There’s scarcely a project type Bohlin Cywinski Jackson (BCJ) hasn’t done. An influential firm with five offices nationwide, it has a history of award-winning, high-profile buildings—Apple stores, Pixar Studios, the Liberty Bell Center, Seattle City Hall, the Barn at Fallingwater—and many others. Yet the architects remain enthusiastic about houses. People-scaled design taps into their core strength, which is to ferret out and reflect the intimate particularities of each place.

Whether it’s a barely there cottage in the woods, a chic three-unit row house on a narrow urban lot, a suburban ranch redo, or a bucolic coastal farm compound, BCJ’s dwellings whisper rather than shout. The architects often mix the humble and spectacular: a house that recedes into its setting, an oversize door pivoting to a glassy room and woodland garden. Elegant, concise detailing expresses the warmth of familiar materials like cedar and Douglas fir. And the houses commune with the land, careful about their intrusion on nature.

Founding principal Peter Q. Bohlin, FAIA, recipient of the American Institute of Architects’ 2010 AIA Gold Medal, defines BCJ’s work as soft modernism. “We’re very much interested in nuance—the nature of the place, the people, how we make things, and how all those things come together,” he says. Bohlin likes to describe the relationship between a good building and its site as “touching,” a reminder that an elusive quality like emotion is as important as pragmatics and camera-ready composition.

What is the most gratifying aspect of residential practice?

Working with terrific people—clients and staff.

What is the most frustrating aspect?

Working our way through a situation where people’s desires far exceed their interest in spending money.

What is your mission statement or firm goal?

To do very good work, and work that satisfies us.

What is the most indispensable tool in your office?

The pencil.

What software does your firm use?

Revit, MicroStation, SketchUp, and Ecotech.

Who is your ideal client?

Someone who is interesting, open-minded, and wishes to find just the right thing.

What is your favorite building?

The Eames House.

If you didn’t have time to design your own house, who would you hire?

A few of the younger architects in our office (put together).