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Home for the Holidays

Home for the Holidays

Goodness, the holidays are a busy time! Decorating, shopping, entertaining, and family time. For many, it’s too busy of a season to even think about remodeling!

This isn’t typically a common time to think about remodeling, but maybe it should be.  Chances are that during the holidays with many guests, is when your house(and you) are under maximum stress.  What you might consider as negative parts of your home are under the spotlight when you have lots of visitors. They aren’t necessarily visible to the guests, but they are to you because it’s your home.

As many of our homes will be full of friends and family in the upcoming months; this is the perfect time to take a quick inventory of traffic patterns and places of congestion in your space. 

Have you noticed any restrictions as people enter the living room?  Sometimes it’s as simple as rearranging furniture to block obstructions. 

Do you think that more space would make a huge change at the front door? Opening narrow hallways, while concurrently creating more common space is a game-changing solution.

Would an additional guest bathroom and/or bedroom be helpful? It’s difficult to imagine adding a room just for hosting family & friends but you have options.

Here are a few home addition options:

Existing space remodel. The easiest + most cost-conscious method is to take an existing space in your home and remodel it into a bedroom. This typically works best with unfinished space in a basement or attic. It can also be beneficial when you have a home office or a “bonus” room that doesn’t get much use. 

Bump out addition. If you don’t have existing space for a remodel, think about a bump-out addition. This is where you choose an area of your home and push the wall out to create extra space. 

Detached addition. If there’s no practical way to create an additional bedroom, you might think about creating a detached addition that could serve as an in-law suite or small apartment. You could rent it out on Airbnb for parts of the year if you want to cover the cost. 

This is a detached addition we are currently working on for a client

Now, let’s imagine the kitchen & dining area. When there are extra hands, bodies, and cooks in the kitchen during the holidays, you’ll immediately notice and envision changes that could be helpful and free up space. We all love to congregate where the food is, so your kitchen and dining space need to be designed to flow & function for cooking and entertaining.

Home remodeling questions to think about when hosting:

Are guests in the way of cooking?

Do you have enough counter space, storage space, refrigeration?

Are the spices where they should be?

Are there too many steps between the fridge and the prep area?

Is there enough seating for guests?

This is the time to think about efficiency in your kitchen & dining room. If your kitchen is enclosed, it can be isolating to be stuck cooking in the kitchen while everyone is enjoying themselves in another room.

You might want to consider knocking a wall out and adding a kitchen island with bar stools so everyone is connected.

If you are taking out cabinet storage space with the wall, you can add more storage underneath the island to make up for it. That is a common request for many of our clients. 

When the cooking is complete and everyone is ready to eat, it’s stressful if you have a lack of seating. If you’re worried about your guests having a place to sit comfortably, it can consume your attention when you should be enjoying yourself.

Is there a protected screened in porch or patio for spillover space? Have you ever had a gathering and you plan for the guests to be in one room but then everyone ends up migrating somewhere else? Regardless of the room, you want your guests to be comfortable and cozy.

As we all know,  the holidays are a busy time and a season to enjoy family and friends. This is the ideal time to think about your home while envisioning improvements to make it even warmer and ultimately, a reflection of you

You can use any complications or concerns from holiday hosting to prioritize the most important projects. 

We would love to guide you through this process and make your home + holidays stress-free for years to come! Set up a free consultation today! Go here to read more of the Happy Home Blog.

Ways To Make Your Home A Happier Place

Ways To Make Your Home A Happier Place

Here at Stearns, our goal is to create a space that puts our clients at ease, allowing them to feel comfortable and happy in their homes. Your home should reflect your personality, while simultaneously functioning as the home base and happy place for you and your family. 

Enter our company slogan: “We Design and Build Happiness.” 

This is so much more than our tagline; it’s actually based on substantial and empirical evidence. Learn more about our transitions design theory here. 

If you arent ready to make any major adjustments to your home, we decided to round up some inexpensive + easy adjustments that you can do right away to make your home feel better than it already does. With 2020 being such a challenging year, these simple items can easily add a happy refresh to your home.

Lighten Up Your Home

Try to find ways around your home to utilize the natural light where available. Our goal at Stearns is to ensure a seamless transition between nature and residential design. This is where the largest effect can be felt. 

Throw open those windows, take down those blackout curtains, and let that fresh air and natural light into your space. If you aren’t able to remodel, try using tricks like painting a dark room with a lighter shade or use mirrors to reflect light, giving the illusion of a lighter room.

Another option is swapping out your lightbulbs, which can make a huge difference in a room. It changes the mood of the room and will play a big role in how paint colors look in your space. 

