“They told me it was impossible and I did it anyway” With Candice Georgiadis & Mary Maydan

My advice to women is to persist and believe in themselves, even in the face of workplace adversity. Women deserve to reach the top of our profession. When so many talented women decide to quit architecture we all lose. The problem is bigger than just representation in the workforce. The women that are not represented […]

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My advice to women is to persist and believe in themselves, even in the face of workplace adversity. Women deserve to reach the top of our profession. When so many talented women decide to quit architecture we all lose. The problem is bigger than just representation in the workforce. The women that are not represented in the firms , are not represented in our built communities. We are missing their perspective, voice and vision.


I had the pleasure of interviewing Mary Maydan. Mary is the principal and founder of Maydan Architects, a Palo Alto, California-based boutique architecture and interior design firm. Born in Tel Aviv, Maydan possesses a style that celebrates and reflects what it means to be modern. She founded her firm in 2004, and gained immediate recognition for her design of an ultra modern residence, which stood in sharp contrast to the traditional architecture that dominated Silicon Valley at the time. This first project established Maydan as a leader of a new trend and defined her niche — minimalistic contemporary architecture.

Prior to founding Maydan Architects, Maydan was the U.S. Correspondent of the prestigious newspaper, Globes, the largest and oldest financial newspaper in Israel. She lived in New York City, where she spent her time interviewing and writing feature stories about some of the most inspiring figures of our time.

Maydan relocated to Silicon Valley after meeting her husband. When they planned their first home, she fell in love with design and with the idea of making her own mark, as opposed to writing about other people who did great things.

Maydan’s high-end residential projects are driven by the motto that architecture should always be inspirational. She approaches each space as an artistic challenge, using her keen understanding of design, trends, construction, and cost to create one-of-a-kind homes that are beautiful, warm, livable and inviting. With her strong belief that architecture shapes the way we live our lives, Maydan focuses on creating designs that are functional, environmentally responsible and forward thinking.


Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to ‘get to know you’ a bit better. Can you tell us your ‘backstory’?

Prior to founding Maydan Architects, I was the U.S. Correspondent of the prestigious newspaper, Globes, the largest and oldest financial newspaper in Israel. I lived in New York City, where I spent my time interviewing and writing feature stories about some of the most inspiring figures of our time. I had the privilege of interviewing Mikahil Gorbachev, Mike Bloomberg, Barabara Waters, Larry King, Dan Rather, and Jerry Seinfeld, to name a few. I relocated to Silicon Valley after meeting my husband. When we were planning our first home, I fell in love with design and with the idea of making my own mark, as opposed to writing about other people who did great things. It was then I started Maydan Architects.

Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?

We usually work on four to five projects a year and our latest project is always the one I am most excited about because this is our next opportunity to challenge myself and the team, reinvent and create something new and fresh.

Architecture, like other forms of art, can invoke feelings and inspire, but unlike other art forms it also operates on a functional and practical level, too. As such it has the power to shape the way we live our lives. The principles of modern design — open spaces, indoor-outdoor flow, and ample natural light — all add to the quality of our lives, and contribute towards health, mood and productivity.

In our practice we strive to deliver the extraordinary, to design for our clients dream homes, and create beautiful buildings that are functional and environmentally responsible.

In your opinion, what do you think makes your company or organization stand out from the crowd?

Our firm is known for disrupting the status quo in Silicon Valley and leading the trend of modern design in the area. My first project was an ultra modern residence in Palo Alto. It gained immediate recognition as it stood in sharp contrast to the traditional and Spanish architecture that dominated our area. This project established our firm as a leader of a new trend and defined our niche — minimalistic contemporary architecture.

Many firms don’t specialize in a specific style. They design whatever the client is interested in. We established ourselves in our niche and are happy to focus solely on that.

I think we look at architecture a little romantically. We want each project to be one of a kind and outstanding. Architecture is not reserved for iconic buildings. We don’t look at a residence as just a house. It’s a work of art. We believe that even low budget projects should be gorgeous. Everyone appreciates beauty, no matter what their budget is.

Ok, thank you for that. I’d like to jump to the main focus of this interview. Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us? What was your idea? What was the reaction of the naysayers? And how did you overcome that?

I started designing residences in Palo Alto in the early 2000’s, and at the time Silicon Valley was the place that led the world in terms of innovation, shining as an early adopter in everything but architecture. People loved French Chateaus and Spanish mansions, Tuscany was the height of style, and arches were a status symbol. The consensus was that modern was suitable for office buildings but that no one would be interested in living in a modern home, because it would feel like living in an office. “If anyone wanted modern, developers would have built modern,” I was told and was also warned: “It will be very difficult to sell such a house. It would sell at a discount of at least10%-20%”

This notion was unfathomable to me. I was not a developer but I was completely convinced of the beauty of modern and it being a perfect fit for our area and context. I was eager to break away from the traditional mold of pitched roofs, arches and random windows. I wanted glass walls and sliding doors that would bring great natural light and a view of beautiful green lawns into spaces.

I didn’t feel that I needed validation. I was wholeheartedly convinced that when introduced to this style, people would fall in love with it. At the time, I didn’t even think it was brave to go against the stream. I was just passionate about my architecture. In hindsight I can see how bold it was to expect people to turn 180 degrees, and find beauty in something that they were so used to thinking of as cold and office-like.

