Best of Houzz 2020!

Best of Houzz 2020!

The Annual People’s Choice Award from the Houzz Community Highlights Home Remodeling and Design Professionals with Most Popular Designs and Top Ratings.

Stearns Design Build of Bryan/College Station has won a “Best Of Houzz” award for Customer Service on Houzz®, the leading platform for home renovation and design.

The 27-year old design-build firm was chosen by their clients and the international Houzz community.

The Best Of Houzz badge is awarded annually, in three categories: Design, Customer Service and Photography. Customer Service honors are based on several factors, including a pro’s overall rating on Houzz and client reviews submitted in 2019.

A “Best Of Houzz 2020” badge will appear on winners’ profiles as a sign of their commitment to excellence. These badges help homeowners identify popular and top-rated home professionals in every metro area on Houzz.

“It is always gratifying to win an award, but it is especially humbling when we win customer service awards, such as this award from Houzz and the Guild Master award from GuildQuality,” said company founder Hugh Stearns.  “Our industry typically works on a job site, but our work is performed in our client’s homes. We work hard to make that distinction clear and meaningful. A family’s home is their sanctuary. We understand that. And of course, great design and craftsmanship are also important.” 

“This year’s Best Of Houzz awards go to an incredibly talented and service-oriented group of home remodeling and design professionals, and we’re proud to highlight the winners on the Houzz website and app,” said Liza Hausman, vice president of Industry Marketing for Houzz. “This award is particularly meaningful as it reflects the sentiment of the millions of homeowners in the Houzz community who are hiring home professionals for their projects across the U.S. and around the world.”

About Stearns Design Build:

We Design and Build Happiness!

Stearns Design-Build is a home remodeling firm that has been serving College Station, Bryan, and the Brazos Valley since 1993. As a full-service firm, Stearns Design-Build does a wide range of residential projects. We bring building science to the art of design to produce custom kitchens, baths, additions, and whole-house remodeling projects.

Sense of Place: Lighter + Brighter Homes

Sense of Place: Lighter + Brighter Homes

Your home is a special place. It should be your sanctuary, where you feel content & safe.

Creating that happy space requires careful planning. It takes an understanding of how a home’s design affects our emotional state and how to maximize the positive effects. Neuroscientists + psychologists have joined forces with architects + interior designers in concluding that certain aesthetic qualities increase a sense of emotional well being.

What is one of the most influential qualities in creating this space?

The incorporation of natural light!

Let the Sunshine In

Natural light exposure can influence how we feel at home, both consciously and subconsciously. It’s an easy way to create a brighter, happier home. You can increase natural light in your home by:

  • Adding windows facing east to let in the sunshine without letting in too much heat. Strategically positioning west-facing windows under eaves or with trees partially shading them can also provide a nice sunset view without sending the temperature inside your home skyrocketing.
  • Looking at your window treatments and removing any heavy drapery. Shutters or blinds can help control the natural light without blocking it.
  • Using the natural tone of wood or light colors to help light reflect into darker spaces. Mirrors or metallic surfaces are also great at bouncing light around.
  • Removing or rearranging furniture that blocks windows. Smaller pieces can be positioned near windows.
  • When remodeling, add pocket or double doors between rooms to allow for privacy and an acoustic barrier when necessary but facilitate unfettered airflow and light.
  • Replacing internal walls with windows to allow borrowing of light. Today’s glazing practices create sturdy, translucent surfaces that open up a home.

Sleep Better = Feel Better

The advantages of building designs that maximize natural light are well known. Sunlight from the east has been proven to positively impact your body’s internal clock, also known as circadian rhythm. Natural light exposure offers many physiological benefits, including helping you sleep longer and enjoy better quality sleep.

Letting the outside into your home through natural light + exposure to the outdoors creates a brighter home and a happier you!

Invest in Your Home Part 2: Daily Savings + Aging in Place

Invest in Your Home Part 2: Daily Savings + Aging in Place

Your home is a great source of joy. It brings you warmth + safety and allows for self-expression. For many of us,  it is also one of our most significant investments and ongoing costs in our lifetime.

By paying close attention to short-term maintenance costs and planning for the long-term potential to remain in your home, you will reap the benefits of your home even more.

