Welcome to this edition of the Houston Custom Home Builder podcast series, brought to you by Houston’s leading luxury construction team, Morning Star Home Builders. I’m Greg your host and for today’s episode we are joined by one of Houston’s best known and most accomplished custom and luxury home builders, Ted Cummins. Ted, good to talk to you this morning. How are you?
Ted: I’m doing well, Greg. How are things in Kentucky?
Greg: Very nice. The weather’s caught up to Spring I guess, maybe a little bit early. But it is very nice here, thank you for asking. So the last, I guess last two podcasts, we talked about really beautiful master bathrooms and you were getting fired up and getting all excited and it led me to wonder kinda what, what gets you fired up? What inspires you on a regular basis? And I know you have some projects coming up and I’m wondering if you could talk about… inspire us all with what you have coming down the road.
Ted: Yes, occasionally we’ll do a home that does not have a buyer attached which allows me to really be creative, and do something a little different. So our next inspirational home we’re getting ready to start at Willowcreek Ranch, which is just south of Tomball in northwest Houston Harris county, is a home that really is going to be a fun project. Willowcreek Ranch by the way is an acreage community. It’s an equestrian community. They’re doing an arena, and you can have horses and be a part of that, but obviously not everybody is a horse person. But everybody enjoys a little bit of property. So the lot we selected on Indigo Illusion was the street name. The address is going to be number 22 Indigo Illusion. But the lot is about .8 acres, so it’s a little shy of an acre. And so based upon what I’ve been seeing in our designed build firm that we be doing now for over 17 years, is a large one-story.
I don’t know if you’ve ever lived in a large one-story, or even a one-story home… that used to be for old people that didn’t want to deal with stairs, but more and more people of all ages are coming in and talking and wanting to build a one-story.
Greg: When you build a home like this, is that what you’re going off of is … ’cause you work so hard on design, and build and working with clients. Is it working having already worked with clients that you get to look forward and say “This is what my next project’s going to be. I want to build a one-story”?
Ted: Yes. I mean we’ve done several one-stories. Our Southern Living Showcase home that we did in Town Lake back in the Spring of 2014, was a large one-story. About 5,300 feet, living. And this one is a little bit bigger. It’s about it’s a little over 5,700 square foot one story. Obviously, just because most people don’t have that much land to be able to build a large one story on , you just don’t see them very often. It’s also challenging because on one stories you’ve got to be really good about design to really minimize hallway space.
Greg: So I think I asked that question really poorly, so if you’ll let me backup, though I liked where your answer was going. When you get to choose a project like this, are you gonna design what you want to design, what really excites you about a house? Or do you have to balance that with what you think the market will bear, from what you’ve learned in the market place, by the time the house is done? Does that make sense?
Ted: Yes. Yes it does. Obviously, because this home does not have a buyer attached yet, we’ve got to be a little careful not getting too weird from an architecture standpoint, or the colors we choose, or the finishes. But having done these kind of projects for literally 17 years, I’ve got a pretty good feel of what the public is looking for. And I’m very excited. I think it’s going to be something, the elevation as you’re looking at it, I think people will really go “Wow, this is a neat looking house”.
And It’s very different than I’ve done. We’re calling kinda a Spanish modern style, with being a large one-story, tiled roof, white stucco with dark windows. Kind of a entry courtyard when you come in. We’ll talk a little bit more about the floor plan, but that’s as I was on Houzz.com, we use that a lot of course in our design practice. And as I was spending time both in the office looking at things and occasionally we have a client that wants to go Mediterranean or Spanish, and then sitting on the couch. That’s when you know it’s your passion, was even when you’re not working, you’re still looking at homes. I’m sure as a Realtor you may do that occasionally?
Ted: So when I was on Houzz I started seeing some really cool houses, mainly in California’s where you see that style that’s very classic Spanish. But I use the term modern because of the kind of the windows’ looks, and the contrasting colors of the dark framed windows with that white stucco inside the lower whiter colors that certainly is trending right now.
Greg: Yeah, I’m looking at a picture you sent me a floor plan and a illustration of the property, you can see why it’s going to be so appealing. I mean it’s just… it’s beautiful.
