Life can be hard. Sometimes we make it harder on ourselves than it has to be (both hands raised). Likewise, we can also implement small changes to make meaningful, positive impact. I’m in full support of any improvement, no matter the size, that will bring joy in the form of beauty, efficiency, or utility. Enter three home hacks if you will, each designed to make the place you call home feel better.
1. Closet Packing Island
If you travel frequently for business or, luckier yet, enjoyment - you are likely familiar with the challenges of packing and unpacking in a standard walk-in closet space. The packing island has become popular thanks to lifestyle posts, Pinterest and Houzz but also because it’s an incredibly useful tool to make coming and going so much easier. After completing a stunning master wing remodel, this family opted to add a custom built packing island to simplify a full travel schedule and the organization that is required to successfully accommodate it. The island was designed with all drawers, including jewelry drawers at the tops as well as a custom maple top. We opted not to stain it, only to enhance the natural color and protect the wood against zippers, wheels, and the bulk of a suitcase landing and taking off weekly.
Drawer pulls in a matching style but complementary finish pulls the space together with the master bath. Of course, no space feels complete without a great accessory - a shell chandelier in this case. Happy travels!
2. Cabinet Hardware
I’ve written about cabinet hardware previously and feel just as strongly about it as ever. In the case of this new kitchen, many of the drawers were impossible to open without pulls, which added a practical element to the pretty. Mixing sizes and styles broke up the significant amount of cabinetry and shows off the varying door styles. The larger pulls are generously sized; non-technical photo included for illustrative purposes only ;)
Each of the three hardware selections came in the same finish but different price points which maintained the budget even though the large pulls were pricey comparatively.
3. Outdoor Patios
Covered patios in my part if the world feel more like a must-have than a luxury. Usually, these spaces are included with the original build and feature a concrete floor, poured at the same time as the foundation. While this is suitable and not terribly unappealing, we’ve been receiving more requests from homeowners to cover the drab concrete with something more stylish. This also allows homeowners to further style the space with a rug, furniture, and accessories to compliment the floor covering. Tile is a popular choice but it’s important to use the proper thinset suitable for outdoor applications as well as the typical unevenness that is expected with these bases. A quick-and-dirty alternative is to paint the floor (again, using the proper products) in a standard single color or something more decorative such as stripes or a stenciled pattern. The surface can always be repainted in the future or covered at any point. String lights, a ceiling fan, a beverage cooler will complete these areas and make them ready to entertain friends and family.
As always, if you’d like a consultation on your own project whether it be pretty, practical, or both - please reach out to The Ashbury Construction Company.
I’ve learned that sometimes you build a house and sometimes the house builds you. There are twelve years, more than 1500 miles, and plenty of lessons between them, but the latter has certainly been the case with both the first new build on Harty Street back home in Canada and the Harper on Shady Glen Lane in Missouri City. I don’t believe my gratitude or sense of appreciation to be able to do this work, day after day, has waned. While it almost never feels easy (and it’s usually a red flag if it does), there have been so many helping hands and helpful people along the way, those who are excited and all in on these projects no matter the level of difficulty. Cheerleaders who refuse to stay on the sidelines and treat my wins as their own; who are equally vested in my success and the completion of these projects. People I can count on, who make me smile and think of easy work no matter the task. Sherwin-Williams has been incredibly supportive and were the first vendor to come on board with The Ashbury, basically before a board even existed. No matter the scope of work, their first and only question has been “how can we help?” When they heard that I was hosting a vendor thank you event at The Harper, they quickly got behind it and offered to assist. This was meaningful as the Harty Party is very close to my heart and a great opportunity to show appreciation to the many hands who make light work on these new builds.
I was so excited to receive the watercolor rendering that was commissioned by the not only sweet but incredibly talented Bethany from Be Sweet Ink that I posted her message to me on Insta:
Houston weather cooperated just long enough to allow us to complete the final grade, landscaping, and this gorgeous little front porch pot:
Finally, Harper. She was looking as close to perfect as possible by the vendor event date. I couldn’t have been more proud and love showing her off:
The for sale listing can be found on www.har.com or by contacting The Fullers Group at Re/Max Southwest directly.
The real estate group and I will be co-hosting a special neighbors only open house shortly, followed by public open houses so please plan on stopping by.
Our next significant project is a full remodel with new addition in Piney Point, complete with full design services by the lovely and talented Alana Frailey. To say I’m excited to get started and share all of the amazing details would be an understatement. Sort of like referring to the Harper as “a little blue” 😉
If you asked my kids the one thing they wish I would stop saying to them, it would without a doubt be this. But it is so true, and applies in any situation I can think of. Previously, I would have scoffed at something like this, or felt as though it didn’t apply to me. A big believer (now) that we see things as we are, the old me would have definitely found an excuse to have an excuse. A reason to put it off for another day, which would turn into a week, a month, a year before I even realized the time was passing so quickly. In short, I used to think I had to wait. For the right time, for permission, for a sign…for anything. I was nervous to make a mistake, but late to realize that not choosing is in fact a choice. I dreamt big but acted small. I’ve since learned that it’s okay to say you wanted it, even if it doesn’t work out. My kids are also tired of hearing that closed mouths don’t get fed, but as they apply it literally in this case they are more likely to believe me 😉
The lot on Shady Glen was purchased, from Canada, in 2015. I had the plans drawn in 2017 but didn’t begin construction until 2018. It’s 2019 now – if you know where March went please let me know – and while I could focus on how long this process has taken I’d rather appreciate the opportunity and trust that the timing has actually been perfect all along. There were many stops and starts along the way, and MANY times that I thought this was just too big, there were too many unknowns, and that maybe I just wasn’t enough to pull it off. It’s not a magic trick and I am certainly no magician – this home was built through hard work, concentrated effort, and many helping hands – but until it gained momentum, it really felt as though it could or should be put on hold until I could get a better handle on things. Until can be a dangerous word and there will always be a reason to wait, but I wouldn’t have started building the Harper if I’d waited for the perfect time. Now that it is near completion I can’t wait to start the next one. This wouldn’t have happened without taking the first step or the ones that followed.
