Meet our 2023 Your Modern Cottage Design Awards Judges…

Today, we’re introducing Mahdad Saniee, one of three judges for our 2023 Your Modern Cottage Design Awards, and founder and principal of Saniee Architects LLC. Mahdad studied architecture at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and received his Master of Arts degree and diploma in architecture in 1983, after studying ancient classical architecture at the British School in Rome.

Subsequently, he worked for the renowned conservationist firm of Simpson & Brown in Edinburgh, at which time he obtained his architectural license and joined the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland as well as the Royal Institute of British Architects. One of his projects during that time has been included in the history of Scottish architecture, the textbook on Architecture in Scotland.

In 1985, Mahdad emigrated to the United States and shorty after moved to Connecticut and joined Centerbrook Architects. In 1987, Mahdad obtained his architectural license in the United States and joined the American Institute of Architects. During his tenure at Centerbrook, he designed and managed projects nationwide, including buildings at MIT, Brandeis University, as well as projects for private clients. In 1995, he established his own architectural firm in Greenwich, Connecticut.

The recipient of over 50 architectural awards, Mahdad’s work has been published in the New York Times, Architectural Digest, Architectural Record, Progressive Architecture, Builder, Custom Home, and other periodicals. His design has also been included in several books authored by others. In 2018, he was named among the top ten residential architects in the state of Connecticut by Home Building Digest.

Mahdad Saniee

He has been a visiting critic at the University of Hartford School of Architecture and has served as a Board member on the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation as well as on AIA Design awards juries. He maintains a small 4-person firm, and despite the small size of the office, his work extends to the West Coast of the United States as well as internationally to the Far East and the Middle East.

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

It varies from client to client since not everyone communicates in the same way. The most common method is having the client share images that resonate with them and then describe exactly what part of the image made them pick it. People see different things in the same image, and it is best not to jump into conclusions about what the client is seeing that resonates with them.

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

Context! That is the most critical element for my design approach. Context can be geographical, cultural, environmental, aesthetics, or even financial. The style and image are almost always secondary considerations.

How do you define design excellence?

The ability to get well beyond the stylistic limitations and manage to create a cohesive solution. The first step is the ability to precisely define the nature of the problem that needs to be solved.

Do you believe there’s power in design? 

Absolutely! The more the solution resonates with lives of the inhabitants, the more in harmony they feel in their environment.

What info should potential clients have at the ready before meeting with you?

They need to have a unified vision of their priorities.

Photo by Neil Landino

What’s your favorite room in your own house?

The little sitting bay off my main bedroom where it has windows on three sides and contains two very comfortable armchairs and a couple of bookcases. 

For more information on Saniee Architects LLC, visit

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

Architecture photos except when noted by David Sundberg