More Greenery

Bring the outdoors inside with some mood-boosting plants. Plants offer benefits such as lower stress levels, improved mood, and restores mental energy. 

Don’t worry if you don’t have a green thumb, there are many plants for beginners that have a high survival rate. If you need a starter plant, we would suggest Golden Pothos Vine, Spider Plant, Aloe Vera (which is a very useful plant), or a Jade Plant.

Designated “Happy Space”

We believe that our homes should be more than just our happy place; they should be a COLLECTION of happy places. If you want to begin to make your home a collection of happy places, start with one space. 

Maybe it’s a reading nook? You can rearrange by adding your favorite chair into an unused space or a hobby space that currently exists in your garage. Perhaps you can light your favorite candles during a bubble bath or hang a eucalyptus plant or some drops of essential oils into the shower.

Happiness at home doesn’t come from an expensive piece of furniture or the approval of others.  The journey is to make your home an expression of who you are.

Decorate With Things That Bring You Joy

Think before you buy: “Do I like this or do I love it?”. Every item in your house not only needs to have a purpose, but it should also make you happy by seeing it.  

Yes, even the vacuum. Joy goes beyond aesthetics. It’s also present in stuff that works well and makes your life easier.  Japanese organization expert Marie Kondo has great advice regarding this topic in her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.

This can also happen with creating connections such as to one’s past as well. 

Furniture that has been handed down from someone you love, inspiring art, or hand-painted dishes from a family member that incite nostalgia- this is where the warm, safe, and meaningful past connections happen. When you have your grandmother’s favorite chair on display, you get to think of all your memories with her every time you see it and it brings your joy + happiness.

Avoid Clutter In Your Home

My great grandmother used to say, “A place for everything and everything in its place.”  One of the biggest sources of stress for people is living in a cluttered home.  Your home should be a peaceful place for you to retreat to every day. If your home is filled with excess stuff, it’s harder to recharge. 

When decluttering, consider giving to a local charity that can help get it to a home in need.

Here are some local charity options:

These are just a few simple ways you can improve your happiness in your home TODAY! Our homes should be a place that restores, rejuvenates, and replenishes. Now more than ever we all need homes that support our wellbeing – so we can seize each day as it comes. Read more of our Happy Home Blog here.

Stearns Design Build’s Home Remodeling Process

Stearns Design Build’s Home Remodeling Process

Making the decision to remodel your home can be very daunting. For many, it can take months or years to take that leap of faith and let people into your home, which is your safe space. Here at Stearns, we’ve spent years fine-tuning and meticulously planning to make it as painless as possible. 

Let’s walk through our remodeling process to get a better understanding!

Complimentary Consultation

Your first meeting is with Hugh Stearns, the president of Stearns Design Build. This is an opportunity for us as a business to understand and reflect on the big picture of what you’ve been dreaming of changing, as well as your concerns. We hope you will leave this meeting with valuable information regardless of who you decide to hire. 

 We do require a design retainer fee after this point. Our design retainer isn’t an additional fee added to the cost of your job. In fact, your retainer is basically a payment for the job that gets applied like any other payment would. It does not add to your bill or change your budget estimate. It is just, in essence, a deposit and an investment into your home + future.

Initial Design Meeting

Welcome to the information gathering and analyzing step! The designer and production manager is coming to your home to take lots of measurements and pictures.  In this meeting, we will talk more about the details of the project and how to make the space custom for you

Our goal is to create a space for you that is exactly what you need, envision, and desire. 

If you’re remodeling your kitchen, We want to know every dreamy detail you’ve ever imagined to make it the most efficient, beautiful, customized, and functional space for you and your family. 

Feasibility Meeting

Design time! Ok, not yet but we’re getting close 🙂 We’ve taken the information you’ve given us to create budget expectations. Our goal is to make the scope of work meet the budget.

The feasibility evaluation prevents us from creating a design that is out of your budget or not creating a design as grand as you would like. With very little time spent, this large range allows us to start providing a sense of where the project budget is likely to fall.

Concept Meeting

For large projects, there may be more than one concept meeting. In this meeting, we are laying out the general concept of the project.

We will review the floor plan drawings and refined budgetary information. 

Charrette

Charrette is a fancy French word indicating an all-hands meeting. This often takes place at your home and we bring in various members of our team such as the job manager, plumber, and electrician to talk through the concept.

We get everyone’s input on what they will need to do their part of the job and to start the process of problem-solving so that we can avoid doing this during construction.

This is an element of Design Build that is very beneficial to anyone getting their home remodeled. Our production team is heavily involved during the design phase to make sure the cost of all aspects of the project are taken in to account early in the process so there are no surprises down the road. We are all in involved from start to finish which adds an inherent efficiency and effectiveness to the process.

