Charlotte Remodeler Re-Defines “Custom” – A Thoughtful, Personal & Boldly Creative Approach To Each Project

November 17, 2015

So few things in life are ever a perfect fit, so a custom build or renovation really can seem like the height of luxury. For Charlotte builder and remodeler Don Davis, owner of Davis Properties & Building Co., however, “custom” isn’t a word that automatically translates into big-budget specialty items. For Don, it’s about taking a thoughtful, personal and boldly creative approach to building – a philosophy which shines through whether he is building a Tiki Bar, a classically styled porch, or a transitional bathroom. North Carolina Design sat down with Don to hear his take on custom building, and how he achieves such a unique look for each space he creates.

Images Courtesy of Davis Properties & Building Co. ©

“I don’t like the term ‘custom,’” Don tells us. “I think it’s overused, and often misconstrued. It’s like Mercedes Benz branding – everyone associates it with luxury and assumes it’s out of reach, but that’s not necessarily true. Just like there are affordable ways to buy a Mercedes Benz, there are affordable ways to do custom.”

“From my perspective, custom doesn’t mean expensive. It means hands on, project oriented, personalized service. Rather than getting something off the shelf, you are getting something that’s catered to your specific home. With some creativity, some wise spending and some value engineering, you can get a lot of what you’re seeking on a moderate budget.”

Don asserts that listening carefully to clients is key to giving them the custom space they’re looking for. “If we’re doing a kitchen, we want to know, are you a budding chef? Are you modernizing for resale value? Knowing your wants and needs helps us analyze where to put spice rack rollouts, drop zones, cabinet pullouts and pan storage. We want to make the best possible use of the space, while giving you the best visual impact”

When it comes to cabinetry, Don is able to give his clients the ultimate in custom design. “We have our own shop, and we make our own cabinetry,” he affirms. “This gives us a lot of flexibility. Generally, if you find something out there you like, we’ll find a way to make it fit as though it was always there. There’s honestly no space we can’t accommodate. We are always thinking about how we can overcome an odd angle, a small room, or a vaulted ceiling.”

Don’s open mind and willingness to learn has proven a great asset in the custom field. “We’re not afraid to take on something new,” he notes. “Every time we take on a new challenge, we gain a little more knowledge and a little more wisdom. That knowledge and wisdom helps us find creative solutions for future projects.”

“When we were asked to do a storm room addition, we went out and learned everything we could about tornado proofing. When we did a residential dance studio, we consulted with a professional dance studio to find the best way to use the space. We’ve never pigeonholed ourselves into a single style or a type of structure. We stay open-minded so we can keep up with our client’s needs.”

Don’s main goal for any project is to serve his clients well. “Doing custom work does give me creative freedom, which I love,” he concedes. “But in the end, this is a service industry. Putting a smile on my client’s face puts a smile on my face. And that’s what motivates me.”

Greensboro And Wilmington Custom Home Builder & Remodeler Delivers The Best Workmanship – For The Best Outcome

November 11, 2015

Building or renovating a home is a huge investment and a serious undertaking. As a homeowner, it’s important to feel that you’re in good hands. Thanks to their thorough, thoughtful, client-first approach, Millican Construction Company in Greensboro has been earning both the trust and the accolades of homeowners for two generations. North Carolina Design had the privilege of talking with owner Robert Millican, who shared with us a bit about his background and his strategy for putting clients in the Piedmont and the Wilmington areas of the state at ease as he ensures a great result.

Images Courtesy of Millican Construction Co. ©

“My father started Millican Construction in 1975,” Robert recounts. “I grew up crawling around under houses with a shovel in my hands although I didn’t start building houses as a career right away. I actually worked in journalism and marketing for a good 10 years after college. But I have always had an entrepreneurial bent, and I like things that are high risk, high reward. It just took me a while to figure out that the best way to use that was right here in front of me.”

