Mark Peters, AIA, hadn't realized his young firm would be hitting the five-year milestone in 2009—until it was pointed out to him. “The years just kind of pass by when you're busy,” he explains.

And how. Since founding Studio Dwell Architects at the height of the housing boom in 2004, the Wisconsin native and his staff have built a reputation for, as Peters describes it, “simple spaces with a simple palette and a well-developed program.” The Chicago-based firm's highest-profile projects have generated plenty of buzz locally and earned multiple awards, including several from this magazine.

And yet, in this withering economy, Peters describes his current outlook as “cautious.” Work is steady—developers, especially, have flocked to the firm in recent months because they think its brand of livable midsize modern housing can sell—but he isn't expecting a great year. “We have five or six custom single-family houses and four multifamily projects right now,” he says. “Everything in Chicago is full steam ahead. It's the out-of-state projects” that are on hold or delayed—a reality he chalks up to Chicago having “a bigger audience with a bit more money to spend.”

Still, he knows that, too, could change. “We won't really know how the year will go until spring,” when the first of two work surges traditionally occurs, he says. “If our spring is slow, the whole year will be slow.” Should that happen, Peters expects Studio Dwell to do some things it's never done before. “If we find ourselves with time on our hands, we'll finally organize the office. We'll start to market ourselves. I'm not focused on getting projects just to keep busy. We'll figure out a way to keep working, no matter what it takes.”

age of firm: 5 years (in June)
firm specialty: Custom single-family and multifamily residential (including mixed-use)
staff: 3 (2005); 6 (2008); 8 (2009, projected)
total revenue: $237,000 (2005); $492,000 (2008); $600,000 (2009, projected)
completed projects: 8 (2005); 10 (2008); 10 (2009, projected)