Here are a few tips for how to save money every day, safeguard your home’s value, and prepare to age in place.

Do It Right: The Cost to Maintain

Most people have a mortgage, but there are also other ongoing costs associated with owning your home that you may not think about as much as your mortgage payment. These costs include such things as insurance, utility costs, and maintenance. By reducing these costs, it will save you money every month and be just as beneficial as refinancing that mortgage at a lower interest rate.

  • Schedule an energy audit: Investing in an energy audit can save you money. Many fixes can pay off in as little as two years.  Some other repairs will take longer but once the investment is paid off, it is money in the bank every month thereafter.
  • Purchase higher quality fixtures and appliances: If you have heard the expression “builder grade”,  it simply means the lowest cost option. Builders are motivated to use builder-grade fixtures and appliances because it lowers the cost per square foot of a home. Price per square foot is the primary measure that most homebuyers use to evaluate a home purchase. This might be the worst way to calculate the value of a home. To get the cost per square foot down, the quality is typically compromised. 
  • Consider your climate: The approach to home building should be largely dictated by the environment your in.  There have been many costly mistakes made by well-meaning builders who applied building techniques meant for a cold, dry climate to a hot, humid climate.  As an example, here in College Station & Bryan we avoid using wood on the exterior of our homes. It just does not endure well, nor does it hold paint well. Luckily, there are great alternatives such as fiber content that work very well for our climate.

Make It Last: Aging in Place

Seniors are staying in their homes longer, otherwise known as aging in place. The longer a person can stay out of assisted living, the better their quality of life and the more savings they will retain either for unexpected expenses. 

Staying at home allows seniors a higher level of independence, while also reducing the stress of having to relocate. As you can imagine, a sense of connection to personal space becomes heightened as we all age. Here are a few aspects of aging in place to consider in a new home or a home remolding project:

  • Remove stairs and steps: One of the first things that we notice as we age is how much more difficult stairs become.  If you can find a single-story home with very few or no steps, you will be better prepared to age in place.
  • Create the framework for an accessible bathroom: Having difficulty bathing often necessitate a move to assisted living.  Even if a person is not in a wheelchair, a roll-in shower without a curb is much easier to navigate. Also, placing blocks in the walls of showers and baths can make the installation of grab bars easier. With a little planning, using the facilities as we age can be made much safer. 
  • Prepare to install wider doors: Narrow doors, especially in bathrooms, are a barrier to wheelchairs + walkers and an impediment to aging in place.  If possible, request framing for large doors, even if a smaller door is preferred. The small door can be removed later and with a slight modification, a larger door can be installed.
  • Improve the lighting: Unfortunately, our vision degrades as we age.  Luckily, there is a lot that we can do with light to improve our ability to age in place.  Light is a very important factor in aging. When remodeling, request a lighting study for each room. Contrast is also a big factor in assisting aging vision and is particularly important in kitchen remodels. When countertops are of a hue that contrasts with the flooring, orientation, and vision are greatly aided.

Your home is more than just where you eat and sleep. It is also a significant investment. With just a little care, that investment can be wisely managed + maximized and bring you joy for a lifetime.

Invest in Your Home    Part 1: Protecting + Growing Your Asset

Invest in Your Home Part 1: Protecting + Growing Your Asset

For many people, buying a home is the biggest investment in their lifetime. Although, very few people think of their home that way, which can be a costly mistake.

A home is an investment as well as many other things, including a sanctuary and an expression of who you are.  We encourage you to keep those priorities front and center as they bring meaning and happiness to your life.

Luckily, these purposes are not mutually exclusive. You can have a home that is a safe + comfortable refuge, an expression of your unique identity, and a well-maintained investment.

While tending to the investment variable in this value equation involves some straightforward strategies. To do so, it is first helpful to separate the investment in your home into three broad categories.

See below for tips on how to keep your home as a viable asset.

