For all of the innovations he's pioneered in housing design and the attention he's received for them, Carson Looney has no pretense about his job or his legacy. In fact, he disdains the marketing side of architecture in favor of simply serving his clients with thoughtful solutions. “Our first ad was an etching of a human ear with the line, ‘We Listen',” he says, recalling when Looney Ricks Kiss (LRK) had to troll for work early in its 24-year history. “That's still an underlying fundamental of the firm.”

So is a steadfast reliance on what Looney refers to as a home's DNA, the principles of proper proportion and scale, regional character, streetscape, and function that serve as a baseline for all of the firm's work. That said, some DNA is allowed to change, translating to floor plans that suit continually changing lifestyle needs and practical considerations. “We put a lot of thought into solution-driven design, regardless of the size or price point of the project, because that's ultimately what people want,” he says. LRK's floor plan fine-tuning quickly spread across the industry, in the form of dedicated home offices, convenient drop zones for coats, shoes, cell phones, and other modern junk, private spaces beyond bedrooms, and outdoor spaces beyond a back patio—though the new ideas never crossed over into trendy.

“A home to most people is their greatest asset, and it should never be used as an experiment [by an architect],” he says. Time and again, LRK's work has elicited buyer and builder responses that stimulate sales from a sense of timelessness, comfort, convenience, and joy instead of a cheap marketing message. “Just because it's functional doesn't mean it can't be pleasant.”

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Memphis, TN.