Growing up in Nashville, William “Bill” Baker III had a knack for design at an early age.
“I drew my first building in 3-D at the age of 7 and studied architecture as a personal interest from an early age, and created a photograph library as a 12-year-old,” the Buckhead resident said. “My father (William Jr.) was a furniture designer, so I grew up in a house that was really surrounded by design all my life. My father had the same sort of innate talent and he expressed it through his furniture design and I expressed it in my love for residential architecture.”
That passion for architecture led Baker, a residential designer, to found William T. Baker & Associates, a Buckhead-based residential architecture firm he is principal of. During a career spanning 33 years, his clients have included C-level executives from Fortune 500 companies, celebrities and top professionals from a variety of fields.
That experience is on display in a new coffee-table book, “Great American Homes: Volume 3,” published in November by Images Publishing in Victoria, Australia. It features 14 of his clients’ houses and includes photos and floor plans of each home and the lot plans of some. Volume 3 is his fifth book overall. The first two volumes were published in 2011 and 2014, respectively. Each one took about three years to produce, Baker said, because “you have to photograph the houses at certain times of the year when the sky looks blue and the light looks great.”
He also published “Architectural Excellence in a Diverse World Culture” in 2008 and “New Classicists” in 2004, the latter of which became an international bestseller and is printed in Arabic, English, French and Mandarin.
“It was an amazing book because it was taken to the Frankfurt Book Fair (in Germany) and the international book buyers went crazy to buy it,” Baker said. “That book was the book that took me to China. It was such a wild success that it was pirated by the Chinese and we lost control of the book. Every architectural firm in China has it.”
For his work, he has received several awards, including the Arthur Ross Award for Architecture in 1993, the Urban Design Commission Award for Excellence in 2005 and the Philip Trammell Shutze Award for Architecture by the Institute of Classical Architecture and Art’s Southeast chapter in 2013.
Baker attributes his success to “innate talent, because you can be educated and schooled, but there’s a natural talent component that is really critical to have, and so I was blessed with natural talent for architectural design.”
Franki Durbin, a Dallas, Texas, blogger who also specializes in web design, social media and branding, redesigned Baker’s firm’s website and is doing the social media marketing and book-related event public relations for him. Though she has known him for only three months, Durbin has admired his work for several years because of her background as an interior designer.
“I think the homes are outstanding,” she said. “It’s a level above what I’m seeing other people produce. Everything about them is bespoke. There’s nothing repurposed in them. They’re highly personalized. Each project is different. It’s a clear collaboration between him and the owner. … Part of what makes his work stand out is the level of classical details and architectural styles. They’re memorable and unique. They’re just beautiful. Homes like that would be great in Dallas but I can see why they do well in Atlanta and other parts of the country.”
Edward Daugherty, a Buckhead resident and renowned landscape architect, has never worked with Baker before but is familiar with his work. The two even were neighbors at one point.
“He does good work; it’s often elaborate,” Daugherty said. “He is among several really capable (local residential) designers – he and Norman Askins and others. There are a number of people who have knowledge of what you call traditional forms. That’s a strong clientele in Atlanta.”
“Great American Homes: Volume 3” can be purchased on Amazon.com for as little as $46, and autographed copies are available at Boxwoods Gardens & Gifts in Buckhead for $75.
“I think the book is a fascinating look into the lives of American families that are enjoying the American dream,” Baker said. “One of the reasons the book is so popular overseas is for that reason. They want to see how Americans live a really comfortable life.”