Robert is well versed in building and renovating homes in any style, but he most enjoys letting his clients lead the way. He is equally comfortable building a custom home in Greensboro or handling a whole house renovation in the coastal areas of Wilmington. “I enjoy finding out all about what my clients prefer and then creating a home that meets their needs and makes them happy.”

When new clients come to Robert, his first mission is to put them at ease. “This is a daunting process,” he concedes. “When people haven’t been through it before, it’s important to go slow and take your time. I always believe you should hire people who are smarter than you are, so I work with a lot of subcontractors who are very seasoned, very skilled and make me look good. I take my clients to visit the people I’ll be working with, and they make them feel comfortable about the project.”

Robert begins each project by familiarizing himself with the lot. “The vision starts there – you can’t begin to build a house until you are standing where the homeowners will live,” he affirms. “So much of how the house goes up has to do with location, home placement and sun exposure. We also have to know what trees we’re keeping, as well as any grading issues we might have.”

Then, there’s the question of style. “Most homeowners come in with pictures from magazines or websites like Pinterest or North Carolina Design,” he notes. “Reality home design shows can also be a great resource. Sure, the budgets and timelines on those shows are often a stretch. But homeowners are savvy. They’ve seen the man behind the curtain, and they know it’s all about showmanship. I personally think these shows are great. They get people interested in building and remodeling and they provide some really cool ideas.”

Budget is a huge concern for each project, and Robert has sage spending advice for homeowners. “First, don’t overspend for your neighborhood or your home type,” he counsels. “You don’t want to price yourself out of the stratosphere. No claw-foot tubs in starter homes. If you do want something over the top, know that you may not get your money back as an investment. I do suggest, though, spending everything you can afford on making your home energy efficient. There’s great value in green building.”

Robert’s overall strategy for pleasing his clients is simple and straightforward. “We under promise and over deliver,” he says. “A person’s home a huge part of their lives, so we have to get it right. We make sure we go above and beyond – with the best people, the best materials and the best possible workmanship – for the best outcome.”

2015 ASID Designer Showhouse Wows Homeowners During The Winston-Salem Fall Parade Of Homes

October 30, 2015

I’m not sure that North Carolina can look any more beautiful than it does in the fall, with the trees captivating the eye in show stopping colors. While many people take a scenic drive to the mountains this time of year, I chose to enjoy the fall foliage as I headed up to Winston-Salem – the chosen location for the 2015 ASID Designer Showhouse. The view on the way did not disappoint and neither did the innovative designs that greeted me upon my arrival.

In a home built by Isenhour Homes, the timing of the ASID Designer Showhouse was perfectly in sync with the 2015 Fall Parade of Homes, which is put on by the Home Builders Association of Winston-Salem. Eight interior designers from across the Piedmont Triad showcased their talent and creativity throughout the house. My goal was to arrive as early as possible so that I could get photographs of all the rooms before the foot traffic picked up. I was able to dash into most rooms, clicking my camera as I went, but a few spaces were too filled with people to get off a shot.

Greeting me as I entered the house was my friend, Greensboro interior designer Jessica Dauray of Jessica Dauray Interiors. I have always enjoyed her classic and sophisticated style which also reflects a contemporary design influence. In designing the study, Jessica and Sidney Blanks felt that thanks to the digital age, a home office should no longer be defined by a dedicated desk with computer. The study was designed to provide a flexible workspace, comfortable seating and an inspiring environment. Vibrant colors and original artwork foster creativity and make this home office a lovely retreat.

The dining room, by Winston-Salem interior designer Deana Browder, of Deana Browder Interior Design, has a modern classic aesthetic with the use of Hickory Chair. A walnut stained table, modern wing host and hostess chairs and a French demilune sideboard provide a classic look, while the modern art canvases and window treatments with geometric details add to the simple, clean lines of the space.

I love a great kitchen and Winston-Salem interior designer Susan Carson, of Design Authentic Interior Design, did a great job of melding form and function in the kitchen, butler pantry and casual dining area. Family and friends have plenty of room to cook and gather here to enjoy each other’s company. Authentic selections of original art, colorful accents, with classic global elements in the furnishings, provide the perfect recipe to complement the clean lines of this functional kitchen.

