Chatting with Samantha Boucher of erstad ARCHITECTS

Samantha Boucher, NCIDQ, IIDA is an interior designer and project manager with Boise architecture firm erstad ARCHITECTS. At erstad ARCHITECTS clients’ goals, the creative design process, research, and creating memorable, one-of-a-kind projects are the primary focus.

Sam is an accomplished designer, project manager, learner, and teacher.

Q: What is your role at erstad ARCHITECTS?

I’m an interior designer and project manager. Our office is fluid with regard to industry overlap, so “interior designer” is a much more nebulous term here than it may be in other A&D firms. We all do everything, just to different extents; so my actual day-to-day roles vary widely.

Q: How did you get into interior design?

When I was a kid, I used to take my mom’s house design books and draw out floor plan ideas for dream homes. I loved the look and feel of the plans and I loved the idea of getting to build things and shape space. In middle and high school, I kept gravitating to classes that had any amount of art, design, and construction in them – my happy place was at a big table covered in paper and rulers and colored pencils. When it came time to consider colleges and career paths it was just a natural continuation to chase a career in the building industry.

After getting my degree in Interior Design at the University of Idaho, I had a choice: stick with it and get an Architecture masters as well, or get out into the world and try to see where that path would lead. I chose the second option. Where I am now I’m able to live in both ID and Arch worlds, so I’d say that choice has worked out.

Q: What do you like about architecture and making a living designing?

I love being technical and creative at the same time. I’m also someone who needs to be constantly learning, so being able to dive in deep to our client’s needs and really get to know each project in depth is super rewarding. I would shrivel up and wither away in a job that was just one thing day-in and day-out! Beyond the tasks, though, I get a lot of fulfillment out of working in an industry that has such a power to make change in the world. The things that people build can either use the space they take up to create positive change or just sit there and mirror the same old paradigms. I prefer the former. It’s what keeps my fire going.

Q: What is your favorite project you’ve designed?

Short and easy answer: whichever one I’m designing now.

Actual answer: the first project I was able to see through from start to finish was Richard’s Restaurant in downtown Boise. There’s nothing like seeing your first Project Baby become real. We were able to do some very fun and very intricate custom installations in that space, and the clients were fantastic to work with to boot. I’ve been able to do more great work since then, but that one will always hold a warm fuzzy place in my heart.

Q: What is your favorite type of project to design?

Any project where we get the creative freedom to design something that’s never been done before, whether it’s just one detail piece or an entire program, is my favorite type. It turns out that a budget doesn’t matter (you can still do some interesting things on a paint-and-concrete budget) as much as the client’s willingness to try something new matters.

Q: What technology do you use at work?

Windows PCs on a cloud server, standard office phone system, our personal cell phones, various laptops, and tablets…and books and paper and trace and pens.

Q: What design software are you using and why?

We use Revit, CAD, SketchUp, and various rendering programs. We’ve just started toying around with FormIt which looks promising for early-stage modeling work. Sometimes, though – more often than people would think – we’re still a pen-and-trace, ink-and-watercolor office. There’s a place for every medium. We’ll use whatever tool makes the most sense for the task.

Q: What do you do when you’re not working?

This goes back to the gotta-learn-constantly thing: I try new things. That’s my hobby, more than anything. My studio at home houses the books I’m reading (“I Contain Multitudes” by Ed Yong and “The Overstory” by Richard Powers currently), a stack of letters to write to folks in a fountain pen writer’s group I’m exploring, space nerd stuff (watch me get psyched when a new NASA launch happens and marvel at the ability of a fully operational adult to dissolve into a bouncy excited toddler again), and if I’m in there, my cat or two chinchillas. Otherwise, my husband and I are planning our next travels or taking care of our house and yard. And on Monday nights, we’re both over at the Learning Lab, tutoring English language and GED skills to Refugees and other adult students.

Samantha Boucher, NCIDQ, IIDA