The word “mode” is defined as a way something is expressed, experienced, or done. It’s a word that perfectly encapsulates the work of an architect whose goal is to create a structure that is admired, appreciated, and fulfills the desires of a client. This truth is partly how Daniel Condatore, RA, and Jason Hanrahan chose the name MODE for their architecture firm. The name, however, has a dual meaning. It is also an acronym for Monmouth Ocean Design Experts, a role the two take to heart as lifelong Jersey residents who can’t get enough of the shore.
Condatore and Hanrahan met as students at Roger Williams School of Architecture but went their separate ways after school—one to Boston to work on educational and commercial projects, and one to Manhattan to cut his design chops on high-end residential projects. Eventually, they found themselves at the same company in New Jersey and decided to combine their different backgrounds into one powerhouse of an architecture firm.
HOMETOWN HEROES MODE
MODE opened in 2016 in Asbury Park and has built a portfolio of homes and businesses that dot various locations along the shore from the Hamptons to Seaside to their own backyard. Returning to their Jersey roots was never in doubt and opening just as the coast was reeling from the impacts of Hurricane Sandy made the choice that much more poignant. Hanrahan commented, “We knew post-Sandy that new architecture and rebuilding was important. Whole neighborhoods needed to be rebuilt and it was our community so opening here was a way to start helping.”
Condatore added, “We grew up in the area and we’re familiar with the beach and coast and saw the potential for growth in Asbury. We saw long-term benefits of redevelopment with investment coming into the area. To us, there was no better place to open a firm than Asbury Park. We made the right decision.” Having that hometown appreciation plays a large role in the projects that MODE undertakes as they relish working on the homes and businesses of their current friends, and those who will become friends as their business is often a place both architects may frequent. This was made clear when they cited their favorite projects as a home and a restaurant they designed for friends. The value was being able to see others appreciate and truly enjoy the spaces MODE created.
For Hanrahan, working in close collaboration with a good friend on the design of his house now allows him to experience his work every time he visits. He said each time he feels a sense of pride in seeing the owners enjoy living in what he helped create. Condatore’s favorite project was designing a restaurant for his childhood friends. “It’s not just architecture, it’s the fact I get to see these people experience my work. When I do these local projects, I can go to the place and bump into friends I’ve known for 20 years and see how everyone enjoys themselves. Knowing we provided that for them is really a special thing,” he said.
ROLLING UP THEIR SLEEVES
While the two embrace the feel-good vibes from working in their hometowns, they are no-nonsense architects who take their roles in designing exactly what clients want and need seriously. They put MODE on the map with the Ocean Club in Seaside and learned the valuable lesson of patience along the way. They said that the project was such a large one they felt as if they’d struck gold and started anticipating how the project would come together in two years and really give them a name.
They quickly learned that development takes time and being able to go with the ebb and flow is critical to the success of the work and to their own well-being. “We learned we have to prepare that we’ll have other projects going on at the same time. All our attention can’t go into one pot. We can’t push aside the smaller work because that’s what keeps the company operational and moving,” Condatore said. Six years later, Seaside opened, and now is one of their favorite places to meet up with friends.
Understanding their clients is something both architects said is critical to getting a project right. “We can design what we want in a bubble, but instead we extrapolate the client’s wish list. We meet their goals while maintaining the architecture of the area,” Condatore said.
Hanrahan followed that thought saying that when they meet with clients, they show them photos of rooms they think they’ll love and ones they don’t because that process engages the client in the design and pulls out what specifics they really have in mind. After a walkthrough of the space, they sketch an idea right on-site and tweak it with the client’s input. That sketch is taken back to the office where they create 3D images for a more complete review of the plan. The team at MODE participates in every step from design to hiring a contractor to final construction so as things come up in the field, they can observe and make changes to the plan as it evolves.
With different backgrounds, it’s little surprise that the two have slightly different ideas of what an ideal project would be, but that’s what makes them such a compatible and effective team. For Hanrahan, his love is the classic and timeless construction found on the coast. Condatore prefers larger mixed-use projects where he is excited by seeing the steel and concrete rise from the ground. But he also admitted to a soft spot for coastal architecture. Both are starting to see a change along the Jersey shore as more people split their time between NY and FL and bring design cues from places like Miami back north. They feel the two distinct looks mix well.
Overall, the pair prefer clean design and shun the idea of constantly adding new layers to the original bones. Condatore said that Instead of modifying, some architects just layer over what is there, and they lose sight of what they’re trying to achieve. “You have to pull back the layers to get to what’s clean. We feel the forms, spaces, and simple detail is what makes our architecture work”. Simple lines, lots of windows, and a classic style are reflected in their work at a home on Lake Como– a site that also proves their skill at coastal dwellings extends beyond the oceanfront. It really comes down to capturing the water views both from the inside and outside. Walls of windows, high ceilings, and a muted color palette help bring the outdoors in. That merging is taken a bit further through sliding glass panels that, when opened, simply expand the living space to encompass the outdoor patio.
When the weather is fine, the outdoors becomes the perfect spot for entertaining complete with a large pass-through from the kitchen that serves as a bar but also eases the transfer of food and drinks. As day turns to night, guests can gather around the firepit and capture the moonlight reflecting off the lake. Discovering how to create amazing spaces and looking towards how people would interact with those spaces is what Jason said inspired him to be an architect. As their portfolio of projects attests, the clients of MODE reap the benefits of that inspiration.
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