architecture

Budget Series Part 2: Designing for a Short-Term Investment

Whether you’re renovating an older home or simply making a few cosmetic changes, it’s important to make cost effective decisions. In this post, I am discussing some tips to add the most value to your investment.

I recommend starting by understanding and researching your neighborhood. Focus on the house style first, not your style. It is important to gain insight into what homebuyers are looking for in that area. For example, are the homes contemporary or traditional? What is the standard quality of flooring, countertops, appliances, etc.? Your neighborhood comps will help you choose the right style, color, and materials for your home. It is important to have a comprehensive understanding of expectations. This will ultimately help you manage your budget and choose appropriate and affordable materials that will help add value to your home.

An experienced designer will be able to design by celebrating the original style of the home and neighborhood while adding in new elements with an upgraded, high-end feel. Focus on open floor concepts and minimalist designs which tend to be favorable for new buyers. This may mean you spend your money removing walls to open up spaces or refurbishing old hardwood floors. One important area to focus on that can make or break your home sale is your kitchen and bathrooms! Most home buyers are in search of homes with quality upgrades on cabinetry, appliances and plumbing fixtures. 

Don’t go overboard! A few accent pieces can impress home buyers and complete the look. Homebuyers want something unique. They want architectural details and pieces that look and feel one-of-a-kind. You can infuse pops of color through artwork, photography, accessories, window treatments, and even greenery. I love adding plants and flowers to any home because they bring warmth! Accent walls with tile, stone, wall paper or reclaimed wood are a fun way to add visual appeal to a home. A few unique lighting fixtures are a wise investment and placement can create a focal point for the eye. Maintaining a neutral and light color palette and avoiding trends will make the home feel warm and inviting and create a timeless look. A good designer will help differentiate this.

The home pictured below was purchased as a short-term investment. I worked with the homeowners to re-design the exterior of this home for curb appeal and the interior space for functionality and visual appeal. The homeowners were very wise and understanding when it came to investing in the right items. A few changes on the exterior including a new front door and garage door, helped to update the homes look while maintaining uniformity within the neighborhood. Because shiplap is what I would consider a classical trend, the homeowners invested in a beautiful accent wall that that will help the resale value for years to come. We resourcefully saved money by reusing old flooring to build a sliding barn door; a unique architectural element. Money was well spent on quality plumbing fixtures and ceiling fans (one thing I always suggest spending the extra dollar on since they are used regularly and can get costly to replace). We carefully selected affordable yet beautiful light fixtures in order to avoid standard options. Complete upgrades were made to the kitchen and bathrooms (take a look at those walnut vanities from Troo Designs!) adding major value to the home. All said and done, this renovation cost around $150 per square foot. Check out the before and after photos below!

If this is your first renovation then I highly suggest you work with a designer! We understand home trends and have resources that can help you see a higher return on your investment. With an eye for detail, small items are not overlooked, ultimately lending to perfection for the homebuyer.

Lighting with a Purpose

I love discussing the importance of lighting - one thing I feel people often underestimate. I always recommend going big and focusing on layers of lighting. Natural light is obviously the most efficient way to brighten a room but when your natural light is limited, there are many options for setting the right mood. Each space in your home has different needs. Understanding the space’s function is key to lighting design and determining the mood and vibe you want to create. This is where it get’s fun!

Adequate lighting isn’t a novel design concept but there is certainly a shift in the way spaces are being designed around it. Lighting is far more involved than putting in a few recessed lights and a couple of floor/table lamps. Over the last few years I have seen a decrease in free standing lights and with most re-models or new builds, custom built-in lighting features are a priority. Inadequate lighting may leave your space feeling dark, incomplete and aesthetically unpleasing. Each type of lighting including ambient, task, accent, and decorative all serve their own purpose.

The kitchen is a great place to combine aesthetics with functionality. The kitchen below features the perfect combo! Decorative pendants over the island offer task downlighting for dining while under cabinet lighting provides ample light for cooking and prepping. Lighting below the custom shelving highlights the decor and if one is looking for minimal light after dinner and entertaining, the uplighting above the cabinets can provide the room with a warm ‘kitchen closed’ feel.

The kitchen is a great place to combine aesthetics with functionality. The kitchen above features the perfect combo! Decorative pendants over the island offer downlighting for dining while under cabinet lighting provides ample light for cooking and prepping. Lighting below the custom shelving highlights the decor and if one is looking for minimal light after dinner and entertaining, the uplighting above the cabinets can provide the room with a warm ‘kitchen closed’ feel.

Since bedrooms are mainly used in the evenings, I choose decorative pendants that can easily be used as reading lights and that look warm and pretty at night. These gorgeous pendants make the room feel relaxing and cozy! 

What I love most about this style is its quiet drama. The uniquely shaped Edison bulbs follow the slope of the stairs and demand attention. You can’t help but love their elegant yet unassuming charm. So often, we feel like we have to fill a space with dramatic moments, but sometimes what’s most dramatic is unexpected subtlety.

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This bathroom is layered with lighting including natural light provided by the thoughtfully designed window above the mirrors! The under cabinet task lighting not only functions as a great night light but also highlights the stunning tile flooring. Sconces spaced around the mirrors are perfect for make-up application or shaving because they reduce glare and shadows. Who doesn’t love great lighting in a bathroom?

Decorative statement lighting is my favorite and going big is one great way to make a statement! I enjoy playing with the proportions of lights in conjunction with the other elements in the room. If you’re looking for more lighting inspiration, be sure to follow me on instagram and check out new projects posted weekly!

The Client-Designer Relationship

Over the past several years I have had the privilege of working with some amazing clients and have built relationships which have become central to the design process. True partnerships have been created with a healthy respect for what the other brings to the project, ultimately leading to successful designs.

