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Phinney Design Group Delivers Homes That Are ‘One-of-a-Kind’


With its diverse influences, Phinney Design Group’s style has been described as “Modern Adirondack.” (Photo credit: Randall Perry Photography)

Phinney Design Group has developed a reputation in the Saratoga Springs, N.Y., area for delivering custom homes that go beyond its clients’ expectations, making the impossible possible. “All our designs are completely custom and one-of-a-kind, responding to specific site and user circumstances,” President and Owner Michael Phinney says. “The architecture that results are diverse, ranging from modern to historic. Our ability to work in all those mediums makes us a truly custom design firm.”

Phinney founded Phinney Design Group in 2003, bringing with him more than a decade’s worth of experience at the time in architectural design and construction observation services. By this time, Phinney had also developed a reputation for himself as a leader and pioneer in the sustainable design movement. Phinney has been the team leader on many environmentally sensitive buildings, including the first certified green building in the state of New York in 2001, the first certified green building in the Adirondack Park in 2008 and the first certified “Healthy House” in the Northeast in 2004.

Although Phinney had mostly worked on large scale commercial projects before starting Phinney Design Group, he expanded his knowledge into residential construction when he designed and built his own home in 2002. “I found that process inspirational and enjoyable,” he remembers. “I built a green home that was environmentally friendly and created interest in the community about this different style of building. The experience of building my own home led me to want to start Phinney Design Group.”

Today, residential projects account for about one-third of Phinney Design Group’s business. The remaining two-thirds include commercial projects and historic restoration. The company describes itself as a multi-disciplinary architecture, interior design, green building consulting and construction management firm with a focus on sustainable and environmentally responsible construction methods.

Maximum Potential

Phinney Design Group’s design team and consultants are leaders in assessing a project’s potential benefit from green building design and technology. “We are known as the leading green building design and construction management firm,” Phinney notes. “We incorporate a lot of those elements as standard features in our homes because there are features that don’t cost extra. Letting the client know they have a choice to use better materials in their projects, most people will go for those things.”

The company offers three categories of green elements for its clients, including those features that are common sense, those that require minimal investment and those that require a maximum investment. Keeping owners aware of emerging technology and how it may benefit both operation and maintenance costs, and improve the health and attitude of the inhabitants, is something Phinney Design Group prides itself on. 

Phinney Design Group and employees have completed 11 LEED-certified projects since its inception. Of those, it designed the first certified LEED Platinum home in Saratoga Springs, a certified LEED Gold Residence on Lake George and a certified LEED Silver private residence on Saratoga Lake. 

Green building will continue to be a major focus for Phinney Design Group as it is becoming more commonplace among homeowners and building codes continue to get stricter. “We are seeing green building become more standard and homes with more insulation, better windows and heating and cooling systems,” Phinney says. “We are educating our clients and sourcing local and regional materials. We are lucky because we live in an area where stone, timber and metal are sourced here. We work with local craftsman and materials wherever we can and where it makes sense.”

Local Appeal

Phinney was born and raised in Upstate New York, spending his time in the Adirondack Mountains region. It is from there that Phinney draws design inspiration, describing his custom homes as modern and rustic with influences taken from shingle style homes and arts and crafts architecture. Phinney has heard people describe his style as “Modern Adirondack,” which he takes as a compliment. 

“The residential market today is very diverse because our clientele is very diverse,” Phinney explains. “People are more interested in the quality and details and less about space per say. Technology is also a part of it, including home automation that seems to be standard in homes today.”

Designing a home with Phinney Design Group is a collaborative process and Phinney says clients are as involved as they want or can be. A fair amount of the homes are primary residences for his clients, but he also designs a lot of second or vacation homes. “Some of our clients are very remote and want to funnel things through us,” Phinney adds. “We have had clients in Miami and San Francisco, and a lot from the New York metro area. During the homebuilding process, clients can get extremely involved or we can give it to them in bite-sized pieces. It really comes down to what the client’s availability is and how much design input they are looking for because there are a lot of choices in a custom home. We try to peel back the onion to give them one decision at a time.” 

Phinney Design Group has grown organically by carving out a niche market for itself in Upstate New York with custom designed and one-of-a-kind homes. “We will continue to respond to what the market demands on the custom side and always do that,” Phinney says. “We are really good at listening to our clients and understand what it is they are looking for, and coming back in a creative way they don’t expect. That process is really what motivates us.” 


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