How I Work: 21 quick questions with architects Ken Pursley and Craig Dixon

How I Work: 21 quick questions with architects Ken Pursley and Craig Dixon
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I was curious to learn more about the dynamic duo behind Pursley Dixon Architecture Inc., responsible for designing some of the most beautiful homes in Charlotte.

Their work has been featured in Garden & Gun, Southern Living, House Beautiful and other equally impressive publications.

Pursley Dixon

Pursley Dixon

Here’s how they work.

Pursley Dixon Architecture, Inc.

Craig Dixon and Ken Pursley, architects and owners of Pursley Dixon Architecture, Inc. Related Agenda guide: 14 best architects in Charlotte

Social media habits?

Pursley: My habit is to avoid social media. Seems like a huge time suck!

Dixon: Check Instagram once a week tops.

Sleep routine?

Pursley: In bed by 10 p.m. and up by 6 a.m. (ish).

Dixon: Start reading on my porch, relocate to bed then lights out by 10 p.m. Up at 5:30 a.m. Music is always playing regardless of what I am doing.

Music at work?

Pursley: iTunes music – Apple Chill station is a favorite.

Dixon: Love AirPods. iTunes is my favorite or Sonos in the office. Listen to just about everything. Cat Power has been my latest favorite.

What’s your morning commute like?

Pursley: Twenty minutes through Myers Park and Dilworth. Generally call contractors or listen to NPR.

Dixon: Drive in for 20-25 minutes. Focus on the road, or make a Bluetooth call to get ahead of the office.

How do you spend the first hour of your day, starting from when you wake up?

Pursley: As I’m waking up, I go through emails and text messages on my phone while lying in bed. I then take a long shower and think through my day. I tend to do my best thinking in the morning. … I then get dressed and read through my calendar to see what fun lies ahead. If time allows, I’ll walk the family dog, Jojo, to the end of the drive to get the newspaper. I still like a physical paper so I am separated from the digital world. Then breakfast, and off to work.

Dixon: Run until my lungs give out 3 1/2 miles or so, coffee and a morning devotional.

What do you eat for breakfast?

Pursley: A banana and a glass of green tea.

Dixon: Kind bars, or bird food as my office manager puts it.

Ken Pursley’s desk.

What do you actually do? Walk us through a day in your life.

Pursley: I create and talk about things that don’t exist. I think about beautiful spaces and how to create them for people to inhabit.

Dixon: Impossible to know. Each day is filled with design, being a father, reading, managing, meeting, etc. in no particular order. Very kinetic routine. My day is fairly diverse and I wear several hats. I may start the day designing a new home, then switch my role to editor or problem solver on something we have already drawn. I then put on my marketing hat to pitch for new work or pursue publication. We also have interior design services, so I will go on periodic shopping trips to stock additional inventory. In general, our studio is very collaborative so nothing is done in a vacuum. For all the hats I wear, there is a staff member leading the charge. I enjoy the exchange of ideas and think the work of the firm is better because of our collaborative mindset.

What are some unusual habits you have and why do you have them?

Pursley: I like to read through the obituaries. It’s interesting to see a person’s life condensed to 300 words. It also gives you perspective on your own life to remember what really matters in the larger scheme of things.

Dixon: Gather with my closest friends to watch movies that are so bad, they are good. It is a no judgement zone.

What everyday thing are you really good at?

Pursley: I think of myself as a pretty good problem solver. I try resolve issues from a strategic foundation instead of an emotional one.

Dixon: Managing expectations with a calm demeanor.

Best time-saving shortcut or life hack?

Pursley: Hire a great assistant!

Dixon: Tracking hours for my work day on TimeTracker – lets me actually see what I did for the day all the way through the year.

What’s the best thing about your job?

Pursley: I get to spend my time imagining things that don’t exist. As someone who grew up living in his head, it is extremely gratifying to make living doing what comes natural to me and exercising my creative muscles on a daily basis.

Dixon: Opportunity to realize all the creative thoughts I had as a kid.

Where do you go around Charlotte to get away from the office?

Pursley: I enjoy lunch meetings to get a break in the day. My favorite spots are Roots, 300 East, Thai Taste, and Southbound. Also, being next door to the pit cookers, Mac’s Speed Shop is often in the lunch rotation.

Dixon: Love the Whitewater Center. My favorite refuge is anywhere I am with my kids.

What’s your favorite side project?

Pursley: I enjoy furniture design. I will often have a custom piece made and do the finishing myself.

Dixon: Currently, the interiors of my home.

If you weren’t doing your current job, what would you be doing?

Pursley: I would be in advertising. I love marketing and strategic thinking.

Dixon: A shepherd.

What’s the best investment you’ve ever made?

Pursley: My mid-century modern house. I bought it in 2012 at the bottom of the housing market and have been slowly renovating it. It has been a great ‘laboratory’ for exploring ideas.

Dixon: My education.

What’s a purchase of less than $100 that’s most improved your work output or life?

Pursley: My box of ‘F’ pencils. It’s the perfect hardness of lead for drawing.

Dixon: Apple watch. Lame answer I know, but it motivates me to move and be free of the physical phone. More than $100 but worth it. For under $100, Illy coffee.

Other than the Agenda, what media brands do you consume?

Pursley: The Charlotte Observer and NPR.

Dixon: Very little. Architectural and Interior type periodicals for sure. Still love Garden and Gun.

Advice to your 30-year old self?

Pursley: Trust your instincts.

Dixon: Do what you love and surround yourself with people that bring you good energy.

Best job advice you’ve received?

Pursley: Work for the best firm you can find that does the kind of work you want to do.

Dixon: Move to Charlotte.

Book you gift the most?

Pursley:The E-Myth: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It” by Michael E. Gerber.

Dixon: Different every year. HG Wells’ “The Invisible Man” to Piranesi’s “Drawings and Etchings.”

What’s one thing people don’t know about Charlotte that they should?

Pursley: While on the surface, Charlotte seems somewhat starched, it has an undercurrent of creativity.

Dixon: Based on U.S. Census data from 2005 to 2015, it tops the 50 largest U.S. cities as the millennial hub. Just found this online to see what I didn’t know.

All photos courtesy of Pursley Dixon Architecture Inc.

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