Ted: Yeah. So we’ve got a four-car side entry garage, and if you’ll … One thing that I go to the garage because if men are listening or reading this, they’ll enjoy this. So, we’ve come up with this term we’re, we kind of splay the garage into pieces. So you’ve got a two-car and a two-car with that kind of a wedge in the middle, and that area is been a huge bonus for anybody who buys this type of home with this layout of garage.
Because that wedge, I’ve actually got that in my personal home. I don’t have this garage, but I did have a three-car. But having those garages split apart a little bit at an angle creates this wedge area which is fantastic for just the overall storage needs. Whether it’s your bicycles, or the Harley, or the workbench, you know whatever tools, I mean it’s just ends up being a great spot and it separates the space from the as far as the cars being up too close to each other.
Greg: So if you have a teenager parking you can scoot them a little bit over to the side, so they don’t scratch your car?
Ted: Right, right. So it’s a great spot. And then because there’s kind of that turret on the front left portion of the home, that area gives you an extra, an added area kind of a workshop area. We did one of these in a home over in Cypress a number of years ago, had this kind of a turret, and he had built -in cabinets and that was literally, his kind of a shop area, which was totally out of the area of the cars. So, whether it’s kids and places for bicycles, or whether you’re a woodworker, or just a hobby guy, or restoring a car. Just the added room in the garage is been something very, very popular.
Greg: The way you tied it in from the front illustration, it looks great. It doesn’t look like an added on garage. It really flows nicely.
Ted: So I’ll walk us to the floorplan real quick, `cause that’ll stir some conversation. One of the things … That elevation’s are incredibly important to me, and obviously I tell people in design practice all the day long is that my desire of the homes that we’re involved in designing for clients, or even for our company, is that’s a house that when you drive down the street, that’s the one you’re going to stop and go “I would love to see inside that house”.
And so that’s my bar as relates to front elevations, and even back elevations if we’re on a lake or a golf course. So, the elevation’s incredibly important. So when you walk up to that, we’ve been doing this little short, small welcoming little courtyard that you enter into. That steps you up into a covered porch. In Houston when you get a 10 to 15 inch rains occasionally, having that covered of porch is … you probably don’t see rain like that in Kentucky.
Greg: Not too often. No.
Ted: So you step into the rotunda, which is going to be large, I believe that’s over 16 feet in diameter, so it’s going to be big. And that goes basically up and protrudes back out the roof. And from the elevation you’ll see those store windows up top that bring in the light to that rotunda. So it’s going to be large, very airy but very open. And it’s going to be kind of a really special entry when you walk in.
We did something that more and more clients are asking for. So when you were asking about when I designed something without a buyer, how do we make those decisions. Almost everybody is having a desire to have kind of a guest wing bedroom on one side of the house, and a master room in the other.
So, if you’ll notice on this Greg, when we come in, we’ve got a the light immediately. We’ve got a study, which will be with open ceilings, exposed beams, and a fireplace. And then that connects to bedroom four, and bedroom four bathroom off that bedroom, plus also serves as kind of a secondary powder as well. But you’ll notice bedroom two, three and four are all to the right side of the house. And so we’ve separated the master bedroom from any kind of noise. So whether it’s kids, or whether it’s just guests, most people don’t want the master right up against guest bedrooms.
Greg: Right, okay. I’m having fun flipping back and forth between these pages with the elevation, and then scrolling down and watching the floor plan and seeing how they fit in to each other. It’s kind of fun.
Ted: And in that rotunda, if you’re off to the left, that ends up being a really large dinning area. I mean this dining area will easily sit eight, 10, 12 people. So, it’s very long. Again vaulted ceiling and beams. Walking through a butler’s pantry, we’re doing a little wine grotto bar area. That also feeds right off the butler’s pantry.
But we’re going to do kind of a sneak peak window, even from the rotunda into that bar. So, people have told me I need to go to counseling for my symmetry problem, and one of the things that I work hard on doing is you step into that rotunda, you’ll see kinda cross in that door that cut out that will be kind of that peak into the wine grotto. I think that’s going to be really fun.
So in the family room again we’re going to raise ceiling, expose beams. You’ll have a fireplace across that opens up into that kitchen, and look at the size of that island. I think I counted, that’s easy seating for six or more bar stools. So this is a large, large island. This run of cabinets. The range that we’re doing. And again, my symmetry problem of having my range, my sink centered on that fireplace through that axis as you stand at the kitchen sink, and behind the range how you look straight ahead and centered on that fireplace.