Design Development

It’s TIME! In this phase, we design feature elements such as stairs, cabinetry, fireplaces, and built-in furniture.

You get to pick your paint colors, selections, backsplash, and more! Our designer will help guide you through this process so it doesnt get overwhelming while making decisions.

This is the fun part: You are able to see the design of your future space come to life.

Proposal

This includes complete design, short of construction documentation. It comes with a proposal and a construction contract.

You will see what your future space looks like and make sure it’s perfect for you.

Pre-Construction Meeting

Before we break ground, we will meet with you at your home to review the schedule and details such as where we will stack materials, where dust walls will be installed, and where the port-o-potty will go.

We will also talk about starting times and weekly meetings among other details.

This is your home and we want to make the process as comfortable for you as possible. By scheduling all this information, everyone is clear on the plan moving forward.

We also have weekly project meetings with the job manager to review changes and your happiness with how things are going!

Open Wall Meeting

This meeting takes place right before we start covering things up at your home. You can see where switches and lights will be. We will review the height of fixtures and the direction of door swings.

A time for last-minute changes with less impact on the budget.

Celebrating your project

Finally, the project is completed! Time to show it off. We provide a wine and cheese party for 12 of your closest friends and family.

We will be on hand to toast to your improved home and answer questions about the design and construction of your beautiful project.

Warranty + Continuing Care

We are always available to monitor and adjust our work as necessary. Additionally, we will call you periodically to make sure that everything is in good working order and to ask questions about the durability of the work we have done for you. Our goal is to build projects and relationships that will last for generations.

We are proud to be a part of the BCS community since 1993 and we want to continue to serve for years to come.

Read more of our Happy Home Blog!

Picking the Right Contractor: Why You Shouldn’t Choose the Cheapest Option

Picking the Right Contractor: Why You Shouldn’t Choose the Cheapest Option

Recent data shows that major home improvement and remodeling projects are happening more than ever during the global pandemic. It appears that sheltering in place inspires remodeling your space! Remodeling your home is a big project, whether it’s your entry room or the guest bathroom.

“In fact, nearly four in five homeowners reported that they are dreaming about changes that would help them to enjoy their home more, with outdoor, bathroom and kitchen projects topping wish lists. Of those with home improvement dreams, nine in ten plan to upgrade their homes following the pandemic.Source: Houzz

Remodeling your home is not a small decision, just like buying a house. Many individuals have a definitive list when looking to purchase a home. Anything from the neighborhood, lot size, school district, number of bedrooms + bathrooms, etc.

If you want to find the right house for you, it is wise to hire a professional and licensed inspector to ensure the house doesn’t have water damage, structural problems: like a cracked foundation or damaged load-bearing walls, electrical issues, and HVAC problems.

Choosing a contractor should be no different.

The first step in remodeling is finding the contractor. Most homeowners think they are doing their due diligence and get multiple quotes from different contractors. SO many individuals look to reduce the cost of remodeling by choosing the contractor with the lowest bid. This is fraught with risk.

Here in our great state of Texas, you must have a license to sell a house or cut hair but not to build a house or remodel it.

Many times, the pretext to choosing the lowest bidder is that you’re receiving a great price. In actuality, the quote is intentionally inexpensive compared to others because of omissions, inferior materials, and deceptive wording giving the homeowner false expectations. In turn, this will end up costing you more time and money. 

Helpful hint:

You always want to make sure your contractor’s standards are high, they are experienced, skilled, and knowledgeable in their profession. We recommend choosing your contractor based upon their capabilities, experience, honesty, and reputation within the community.  This is also where the Design-Build aspect comes into financial planning with your remodeling project. Without getting the builder’s input during the design phase, the bid can’t be determined until the design phase is complete and the project has been sent out to bid. This is typically where the owner is shocked to find out that the project cannot be constructed within their budget. This can result in the project being discarded, or having to go back to the architect to redesign the project to bring it back into the budget. Once again, more time and money lost and lots of headaches for the owner. With design-build, everyone in each part of the process is involved to ensure the project is within the client’s budget.

A Stearns Story:

We had a previous client who unfortunately hired a contractor who gave her the lowest bid. The previous contractor had “remodeled her bathroom” a year prior and by the time she called us, mold had appeared on the walls, the paint was peeling and the cabinet drawers were difficult to open and shut. This was due to poor quality materials and craftsmanship. 

In retrospect, this client had explored her options and thought she was taking the right steps before beginning the project. She solicited bids from three different remodeling contractors and chose the least expensive contractor, resulting in a complete redo of her bathroom one year later. To top it off, the contractor stopped taking her calls as soon as issues arose. 