Across from the kitchen is the family room, by Greensboro interior designer Maria Adams, of Maria Adams Designs. Tailored and sophisticated, yet inviting and comfy, this classic-modern family room encourages you to gather for warm conversations, family entertainment or quiet reading time. Styled in a mix of traditional and modern elements in soothing colors and fresh patterns, it is a space where families will make many fond memories. Obvious sharing of color palettes and design schemes by Susan and Maria makes the kitchen and family room look their best.

High Point interior designers Stacy Yow and Emma Legg, of Barbour Spangle Design, went out of their way to ensure that overnight visitors would feel pampered in the guest bedroom and bath. As a long time fan of Barbour Spangle Design, I delighted in how the duo created an environment that would allow any visitor to feel at home in this welcoming, sophisticated and luxurious guest suite. The classic lines and neutral tones with hints of blue create a calming atmosphere that mimics the light, airy feel of the house. The room also features all the amenities guests will need such as storage, a small desk, mirror, bedside lamps, and cozy places to rest.

Just like a warm, “Come on in y’all!” followed by a welcoming hug, Greensboro interior designer Ninoshka Boylston, of N-Design, sought to capture the charm and character of a Southern porch in her design. A rocking chair or a soft loveseat to provide respite from your day – a place to catch up with your friends – or simply sit and drink a glass of sweet iced tea.

I attended my first ASID Designer Showhouse in 1999. Design has greatly changed since then. Today’s house confirmed that rooms are meant to be lived in. It is clear that beauty and elegance of years past can successfully co-exist with the desire today for comfort and livability. This was definitely a Saturday afternoon well spent. I tip my hat to the designers involved and to the Carolinas Chapter of ASID for another great showhouse.

Lake Norman Area Interior Designer Overcomes Challenges And Creates A Beautiful Spa-Like Master Bath

October 29, 2015

Some of the most successful design projects are “forged in fire” – the result of a designer’s ability to effectively address unexpected challenges that come up – and do so with flexibility and grace. Lake Norman Area interior designer Starr Miller, owner of Starr Miller Interior Design, did just that when she renovated the master bath of a spacious Georgian home. Starr used her creativity and collaborative approach to overcome a number of challenges in order to create an exquisite and indulgent space anyone would love to relax in. She was kind enough to share some of the finer details about the project with North Carolina Design.

Images Courtesy of Starr Miller Interior Design ©

“The clients were empty nesters who wanted to create a luxurious, spa-like master bath that could be a retreat for just the two of them,” Starr explains. “They were well-traveled and sophisticated, with a very good eye and a very high taste level. The husband especially had a great mind for engineering, and wonderful ideas about how to achieve their practical goals.”

The husband and wife however, did want different things from the space. “The husband loves opulent Asian interiors, while the wife likes more rustic mountain interiors,” Starr offers. “It was quite a challenge to give them a space that would seamlessly combine these really different styles.”

Starr faced technical challenges, as well. “The previous owners had done a DIY renovation, and the space was lacking in some areas,” she relates. “There were no toe kicks. The fan didn’t work properly – which sounds like a small thing, but isn’t – and the materials weren’t used properly.”

Some of the challenges arose during the project. “The stud tile that goes under the bathtub was actually very late – delayed by a train derailment, so we had to scramble to stay on schedule. The shower was an odd shape, which made tiling it very difficult. The marble for the shower had an extremely high variation –20 percent of it was actually unusable. We had to lay out every single piece to get the pattern lined exactly right, and we had to work carefully to make sure that there was enough yield.”

Starr found solutions to everything, and created a space perfectly suited for both her clients. For the husband, there is a sleek freestanding tub, a marble shower, clean, sharp lines and angles, and small touches of opulence throughout. For the wife, there are rustic, wood-like floors, rich, blue tile accents, dark wood cabinetry and custom mirrors that match the cabinets. The cabinets are in a Shaker style, which meets his need for clean lines and her need for a rustic mountain look.