Greg: I don’t think that’s a problem, I think it looks the way it should.
Ted: Well I do too. Maybe it’s only you and I that have the problem.
Greg: There we go.
Ted: Yeah. One of the conversations we always have with our clients and we talk about family rooms is “Okay, where’ the TV going?” And then the next question is “What size is the TV?” Because the TVs that were … When you think old … Other TVs obviously they started getting bigger and bigger and bigger. We’ve got a flat screen, so they get bigger, bigger and bigger. So are we talking a 50 inch, we talking a 65 inch, we talking about a 72 inch, we talking about an 80 inch? I mean, so we always make sure that we have enough wall space to accommodate the TV.
I am not a fan, I don’t recommend, putting the TV over the fireplace. What most people don’t realize until they’re sitting there, unless you’re fully reclined in a recliner in that space, you’ll start getting neck strain in about five minutes. Sitting in a normal chair looking up. So we do not recommend doing the TV over the fireplace.
Greg: Okay. Just a bad line of sight?
Ted: That’s line of sight, and again if you think about raising your neck back and leaving it there for any length of time your neck will start saying “I don’t like this position”.
Ted: So again some people struggle about where to put them. It truly is better keeping it left or right of the fireplace. With the pull out bracket that you can tilt it for the proper viewing angle for you and your friends.
Ted: The thing that people may not understand by really looking at the floor plan is we have designed this home, that this kitchen, and as you go towards the back, we’re calling that kind of a morning room, and then even a sitting room. But that vault that runs all the way from the front of the kitchen all the way to the back of the house, is one long vault. And all those are exposed beams coming up the array that runs … Gosh, I forgot to add it all up, I know we’re probably close to 40 feet.
So we’re going through the length of that kitchen, the morning room, and then the sitting room. So it’s going to be very, very dramatic. That morning room is same thing you might call it a breakfast room. But it is obviously for more typically your morning meals. So we use that the morning room. But the outdoor space on this house is going to be over the top. So, we’ve got this huge entertaining space that feeds off the morning room, feeds off the family, and also connects off the game room off the back onto the outdoor living area and outdoor kitchen.
Greg: See, this is where’s it helpful to have listened to, of course I’ve listened to them, your previous podcast, because now we’re touching on some of your concerns and how you think. Your process, right? So we’ve talked about outdoor entertaining and outdoor kitchens, and it’s really interesting to see how you’ve fit this in to this property. The way it flows, and how many different places you can get to from how many different places in the house. I mean, it’s not an afterthought.
Ted: No, it’s something we spent a lot of time in, our entire team looks at it, I look at it, obviously work with the architect. Back and forth I spend a lot of time on these kind of projects. In the game room down, well, since it’s a one-story, but we’re seeing more and more people interested on even the game room being on the first floor. So, people are realizing “Well, if the game room’s up stairs, I just never go up”. And so that’s also a feature that more and more people are looking for.
Greg: And then you can get to some of the outdoor living space from the game room, right? You can get to the outdoor living space from the morning room and the-
Ted: If you’ll look at this and people hopefully will as they listen to this or read this and go back and look at the floor plan of this home, this has very, very little hallway space. Traditionally in hallways in one-stories you’ll see more and more hallway space. So we worked really really hard that you get … You’re always going through one place to get to another, but it’s not a dedicated four foot long, 20 or 30 foot long hallway to get to those spaces. So, hallways are very much a wasted space. So we want to try to minimize those the best we can.
Greg: That’s really interesting. It shows you that I’m not a builder. I’m easily following the flow of this house with my eyes, and I’m looking at it, and it didn’t register to me that the hallways are minimized, that there’s only a couple of very short, small hallways. It’s a very easy to maneuver around floor plan, but I missed that part.
Ted: Then off the kitchen morning room, obviously we’ve got the we call owner’s retreat, master bedroom, which is nice size and it’s bumped out the very end for a little sitting area overlooking the backyard. Again this is on almost an acre, so you’ve got plenty of room. Even this size of footprint you’ve still got plenty of room for a pool. Off the back if clients want that.
