Residential Design

Vol. 3, 2017

A business-to-business magazine focused on the collaborative process and talented work of residential architects and custom homebuilders.

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VERBATIM Common sense would suggest that going out on your own as a sole proprietor during the height of a deep recession is not the best idea. But that's exactly what Marica McKeel, AIA, did in 2010 after three years of working in Santiago Calatrava's New York office. She founded Studio MM, PLLC, and decided to focus her efforts on residential practice. Just seven years later, the firm is thriving and Marica has built several attention-grabbing houses in the Hudson Valley. She's also built a booming social media enterprise that's nearly as noteworthy as her architecture. As it happens, the two are tightly entwined, and mastering social me- dia early on may be a key source of her burgeoning success. RD: Marica, you got started in New York City, but most of your work is upstate. How did that come about? MM: One thing I worked on when I was at Calatrava was his house in upstate Connecticut. I learned I loved working on resi- dential architecture and I loved site visits up there. When I started my own firm, it was during the downturn. The positive thing about that was I had a lot of time to concentrate on what I wanted to do and who my target market was. I am in New York City, and it's not like there's no competition here. So, I decided to focus on the Hudson Valley and modern design. If you have the opportunity to work upstate, take it. We first got to know of you through Twitter. It was like you came out of nowhere, and then suddenly you were everywhere and connected to everyone. How did you manage that? I started with a blog on my website. I had read an article about a man who sold swimming pools [Marcus Sheridan] whose business was struggling during the downturn. He began writing a blog on his website and simply answered the kinds of questions he would get from potential customers. He discovered that by writing the questions and answering them on his site, his website would rank high up in Google searches about swimming pools. And that led to more customers for the business. I also bought one of those "Dummies" books. But a big influ- ence is Gary Vaynerchuk, who wrote Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook. He is extremely analytically smart. And his ideas influence my whole media strategy: Give, give, then you can ask. What is the "give" and what do you "ask" for? My takeaway was you have to provide real content on your website not just promotional, marketing material. So, I began to answer the typical questions I would get from clients. My first blog series was about the process of working with an architect. I try to keep the blog casual and friendly, like a conversation. It began to work. I got a phone call, and the woman on the other end Social Graces STUDIO MM NEW YORK AND KERHONKSON, N.Y. Photo: Courtesy Studio MM Photo: Brad Feinknopf Above left: Architect Marica McKeel. Above: Completed last year, TinkerBox will eventually become the guest house on its 10-acre site. Arch Daily named it one of the website's 50 most popular houses. VOL. 3, 2017 RESIDENTIALDESIGNMAGAZINE.COM 13

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