Then there’s the exquisite chandelier: “It’s so opulent, yet so tasteful,” notes Starr. “It was more his idea, but she really loves it because of the way it sparkles. I don’t blame her – I personally I think everyone could use a little sparkle in their homes.”

Starr also greatly improved the function of the space, with an impressive attention to detail. “We gave them an enlarged shower with a bench seat. We actually measured their toiletries and created custom built-in spaces for them in the shower wall, which we lined up with the tile grid. We gave them not one, but two fans – one in the cabinet closet and one in the closet. And we gave them added space in their cabinets.”

Starr didn’t design the bathroom with a spa aesthetic in mind. “To me, any bathroom done well feels like a spa,” she explains. “And this space really does have a decadent spa-like quality. I love it – it’s so welcoming, yet so sophisticated. I love the tub placement and the flooring, and I love how different the design is from others I’ve done. But what I love most of all is that the homeowners are thrilled. They had great knowledge and high expectations, and I was very pleased to make them so happy.”

Durham Interior Designer Affirms That Classic Design Is Based On Good Form, Good Lines And Good Principles

October 27, 2015

A classic design calls to mind elegance, grace, and timeless beauty. But, as Durham interior designer Minta Bell of Minta Bell Design Group can tell us, classic design can also be daring, colorful, diverse in style, and richly nuanced. Minta is an expert at creating interiors that are thoughtful and tasteful, yet bold and inspiring. Her designs move seamlessly and expertly between styles, and her client-driven approach ensures that they perfectly reflect the homeowners. North Carolina Design talked to Minta about her distinctive approach, which is rooted in classic, time-tested principles and enhanced by over four decades of design experience.

Images Courtesy of Minta Bell Design Group ©

“It seems to be that our firm is noted for contemporary design,” Minta offers. “The truth is that what we do is directed entirely by the client, and we can work with any style that they prefer. I’m very keen on listening to my clients and following their direction. I spend a lot of time getting to know them. I find out what they like and what they can live with well, and at the same time I help them stay out of something trendy.”

Minta forgoes trends in favor of classic designs that stand the test of time. “Classic design is based on good form, good lines and good principles,” she says. “Those things don’t ever change. That’s why a classic design will look as good and be as relevant twenty years from now as it is today.”

Minta believes that, within the framework of classic design, style is a fluid concept. “My philosophy is that any good classic style can be blended with another,” she tells us. “Contemporary and traditional elements can be incorporated into the same space, as long as they have good form, good lines and good craftsmanship. Combining things in this way has always been a real pleasure for me.”

For Minta, the right design elements transcend era, style, or culture. “If you look at an African pot or an ancient Chinese pot, you’ll notice that they have excellent form,” she explains. “This means they will look good in any kind of interior. The truly important thing is that an item has good design.”

Rather than furnishing clients with accessories that complement their space, Minta uses their personal collections to help drive the overall design. “It doesn’t matter whether they have African sculptures, or 18th century English porcelains, or North Carolina pottery (which I prize). These items mean something to the client. I work to incorporate them into the design in a cohesive way.”

Minta has a similar philosophy when it comes to artwork. “Personally, I like to encourage my clients to buy art for art’s sake, rather than trying to find a piece of artwork that fits into the design,” she reflects. “This way they’re surrounded by pieces which they really love, and have lasting value. It also makes the design so much more personal, and adds so much depth.”

Minta notes that, after so many years in the business, applying classic principles to a design has become second nature. “I don’t think about it anymore at this point. It has become almost innate. It’s the framework I use to create a customized, beautiful space that endures.”