We separated his and her closets. Even his is a really good size closet. Her’s is gigantic. And we’ve also done something a little different. We actually did something similar to this in our Southern Living house in Towne Lake in 2014. We separated the vanity spaces. So if you look, his space is the central vanity, and there is a curved dotted lines representing barreled ceiling that’s going to go all the way down over the freestanding tub, but then kind of round the corner is an L-shape vanity space, and that’s for the wife.
And that little X, dotted X, is where the knee space for her makeup area and her sink. So it’s kind of separated away from the main view of the bathroom. Just in case women don’t always pickup all the items on their sink. I don’t know if you’d have … I don’t know if you see that in your home, in your master bathroom, but I certainly do.
Greg: It’s always spotless at my house. Always.
Ted: Okay, I believe you.
Greg: Just in case my wife’s listening.
Ted: There you go. There you go. And then we’ve obviously we got a little pocket door that opens and closes into her closet. And then, this is incredibly popular, we’ve connected her closet through additional door into the laundry room. We’re doing … This has become so much more popular I don’t know if you’re starting to see it in your market Greg where we’re connecting the laundry room obviously to the body of the house, but also to one of the master bedroom closets. And so the functionality, the practicality of coming and getting something out of the dryer, versus going down the other side of the house to get where the laundry room may sit. Just for our clients is just … When they start to see this idea, they want it.
Greg: Yeah. And to go back to what you were talking about earlier with the not a lot of hallways, it still an easy, for the kids to get to the laundry room, to the parents to take the kids’ clothes or whatever. It’s not that far away.
Ted: And this laundry room by the way, literally is the biggest I’ve ever done I think probably in any home. I mean it’s the size of a guest bedroom, so it’s 13 by 12. A very, very nice sized laundry room, they can make that multipurpose. So there’s obviously some need in younger families. They want to do crafts with the kids. Well that can be done in this space. We did a house a number of years ago High Meadow Ranch, just north of Tomball, and that was her office.
So she literally, we built a very nice office counter space, knee space, pullout for the printer, under counter lighting, a lot of natural light looking at the front. And her washroom and dryer were in there. And she loves it. So these kind of spaces have gotten to be really, really popular. So it’s not the traditional walk in get something out of the dryer wash room, walk back out because you can hardly stand to be in there because it’s claustrophobic. This is literally the size of a guest bedroom.
Greg: So if you start working or continuing working on 22 Indigo Illusion… how far are you … Are you just teasing us today, or do we get pictures as the process continues?
Ted: Well, we’ll have to follow up with some pictures, we’re in for financing right now, we hope to start the project in May this year. And then we’re looking at probably early summer finish next year. So this is a ways out, but I wanted to take the time to just kind of talk about my next inspirational home. And you can tell I get pretty excited about it. This is going to be a fantastic home for somebody that wants to live maybe a little bit far out, but still have the conveniences of the proximity of Willowcreek Ranch.
Greg: It looks wonderful, and I’m really excited to see some of the finishes and talk about those later in months to come. Because every time you go to a trade show or see what’s working in the marketplace… We went over the floor plan today, but I imagine as we get into it, if you get into it, there are going to be a lot more about finishes, and appliances, and flooring, and tile, and all those kinds of choices you have to make that would be interesting for us to follow along.
Ted: Absolutely. Absolutely.
Greg: Well Ted I appreciate it, and if someone is interested in learning more about 22 Indigo Illusion, or just your inspirational homes in general, what’s the best way to find you and talk about these properties?
Ted: Our website’s probably the easiest these days. Homesbymornigstar.com. We also have a lot of our pictures on our Houzz account. So if you go to Houzz.com and put in Morningstar Builders, Houston, you’ll find us. So we have nothing but professional photography on both our website and our Houzz profile page, so there’s a lot of information there that people can got to.
Greg: Wonderful. Ted, thanks for your time. I look forward to the next episode.
Ted: Thank you much Greg. Have a good day.
Thank you for joining us on this episode of the Houston Custom Home builder podcast series. If you have any questions, or would like to contact us at Morningstar Builders, you can find us on Facebook. You can always visit our website @homesbymorningstar.com. We appreciate your time with us today and look forward to bringing you another episode soon.