends.
When their proposal was one of 30 entries to make it into the semi-final round, “we started to get excited that this business idea could actually happen,” says Annie. In the end, their business plan didn’t win the contest, “but we wanted to keep going because we were having so much fun.” A few months later, in the summer of 2003, Jared, Annie and Ann resigned from their full-time jobs (Ann, the “non-risk- taker,” resigned on the same day she was asked to become a partner in her firm) and started the Renovation Design Group.
A Dream Fulfilled
What started out as wishful thinking and a school project has become a remarkably successful design firm. The group has served almost 1,000 clients in the previous twelve years.
The biggest measure of the firm’s success, say its founders, is Renovation Design’s collection of delighted customers. “Larger architectural firms seek through receiving design awards. Though we have had our share of recognition, we get our rewards directly from our happy clients,” says Annie. Here are just a few examples:
“After decades of previous owners of our home trying to finish the basement on their own, our basement was a real mess. We had an idea of what we wanted down there, but didn’t know how to do it. Then we met Annie. She actually listened to what our needs were and came up with great ideas that we’d never thought of. We are just thrilled with our new basement.”
-Polly C., Harvard/Yale
“I met with three other designers before I hired Renovation Design to add a second floor to my 100-year- old house. They supplied me with a design that was just what I wanted and information that guided me through the entire remodeling process. Their product is fantastic and they are great to work with.”
-Brian H., Sugarhouse
“Renovation Design did a wonderful job redesigning our master suite. We are now in the construction process and they continue to follow through with us. If we run into any problems, Ann comes right on site to help. She says there’s always a solution to any problem, and it’s true that she always comes up with great solutions. I just can’t say enough good things about this company.”
-Sally B., Federal Heights
Ann and Annie, with the assistance of Jared, are now living their dream of making people’s lives better through the architecture they design. “I like to say we’re making the world a better place, one home at a time,” says Annie.
Let Renovation Design help you fulfill your dreams for your home today.
Ann Bennion Robinson, A.I.A. ~ Principal Architect
Ann Robinson enjoys the process of analyzing the way a family functions and making sure their home supports their lifestyle. She sees potential problems and works to solve them with a master-plan approach. Ann has master degrees from the University of Utah in both Education and Architecture. She became a licensed architect in 1993. After spending years in commercial architecture — designing everything from hotels to schools — she co-founded Renovation Design Group to offer architectural services to individual homeowners. She enjoys the one on one interaction with people and helping them find joy with their homes. “The physical space you live in has an effect on your spirit and your attitude,” she says. In her ‘spare’ time Ann enjoys reading, knitting, do-it-yourself projects and five wonderful grandchildren.
Annie Vernon Schwemmer, A.I.A. ~ Principal Architect
Annie Schwemmer is a detail-oriented architect who loves the process of taking something good and making it better. She’s good at seeing the potential in homes and enjoys building relationships with her clients. Her friendly and optimistic personality lends itself well to coordinating with clients, consultants, and contractors throughout the design and construction process. Annie began working in an architectural firm in 1993. She received her Bachelor’s and Master’s of Architecture degrees from the University of Utah and became a licensed architect in 2004. She has designed and managed residential and commercial projects of all sizes. “I approach architecture like a puzzle,” she says. “I enjoy taking all the parameters of a project into consideration to come up with a great solution.” In her spare time she enjoys photography, fly fishing, mountain biking and anything in the great outdoors. She and her husband love to travel to experience other cultures and their history. They have been known to spend their vacations exploring ghost towns in Utah & surrounding states.
About Our Employees
Cheryl Meltzer ~ Receptionist/Office Assistant
Cheryl moved to Utah from Pennsylvania in 2004. She spent most of her working years in the medical field and decided it was time to move on to something different. Renovation Design Group is the perfect fit for a new career in the Office Management world. Cheryl is an avid Ultramarathoner, who also helps a great deal with her husband’s professional running career. She is a fine skier and outdoor enthusiast. Outside of work she enjoys spending time with her husband in the mountains, or wherever solitude exists.