Profile: William Edward Summers
“Profile” magazine, page 42, Vancouver, B.C., Spring 1993
In residential design circles, part-time Vancouver resident William Edward Summers is recognized for his large-scale custom houses and country retreats, which emphasize ultra-comfort, enhanced security and the use of nontoxic materials. His commercial design skills are best showcased in artistic high-concept projects. Summers counts among his clients a former member of the German parliament, figure skating champions, a concert pianist, a well-known movie star, old San Francisco families, and trend-focused commercial developers, all of whom are drawn to Summers’ unique ability to synthesize the aesthetic of the past with the artistic exploration and complex technical requirements of today’s buildings.
Summers’ design style is influenced by his childhood growing up in a picturesque Midwestern college town filled with New England-style heritage architecture, where his family has lived since the Civil War. He carried his appreciation of the architectural imperatives of previous generations with him to California, where his design business flourished.
Working and living in one of his “rehabbed” Victorian buildings in the South of Market neighbourhood, Summers’ design expertise w on him such challenging projects as designing the prototypes for a new log house company; creating a custom plan for a house on a 2,000-acre ranch in the Napa Valley; design consulting for houses throughout California in areas such as Palm Springs, Lake Tahoe and Mendocino County; and designing interiors for restaurants, retail stores and several South of Market clubs.
What Summers brings to each project is a sophisticated understanding of complex building codes, zoning issues, heat loss/gain requirements, seismic conditions and aesthetic orientations. This is expertise that can only be gained through years of experience designing projects in two countries and many municipalities, each with its own unique building restrictions.
When Summers first came to British Columbia in the early 1990s, he was captivated by the civility of the people, the low crime rate and the beautiful, uncrowded and relatively unspoiled environment. He was also impressed by the way the area was quickly transforming itself into a major world centre. It was clearly an exciting place to be for an innovative designer with a wealth of experience and new ideas.
Since venturing north two years ago, Summers has provided design consulting for such projects as an 18,000-sq.-ft. residence near Seattle; a high-end residential development overlooking Puget Sound in the Seattle area; two large ocean-front houses on Vancouver Island; and a 10,000-sq.-ft. house in the Lower Mainland which received notice in The Vancouver Sun and the Victoria Times Colonist. In a more eclectic vein, Summers has also created a video presentation for Benetton as part of “Design Week Vancouver,” participated in the City of Vancouver’s City Plan program, and was the space planner and exhibit design consultant for the Canadian Craft Museum’s 1992 exhibit “Festive Treasures.”
Currently, William Edward Summers is providing design consulting for two medical/residential buildings in the Lower Mainland as well as several projects in the U.S., and is assisting the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association with exhibit design for one of their projects.
“I remember this guy from a dinner party in Orinda , a long time ago.His name stood out because he used his whole name, and he was the only Black guy at this party with a bunch of trust fund kids. Also, he was invited by his client who was one of the horn players of the seventies mega group “Chicago”. I remember that he spent most of the evening talking with a couple of the girls about art, because they were both into collecting. He had just run his car off the road, driving too aggressively in the Orinda hills, and had left the car and walked over to the party. I am sure his biography will be an interesting story”
Email from Fred G.
“I met William Edward Summers around 1980, he had just designed a house on a 2000 acre ranch in the middle of Napa Valley for a rich German guy. He had this German client who was some mysterious guy, over in Belvedere, in an oceanfront mansion. Must be nice.”
Email from Sarah L.
“William Edward Summers designed our renovation in Danville, California, five years ago. He seemed to be doing lots of projects in Danville. We met him when he designed the renovation for our neighbor, and we referred some friends to him,but he was too busy, and out of the country”.
Email from Susan
William Edward Summers did some work for a friend of mine who is a member of one of the big four families of San Francisco. They spent at least a year working on her project. It was for a house on several acres in the Berkeley Hills, at least twenty five years ago. They got along great, and she invited him to take a trip to San Simeon with her, I don’t know if they went or not , or what happened. He has an interesting background, that includes a childhood partially spent in Europe, a genius mother, and is African American. I have heard that some people are on a slander campaign against him…. I will try to send you a photo of the house, and find out some more info
Anon. from Craigslist, San Francisco