This is one subject with many tangents and a post that has been on my mind for some time. It’s funny how the same concept can revisit you at different points in your life until finally, the light bulb goes off and you (finally) learn the lesson. When I was in university, one of my creative writing courses featured a short film titled ‘Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control’ which includes some fascinating information on mole rats (tangent!) but is precluded on the engineer’s adage that between fast, cheap, and reliable you can only have two. My performance in that course was questionable but I have never forgotten the documentary. Years later, I became intrigued by what I would consider one of the original reality tv shows with real estate as the premise called Property Ladder, hosted by Kirsten Kemp. She spoke often about the triangle between good, fast and cheap – a construction theory that is common and very true – again, you can only choose two. Finally, on the personal side, I met a kindred spirit years ago who, upon listening to my troubles at the time, very bluntly advised me to “pick three.” Meaning that at any time, there is only room on one’s plate for three areas of focus. At the time, she was focusing on her family, her career, and her own self-care. I have witnessed her change of focus since then, but she remains careful in her selections and adheres to her own rule. This less serious but entertaining nevertheless meme made the rounds lately – count me in for coffee, jeans, and books 😉
With the exception of some small goods I’ve purchased from Amazon, I have never been failed by the good/fast/cheap triangle when it comes to construction. While it’s true that the labor costs are lower in this part of the world than the one that I come from, I’ve yet to encounter anything that could be defined as cheap and yet still managed to fulfill both the good and fast criteria. Due to the pressure to drive the price of labor downwards, there is a fair amount of poor work being performed in our market. Many of the jobs that I’ve taken recently have been to clean up and finish out projects started by other contractors. In all cases, the homeowners ended up spending significantly more than they should have as well as adding frustration and lengthy timelines to their order. Beyond the epic waste of material, some of which can’t be replaced, many pieces can’t be repaired other than by ripping them out completely and starting over which is not always feasible. Here are a few examples of jobs we have had to fix recently:
This is actually the SECOND attempt made to replace the tile in this leaky shower...
You had ONE job...construction version
This is not to say that I don’t make mistakes or get it right every single time (watch for a blog post on that exact topic shortly) but we work hard to correct any issues, whether they fell under our purview or not, to ensure our clients’ satisfaction.
Here are a few ‘after’ images from the happily ever after part of those stories.
Please check back for more progress and finished product photos - they're coming!
Potential. That one small word can be either promising or the kiss of death when it comes to real estate. As children, many of us were told that we had potential in one way or another. Sometimes this was said to encourage us, sometimes as an admonishment because we were guilty of not reaching it.
I first learned about “highest and best use” while studying commercial real estate principles. This straightforward concept can be applied to other areas as well – I’ve relied on it when drafting new home plans, configuring remodel layouts, in my business planning, and of course personally.
In this part of the world, production builders rule and we learn to live with (and hopefully love) their layouts. Most of the time, these homes are designed to use material and workmanship in the most efficient manner possible, which sometimes leaves much to be desired - either creatively, practically, or both. I frequently receive calls from homeowners looking to make better use of or improve some of these spaces, often vaguely labeled as “bonus areas.” I have converted large, unused closets into wine bars and changed a wine “grotto” into a study nook. Sitting rooms can easily be closed off and made into more practical office spaces or closed in areas can be opened up to flow into common areas and better integrate into the home and family life. We are fortunate in the Houston suburbs to have an abundance of space in our homes, including extra rooms that can be specifically purposed into wrapping rooms, craft rooms, or playrooms. Currently, we are working with a few clients who are finishing out attic space to increase storage capabilities in their homes and eliminate the headache of maintaining an off-site storage unit.
A popular feature many of the builders are incorporating into their model homes and offering to homeowners as an upgrade option are the full wall sliding glass systems made popular in coastal communities. We were contacted by a family contemplating installing one in a retrofit application. Their home backs on to a golf course, and they are in the midst of installing an incredible pool which would make the backyard a total focal point. From the front door, the view through the living room would be directly through this glass, making the sight lines unbelievable. Thanks to the great vendor team at BMC, the unit arrived this week and was just installed. We are still completing the finishing details but here are some before, during, and after shots. I will post a final image once the pool is complete to show off the spectacular end result.
