An architect, a contractor, a roofer and an interior designer offer tips for building your dream home.
By Courtney Runn
Building a home is a daunting task. From selecting an architect to picking paint colors, there are countless choices to be made and companies vying for your business. To cut through the noise, we asked four Austin women to give us their inside tips for designing the house of your dreams and what to ask before hiring someone to work in your home. After you find the right neighborhood (Hint: Our cover woman can help with that!), these women will take care of the rest. Whether you’re remodeling or starting from the ground up, these tips will put you on the right path.
BHAVANI SINGAL | WORKSHOP NO. 5
Meet your architect: Entrepreneurship runs in Bhavani Singal’s family. She always considered starting her own firm but having kids triggered her to actually execute her dream. Despite working in a family-friendly company, she felt subtle competition with her coworkers and wanted to create a space that was stress-free for working moms. Her firm, Workshop No. 5, has an all-women team who are all moms.
Worth the investment: proper insulation. Singal recommends spending money on insulation and installing a smaller AC system to save money over time.
Go green: On all her projects, Singal offers baseline sustainability and clients can upgrade to even greener options. From recycled countertops to proper insulation, there are easy, cost-effective ways to incorporate sustainability into the design process. Singal suggests energy-efficient windows, solar panels and a system for harvesting rainwater. Plus, make sure debris is recycled during the construction process.
Remodel or build: If you already have a large house, Singal says remodeling is a great way to refresh your home. For smaller homes, she recommends adding square footage for a better property value and a larger impact.
BEFORE YOU HIRE AN…ARCHITECT
- Ask how he or she will hold the contractor accountable. Make sure your personalities are a good fit.
- Look at his or her past work and ask what the original vision for it was. If an architect has a pattern of significant differences between vision and finished project, ask why.
- Study the market beforehand.
- Ask a real-estate agent to do a thorough analysis on your property to ensure you’re getting the best return on your investment.
- Make sure the architect is on your team and not pursuing his or her own vision at all costs.
DEBBIE ADAMAS | ADAMS COMPANY
Meet your contractor: Debbie Adams has been in the construction industry since 1987 and worked for a variety of builders before partnering with her husband in business. After losing him to cancer unexpectedly in 2012, she considered leaving the industry altogether, but her phone never stopped ringing. Today, she leads the Adams Company with an all-women team and focuses on residential remodels.
Worth the investment: windows
Worth an Ikea hack: Adams suggests saving money on items like tiles that can have a low price point but look really nice.
Trending: quartz, vinyl floor, matte black finish, satin gold finish
Stay on budget: Adams says to always plan for a project costing more than you expect. To keep your budget in check, involve the builder in the design phase to keep blueprints financially realistic. To avoid extra costs like eating out while your kitchen is under renovation, plan remodels during a trip when you’ll be out of town.
Her work philosophy: “What I try to stress is you should love that space, whatever the space. You want to walk in that room and almost feel giddy. You just love it. So, maybe it’s the silver tub you’ve always wanted or maybe it’s the new steam oven that you can cook clean and healthy with. Everyone has their own thing that they need to figure out where to spend their money and where they’re going to give on money.”
Her contracting mantra: “It’s about building relationships. It’s not really about building a new kitchen or a new bathroom.”
BEFORE YOU HIRE A…CONTRACTOR
- Call references.
- Look at his or her work in person.
- Ask about sustainability. Debbie Adams takes leftover items from a build to Habitat for Humanity to give them new life.
CHRISTINE BOWEN | AUSTIN ROOFING AND CONSTRUCTION
Meet your roofer: Christine Bowen works behind the scenes of Austin Roofing and Construction to keep the business humming and Texans happy with their repairs, but she knows as much about roofing as any of her employees. She works alongside her husband and is responsible for the company’s branding and business plan. Giving back to the community is a priority for the couple, and the company donates five free roofs per year to Community First Village.
Know who you’re hiring: Texas doesn’t require roofers to have a license, making it difficult to know the credentials of who you’re hiring. Bowen recommends always looking up the address of a main office before you hire. If a company is based out of a personal home, there’s less of a guarantee it will be around in five or 10 years to continue maintenance. With extreme weather in Texas, local roofers can also assess and fix damage quickly.
Ask about recycling: According to Bowen, Austin is one of the only cities not practicing shingle recycling. She’s lobbying for more sustainable practices to avoid asphalt shingles going to landfills. Ask your roofer about what green options there are when fixing or replacing a roof.
On giving back: “When you hire a local company, you got a really good chance they’re going to be an involved community member. And if you want to make your money go just a little further, know that part of it is going toward something that means something to you.”
Metal versus shingles: Metal roofs are more expensive but 100 percent recyclable, often made with recycled materials, cleaner for water harvesting, more reflective for solar panels, durable in extreme weather and can last as long as 50 years.
Worth the investment: If you’re replacing your entire roof with shingles, Bowen recommends spending an additional $800 to upgrade to architectural shingles, which last a lifetime.
BEFORE YOU HIRE A…ROOFER
- Read his or her reviews.
- Make an appointment with at least three and see who actually shows up.
- Make sure you’re talking to an actual roofer and not a salesperson. Can he or she thoroughly explain the damage?
- Get a copy of a company’s general liability insurance policy.
- Check whether the roofer is a member of the Roofing Contractors Association of Texas.
KATIE KIME | KATIE KIME
Meet your designer: From polka dots and stripes to camels and oysters, Katie Kime’s prints add whimsy and color to every room. The designer opened her online store in 2014, followed by a downtown storefront in 2015. Her collection has evolved throughout the years and now includes home décor, fashion and paper products. Her latest collection will include a toile print inspired by different “iconic cities that are a little bit obsessed with themselves.” Austin obviously makes the list.
Worth the investment: molding and hardware
Worth an Ikea hack: side tables and storage pieces
Take a chance on: wallpaper. Because it is less permanent than paint and easily removable, Kime suggests experimenting with wallpaper for an easy new look. If you want to mix prints and colors, keep common rooms in a neutral color palette and add pops of color and bold prints in guest rooms and bathrooms.
Trending: velvet, fringe and color-blocking
On how to identify your style in a Pinterest world: “Find the pattern of what you keep gravitating toward and that’s probably a pretty good indicator.”
On how to pace a remodel: “No one is in a hurry except for [you]. … It’s probably a three- to six-month difference that you’re spending for something to last five to 10 years.”
Her design mantra: “Do something different and go slower than you want to.”
BEFORE YOU HIRE AN…INTERIOR DESIGNER
- Don’t be afraid to push back on quotes and ask for a different price.
- Identify your own style and not just what’s trending.