Erik Block (pictured, right, with brother and firm employee Haldan) owes his start in architecture to a fire at his parents’ house. After studying architectural technology in college, he designed the plans to re-build the house, built in the 1800s. After seeing the plans, the builder that completed the job hired him. Now, the owner of Erik Block DB, Block takes requests that aren’t always the most descriptive and turns them into reality. “A client game to us and said, ‘We want a new kitchen and we want it to feel this way,’ and showed us a bracelet,” he says.

To best serve those clients looking for abstract projects, Block likes to keep his team small. Right now there are only a handful of employees, but he says that’s one of the key reasons he’s been successful. “You come into a jobsite and you’re like a ninja, all working really well together and very productive. I tend to like us all to be the same age, same mental attitude and energy level.”

A small team like that can’t take on too many jobs for fear of being overworked and dropping in quality, but that’s exactly the kind of work Block—and his customers—are happy with. “We understand we’re missing opportunity, but at the same time, it’s the slow and steady approach. We’ve been nice and selective lately. We are focused on the details of the whole system. If we have two callbacks a year, that’s rare.”

- Block is environmentally conscious and offers green building materials and methods to his clients, but selling has proved to be a challenge. “We’re very committed to green building, but we can’t get clients committed to it. A lot of people that we run into, it just might not be on their radar. We try and give them options.”

- Designing a kitchen based on a bracelet isn’t the only strange request Block has dealt with; he once was asked to build a suspension bridge on a client’s property. “ A client had a property divided by water. The only access to the barn was to walk to the street, and he wanted his own bridge,” he says. “We worked with our steel fabricator and fabricated it onsite. It spans about 75 feet. We had to do it without any concrete.”