We were similarly thrilled with the big reveal for two different homeowners recently who wanted to change out light fixtures in two-storey spaces to make an incredible impact. In both cases, the fixtures were original to the home and lacked the personality and character of the current occupants. Here are the before and after shots:
*the homeowner selected the same fixture for consistency in the foyer and living room.
Finally, an update on the construction at 3207 Shady Glen Lane – it has started! The MLS listing can be found here:
We are looking forward to pouring the slab in the next two weeks. Design selections are being finalized now and should be added to the listing shortly. Please check back for updates as Harper becomes more than a set of rolled up blueprints occupying real estate in the front seat of my truck ;)
If you would like more information on the new build, converting a space in your home, or making a small improvement that leads to big impact, please contact us for a consultation. No pressure - other than to fully meet your potential.
This post was supposed to be dedicated to make-ready projects (as in the work required to make a home ready to be listed for sale) but the “what-ifs” have been on my clients’ minds lately and if I’m being honest, mine as well.
Due to my background in real estate and speculative new home construction, I love the challenge of preparing a home to be listed for sale and crossing items off a punch list at rapid speed. It’s a little facelift for the house and feels very rewarding when prospective buyers compliment the changes or a sale occurs faster than expected. This project segment has been steadily growing within my business and ranges from straightforward (freshening up the paint with more updated colors) to the complex (solving long-standing water issues and their subsequent repairs, replacing cracked floor tiles or damaged wood planks, completing unfinished DIY projects, etc). We start by touring the home with the owners and their realtor to draft a wish list of everything they would like (or feel they need) to repair. A detailed estimate is prepared so that they may choose which jobs to proceed with. Once the work begins, it’s common for the homeowners to add on additional work as they are delighted by the changes they see in a short amount of time. I also come prepared with a list of my suggested items that are standard in most homes – small things that might be overlooked by homeowners but can make a big impression on buyers. When making selections for make-ready projects, we tend to stick to popular (but never bland!) colors or finishes. This is not to say that we chose very basic or what I call “offensive neutrals” but rather current shades with personality. Sherwin-Williams was kind enough to provide me with a fan deck of the 50 most popular colors and I was thrilled to use it for the first time during a make-ready consultation this week.
Here are some photos from a recently completed listing, which sold within days. Great family moving onwards and upwards and very focused on doing what was needed to obtain a quick sale.
The “what-ifs” in these cases are relegated to the market and buyer’s response to our selections, which is more straightforward than trying to accommodate personal taste. The “what-ifs” become more difficult for owners staying in their homes and trying to determine whether a project is feasible from a financial, practical, or cosmetic vantage. What if I don’t like it? What if my partner doesn’t like it? What if the kids ruin it? What if it doesn’t look good? What if I get tired of it? And my most dreaded…what if it affects future resale? As a home builder, I survived a pattern of build, move, list, sell, repeat for close to ten years. On average, we moved every eleven months. Finally, with three children under the age of six in tow, I’d had enough. Our residence had to be showroom pretty at all times and resale was the one and only consideration when making selections, creating layouts, or crafting design features. While it was enjoyable to always live in a beautiful house, the cycle was exhausting and I tired quickly of living in other people’s dream homes. Afraid to choose anything that could negatively affect a future sale, or including options that I didn’t want because I hoped it was something that someone else would (dark hardwood with small children, I’m looking at you) became overwhelming. Now, when I’m meeting with a client and the conversation inevitably turns to the dreaded question above, we talk about timeframes, likelihood of an upcoming sale, and possible future fixes. Paint color is an easy one; converting a laundry room BACK to a bedroom presents more of a challenge. I will say that based on my previous life experience, I always encourage clients to choose what they like, regardless of market trends. It’s your house and you not only have to live in it, you should love living in it as well. An additional benefit of slightly unconventional choices can be the appeal they present to a market saturated with builder beige and other “safe” choices.
This custom master bath remodel was a significant factor in the quick sale of this pretty home.
In construction and in life, when presented with any decision it’s tempting to consider the myriad of ways it can go wrong. This can be prudent, especially when the stakes are high. But not deciding is a decision too. And those decisions that do go right? You’ll never forget them.
photo credit: Bumble via Instagram
For someone who considers construction her religion, I really love old things. Specifically, old things that can be loved back into purpose. This is dangerous at times, especially in my line of work when I’m often called into homes undergoing a transition – remodel, relocation, or refresh. I’ve been known to bring home “strays” – beautiful solid wood doors, a sweet bed, even the surround from an overhead kitchen fluorescent light that I have visions of repurposing as a standalone ceiling treatment. You may remember the find I nicknamed the Craig’s List Bed from some time ago – may have been this time last year – but you probably wouldn’t recognize it:
Lifestyle blogger I am not. Those sheets are not ironed and the lighting will tell the tale of how late it is, but the bed turned out even better than I had expected and is being put to good use.
