Food, family and far-off excursions: For Candelaria Design Associates, these three ingredients make up the recipe for success for the Scottsdale-based luxury architecture firm.
And this year marks the 20-year anniversary for the firm, which grew from a one-man show with principal Mark B. Candelaria in 1999 to 25 employees, designers, architects and CDA’s all-female managing partners – including Evelyn Jung, Meredith Thomson, and Vivian Ayala.
“I would describe [CDA] in one word as unimaginable,” Candelaria said.
“My goal was to start a small firm, hang out at my studio with my dogs and maybe do one or two houses the year and enjoy the pool and hiking. And within six months, I was so busy, and I had to start hiring people. It’s just grown into something a lot bigger than I ever thought it would grow into,” he added.
Candelaria attributes its success to his team, which he frequently refers to as family, and CDA’s ability to make the designing process a personal one with clients.
“I always tell clients our goal is we would like to end this whole relationship with us being best friends. And, consequently, that has happened a lot of times,” he said. “It’s such a personal thing that you’re designing. You want to get people comfortable and feel like, ‘Oh my God, this is so much fun.’”
One way CDA makes the design process a “family experience” is through incorporating cooking classes.
“We’ve found that bringing the food aspect into our business has really been a good thing. We do dinners during the design process and then we do a dinner at the end of the job to celebrate the completion of the project. It keeps the team together,” he said.
The idea stemmed from CDA’s tours to Spain, Italy and Napa – tours they’ve hosted for 20 years.
This month, CDA will host its 20th tour in Napa, following their Italy tour in September and their Spain tour in June.
Anywhere from nine to over 20 people, including clients, join the CDA team on the tours.
“We see architecture, of course, [during the tour], but we also have cooking classes. We have wine tours,” Candelaria said. “[The cooking class] is an experience that bonds everybody. It’s something about cooking and being around food and working as a team.”
Cooking is so important to Candelaria, CDA has an entire section on its website dedicated to Candelaria’s recipes.
CDA is also in the process of physically expanding its office from approximately 4,000 to 8,000 square feet to make room for not only four to five new team members, but also a demonstration kitchen.
“It probably sounds unusual for an architect’s office, but we do so much more than just architecture. Our whole mission is we want to give you a new way of living, a way of enhancing how you live,” Candelaria said.
He added: “We want to get into our client’s mind: What’s their goals? What’s their aspirations? What’s their dreams? And we really try to create a house that enhances and allows that dream to flourish.”
Candelaria also recently started his own podcast called “Inspiring Living.”
The podcast features a wide range of guests, from designers, architects, and contractors, to real estate pros, craftsmen, sports figures, leaders, and philanthropists.
Candelaria, the host, and his guests discuss the challenged they’ve faced, how they overcame it, and, as the name of the podcast suggests, their own inspiring stories.
Currently, Candelaria is on his third episode, which will be released Oct. 7 on iTunes, Spotify, and iHeartRadio, and he has episodes lined up through February 2020.
“What I’ve found in just the few interviews I’ve done so far is everyone’s got a great story,” he said. “These podcasts are confirming you can’t give up. You just have to keep going.”
Candelaria added that that’s the key to success, including CDA’s own success: keep moving and trying new things.
“We’re always experimenting,” he said.
Candelaria is also working on publishing a book that will chronicle his 21 all-time favorite homes from the past 20 years.
And in true Candelaria fashion, he paired each home with a recipe.
“It’ll give you all the details on how to make the recipe, and there’ll be a story about how the house got created and beautiful photos to go with it,” he said.
Candelaria’s all-time favorite recipe is a paella recipe he picked up from a trip to Italy in 1990. It’s a recipe currently posted on CDA’s website.
“One of my friends took me to one of her friend’s house in Spain, and the mother of the family taught me how to make it. Since then, I’ve adapted my own little touches to it,” he said, adding that he continues to keep in touch with the family.
Currently, the CDA team is working on about 100 projects in 15 different states, including New York, North Carolina, Missouri, Idaho and Oregon.
“But the biggest project we have going right now is a 64,000-square-foot house here in Scottsdale,” Candelaria said.
Candelaria plans to retire in the next seven to 10 years. And when he does, his three partners will take over the business.
“I would like to maintain at least a 25 percent ownership as I ride out in the sunset,” he said. “My goal is to stay involved and mentor and coach and help and do things like this podcast, cook, and travel. I am fortunate enough that they allow me to do that.”