How Architecture Inspires A Rich Life

 |  Filed in Profiles In Excellence

Mark Candelaria, AIA founded Candelaria Design Associates to help his clients take their “daily experience of living in their personal environment to the highest level.”

Celebrating over 35 years of a successful architectural career that first began with icon George Christiansen, FAIA, Mark learned early on that combining his passion for architecture, travel, good food, and great company is the most powerful tool he has to enliven his client’s custom residential designs. This unique gift to live life to the fullest every day and to share that zest for life with those around him enables Mark to deliver a distinctive architectural experience. If, after reading about Mark’s career, more people decide that they’d like to look into an architectural career, they should consider researching online. From there, they could always look at some of the features that the best architecture websites have in common. Of course, people will need to have the appropriate architectural experience to help them follow their dreams. Hopefully, all of that will help more people to have a life like Mark’s.

From the moment Mark and his team sit down at the drawing board to the special moments they share with their clients long after they’ve moved into their homes, clients of Candelaria Design Associates know they are in for the time (and the design) of their lives.


At Candelaria Design Associates, we design homes that inspire our clients to live life to the very fullest. The way I achieve this is by purposely starting with a blank mind when I start the design process for a client. I get to know and understand my clients and figure out what’s going to fulfill them and make them happiest. What do they want to achieve with their home? Many clients may not consciously know the answer right away. But I get to know them well enough that I hone in on what will bring them the most joy in their home.

A client from Chicago wanted me to design his home office. He’d already picked out what office furniture he was going to get (I think it was off a site like, but I can’t remember). Anyway, I kept incorporating a special courtyard that connected along the side entrance located nearest his desk. He kept asking me, “What’s with this courtyard? I’m never going to use that.”

I replied, “Well, you talk about how you’re on the phone a lot, and you’re always doing this and that in your office. There’s nothing better than being on the phone and drifting outdoors, sitting in a chair, and unconsciously taking in how beautiful the garden is while you are taking your call.”

He affirmed, “I’ll never do that,” to which I replied, “I think you will.” I really advocated keeping the courtyard in the plan, and he ended up getting the Charleston home builders to build it. Now he calls me all the time from that courtyard, saying, “You know what? You were right. I love taking calls here. I’m doing business with people back in Chicago, and I’m sitting in my courtyard. I can smoke a cigar or watch the birds. I love it. It’s just the coolest thing.” He finished by saying, “I miss my courtyard when I’m in Chicago.”

I’m always consciously thinking about how to design a personal paradise in each of our client’s homes. Where is a good spot to have cocktails in the summer? How do you want to serve a home cooked meal to your friends? What’s the best way to design a room or patio so you can best enjoy your conversation? These are the moments that allow my clients to experience life to the fullest within their homes.

Creating and capturing these special moments is why I’m always designing homes to inspire different experiences for my clients no matter where they are in their home. Another client shared with me, “What I love about this house is that I can move at different times of the day, different times of the year with my friends, and it’s a different experience in each spot. But it’s perfect for that point in time.”

El Chorro Lodge is a project where we aimed to create flexible indoor-outdoor spaces that move as the seasons change. We designed the patios with a variety of orientations so that events could be held at different times of the day during different parts of the year.

My mother had a lot to do with this desire to help others lead a full life. She’s always lived life to the fullest with what means she had. My mom and dad were not wealthy. They were just normal people, but we did really memorable things.

My mom was a refugee who migrated from East to West Germany and eventually ended up in the United States. When we were nine, she took us back to Europe to visit our grandparents. It had to be pretty expensive for both of them to take a month off from work to take us all over there. Still, they made it happen. That trip changed my life. I saw Europe and spent time with my grandfather who was an architect before the Second World War. He inspired me by taking us around to see the castles and old European architecture.

Getting to do all of that showed me that you could live a great life at anytime; you just have to choose to live that way. I believe a lot of people make up excuses to purposefully wait to live well. I think you can live great with virtually nothing. You see it when you travel around the world. Some people enjoy life, food, and friends, and they don’t have anything. Sometimes they even live better than people that have a lot.


Candelaria Design Associates and Team DSC®
“Just like in life, sometimes our budget constraints put us in a position where we have to do more with less. Every client, regardless of how much wealth they possess, has a threshold when it comes to their budget. We all dream big and then reality sets in. That’s why partnering with an experienced and knowledgeable builder like Desert Star Construction helps us to manage our client’s expectations with the budget we’re given.

If we come to a point where we have to consider changing something to fit within our budget, it doesn’t mean the client has to give it up completely. I just have to find a solution to simplify it without losing the quality of the design we’re aiming to achieve.

Desert Star is really good about helping us find those unique solutions that allow us to uphold the same notions, inspiration, and intention that our clients are looking for. The design just becomes simpler, and the client is usually as happy as can be. When you simplify, you find the opportunity to reach the core of the experience that the client really wants you to create for them.”