For The Master Bath, Experts From Raleigh Detail The Latest “Must Haves” Of This Private Indoor Oasis

October 20, 2015

People may love showing off a well appointed master bath to friends and family, but in the end, it remains one of a home’s most intimate and personal spaces. With five showrooms, thousands of quality selections, and expert design professionals on hand, Kitchen & Bath Galleries in Raleigh has helped homeowners turn their master baths into comfortable and luxurious havens for nearly 20 years. North Carolina Design sat down with Kitchen & Bath Galleries plumbing specialist Suzanne Hoggard and designer Michelle Verrill to find out what today’s homeowners most covet in their own private indoor oasis.

Images Courtesy of Kitchen & Bath Galleries ©

Michelle notes that in master bathrooms, space is at a premium. “It isn’t about extending exterior walls to create more space,” she offers. “It’s about using the space you have to its best advantage. You might rip out your built in linen closets and install cabinets with pullouts for more storage, or you might rip out a tub and create a big custom shower. If you do choose a tub, you might choose a free standing model to make the bathroom appear more spacious.”

When it comes to style in the Master bath, there has been a definitive shift in preference in recent years. “People are mostly looking for a transitional design,” Michelle informs us. “They want frameless, flat panel cabinetry, in lighter colors. They also want larger tiles with less grout for a more seamless look. Carrera marble, porcelain and natural stone are very popular, especially in gray and white.”

“People want simple and clean lines,” agrees Suzanne. “We see a lot more rectangular undermounts, skirted toilets, and very artful, modern versions of stand alone tubs. People also want a less matchy-matchy look. For example, they’ll do both straight and cross handles on their plumbing fixtures.”

“The darker oiled bronze finishes are gone,” Suzanne continues. “We’re seeing a lot of polished chrome and polished nickel. Polished chrome is more classic and has a bluer tint to it, while polished nickel offers a more luminous jewelry finish. We’re also starting to see some soft, warm gold tones – satin gold in particular is very popular. People are a little afraid of going that route, but they do love the look of it and it is trickling in.”

Another shift that Michelle and Suzanne have witnessed is the increased willingness of homeowners to invest money into the space. “It’s not a room that everyone is going to see,” Michelle concedes. “But the homeowners really want to create something luxurious and beautiful for their own enjoyment.” Suzanne adds “Since it’s their own personal space, they tend to go a bit edgier and bolder than they would in other places in the home. They’re really looking to create a showpiece, even if it’s just for them.”

They also want a space that’s comfortable, luxurious and functional. “If they’re not doing a free standing tub they’re creating a custom shower, with rain and hand held shower heads,” notes Michelle. “They’re also adding in creature comforts like heated towel racks and multiple wall hooks. And they’re choosing to use stand alone furniture pieces rather than built ins, which adds character and warmth, as well as better storage.”

Both Michelle and Suzanne love designing Master baths. “It’s a unique room, and there’s so much potential to make it something truly amazing,” affirms Michelle. Suzanne agrees, adding “You’re creating a sanctuary for homeowners that they can come home to and enjoy every day. It’s really rewarding to make their day-to-day lives better in such a personal way.”

Charlotte Custom Cabinet Company & Kitchen Design Firm Details What Sizzles In Today’s Busy Kitchen

October 13, 2015

The times, they are a-changing. The kitchen is still the central hub of the home, but the lifestyles and desires of homeowners have changed. Today’s homeowners need something that will look beautiful and keep pace with their families’ busy schedules. Fortunately, design experts like those at Charlotte custom cabinetry company Walker Woodworking are available to provide solutions. Walker Woodworking is known for crafting exceptional quality custom cabinetry, with the personal touch of a family business decades in the making. North Carolina Design talked to designer and cabinet engineer Brandon Fitzmorris to find out more about what people currently want and need in this all important space.

Images Courtesy of Walker Woodworking ©

Brandon tells us that homeowners increasingly prefer open floor plans for their kitchens, but not just for the additional space. “The open floor concept creates a more inclusive family atmosphere,” he asserts. “Even in the hustle and bustle, when parents are coming home from work and kids are coming home from soccer practice, and there’s a blitz to get homework done and dinner on the table, the family can still all be together, sharing the same space.”

