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, Yvonne Cummins. Yvonne, good to talk to you this morning. I understand you have a special guest in the studio.
Yvonne: Absolutely, I do. Today, we’re going to be chatting with Beau Parker who has been an employee of Morning Star Renovations for about a year and a half. He comes to us with a degree from Texas A&M in Construction Science. We have been very grateful for his educational expertise as well as some of his previous work experience as well.
Greg: Beau, nice to meet you. How are you?
Beau: I’m very good. How are you?
Greg: I’m doing well. I noticed Yvonne said something about restoration.
Beau: Yes, I manage all of our remodel arm of our business. I handle all of the remodel projects that we work on.
Greg: You’re not necessarily doing the new home, the new luxury construction, but rather you’re picking projects or projects are picking you, and you’re doing, I’m guessing, really high quality beautiful renovations.
Beau: Yes, it’s actually a really neat set up that we’ve got. Our new home side really focuses on that custom built, high end luxury market, and on our remodel side, we take that same set of subcontractors, that same quality, that same dedication to design and build excellence, and apply it specifically to remodels. It’s a unique set up that while we’re the same company, we have a very different, we have an individualized focus where we’ve got some new home builders and then, me on the remodel piece of it.
Greg: I understand that you all have a couple projects, or at least one, that you might want to talk about and maybe even a little, an award or two that you might’ve won recently.
Beau: Yes, we were very fortunate here a couple of weeks ago to be able to win four Prism Awards presented by the GHBA here at Houston. That’s for some design excellence and various other things. One was for a kitchen. One was for a master bathroom. One was for a specialty room, a wine room, and one was for a whole home. The project had a whole lot of unique challenges and obviously, some unique wins with that.
Greg: Was it the same home won all four awards?
Beau: That’s correct. It was a loft project that we did in the downtown area in a mid-rise building.
Greg: I’m assuming that being a mid-rise building poses a few problems to getting your job done.
Beau: It did. It definitely did. Being a loft, it’s obviously, and in town, the first issue which you find on day one when you just go to even look at it for the first time is parking. Most people in construction drive larger trucks and so, finding a parking space in town sometimes could be challenging. That extends even more so when you’re actually there doing construction trying to park other construction vehicles, trailers with material, material delivery, dumpsters to haul the trash off, various things like that.
Greg: Some of the things that those of us who are not in the construction business probably don’t think about on a daily basis, but you guys need to have lined up ready to go, don’t you?
Beau: That’s right. An importance of having a builder that’s done a project similar to yours in the past is knowing what some of those challenges are going to be before they get knee deep into it.
Greg: Why don’t you tell us a little bit about the project? What did you start with? I think we’re going to include a couple of pictures here on the show notes to the podcast, but what did you start with and what did you end up with?
Beau: Sure. We started with, I call it a very plain Jane, run of the mill loft. It was all painted the same color, monotone colors, very simple floors, a very dated looking design. I’d call it very cookie cutter. Most of the lofts in this particular building all looked very similar. They were all built at the same time at the beginning of the deal. They weren’t custom in the front end.
We took that and really shifted it into a full custom, very one off and unique design. That entailed several things. We moved several walls around, took out walls, added a couple of bathrooms, relocated a bathroom, rearranged the kitchen on top of some of those bigger pieces, then we did a whole bunch of finishes, all new flooring, all new paint colors on the walls and wall paper on the walls and specialty finishes and that kind of thing.
Greg: This sounds like a total renovation, just top to bottom.
Beau: It was, it was a full deal. We gutted just about everything. We left a few walls of sheet rock that we then fixed the sheet rock on or pretty much we took out all the finishes and everything there and then stuck everything back in ultimately.
Greg: How big a space are we talking about?
Beau: It’s actually a large loft from a loft standpoint. It’s right around 3,000 square feet. You walk into the loft on one floor and it’s got an internal set of stairs that goes upstairs. It’s actually two floors within that loft space.
Greg: That sounds exciting. A lot of things to play with on the artistic side, isn’t there?
Beau: There certainly was, which is actually a unique piece of what we did. We took it from that plain Jane, the straight wall, we added lots of little bump outs and furr downs and architectural details within the sheet rock that then allowed us to put some lighting in some neat places behind those to create some accent lighting and really play with that contemporary feel.
Greg: Wow. Why don’t you touch on a couple of the rooms specifically where you won one of these Prism awards and tell us what you did and the process?
Beau: Sure. One that everyone always likes to talk about is the kitchen …
Greg: Who doesn’t like a beautiful kitchen, right?
Beau: That’s right. That definitely needed some updating in this case. It had some really one of the unique challenges with the kitchen was we made this large peninsula. You’d almost call it an island, but it does touch a wall and so it’s got a counter top. It comes across the top and then a waterfall edge all the way down to the ground and it’s about 3 inches thick. Being able to get that, it seems like that would be fairly easy to make in the shop and just bring out, except for when you’ve got to get it four flights of stairs up because it doesn’t fit in the elevator.
Greg: Oh, no.