Your home is the keeper of so many precious memories. We recommend doing your research and asking for referrals from people you respect and trust. Learn more about our design-build process here or read more of our Happy Home Blog.

Exterior Siding 101: How to Choose the Best Siding For Your Home

Exterior Siding 101: How to Choose the Best Siding For Your Home

Throughout the south, brick + rock are a very popular choice for home exteriors. In fact, many neighborhoods require a large percentage of this on the exterior of their homes because it is seen as a higher status and more elite than other materials. 

This is actually counterintuitive due to the fact that rock + stone produces a thermal mass that acts as a significant solar collector that gathers heat and dissipates it to the home throughout our long summers. 

As we are all well aware, we do NOT need any sort of extra heat during our Texas summers. Our homes need to be a refuge from the heat, not a host for it. 

This is a shame because not only can siding be beautiful, it is also a much more energy-efficient choice for our climate. 

One of the likely reasons that neighborhoods tend to require extra masonry is because siding has so often been installed wrong and because some siding products are bad choices for building materials. 

Here is a look at a range of common siding choices in the Brazos Valley.

Vinyl Siding

Vinyl siding is a very common exterior siding material and we have to say, we’re not vinyl siding’s biggest fan at Stearns.  Generally speaking, vinyl is a poor choice in building material in most applications.  It is prone to have many problems and often lowers your home’s resale value. 

(There are a few exceptions to this such as Andersen 100 windows; which include fiber in the vinyl to help stabilize it.)

One of vinyl’s many issues is that it expands + contracts drastically with changes in temperature.  In fact, we have seen the reflection from nearby windows melt vinyl siding. We’ve always been told that the UV inhibitors in vinyl keep it from cracking. Nonetheless, we have seen large sections of wall rot behind vinyl siding that had cracked. 

When vinyl siding begins to crack; the cracks aren’t visible to the naked eye. In turn, the walls begin to deteriorate from the cracks subsequently leading to the siding falling off of the house.  

The most frequent malfunction we see with vinyl siding actually has nothing to do with the vinyl,  but with the aluminum trim that is applied on Fascia and other trim.  In most cases, water is able to get behind this metal and it cannot escape.  As a result, the rot cannot be seen and is not realized until it is too late.  

This also happens with aluminum siding. Typically, we don’t see that much aluminum siding in this area, so for this reason we’re excluding this from our list.

Hardboard Siding

This material is often referred to as Masonite, who was an early manufacturer of the product.  In 1996, the maker of Masonite Siding lost a large class-action suit because the material was unfit for exterior use.  Today, Masonite no longer makes siding. 

However, much of the same siding remains in place and there are other similar products on the market. A few years back, when more of this product was still used, we may have put this above vinyl as our least liked siding.

Engineered Siding 

Overall, engineered siding encompasses a vast group of products, including plywood and composite woods; such as Smart Siding.  Our hot, humid Texas climate is harsh on these products.  

More often than not, engineered siding issues are a result of poor installation.  We recommend hiring a professional when using this siding. 

Commonly, this siding is run closer to the ground than it should be because slab foundations are not built high enough to provide adequate protection from sprinklers and the water splashing from the roof runoff. In addition, they are often improperly flashed to protect them from water infiltration.

Wood Siding

This is tricky – here at Stearns, we love wood siding. It’s the real deal. Sadly there are several reasons it’s not the best choice for our hot and humid climate.  Over the years, as Americans have grown wood faster, it has lost a lot of the durability that it once had. But even well-cured, old-growth wood has a tough time in our climate.  

Nonetheless, for the well-informed and motivated client, it can be a great choice.  There is a lot that can be done that goes above and beyond a typical application to give the wood siding a fighting chance. 

This includes making sure that protective coating goes on every surface; especially end grain which is most vulnerable to rot and most often left unprotected. Though we almost never see it in our area, a rain channel behind the siding is also crucial to making wood siding durable.  Furthermore, proper window and trim details are also rare but important to maintaining wood siding.

Cement Fiber Siding

A GREAT siding choice for our climate is cement fiber siding. The material is not subject to rot or insect damage, it is fire resistant, and holds paint very well.

It’s durable, very low-maintenance, and because it is made from recyclable materials, it’s resource-efficient. 

Fiber cement comes the closest to recreating a natural wood grain and is virtually indistinguishable from some wood siding products. It is considered a premium product and tends to garner better resale value to your home. 

At Stearns Design Build, we specialize in wood and fiber cement sidings because we feel that they are the best choices for our climate, they are the most cost-efficient and durable for our client’s homes.  

Do you need guidance or help with your siding?