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I wanted to feature this home because not only did I absolutely love the turn out of the project but these clients, Tom and Debi, have become two of my most dear repeat clients. I have done three of their homes in which we seamlessly collaborated on everything from start to finish. Debi has a natural eye for design and is a killer decorator while her husband Tom is a successful developer!

For this home we focused on creating a stylish yet slightly modern nautical space with geometric patterns and fresh coastal-inspired colors - hallmarks of New England style. We were able to incorporate pieces locally and from around the world to complete the look. The wood mantel was reclaimed drift wood from Texas. Treasured heirlooms like unique prints, antique mirrors, wooden accent cabinets and the dining room table from France were influenced by New England design and Debi’s love for brass. Architectural elements such as shiplap paneled walls, exposed beams, dark plank floors and large windows added to the timeless appeal. I chose white cabinetry with clean contemporary lines and brass hardware to keep things clean, light and airy throughout.

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A few things that stood out in this home include a built-in cut and cleaned wood pile stacked next to the fireplace. This wood was from their ranch in Spicewood, TX where I first met them and remodeled that home. Another favorite is the functional breakfast nook lined with white cabinetry, perfect for the family. Recycled shiplap accent walls were a nod to their love of the beach and outdoors as they are both from Boston.

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Without the frill and excess, there's a homeyness, comfort and slight rustic feel to this home. Together with traditional elements of the Northeast and a contemporary touch, it feels like something you'd see in a Montauk beach house. Overall this project breathes fresh air and reminds me of how lucky I am to have wonderful clients. I can’t wait to collaborate on another project together!

The Tile That Inspired Me

I found this image on the internet in 2014 and fell in love.

I found this image on the internet in 2014 and fell in love.

When I was searching the internet in 2015 for inspiration, I didn't realize this very image above would make such an impact on my design career. 

I didn't know what this tile was called, but I was on a mission to find it. I was designing my very first shipping container studio for myself, so I wanted every single design element to reflect me. I couldn't stop going back to this image without getting excited. It was the color, the pattern, the shape that was just so perfect. Just a few months earlier I had been to this wonderful tile shop in North Austin called "Clay Imports". I decided to take a visit to the store and I kid you not, as I was walking up the steps to the front door, there it was, the single tile waiting for me. 

There it was. Waiting for me.

There it was. Waiting for me.

Needless to say, I placed my order right then and there for 100 square feet of "Dandelion" cement tile. So, step one, finding the tile and its name was complete. Now, step two, incorporating it into my shipping container. Here I go. 

I wanted my studio to feel light and bright, natural yet energetic. I wanted a lot of natural wood elements with pops of color and bold patterns. I thought it would be overwhelming to cover the entire floor with the Dandelion pattern, so I came up with a mixed design of natural wood tile 3"x 36" planks in a herringbone pattern (sketch below). It sounds crazy, but little did I know I would have clients years later reference this floor pattern. Nor did I think it would be featured on HGTV, used as an advertisement for "Clay Imports" in Austin Monthly Magazine and be published in Austin Home Magazine. 

I recently went into the new Google office in Austin and walked into a bathroom that was floor to ceiling covered in the Dandelion pattern. I'm not going to lie, I felt a little honored haha I would like to think I started this fabulous trend in Austin, even though I know I 100 percent did not. 

I am very happy to see my personal studio celebrated in so many ways. I am grateful for the image that caught my eye and inspired me. I hope my design continues to inspire others. 

Capturing light and bright. Photo by Julie Holder

Capturing light and bright. Photo by Julie Holder

Austin Monthly Magazine 2017. That's me! Photo by Julie Holder

Austin Monthly Magazine 2017. That's me! Photo by Julie Holder

Another One To Be Thankful For

Unit A Kitchen - Natural Hickory mixed with Painted off white cabinets

Unit A Kitchen - Natural Hickory mixed with Painted off white cabinets

I have many feelings today, completing my latest personal project located in East Austin. I am excited, I am exhausted, I am anxious, I am thankful. I am excited to show the world another artistic twist on a spec home. I am exhausted after 12 straight hours of staging with my mom (what would I do without her!). I am anxious to see what people think about the quirky details of the home. I am thankful to be able to express myself 100% through design. 

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I never like to duplicate a design. I see duplexes as a huge opportunity to give two homeowners their own special space. 

Unit B Kitchen - Black, Hickory, Painted Oak Cabinets by Troo Designs 

Unit B Kitchen - Black, Hickory, Painted Oak Cabinets by Troo Designs 

We used shipping containers as the entrances to the homes (this is a duplex). We collaborated with Starbucks' senior designer Victor Melendez to create the coolest murals EVER! We stepped it up a notch on our back-splash selections and we pushed the envelope on the cabinetry colors and mixes. All cabinetry provided by my company Troo Designs KBI. 

Shipping Container Entrance - Photo by Scott Gordon

Shipping Container Entrance - Photo by Scott Gordon

So thankful for the future owners of the special project 

So thankful for the future owners of the special project 

Unit B shipping container entrance 

Unit B shipping container entrance 

Ever since I laid eyes on Victors work at Starbucks, I knew I had to work with him on a project one day. These murals are his perspective of Austin. I enjoy the Mexican inspiration. 

Unit A - Austin Mural 

Unit A - Austin Mural 

Unit B - Electric Guitar Mural 

Unit B - Electric Guitar Mural 

I cannot thank everyone enough on all the help and support I constantly get. Everyone encourages me to push the envelope, which results in original homes just like our Reyes project. These homes are on the market now and now we anticipate a great offer and a smooth closing. I am so thankful.

How can you resist all of the colors? I believe color gives you positive energy. I always want my homeowners to feel energized and inspired by the design surrounding them.