Busy lifestyles have changed both the purpose and the configuration of the kitchen space. “It’s no longer just Mom in the kitchen,” Brandon explains. “Cooking has returned to more of a communal process. Dad cooks too, and the kids pitch in. So instead of the classic work triangle, where multiple people would crash into each other, you might have two or more small triangles with multiple prep areas. Or, you might break all the rules, blow the triangle out completely and go with a fluid workspace.”

Appliance cabinetry offers another way of breaking away from the standard work triangle, while adding great style. “We’re seeing more and more paneled appliances,” Brandon notes. “People want their appliances to disappear into the cabinetry as much as possible. ‘Plug-and-play’ integrated options – where differently sized appliances are configured together other than in a single built-in cabinet – are increasingly popular. So you might have a refrigerator, a separate freezer and a wine cooler in a single built-in, arranged in a way that works specifically for your needs.”

Kitchen style preferences have changed along with function. “Today’s homeowners like clean lines and simplicity, but they don’t necessarily want to make a full leap into contemporary design,” says Brandon. “They also want something that will last, and transitional style tends to stand the test of time a bit better than traditional or contemporary design.

“In cabinetry, that translates to more inset and frameless cabinets, less heavy moulding, and lighter glazes with a softer application that provides contrast and texture. Oak cabinets are coming back, but now people are choosing quarter-sawn white oak with a gray or brown glaze. In general, homeowners now favor grays and browns over reds and golds. They’re also moving away from stark, bold colors in favor of softer, less powerful shades.”

Homeowners are also incorporating a number of interesting transitional details to finish off their kitchen designs. “People are using more stone and brick, just in a cleaner way – like natural stone tile in a herringbone or subway pattern,” Brandon tells us. “On ceilings, we’re seeing a lot more painted trim in a coffer pattern, and more transitional colors used instead of white. And people are forgoing a series of smaller lights in favor of a couple of large, well designed pendant lights.”

Brandon loves the communal, family-oriented direction today’s kitchens are going. “Family is so important to us,” he confides. “With us it’s never just a job. We get to know our clients very well, and we build a relationship with them that lasts well beyond the project. There’s more emotion tied into designing kitchens than any other part of the house. It’s the heart of the home, and it means everything to us to get it right.”

Charlotte Remodeler Creates Lakeside Oasis With Award-Winning Tuscan Styled Kitchen & Luxurious Outdoor Living Space

October 6, 2015

Every homeowner has a unique story, leading to interesting twists and turns for builders as they work out their clients’ individual needs. Charlotte remodeler Eddie DeRhodes, of DeRhodes Construction, has a knack for finding the kinds of creative solutions that make his clients’ homes exceptional. One such example is this “lakeside oasis” project – with the renovation of its stunningly beautiful kitchen and statement-making main living area, as well as the luxurious outdoor living space addition – all of which required some “outside the box” thinking.

Images Courtesy of DeRhodes Construction Photography by Dustin Peck Photography ©

North Carolina Design chatted with Eddie about the project, which started as a simple kitchen renovation, and grew into something much more. “Their kitchen just wasn’t working for them,” Eddie recounts. “They wanted something with an earthy, Tuscan look to it. They have three adult children and love having family and friends over, so they wanted a better space for entertaining. Their idea was to blow out the side of the existing kitchen and expand it.”

As Eddie looked around the home, he came to some realizations. “It occurred to me that this was a lakeside oasis without a lake view,” he recalls. “Can you imagine? There was a room off the kitchen that faced the lake, but because the house was almost separated in two by a wall and a giant fireplace, you could hardly see it from the living area.”

“I also came to find out that the homeowners are avid dog lovers, and they foster rescue dogs in their home. They were using the room that faced the lake as a makeshift kennel for six of their dogs. Essentially, the dogs had the best view in the house all to themselves.”