The Harper is listed on MLS for sale and showings are very easy to arrange thanks to the fabulous sales team at Par 3 Realty in Missouri City. Of course, their photographer’s skills are infinitely better than mine, but here is a look at how she’s looking currently.
Master bath vanity is absolutely dreamy; master shower to match; secondary bath holding its own
Custom white and navy kitchen with fridge gable, pull out trash, and lovely crown molding
Fun shiplap detail in powder bath; leafy exterior views; oversize newel posts for the win
Thank you for your continued support and encouragement; somedays I don't feel that I'm building this house as much as it's building me. Grand moves are possible, and even if they start out feeling as though they are too big remember that you are always enough.
Sometimes, something feels too big, too grand, too much. Even the best laid plans can be overwhelming, even when everything is going according to schedule and the progress is good. These feelings can easily be compounded when the going gets tough, and sometimes the hardest decision is whether to try harder or give up. And sometimes giving up isn’t an option, which can feel both fortunate and unfortunate.
This past Friday, I spent some time inside the Shady Glen Lane new build, walking around and doing my best to keep it together. The house was sheetrocked last week, and I should insert the world’s truest FINALLY in there to give you an idea of how long that milestone has been coming. I’ve been quiet about this project for a few reasons – being tied up with remodel work is the easiest excuse. I would often consider a blog post to update the Harper status but at certain phases of construction, the progress appears minute and boring, or the photos aren’t terribly pretty (looking at you, plumbing rough-in). Finally, this project has been my heart’s work in so many ways and keeping it under wraps amid everything else that’s been going on seemed like the easiest decision. I’ve worked to get to this place for so long and so hard that it has felt like it’s just too big at many points. As with any new construction project, there have been some lessons learned but they haven’t all been hard ones. The number of vendors who have gladly pitched in with suggestions, physical work, or just a much-needed laugh has been incredible. I’ve been made to feel (for the most part) that no challenge is insurmountable and that the sheetrock reveal would arrive. Learning to ask for help has been a constant lesson, but I feel so very fortunate that I’ve never been let down and more than often have received more than I’ve asked for.
So, I might be biased, but I think she’s looking pretty good.
Updated *professional* photos are coming next week, please check the real estate listing on the HAR website for them.
And, a retrospect. My camera roll feels slightly lighter.
The Harper is located at 3207 Shady Glen Lane in the Quail Valley neighborhood of Missouri City. My fabulous sales team at Par 3 Realty would happily arrange a showing and fill you in on the many reasons you should consider calling this new build home. Among them are three bedrooms, a stunning master bath, powder room with Magnolia-inspired shiplap detail, custom navy and white kitchen with island, and a bonus office upstairs.
Here are the selections that have been made to date:
She could be yours, but she won’t last long. Thank you for reading, for your interest in this project, and for your continued support.
Hands down, reveal day is (mostly) everyone’s favorite day on any project. Everything is sparkly and new, the colors are pristine, and it’s hopefully enough to convince the homeowner that the time, effort, and expense were worth it. When I started in construction twelve years ago, one of the first and best pieces of advice I received was that the hardest part about building a house was finishing it. This still holds true and is accurate when it comes to remodel/restoration work as well. Reveal day is the ultimate destination and while getting there isn’t quite half the fun, there are points which are thoroughly enjoyable.
We just completed a stunning master bath remodel, complete with some fabulous accessories and add-ons. The homeowners were incredible to work with and had the best taste. When they purchased the home, it was with absolute intention to gut this room.
Her preferred colors were bright and crisp, a freestanding tub was on the wish list, and we had to find a way to lose the column and make the shower larger.
The existing vanity had seen better days and needed a layout rework, so we ordered a custom piece with a plan for a pull-out drawer to store this heart-stopping accessory (ladies!).
It allows for hair tools to be PUT AWAY HOT. This is a game changer in the morning and your counters will thank you.
If you know me, you know my love of tile removal. I had scheduled a block of time to take up the floors here but was able to put the chipping hammer away after a few popped as though they had been hot-glued to the floor. I couldn’t believe my luck (or the terrible original installation job) but this floor came up like nothing I’ve ever seen before….and probably won’t see again.
A close second to reveal day (in my mind anyhow) is the day the counters, sinks, and faucets are installed. The homeowner opted for quartz in this space and it is beautiful.
Finally, the after photos. She opted for what remains our calling card (custom built vanity tower) and at the last minute, we created these framed mirrors with sconce cutouts using her original builder-grade mirror.
While we were working in the home, we also installed new carpet in the master bedroom and closet, painted the master wing, and completed a master closet refresh including a custom-built packing island that will make your jaw drop. The custom walnut top is scheduled for installation on Monday and I will share the after photos next. You might never see your closet in the same light again.
This project is almost a wrap and the homeowners made it very enjoyable. As always, we’re grateful for the opportunity to work in someone’s home and transform such a significant space.
Finally, if you were expecting an update on the Harper, it’s in the works. We had a few holdups at the frame and HVAC stages, but she’s coming along and she’s gorgeous. The custom kitchen shipped yesterday and I am beside myself to see how the white and navy blue combination will look. Please check back soon for photos and fixture selections. In the meantime, she'd like to say hello...
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?