Fix-It First: Protecting Your Home Asset

Your home is like your car and many other physical assets; the more you care for it, the better it will care for you.  To take the best care of your home, it will require planning, diligence, and for most of us, outside help. Here are some suggestions for healthy home care:

  • Regularly scheduled mechanical maintenance: Having your air conditioning and heater serviced twice a year will reduce utility bills, increase the life of your equipment, and avoid the frustration unexpected failures. It is also important to change your filters.
  • Fixing things in a timely manner: Letting problems linger can lead to further damage.  
  • Check the envelope(outside surfaces) of your house twice a year:  This is where unattended repairs can lead to LARGE costs. 

Don’t wait until…

  • You are getting water in your home to fix your roof.
  • Rot has reached the frame of your house to have the wood replaced.
  • The paint has peeled to paint your home. 

Make It Work: Home Remodeling

Home remodeling returns an increasing value with age.  Here is a good resource for the return on investment for home remodeling projects. Here are some guidelines to help get the most out of your remodeling investments:

  •  Pay attention to design: A poorly designed addition that looks like an add-on rather than an integrated part of the home could devalue a home asset.  Make sure that the new space is wisely configured to complement the existing floorplan, creating flow and continuity.
  •  Mind your budget: If your budget is too tight to get what you want, consider waiting until you can afford to do it right. Cutting corners to fit a budget is the best way to create long-lasting regrets. This does not mean that you need to get every desire in your remodel or that you should be overly extravagant.  Instead, make sure that you don’t have to make too many sacrifices, which could result in you being unhappy with the finished product.
  •  Avoid trendy design: This is harder to do than it sounds.  Home design tends to be very trendy. Colors, countertops, and floor coverings are fashion elements that change with each season. Imagine walking into your remodeled home 10 years from now. Will it seem classic or dated?  To keep your home classic, consider reflecting today’s trends in easily changed elements, such as paint colors. Try to use natural materials whenever possible: carpet fashion changes over time but hardwood stays stylish. Artificial countertop materials have come and gone but granite has remained a solid choice.
  • Hire quality professionals: Quality remodeling professionals will be able to help you articulate and achieve your goals.  You don’t want to go with the lowest bid because most of the savings will come at the cost of quality and durability, both of which will diminish your home investment.

Take preventative measures to protect your assets and get a remodeling job done by professionals. It may feel difficult at the time, but you will reap the benefits of your decisions for years to come.



For many years, new home buyers and builders have operated on the equation of price per square foot, which assumes that the lower the price per square foot =  higher the value.

We’re here to say that this could not be further from the truth. 

Although the price per square foot can be useful in learning about the general value of real estate in a particular area, it is a less than desirable ACTUAL indicator of a home’s actual value.

Unfortunately, this equation has led to builders delivering on-demand, which results in low- grade homes. Products that are essentially substandard are being used during the buildout- including windows, doors, siding, cabinets, and flooring.

As you can imagine, these problems are incredibly frustrating for homeowners and result in an increased cost across the board. 

  • Utilities
  • Maintenance
  • Replacements 

Did you know that there are 2,500+ UNIQUE ITEMS that make up an average home?

When these items are engineered to create the “builder grade” standard, they are intended to keep the price per square foot as low as possible. Therefore, the quality is substandard. Typically, these materials last about the same amount of time as a builder’s warranty.

Many builders hire the most cost-efficient contract labor & pressure them to complete and finish in the shortest time possible in order to achieve the lowest price per square foot. Simultaneously, the contractor cuts as many corners as possible. 

On that note, the most detrimental place to reduce the cost per square foot is in design.

Intentionally, the first place one would notice this is in the size of the house. One way to reduce the price per square foot is through the economy of scale, which means adding more square feet.

A well-designed home can reduce as much as 20% of the square footage and still fulfill the desired space.

Typically, a new home buyer will have many choices when choosing a floor plan and they typically pick their favorite one. This approach disregards orientation + site conditions, which invariably leads to added utility costs, loss of aesthetics and sometimes drainage issues that can lead to expensive repairs down the line.

Choosing a stock floor plan means that a family will be adapting to a plan rather than adapting a plan to the family. 

Predictably, a complete custom home will add cost in some areas but it will also create an advantageous opportunity to reduce costs in other areas. This will not fit every budget but it is less expensive in the long run.

Now, for some good news!  — Give us a call, our expert team will help you design and build the perfect house for YOU!