After considering the situation, Eddie came to a brilliant conclusion. “I told the homeowners that there was plenty of space to create a great kitchen in the house as it is,” he affirms. “Why not instead blow out the wall and build a real kennel for the dogs?” The homeowners loved the idea, so Eddie set about building a comfy and spacious kennel, complete with a birthing room for pregnant rescue dogs and an adjacent fenced-in outdoor play area.

With the dogs’ “oasis” in the works, Eddie tackled the needs of the home’s human residents. “We took out walls and removed the fireplace, which opened up the space and also created a lake view,” he explains. “The former dog kennel became a breakfast area. We ran an invisible fence through the house so that the dogs would be limited to one area of the home.”

Eddie worked with an interior designer to give the kitchen an authentic Tuscan style. “We created a really warm and rustic Tuscan-inspired look that incorporated a lot of stone and antique reclaimed wood,” he notes. “The homeowners wanted to take a minimalist approach, so we balanced the natural elements with clean lines and minimal cabinetry.”

Much of the kitchen’s function revolved around entertaining. “We gave them lots of flat surfaces that could be used as servers for trays of food. We also created a space that flows through each seating area and right to the outside entertainment area.”

The outside entertainment area is a truly amazing oasis for the homeowners and their friends and family. “We gave them their dream outdoor space,” notes Eddie. “It has a pool, a hot tub, a pizza oven and a wood burning fireplace. There’s a swim-up bar and several great conversation areas, and the pool house features a full kitchen and a dining area. And it all has a great lake view.”

In 2014, Eddie’s incredible workmanship and clever ideas here earned him two Charlotte CotY Awards (CotY – Contractor of the Year) – one for the kitchen and also the outdoor living space. Despite this recognition, what makes Eddie the happiest about the project is his very satisfied clients. “They are thrilled,” he shares. “They now have a great view, a great kitchen and a great outdoor area. Plus their dogs have a private space of their own.” And as for entertaining? “I think they had about 100 guests over for Christmas after we finished the project.”

Charlotte Designer Creates Award Winning 2015 Homearama House With Show Stopping Interiors, Room After Room

September 29, 2015

Designers work hard to give each client a home that will meet their unique individual needs. What happens, however, when there’s no specific client? Kendra Tardif White of Pheasant Hill Designs is known for her highly personalized, client driven designs. When asked earlier this year to design a yet unsold new build for Charlotte’s 2015 Homearama, Kendra and her design assistant Crystal Richardson didn’t just succeed – they wowed the judges, taking home four awards, including First Place for Interior design and Second Place for Best Overall House. North Carolina Design caught up with Kendra to hear all of the amazing project details.

Images Courtesy of Pheasant Hill Designs ©

“Designing a home with no client is a very different experience,” Kendra concedes. “In my normal process, I learn all about the homeowners. I ask for pictures to see the things that speak to them and get a visual of what they’re trying to achieve. Or, if they don’t know exactly what they want, I help them create a vision for their home. Either way, the result is always very personal to them.”

“When you don’t have a specific a client, you have to think of every person who could possibly inhabit that space and then make it as livable as possible. Form has to follow function, especially in bathrooms and kitchens. Everything must flow properly, and things should be in logical places. People need to see how well each space can work for them.”

Of course, there are the aesthetics to work out as well. “The builder of the house, Luke Ullman, of The Ullman Group, gave us carte blanche,” Kendra recounts. “Now he had to sign off on all decisions, but his only real direction was to ‘make it great.’ We decided to create a design we would want to live in. Something that was very balanced – not sterile, but not overly accessorized and stuffy. We wanted the home to feel warm and welcoming, so we kept the color palette soft, ethereal and inviting.”

Kendra put a tremendous amount of thought into each and every aspect of the project – a fact evident in the home’s exquisite nuances. “We incorporated geometrics throughout the house,” she notes. “The same geometric pattern is replicated in the custom wainscoting in the dining area, the coffered great room ceiling and the mule posts. All of the tile in the house is also geometric. Even the light fixtures incorporate geometrics. It’s not something that’s blatant, but it pulls everything together and adds tremendous depth and richness.”