Beyond the salvage items, I enjoy seeing what was transform into what could be. This goes deeper than before and afters (which I will agree, I’m terrible at sharing properly) and love nothing more than seeing the hints of what a home used to look like. Old wallpaper (often a few layers deep), forgotten strip wood flooring, and original layouts absolutely thrill me. I believe that life is filled with layers of varying importance and the character found in a home are no different.
Construction can (and usually should) move at the speed of light, but there are often moving moments on any project – whether it’s incorporating a piece that is of special significance to the client, or seeing just how far we have come. There are also smaller moments, like the underbelly of this lizard that kept the crew company on a late night bathtub install, or these small odds and ends that were left in a vanity prior to it being painted (the client didn’t mind).
Restoration work remains heavy in our part of the world, and for many the first step has been assessing the extent of the damage and determining where to begin. This image is from a home that did not fare well in the hurricane and subsequent flood; the homeowners kept stripping layers from their home until there was barely anything left. The material below is the last layer of defence between the interior and exterior worlds. When the client saw how it was crumbling, he opted to order a bulldozer.
Amid the bad news and chaos, some hope has been restored and many of the projects we undertook have been completed. The final item on the punch list for this home was the stairway to the second level. It took many months, much patience, and plenty of persistence, but the homeowners were finally able to relegate the flood shoes that have lived on these stairs since September to their back entrance.
When it comes to restoration, construction, and transitions in life, it almost always has to get worse before it gets better.
There are layers to everything, and while it can be painful to do the work to get to what's underneath it's almost always worth it.
So, what are you working on these days?
The smartest realtor I know used to lead with the same question at every listing appointment:
“What is your favorite thing about your home?”
This is a great question because it would allow the best feature of the home – even one that might not have been visible to the realtor – to be highlighted in the listing description and shared with potential buyers. On my side of things, I’m typically called in to fix something that is the homeowner’s least favorite. Whether it’s an entire kitchen, paint job, or an unpleasant repair such as a water penetration issue, I feel fortunate for the opportunity to turn a negative into a positive. It’s amazing the relief that the completion of some of these projects can provide to homeowners. Often, they don’t realize how badly they wanted the work done, or how it was holding their home back.
In my remodel work, most of the focus is on “the pretty” – tile selections, paint colors, accent pieces, fixture finishes – but sometimes we are able to make a lasting and long-term impact for a client without spending an extra cent. This was the case recently in South Sienna as we sought to update and refresh a master bath that was original to the home. It featured builder-grade fixtures and the worst example of “you had one job” I have seen in awhile. To enter or exit the shower, the homeowners had to go through their bedroom due to the orientation of the door. Not a big deal getting into the shower, but stepping into a carpeted bedroom upon exit was another story.
We updated the tub, shower, tile work, vanity, fixtures, toilet, trim, and paint. They upgraded to a slick frameless glass enclosure but the best part – the swing of the new door.
We also added this custom vanity tower which just might become our unofficial calling card.
We also contended with a pony wall from what I will refer to as the “deep south” – in the end, I had to float it and pray that that the granite sill would be level for the glass install.
Stay tuned for their kitchen remodel, coming later this summer.
So, what are you letting go of?
*top photo courtesy of #oddshxts
It’s been a hot minute since I’ve posted anything or updated content on either the blog or entire site – if you haven’t given up on me, thank you! I’m hopeful and optimistic that the weekly post schedule should now resume. It feels as though a hundred years (and a hundred projects) have come and gone since Harvey, but it’s only been six months. If you were or continue to be affected by the hurricane, my heart goes out to you. Being a Northerner, I really had no idea how much power a storm devoid of snow could have. It’s still a surprise when I visit homes and yards and hear how things “used” to look. The devastation was all over the map – I walked through homes that had been virtually wiped out and saw trash and debris piles full of personal belongings, some irreplaceable.
The challenges on the restoration projects were numerous and demanding – insurance adjusters and claim estimates were only the beginning. I’ve finished most of my restoration work and have been able to refocus on remodels as well as the new build that was permitting the week before the storm hit.
