The year was 1993. Bill Clinton was president. The first bagless vacuum cleaner was invented (Dyson). Intel introduced the Pentium Processor. Jurassic Park, Mrs. Doubtfire and Sleepless in Seattle were playing at the movies. And a gallon of gas cost $1.16. (Really!)
But for Gene Grimaldi and Brian Mann, the most significant event of 1993 was the opening of The OMNIA Group Architects. Brian recalls, “Gene and I had worked together for more than five years at a homebuilding company and had talked for some time about starting our own architecture firm.” At the homebuilder, they wore many hats: architect, estimator, marketing, purchasing, and field support. It was a tremendous education - broadening their understanding of the many aspects of the business of construction and architecture. Gene adds, “With this deep understanding of homebuilding, we were confident we could successfully serve the industry with our own firm.”
How It Began
Brian and Gene were fortunate to have the support of their families. Brian’s dad provided a start-up loan and Gene’s dad gave them rent-free office space. There was a little luck thrown in – they opened The OMNIA Group just as a wave of housing industry growth hit. Brian tells the story, “We reached out to everyone we knew – colleagues, friends, acquaintances and even took to cold calling prospects from the phone book. We knew that we would have to work harder, do a better job and be less expensive than the competition in order to establish ourselves.” Their first jobs came faster than they anticipated and from a wide range of sources - builders, individuals and other architects.
But it wasn’t always easy. Gene recalls, “One of our first meetings was with a local homebuilder. A heating contractor we both had worked with arranged the meeting. We were nervous – with no portfolio or established client base to show as credentials.” But they confidently answered every question that builder put to them and convinced him that they knew what they were doing. Gene proudly adds, “That builder took a chance on us – and let us design The OMNIA Group’s very first home. To this day, he’s still a client of ours.”
A Lot Has Changed Since 1993
The field of architecture has changed radically in the past 20 years. OMNIA Group Architects has been at the forefront of many of those changes. For a while, homes got larger and larger; now the trend is towards smaller, more manageable sizes. (But still the average home they design is larger than the average in 1993.) Home designs are also now less formal, more open and modern, reflecting a general societal move towards more casual lifestyles. In commercial design, a cleaner more modern aesthetic is certainly the wave led in large part by the boutique hotel industry, which is introducing people to a new minimal look and feel.
The availability of trendier products from plumbing to lighting to furniture to flooring has given architects more to work with. Of course, the move towards more energy efficient and sustainable homes and workplaces is a major factor in everything they do. Brian says, “It keeps us on our toes learning about the latest technologies for buildings. I cannot underestimate the impact that technology, particularly the internet, has had on our business. It is amazing to think that when we started the company, there was no internet, we didn’t have cell phones and our computers used 5” floppy disks. The internet has replaced our product library, our portfolio is on our iPads and 3D computer renderings have replaced dollhouse models.”
Here’s To The Next 20 Years
One thing’s for sure. OMNIA’s success is due in large part to the efforts of their extraordinary staff, which has grown and been with them for an uncommonly long time. Like the special partnership at its core, the OMNIA family is built on trust, hard work, pride, and a healthy dose of fun. Gene states with conviction, “We all recognize that in the end our client’s satisfaction is at the root of our success.” OMNIA is stronger and more capable than ever and we look forward to continuing to deliver creativity for another 20 years.
Bet You Didn’t Know…
The name OMNIA comes from the first letter of Brian and Gene’s children:
O (Olivia), M (Michael), N (for both Nicholas and Nathaniel), I (Isabel), and A (Alexandria).
The OMNIA Group Architects bring talent, experience and exceptional customer service to every residential and commercial project. We call it
Creativity Delivered. Our clients – in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and throughout the country – call it the perfect solution to their architectural needs. Our goal is to create home and work environments that make your life easier, more productive and more enjoyable.
This newsletter is yet another variation of Creativity Delivered – keeping you up to date on the latest architectural trends and on our newest projects.