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James Crisp

by Joseph Montebello

With his southern charm and his discerning eye, it’s easy to see why Jimmy Crisp is so successful. Since he formed Crisp Architects in 1985 he and his team have designed everything from a one-room schoolhouse to an 18,000 square-foot mansion.

“I grew up in a small town in Louisiana called Pumpkin Center,” Crisp said. “You don’t get any smaller than that. So, after graduating from LSU, I headed for New York City.” As a child he was always building things and climbing around construction sites. Now he was ready to put the passion and knowledge to the test.

“Along with a friend I did some work in Dutchess County, including a little pool house with a spa building and we won a local AIA Award and the job was published in House Beautiful.” And that started his career.

Most of the work, however, was out of the city, so at some point, Crisp got tired of the reverse commute and moved to the country. “It was ideal. I met the woman I eventually married and I started getting more work,” Crisp said.

Since Crisp’s work is rooted in the vernacular style of the region, his clients span from Dutchess County to the Berkshires and throughout Connecticut. His buildings respect the local architecture but with a modern twist: bright open spaces and modern technology. In addition to his talent as an architect, Crisp is a good listener which is definitely an asset in his line of work.

“I always want to hear what the potential clients have to say – that’s the bottom line. They are the ones who have been living with the space and its issues. What would they like their ideal house to be like? In the end all projects have one thing in common – they are puzzles that need to be solved. And that’s what makes it fun and challenging.”

In most cases, Crisp and his staff work as a team, whether it’s a sunroom or a kitchen or a larger house. All that matters is that the project is interesting and the end result is satisfying – to both Crisp and the client.

“We sometimes talk about what kinds of assignments we haven’t had but would like to,” said Crisp. “At the top of the list would be a Victorian house. We’ve done every other kind, but for some reason no one has ever requested Victorian.”

But while waiting for that to happen, the team is busy with many other types of construction. And though it may appear as if Crisp is always working, he does manage to find free time to spend with his family.

“My wife grew up on a farm and her family raised sheep. Since our three children were in 4-H we now raise and show our own sheep. We also have chickens, rabbits and dogs. There is always something to take care of and things we can do together are very important to us.”

Crisp has the best of both worlds – a work family where ideas are conceived and brought to fruition and his real family where there never seems to be a dull moment.