Personal projects have seen some progress too…
The cottage wall is complete (and GORGEOUS!)
The whole house was painted – room by room shots are coming, but here is the paint scheme in the meantime:
Our builder-grade orange tone kitchen cabinets are no more…
And the CLB (Craig’s List Bed) received a facelift. It needed reconstructive surgery, but in the interest of getting it done (and out of the garage), we made do. In its place at the back of the third bay is another bed frame, this one with a history. From Laurel Mountain (via a delightful client) I’m excited to make it new again and treat it to something adorable in a twin size.
Looking forward to sharing photos and details on our recent (half a year’s worth of…) projects. If you are interested in a consultation or simply have an opinion on those paint colors, please reach out. I’d love to hear from you!
I hope that you and your family are safe, that your home was spared and that you are able to come away from this incredibly challenging time with perspective, gratitude, and the ability to help those who were not so fortunate. It has been humbling and inspiring to see the residents of Sienna Plantation come together for each other. These are early days yet and still dark for many, as damage continues to occur and assessments are only beginning. What has been most notable for me is the area of strength that individuals drew upon in order to be of assistance during and after the storm. We are not all first responders (bless those who are…) yet everyone helped in their own way. I saw groups of moms with children pulling wagons to remove any evidence of empty, evacuated homes to deter potential looters; the Cajun Navy with their fishing boats and own methods of communication; geologists and engineers band together to decipher any available data and advise of their own timely predictions; grocery store stock people announce which products were in supply; mortgage brokers provide guidance regarding late or missed payments that will likely occur as a result of this disaster. The drive to volunteer has been incredible and my favorite image had little to do with the capacity of our levee or the rising waters but of a long line of regular people waiting patiently for their chance to be of service.
A resounding feeling of not only hopelessness but helplessness as well has come in equal measure to the rain we’ve received in Greater Houston. It’s easy during times of crisis such as this to sink down and feel as though there is little contribution that will matter given the scope of what’s being faced. I have witnessed people “dig down” and find their way – whether it’s organizing volunteer efforts, contributing and coordinating supplies and donations, or participating in neighborhood rescue missions – and believe this is the most effective singular way we can all be of assistance, contribute to the greater good, and get the wheels back on the road.
There is a significant distinction between asking “How can I help” and “How I CAN help” and the latter statement is the most important. We all have a way. As a contractor, I’m capable of helping people get back to or get comfortable in their homes. I have tools and good people, and we are ready.
*photo credit unknown
Here’s hoping you survived (and enjoyed!) the first day of back to school. In my part of the world, the kids went back yesterday after a very full summer. There were lots of smiles, great vibes, and my favorite – a mom carrying a huge tumbler of what I thought was coffee until she raised it towards me with a wink. I think she’s got this all figured out… With the start of school came the inevitable scramble of paperwork, immunizations, supply runs, and last minute panic – of course, now that school is in session, we are in for more of the same. I run two weekly to-do lists; one for personal/family stuff, and the other for my business. Between preparing for the return to school and starting construction on a new home, it feels as though I’m adding to the list more often than crossing items off as completed – not the best feeling. In the spirit of celebrating those completed items, here’s a round up of this week’s successes:
The Harper has been listed for sale! Please click here to view the listing: www.har.com
The HOA sent notice of conditional approval for the construction plans, including the exterior color selection, St. Bart’s by Sherwin-Williams.
The Cottage Wall is coming along and features the smoothest wall in our house. I’m definitely enjoying the look of it as it reminds me of home. It also reminds me of the incredible mess and long time frame to have gotten to this point, so I may be willing to take back some of the mean things I’ve said regarding textured sheetrock.
In terms of your home’s to-do list which may or may not have been replaced by a Pinterest board, here are two lovely refresh projects that could easily be completed in a small room such as a powder room or child’s bedroom fairly quickly and affordably. My second grader is begging for the wall treatment below (not sure if it’s paint or wallpaper) – I’m glad she hasn’t figured out how to add to my to-do list!
If you’d like a consultation on a similar project, please don’t hesitate to contact The Ashbury Construction Company today.
Here’s to crossing items off our to-do lists while remembering to enjoy the space in between.
