Reaching new heights with MHK Architecture & Planning
BY Christine Hennessey
MHK Architecture & Planning isn’t just a firm that designs and builds beautiful, elegant homes. In many ways and for many homeowners, it’s an institution.
Founded in 2009 by Matthew H. Kragh, MHK Architecture & Planning has grown into a collaborative of over 40 design professionals based throughout Florida, Colorado, the Caribbean and the Carolinas. No matter where they are located, the MHK team prides character, reputation, talent and hard work. One look at any of their projects, which includes everything from residential homes, to resorts, to commercial properties, and it’s easy to understand why the firm is so well-respected in the design and construction industry.
Two years ago, MHK opened a new office in Highlands, led by Mitch Lehde who also runs the Greenville, South Carolina location. While other offices, such as Naples, Palm Beach, and, coming in January 2021, Charleston, are famous for a contemporary, coastal look, the new office specializes in mountain architecture, which consists of bold natural palettes that blend seamlessly with design elements into the serene mountains of the Western Carolinas.
"MHK’s style in the Carolinas is really defined by the clients we work with, and the home always evolves to make that important connection to the great outdoors and the spectacular vistas,” Lehde says. “Within the past year there has been an increasing desire for more transitional and contemporary style homes, but the goals of simple, refined, relaxed and cozy living remain the same.”
When it comes to designing these modern mountain homes, the MHK team takes a hands-on approach, working with the client and ultimately letting them guide the design. The firm is not ego-driven—they prefer to put the client in the driver’s seat. This means that the beginning stages of a new project require a number of personal meetings with Lehde, as well as site visits.
For these reasons, the sooner a client can bring in MHK, the better. When they’re part of the process from the very beginning—preferably as the client is looking at land but before it’s been purchased—they can help the client understand the potential of the property from a design perspective, and the kind of house it will be possible to build on it. One way they help their clients envision these possibilities is through the use of 3D design and photo-realistic images. This allows clients to virtually walk through the space and see exactly what a final design will look like, which can be incredibly helpful early in the process.
“Almost all of our clients are from out of state and looking for that perfect little mountain retreat,” Lehde says. “In general, most of our clients are either retired, in the process of retiring, or at the ‘empty nester’ point in their lives.”
As a result, a common goal Lehde hears from clients is the desire to build a “legacy home” that can accommodate extended family, especially as their children get married and grandchildren enter the picture. “It’s an interesting opportunity, in that the homes have need for considerations to evolve from smaller grandchildren to those in their teens,” Lehde says. “We see a lot of requests for spaces where multiple gatherings can occur, whether that’s adults sitting around a fire, a TV or game room for the older kids, and bunk room spaces for grandkids. In the end, our clients hope to create spaces where family and friends want to visit and, once there, feel completely at home.”
While family is the most important, Lehde never forgets to take into account the stunning landscape. A key part of the design process is finding opportunities to bring the outdoors inside with the help of large glass windows and movable glass panels. “This provides the perfect space to capture all the views while enjoying the amazing weather in the area,” he says.
For builders and designers like Lehde, Kragh and the rest of the MHK Architecture & Planning professionals, creating beautiful, comfortable homes that honor and celebrate their unique location isn’t just a job—it’s also personal.
“Highlands has become a second home to us during the spectacular summer months,” says Kragh, whose family recently bought a house in Highlands—one of the many reasons MHK was inspired to open a new office in the area. “We look forward to leaving our fingerprint on this mountain area, creating timeless designs in a majestic setting, and utilizing our creativity to enhance the architectural realm of the Western North Carolina Mountains.”
It’s an exciting goal, and Lehde and his team are looking forward to climbing that mountain and reaching new design heights in Highlands.