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You create homes of incredible beauty. Some might even consider them works of art. How did you get started with this work?
I have always made an effort to excel at the work I am involved in. This passion I have for doing the best job I can has been a lifelong obsession. In high school track I excelled in state level competition. In the army I excelled in all my endeavors. I left the military, went to college and after University, taught school at the same time I worked summers for a builder. I worked with focus and intent and studied building design and structure.
When I started my company I quickly developed a reputation for being particular. In twenty plus years I have had among my clients four general contractors and two architects, building their own personal vacation homes in the resort community where we live. We also provided the Timber Frame Shell for the personal office space for a general contractor in Charlotte, NC. It is an honor to be selected, out of a competitive field, by building professionals to provide creative, quality and sustainable building services to them. One of our clients indicated that walking through the timber frame home we built for him was like walking through and looking up at a large piece of finely crafted furniture.
What is the difference between a renovation, remodel, and restoration?
In the past fifteen years, between thirty and fifty percent of our work has involved renovation, remodeling, restoration or addition work of existing homes. Often the three "R" words are used to describe any existing construction project upgrade. However, to me a renovation involves taking an existing home and "renovating it" to include a scope of work list to meet the client's needs: new windows to match existing floor plan, wood paneling, new kitchen and new baths. We are renovating a home in Blowing Rock, NC now and have added new trim, new floors, new cabinets, upgraded three bathrooms, a new kitchen and added stone to a previously wood paneled fire place.
Renovation can parallel a "remodel" in many ways. However, a remodel will involve a "remodeling" to change a floor plan or to move walls or to remodel a flat ceiling to upgrade to a vaulted ceiling. For me, a remodel can also include an addition. The Addition of a master bath, a great room or a new kitchen wing for instance. Most individual clients and builders may not distinguish between a remodel or a renovation.
I worked on the restoration of The Cannon Estate, built in 1927, in Blowing Rock for a client. They had restored a home in New Orleans, Natchez, MS and others and knew restoration. They made it very clear that they wanted the project restored to its original grandeur, with no visual change in the style or fixtures. Nothing was to be changed from the existing. Even the steam heat was to be maintained, though we installed a new full house duel fuel central heat system, new wiring and new plumbing as needed.
No visual or material change was made to the floor plan, lay out, bathrooms, windows at all. We did make upgrades and changes to the house as required by good sense and good building sciences, but we did not change the grand lodge style design in any way.
What are some environmentally friendly features that homeowners can consider?
I understand from those who study building science that solar hot water is the smallest investment and the most rapid return on your investment that a home owner can make. Others include solar panels, new windows in an existing home or upgrade windows in a new home. The list is long and varies depending on whether it is an existing home or a new home. The efficiency of heating systems, increased variety and quality of insulation (spray foam and SIPs), house wraps, sealed crawl spaces, windows, orientation of the house to south, have improved home building and energy conservation options to our clients significantly in recent years.
You are both very creative people. How do you work with homeowners to make their visions a reality?
Every individual, couple and group is different. The design needs are different so the final product varies. We make efforts to sort through the client's needs. We assess the property, work with a surveyor or land planner to create a site plan and with the home owner to create a design. It is as simple as that though the complexities vary from house to house, remodel job to remodel job and from client to client.
What is the best part of your job?
We have been involved in over two hundred building projects from small remodeling projects to fourteen thousand sq.ft. homes. There are a number of aspects of making a project work that are particularly reinforcing. The first is being infected by the passion and the vision of our client. I can feel the intensity and the love for their vision of a future client when they talk about their future building project, show me photos or drawings of their concept and we visit their job site. Building a home is building a dream and every story or reflection of every person, couple or group that we have built for rings in my ears today.
A doctor and his wife sought a family legacy on two hundred acres, including an estate burial ground -- four levels, seven fireplaces. A hotel developer told me that he and his wife had lived modestly all their lives and how he bought his first hotel when he was nineteen. They now own twenty hotels, many of which he built himself in upscale markets, and he and his wife wanted to build his dream Blue Ridge Mountain Lodge to share with family and friends. An architect couple, a home builder from Wilmington, they all have their own needs, interests and vision. I love working with the individual visions of our clients to build their dream home.
We have worked designing homes with our clients. We have also worked with home designers, architects, who we have recommended to our clients, and architects who our clients have brought to the table. We have been involved with land planners, surveyors, engineers, building science professionals and alternative home energy system specialists. All of this is professionally reinforcing.
The second thing that inspires me, after working to create our client's vision, is working with the trades people. These include the craftsman, carpenters and other professionals that produce the work: the hand crafted stairs, the trees harvested from a job site and turned into trim or structural members inside the home, the footing, foundation, retaining wall, stone masons, theater technicians, plumbers, electricians and others.
I am told by our clients most often that we are hired for our creativity, quality, and because they are aware of how particular we are. To build the fine projects we have requires involvement with professionals from all aspects of the home building service delivery. I find these people infected with the same passion that I have, and that our clients have, for quality and attention to detail.
The third of the three favorite parts of my job comes after I have worked through all the little details, holding all parties responsible, working through the intricacies of ongoing detail design and being responsible to our client. Then I can enjoy walking through the final, finished home: walking up the hand crafted stairs, sitting in front of the roaring fire and feeling a sense of pride along with our client, in what we have created together!
Interview by Shan Boggs. Click here to visit Shan's blog, Interesting People.
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