In the end, how were all the naysayers proven wrong? 🙂

My first project drew a lot of attention even before it was completed. People came to our construction site and asked me to design for them. When my next big project went on the market, the first open house got out of control. There were over 1000 visitors that afternoon and the line of shoes that people were taking off when they entered the open house went all the way to the street. The realtor decided from then on to only have private showings.

It was clear that people were open to modern architecture. Young techies loved the clean lines, open floor plans and sleek design. A few years later developers started building modern houses too. As an anecdote, my first house sold two years ago not at a discount, but at a huge premium, to the founder of Whatsapp.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

We never succeed alone. Many people contribute to our success, but the most influential people who made me who I am, are definitely my parents. As a toddler my mom noticed that I was very good at math. She kept asking me harder and harder questions and delighting in my answers. Like any first time mom she bragged about me to everyone. For years I was oblivious to the fact that there is a stigma around women and math. I grew up seeing myself through my mom’s eyes. It fostered a feeling that anything is possible and I can dream big.

I think my parents’ support is even more outstanding when it comes to the fact that they supported my decisions, even when they did not necessarily like them. I was doing really well as a journalist when I decided to switch careers and go into architecture. My dad, who was a well known editor in Israel, at the level that sets agendas and carries great influence, told me, “Journalism is not something that you leave. It’s a calling, not a job.”

I knew that I couldn’t keep two jobs and be a good mom. It would make it impossible to succeed in any of them, so I pushed back and took a leave of absence from the newspaper. From the minute I made up my mind, he was 100% behind me. Supporting me, giving feedback, standing by my side when everyone thought that it was completely crazy to push for a new trend of architecture in our area.

It must not have been easy to ignore all the naysayers. Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resilience? Can you share the story with us?

In Elementary school I was chubby and was teased a lot by the other kids.It had a huge impact on me. At age 11 I learned to focus on healthy living. I changed the way I ate, lost weight, and with the newly found confidence that my tenacity and will power gave me, went on to make many new friends in middle school. I have stuck with the healthy lifestyle ever since.

Though the weight is long gone, the teasing had a lasting affect on me. The experience made me want to take action. When something doesn’t work out as I’d like, I need a plan. I can’t just sit and mope. I want to fix it. Having a course of action makes me feel instantly better as I know that I am working towards solving the problem. I also give a lot of positive feedback. It’s subconscious. If anyone deserves praise for anything, I am eager to give it and make them feel good about themselves.

Based on your experience, can you share 5 strategies that people can use to harness the sense of tenacity and do what naysayers think is impossible?

Find your passion and trust your judgement

We are very passionate about architecture and being loyal to our vision, which made breaking tradition easy. If you ask two people a question there will be three opinions, so if you want to be original and think out of the box, don’t ask people who will try to put you right back inside the box. Follow your passion and trust your own judgement.

Find great role models.

I draw inspiration from those whom I look up to. As a journalist I cherished my interview with Barbara Walters. I was in my mid twenties and she was an icon, known for making people open up and reveal their innermost feelings, often tearing up. I started by asking her: “Can I make you cry?”. She answered: “Of course you can. But I will make you cry first”. She asked me about my parents and my childhood, revealing some of her tactics. It was a huge privilege to get interview tips from the woman that paved the way for female journalists.

Go all the way

You can’t break tradition half way. In the beginning of my career I got many calls from people who wanted a modern interior but craftsman (or other traditional) exteriors “to fit better with the neighborhood”. As eager as I was to get the work, I turned these projects down. It seemed to me a huge mistake to build a house that hasn’t decided what it wants to be. It wasn’t my passion to design it and more than that, I thought that it would have very little appeal. For modernists it would not be modern enough and for traditionalists it would be too modern. If there is one piece of advice I can give, it’s that when you break tradition you have to believe in your vision and go all the way!

Focus on what’s important

Michelle Obama once said, “I can do it all, but not at the same time.” I am still working on that. I have 4 kids and a strong instinct to try to be everything for everyone all the time, but it’s a recipe for failure, so I am constantly learning my boundaries and I focus on the things that are really important, as a mom and at work.

Be optimistic, think positive

I am a natural optimist. I look at something impossible and I wholeheartedly think that I will find a way for it to work out. My eldest daughter often tells me: “Mom, you scare me with your optimism because I will end up so disappointed. I am going to ask dad.” I think of optimism the opposite way. I think that an optimistic person has the guts to try more and persist. It’s self fulfilling. My advice is: Think positive and don’t give up!

What is your favorite quote or personal philosophy that relates to the concept of resilience?

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are small compared to what lies within us.” — Maria Shriver

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

If I could inspire change in any field I would like to help promote equality in architecture. A recent major survey of the field found that women account for half of graduates from architecture programs in this country, but they make up about 20 percent of licensed architects and 17 percent of partners or principals in architecture firms.

There are many committees and organizations that work tirelessly to promote equality in architecture and I am convinced that it will be achieved. The question is not if and when, but how and what we have to do to get there. I believe that seeing female role models succeed is empowering, and mentorship is crucial. Both will help tremendously, but I can’t overstate enough that there is no simple solution or quick fix. Change is slow and takes time.

My advice to women is to persist and believe in themselves, even in the face of workplace adversity. Women deserve to reach the top of our profession. When so many talented women decide to quit architecture we all lose. The problem is bigger than just representation in the workforce. The women that are not represented in the firms , are not represented in our built communities. We are missing their perspective, voice and vision.

Can our readers follow you on social media?

Readers can follow Maydan Architects on Facebook at Maydan Architects, Inc. and on Instagram at @maydan_architects.

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