September 2019

Lamb & Gray Associates, LLC : Leap of Faith

Author: Linda S. Hopkins | Photographer: M.Kat Photography


April Gray, Lydia DePauw, and Amanda Lamb took a leap of faith, operating on a strong belief in God and their God-given talents.

A leap of faith is about trading certainty for uncertainty—taking a chance, and believing the reward is worth the risk. It was with great courage that three females in the field of architecture, Amanda Lamb, April Gray, and Lydia DePauw, took such a leap, operating on a strong belief in God and their God-given talents. One year later, the three entrepreneurs are fully grounded in the work they all love, realizing their dream of business ownership, and doing it their way.

The three ladies’ lives collided at different junctures of their careers, while working at a prestigious architectural firm in Bluffton, where they each gained valuable experience and confidence. Striking out on their own was not a decision they took lightly, but the pull to do so was as undeniable as a full-moon tide.

“We literally jumped off the ledge,” DePauw said. “As scary as it was, I never had a doubt. I’m very analytical, but when I make a decision, I don’t second-guess it.”

Starting out in Gray’s house, on her dining room table, with nothing but two gaming computers (a practical and functional choice at the time), Lamb said, “Our goal was to be doing what we dreamed of doing within three years.” But they landed their first contract within three weeks of opening, and from there, the business has continued to grow with surprising momentum. The firm has recently moved into a brand-new office on May River Rd. in Old Town Bluffton—a space that is as fresh and new as their hopes, dreams and aspirations.

The big why
Ironically, both Lamb and DePauw said they always knew they wanted to be architects. DePauw comes from a long line of architects, builders and entrepreneurs, so she was exposed to the business early in life. “I love math, but I also like art, and I need a good blend of the two,” she said. “I think the designside of things is always new and interesting.”

Lamb remembers being obsessed with drawing houses since early childhood and never once considered any other career. Both Lamb and DePauw attended the University of Cincinnati and came to the Lowcountry for internships, each at a different time. DePauw met her husband at the same architectural firm where she interned and met Lamb. Serendipitous?

“Lydia, April and I rely heavily on our faith. We believe strongly that God put us all here for a reason and a purpose and put all these people in our lives,” Lamb said.

Lamb, Gray, and DePauw, whose focus is residential design, saw opening their own firm as an opportunity to make their work more personal—to get into the heads and the lives of their clients. “We love building relationships with our clients. Being just the three of us, we have the chance to get to know somebody and maintain that relationship throughout the whole design process,” Lamb said. “As they’re sharing with us, we’re sharing with them, and we truly become trusted advisors. That is important to us, and I think that’s what sets us apart.”

While the initial intent was not to form an all-female team, Lamb said certain advantages come with the territory. “Many times, a husband and wife come in together and have different goals. I feel like we are more approachable, and the women are much more comfortable. They don’t need to speak the architecture language, because we don’t need to speak that way. They are more relaxed and can talk about the challenges of everyday life with jobs, children and pets. We understand because we’re doing that—juggling our families and careers.”

“We want to know how you live and how you want to use the house. Is it for entertaining? Is it a full-time residence? Are you raising your kids? Is it a vacation home? All those things are important, and it informs a lot of what we do,” DePauw added. “It’s a very personal situation. It would be different if we were designing commercial buildings.”

Now that the company is up and running successfully, Gray has taken a step back per her initial plan. She was the spark that lit the fuse, encouraging, inspiring, and nudging, according to DePauw. Now she has returned to part-time status, focusing on her family and accepting small-scale projects like additions and renovations she can work on independently, while Lamb and DePauw carry on the everyday business of building the firm’s client base.

The difference
Differentiating themselves, both Lamb and DePauw share a common vision, honoring what exists and what has gone before but looking at Lowcountry architecture with a creative eye. “We have a great respect for the traditional, but we also love building on what’s been started here and putting a fresh twist on it,” DePauw said.

One of the greatest challenges any architect faces is keeping projects within budget, Lamb said. Sharing that “dreaming and drawing” are her favorite parts of her job, Lamb pointed out the influence of online resources such as Pinterest and Houzz. “People can see and imagine anything they’ve ever wanted for their homes, which is valuable information for us but often puts a strain on the budget. You want to give them everything they want, but you don’t want to over-design. Setting expectations is an important first step.”

DePauw, who thrives on “facts, figures, and rules,” is known for her superior problem-solving abilities. (“She is the most talented problem solver I’ve ever worked with,” Lamb said.) “We’re working smarter—designing so that we’re not duplicating materials when it’s not necessary—just trying to be more efficient,” DePauw explained. “We can often make something a lot less complicated and help keep the cost of the project down.”

For example, unless a client specifically requests certain classic Lowcountry elements such as exposed rafter tails on porches, shutters, or transom windows across the front of the house that can quickly drive up costs, DePauw might suggest putting the money into other aspects of the home that you can see, feel, touch and experience—the front entrance and foyer, for example.

“We like to strip out any unnecessary fluff so that we’re not blowing the budget on an element that the client is not going to get to enjoy each and every day,” Lamb said. “Materials and technology are always changing, so just staying up to date on what’s available also helps. Knowing who our resources are helps us educate ourselves and educate our clients. It’s been great as partners in a firm to be able to do that directly.”

Both Lamb and DePauw are grateful to their husbands and families for their support. They are also appreciative of the warm reception they have received from other area professionals.

“We have a really great community here—incredibly gifted and talented builders and interior designers and architects,” Lamb said. “I just love this area and all that it has to offer. And the clients are amazing.” 

Lamb & Gray Architects, LLC is located at 1227 May River Rd., Suite 200, Bluffton. For more information, visit www.lambgrayarchitects.com or call (843) 757-3636.

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