Beau: A whole lot of manpower problems with that, which was definitely one of the unique challenges, but also turned into one of the stunning pieces in that kitchen. That really draws it out and sets it apart. Then with that, we played with some of the, obviously, in a loft, a little bit smaller space in the kitchen so maximizing storage and some practical things that you don’t necessarily see just looking at a picture, but how a lot of the pull outs and created ahidden pantry in that area, and all that ties together to make a very practical livable space that also looks beautiful on the surface.
Greg: Yes, I saw some of the pictures. It looks great. I can totally see why you guys won an award for that. Why don’t you tell us about another room? You said you won four awards, right?
Beau: We did, so four awards. Another one was for the master bathroom, which was probably one of the most drastic changes in the space. We came in and took what had a very dated looking shower with some black, almost black granite pieces on the wall, feel very enclosed and small and then, a small tub next to it, lower ceilings in there. We actually had the opportunity to raise the ceiling, which you don’t get in a loft a whole lot to give us another … It’s only about a foot higher, but that made such a dramatic difference in changing that, plus changing all those colors from black and opening up a wall between the tub and the shower to create a much bigger feeling space really played well with making that feel brighter and more open.
Greg: Then after you did some of these renovations, was there sort of an open house? Did neighbors get to come in and was there a parade, a remodel parade? I’m not sure what you would call it, but did other people get to see this?
Beau: Sure, absolutely. We did. We partnered with Chairma Design Group on the project. With them and us, we did an open house at the end where the owners got to invite some of their friends and we invited some people from our end, certainly the neighbors in that area and got to walk them through and do an open house and tour through it. One of the fun things on the project is that the owner was obviously very proud of his project at the end and so it was a lot of fun to get to see him partake in showing that off to some of the neighbors and just how excited he was about it and how happy he was with the final project as well.
Greg: If you don’t mind me asking a general Houston real estate question, when you have a building that each unit was not custom in the beginning and then later on, you guys come in and do a bang up job, just beautiful, does that spur some of the neighbors and some of the other people in the building not to be left behind? Are people now like, “Okay, this is a quality project and we need to follow suit if we want our property values to stay up with our neighbors?”
Beau: Sure thing. That actually happens not just in a loft, but in a lot of our remodels with neighbors around, but definitely in this one where as we walk them through and look at that, we talked to several people that thought and came up with some great ideas just as they came through and then, we’ve actually even talked with the same owner about potentially doing another loft in that same building. There’s definitely been some interest sparked in that and we’ve seen another remodel going on as well in that area.
It definitely sparks everyone’s interest and creativity ideas. We got a lot of comments about how people never thought they could do that with that particular space, with that loft. A lot of them got to walk through it in the beginning and see what it looked like before we did anything. Seeing that change, they were really stunned and surprised that you could do all of that within the confined space of the loft.
Greg: When you’re looking at a space like a loft and you’re going to do a total renovation, does that somehow make it easier? Because I assume, or I think I know, when you’re going to an older home, sometimes you don’t know what’s behind the walls and if you do a partial renovation, it’s hard to price it out and sometimes, you’re not sure what project you’re actually going to end up with, but if you’re doing a total gut job, does that actually make it easier at some point just to know that we’re going down to the studs and so I’m not as worried about some of these hidden problems that I might find?
Beau: Yes and no. Yes, you’re right on, it does because you know that you’re going to be changing a lot of those things behind the walls anyway, but no, and you never know in remodel what you’re going to find behind the walls. One of the… unique in a loft even from that is you’re not sure what the material is that that wall’s built out of of sometimes before you tear into it. We tore into a couple of walls that we thought were sheet rock and it turns out it was just sheet rock connected to a concrete wall. There was no getting behind that wall that was actually …
Or you find a 2 foot by 2 foot concrete pillar hidden in the middle of a column that you thought was just decorative. There’s definitely some unique challenges that come out in any kind of remodel and certainly in a loft, but yes, for the most part, as you start to tear, the more you take out and change back in, the more variables you do begin to eliminate.
Greg: You say you have to maintain a certain level of flexibility design-wise no matter what kind of property you’re dealing with.
Beau: Absolutely. That’s one of the big important pieces of having a good quality remodel team with you and certainly one that does a lot of design build pieces because you’re always designing on the fly in remodel. It’s always something that changes slightly and you’ve got to make some small adjustments, one, to keep you in a budget or keep you where you want to be in a budget, but two, even just to let that design fluctuate and when you find a neat feature such as a concrete wall or a concrete pillar, how do you play off of that and not just cover it back up like they did before, but how does that become an actual design feature as well?
Greg: Wonderful. If someone’s listening and they’re interested in their property, maybe talking to you about renovations and remodels, what’s the best way to reach you?
Yvonne: Yes, they can get a hold of Beau or myself. They can call 832-304-2310. They can go to our website, homesbymorningstar.com, and they can also look at us on Facebook and on Houzz as well and they’ll be able to see some of these same pictures if they go on Houzz and our website.
Greg: Beau and Yvonne, thanks so much for your time.
Beau: Thank you.
Yvonne: Thank you, Greg.
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 morningstarbuilders, you can find us on Facebook. You can always visit our website at homesbymorningstar.com. That’s homesbymorningstar.com. We appreciate your time with us today and look forward to bringing you another episode soon.