The month of August (September where I’m from) is full of promise and new beginnings – the start of a fresh school year has always been one of my favorite times of the year for many reasons, not the least of which is the end of those pesky summer camp bills ;) We’ve been busy buying school supplies, purging clothes that no longer fit, and talking at length about what this school year will look like in the second grade and kindergarden. Wishing you and your family luck over the next week as we prepare to send ‘em back, and much gratitude to the teachers and administrators for all that they do.
I’m beyond excited to introduce you to what feels like a new addition of different sorts – the home I’ll be building in the Quail Valley neighborhood of Missouri City. We are still tweaking the rendering, but here she is:
This 2016 square foot home will include three bedrooms and two and a half baths, a mud room, covered patio, and golf course views. Design fixtures will be chosen from the contemporary farmhouse style, with a white/gray color palette inside. Each bedroom features a walk-in closet and there is a bonus space large enough for an office, playroom, or craft area on the second floor.
The home will back onto the El Dorado golf course and with views like these, who needs vacation?
I’m finalizing the material selections and hope to have a mood board to post here shortly. A sincere thanks to the vendors who have been part of this project to date, including Houston Plans & Permits, BDX Renderings, Sherwin-Williams, and the Quail Valley Fund HOA. Looking forward to adding more names to this list shortly!
Finally, the name of the plan. Harper was my grandmother’s maiden name and I’m proud to remember her with this design. She was a strong lady and has a lot to do with how I’m in business for myself. She passed before my “something borrowed, something blue” time so the color is a homage to her as well.
The Harper will be listed for sale on www.har.com soon but if you have questions or are interested in receiving further information about the home, please contact us directly or the listing agent, Realtor Extraordinaire Philip Monkhouse at 832-774-3578 or email@example.com .
There’s a meme circulating that proclaims August is like the Sunday of summer and it didn’t feel more real until yesterday afternoon, when the sky darkened, the rain poured, and there was enough of a chill in the water to remind us that yes, fall is coming. Of course, this being Texas, fall is still considerably warmer than even the hottest days where I’m from, but it does encourage one to sit down with a coffee (PSL?), thumb through some inspirational home photos, and make plans for the upcoming school and holiday seasons – which hopefully include some remodeling/refresh projects for your home!
This week, we finished the kitchen project I’ve been writing about and it turned out even better than I imagined. The scope of work included removing one of three columns, relocating the electrical that ran through that column, removing the breakfast bar, backsplash, granite counters, and all plumbing fixtures before replacing everything with new and improved versions.
The column was not structural (while the other two are) and relatively easy to eliminate. I still can’t believe how much this change opened the kitchen/breakfast area:
Taking down the raised bar also helped heaps:
The client opted for Carrera Marble counters and they are stunning:
In lieu of traditional subway tile, she chose a larger size with bevel details – it made a huge difference and while there was a slight price difference, I would recommend opting for this upgrade wherever possible. The addition of a stainless steel farmhouse sink, new Kohler faucet, air gap for the dishwasher, and counter button for the garbage disposal unit completed this remodel.
We were also able to give a little facelift to the laundry room sink:
I’ve had tile on the brain, and it seems I’m not the only one. Houzz featured an article this week about adding color to your bathroom and most of the designs included a tile wall behind the sink. My handy friend and master of all pieces of painted wood was well-ahead of this trend curve having, incorporated white subway tile behind her navy blue vanity last year. It was one of the best bathroom refreshes (extra points for working with a production builder bathroom) and I’m only a little jealous. Working on sharing a picture here soon for you to admire ;)
The new build I’m working on has a small main floor powder room with an interesting layout and I was originally going to install shiplap on the wall behind the sink but am now torn between that option or tiling the wall instead. As always, your thoughts and suggestions are welcome! Here is what the area will look like – not large by any means which is a win when it comes to a feature wall as it won’t be overwhelming or terribly expensive to pull off.
The rendering is in the works and I will share it here soon. I’ve submitted the plans and exterior color selections to the Architectural Review Committee at the HOA. This spec house (which will soon be listed for sale on har.com) will feature Sherwin-Williams St. Bart’s as the primary color with Extra White (also by Sherwin-Williams) as the accent color. Looking forward to hearing back from the Committee next week, fingers crossed until then.
The door in the photo above is the St. Bart's color - not the best representation but it seems to be the truest showing of the color I can find on the internet.
Please check back for further details on the new build, and if you'd like a consultation on a kitchen or bath remodel or any other projects please get in touch today!