Meet our 2023 Your Modern Cottage Design Awards Judges…

This week we’re introducing Joe Herrin of Heliotrope Architects, who signed on to be one of three judges for this year’s design awards, which recognizes the best custom residential designs. Joe co-founded Seattle, Washington-based Heliotrope Architects, more than 20 years ago with a mission to design enduring works of architecture with relevance in the twenty-first century. His work has been recognized regionally and nationally for enduring timelessness, sensitivity to site, and expression of craft. Joe’s design solutions are efficient, high performance, and express an elegant simplicity.

Joe has been a licensed architect since 1993. He holds a master’s degree in architecture from the University of Pennsylvania and a B-Arch from Washington State University. Prior to co-founding Heliotrope, Joe worked with the well-known firms of Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates in Philadelphia and NBBJ Architects in Seattle.

A fourth-generation Seattle native, he, his wife, and two daughters split their time between the Green Lake neighborhood of Seattle and Orcas Island.

Joe Herrin of Heliotrope Architects

What is the process for getting all of the pertinent info out of your clients in order to get design on the right path?

Over the years, we have developed a detailed client questionnaire that we rely on as the basis for our work, but no Q/A approach could possibly cover everything we need to know about our clients. Therefore, there is quite a bit of ‘getting to know you’ that takes place in the initial design phase.

Photo by Ben Benschneider

Is there an underlying philosophy/design approach with each of your residential projects?

We definitely come to the table with a design ethos and specific goals with respect to building performance, longevity, and, sustainability. That said, we prefer to remain as open as possible about where the design will lead, based on our growing understanding of site context and owner personalities.

Photo by Kevin Scott

How would you define design excellence?

Great architecture is built to stand the test of time in every way. It resists fashion as well as weather; it solves the design problem with an economy of means; and it positively impacts its surroundings and acknowledges our climate reality.

Heliotrope Architects

Photo by Sean Airhart

Before contacting you, what information should potential clients have at the ready or know ahead of the meeting?

Folks embarking on the journey should have a sense of what they like. We always start with a conversation around our portfolio. What was it specifically about the work that made you contact our firm? It is always interesting to hear clients articulate the elements of the work that inspired them. On the practical side, a clear program and (realistic) budget are also helpful.

Heliotrope Architects

Photo by Sean Airhart

What’s your favorite room in your own house and why?

My favorite room is outside, but I only get to use it sometimes, being in the upper left corner of the country and all. After that, the kitchen, as it is the nerve center of our family life.

Heliotrope Architects

For more information on Heliotrope Architects, visit 

To submit your projects for the 2023 Your Modern Cottage Design Awards, click here. 

Feature image photographed by Taj Howe

Above image photographed by Ben Benschneider