15 under 40: Ryan Duffey


After securing his degree in architecture from Notre Dame, Ryan Duffey apprenticed for Keith Summerour for eight years before launching his own firm in 2011, where he’s tackling as many as 30 active projects. Duffey’s most notable commission to date: restoring the circa-1934 Evans-Cucich house on Peachtree Battle, an Art Deco mansion on the Historic Register, which has made him the envy of the architecture world. Wed to interior designer Nancy Pendergast Duffey, the pair also collaborates on projects and just combined their offices.

How would you define your style of design? I first think of design based on simple spatial arrangements that seem honest and comfortable to me. I personally need calm and easy to understand space for myself to be comfortable. That’s not to say I don’t like complexity, but I prefer to feel like things look easy. I think that’sthe way for a space or facade to look like it belongs.

What types of projects do you work on? Mostly custom residential projects. Homeowners care the most about their own projects, so I find custom work to be the most personal and treated with care by all those involved.

Whose work do you admire? I admire the work of many of my contemporaries here in  the U.S., especially in the Southeast where there is great verse in scale, charm and warmth. From the past, I love Maybeck, Meillor, Miegs and Howe, Voysey, Lutyens, Michelangelo and Borromini. So many greats from so many eras.

What have they taught you that you can’t learn in school? These specific architects have taught me how to be painterly and create a scene with architecture. They have mastered emotion in their forms. I look to them because when I see their work either in person or in books, I feel the places they have designed. It stirs my inner design spirit to make a place that feels as their spaces do.

How is it collaborating with your wife, designer Nancy Pendergrast Duffey, on design projects? My best projects are the ones where I have collaborated with my wife. She is a master with scale, texture and layers. Her design is the most honest to me. I always maintain a giddy excitement when I am designing a space that I know Nancy will be furnishing. We work really well together. We solve a lot of design problems while the risotto is on the stove and a bottle of wine is open!

Do you have a dream project or client? My dream project is to design a university from the ground up, just like Bernard Maybeck did at Principia College.

To view more of Duffey’s work, visit jryanduffey.com.

{This year’s 15 under 40 class is presented by Mathews’ Furniture Galleries}