Throughout the home Kendra uses texture, scale and a balance of cool and warm elements to create a luxurious yet livable look. With its mixture of silk, grasscloth, polished nickel and wool, the formal dining area is warm and inviting, yet gracious and sophisticated. The use of soft fabrics, cool neutrals as well as metallic and glass touches in the great room and bedrooms make them cozy yet stylish and clean. In the kitchen, traditional cabinetry moulding is offset by sleek geometric light fixtures and hints of polished metal.

Designing this distinctive home was certainly not without its challenges “It is a very, very large home with very high 13 ½ foot ceilings,” Kendra explains. “It was challenging to make it feel homey. Then there was the serious time crunch we were under – we were hanging draperies the day before Homearama started. It was also a challenge to find furnishings to fill the whole house – we had to beg and borrow from wherever we could. ”

Kendra was not daunted, however. “That actually made it such a satisfying project,” she affirms. “The level of care, thought and work we put in really made it feel personal to us. Crystal and I really ended up truly loving this home – almost as if it was ours. And I think that shows in the final product.”

For Charlotte Builder, Success Involves Educating Clients On The Process And Explaining The Ripple Effect Of Every Change

September 24, 2015

Homeowners often become starry-eyed as they imagine all of the possibilities afforded to them in a new build or renovation. It often falls to the builder to deliver a reality check regarding what’s possible within the confines of their budget. Charlotte custom home builder and remodeler Ben Collins, owner of Salins Group has been building homes and managing homeowner expectations for 17 years. He knows exactly how to deliver a finished product that delights his clients and meets all of their needs, yet stays on budget and provides them value. North Carolina Design talked to Ben to find out the significance of helping home building novices understand how their project comes together.

Images Courtesy of Salins Group ©

“The whole process is really an education process for homeowners,” says Ben. “As a builder, it’s extremely important to listen to your clients and understand what they want. But clients need to do their share of listening and understanding as well. Getting clients what they want is not accidental and it’s not easy. We put a lot of energy and effort into making it happen.”

Ben asserts that managing a client’s expectations is an absolute cornerstone of success. ”I lay everything out for them at the beginning based on drawings, pricing, and their selections,” he explains. “I want them to understand exactly what they’re getting, and I want to make sure that what they get is what they expected.”

“If people’s expectations are unrealistic, I’m better off telling them so up front. If they have a $100,000 budget and they want to renovate several rooms with expensive high end selections, on day three I’m telling them it isn’t going to happen. If I agree to something knowing it can’t happen, I’m setting them up for failure.”

Ben also helps educate homeowners on making wise decisions throughout the process. “I want to make sure that people understand what their options are and what the cost of those options will be,” he affirms. “There are consequences to every decision, good or bad. One trim change or one plumbing spec change, and all the work that you’ve done to this point is now wrong. People tend to assume that every widget is going to fit onto every gadget and it’s just not the case.”

“Every single aspect of what we’re doing sets off a snowball effect. The size of the crown affects the height of the cabinets. The size of the casings affects how far away the light switches are from the door jambs. You might think, ‘oh, I just want a bigger window,’ but creating that bigger window will suddenly throw the whole house off balance. Or you might want to put off a decision to install a slate roof, without realizing that the house has to be built to support the extra weight beforehand.”

Of course, homeowners can have everything they want, as long as they’re willing to pay for it – and they’re often surprised by the cost of changing even small details. “A client will say ‘can’t we just move this shower door over seven inches?’ I tell them, well, we can but it’s going to cost another $2,700 to reframe the door and reroute the drain.”

Ben’s clients appreciate his integrity and his direct, transparent approach. And he loves working closely with them to help them create their dream home. “We often end up creating great, long-standing relationships with our clients,” he reflects. “I think it’s because we genuinely listen and care about their wants and needs. And they really do end up appreciating the lengths we’ll go to get them the home they really want.”

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