Southern Living at Its Finest


It’s rare, as a builder, to be part of a project that offers not only valuable publicity but also a chance to incorporate state-of-the-art features likely to be seen by thousands at once. However, such was the case when Morning Star got the chance to work on the Southern Living Showcase Home in Cypress, Texas (near Houston), last year—a residence designed and built by DWP Architects and Morning Star, withSouthern Living magazine’s custom builder group endorsing the project.

Encompassing 5,000 square feet on a half-acre lot, the four-bedroom, Tuscan-style residence is flush with stylized flourishes, including a barrel-vaulted brick ceiling in the kitchen. But, the home is also outfitted with modern amenities such as, most notably, iPad controls for lighting, HVAC, and security cameras. Energy efficiency was paramount, too, as far as Cummins was concerned, but he didn’t want it to be at the expense of great design. “There’s a belief out there that to build a very efficient home, it’s got to be very simple and it’s got to be

[designed as] a box,” he says. “But my clientele spend upwards of a million dollars on their homes—they don’t want to live in a box!”
When all was said and done, Cummins was delighted to see the showcase home earn a HERS rating of just 57—about half the score of an average new home (which rates around 100) and beating Energy Star homes as well by more than 20 points. “I was eager to demonstrate that this was a good-looking house with award-winning style and design,” Cummins says. “And the HERS rating was a reinforcement that it didn’t have to look like a box in order to be efficient.”
Once the home was finished, decorated, and staged for a multipage photo shoot as part of the showcase, the only remaining question was how many visitors to expect. The event proved to be a tremendous success, pulling in some 3,900 visitors and raising almost $30,000 dollars for two charities that Cummins and his wife, Yvonne, selected.
Prior to the opening, Morning Star hosted a realtor day where more than 125 realtors viewed the home, giving valuable exposure to the realtor community. Also, the showcase supplied Cummins with countless leads for the renovation side of his business, hundreds of potential customers coming away from the home with a wealth of ideas about new kitchen, bathroom, and outdoor elements to build into their existing homes.
What Cummins really hopes people notice is Morning Star’s attention to the physical needs of older homebuyers, something his wife, a former nursing administrator, focuses on—and something that’s often overlooked by other builders.
“Every house that we do, my wife does a plan review with an eye to universal design,” Cummins says. “We do blocking for future grabber bars, stacking two-story houses for a possible elevator, creating wider doorways, wider hallways—we do it so our homes are fully accessible.” ABQ