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Food For Thought

Food For Thought

Do you want value?  Of course, you do. Doesn’t everyone? 

But what does that mean?  Value is not a fixed point. It is an equation.  An often-used example in discussions of value is the fine Italian shoes that cost twice as much as a regular pair of shoes but last four times longer.  The Italian shoes are an excellent value… if you can afford them. 

Homes provide a much more complex equation than shoes. Just like shoes- durability, fashion, and design are key issues but with many more variables within each category. Additionally, the cost of maintenance and utilities are also part of this equation.

The single variable for home buying is cost per square foot, which throws all of these variables for value out the cheap, builder-grade window.  Unfortunately, the price per square foot is not a good benchmark for value but that is what sells homes. Typically, to get the price per square foot down, builders are encouraged to provide the most space possible for the lowest price possible.  This has given birth to a whole line of building products called “builder grade.”  This means that the builder will provide the lowest possible quality that will ensure getting through the short warranty period.

 The same opportunities to use cheap materials and cut corners on craftsmanship exist in remodeling. If fact, they are even more of an issue. This is because the spaces that are most frequently remodeled are those with the most finish in them: cabinets, tile, appliances, and fixtures.  For example, bathrooms and kitchens are rooms that sometimes lack the durability and quality that homeowners expect. This can be incredibly frustrating and inconvenient for the homeowner. This is due to many builders cutting corners in order to reduce the price per square foot. 

Just like you pay a mortgage payment every month, you also pay your utility bill every month. The difference is you never pay your utility bill off.

Unless you start generating your own energy you will continue to get a bill from the utility company, even after your mortgage is fully paid.

Here at Stearns, our crews are trained to NOT cut corners.  Nonetheless, we are happy to put our expertise to work for you! Even if you’re doing the work yourself, please don’t hesitate to email or call us. We’d love to help!

Stunning Kitchen Renovation in Bryan, Texas.

Stunning Kitchen Renovation in Bryan, Texas.

What do you do when you move into a home that has a cozy kitchen that absolutely has nothing to do with your style and was designed for the previous owner? Well, you tear it out and make it your own.

This kitchen went from a farm-style to an Italian-style kitchen. Plenty of storage and an efficient work area.

Additionally, the island allows company in the kitchen, without getting in the way of the chef.


Now and Then

Now and Then

I was a young child when my family moved to the Brazos Valley in 1967 and I am infused with these clay soils. Back then, Bryan had about 30,000 residents and College Station about half that number.  Presently, College Station and Bryan are the 13th-largest metropolitan area in Texas with 273,101 people combined. Bryan and College Station have different histories and different personalities, and we are fortunate to have two distinct places within one larger community.

In 1860 Steven F. Austin’s nephew, William J. Bryan sold a one-mile square tract of land to the railroad commission to create a terminus point. Seven years would pass before the first train arrived and it would be another three years before the state recognized Bryan as a city.  Bryan was born as a railroad community. Given that the city had been established in a one square mile area with a plan in mind, central downtown was laid out in a grid, which facilitated foot and horse traffic.

College Station, on the other hand, has a very different story of origin.  In 1938, it was incorporated as a town serving the community of the Texas Agriculture and Mechanical College. The original neighborhoods were organized around Thomas and Dexter which is now Brison Park.

The two cities evolved from rather disparate beginnings that would shape two very different communities.  Bryan formed around the general commerce of downtown while College Station emerged as a means to serve a university community.  Due to the time gap between the two cities, transportation was vastly different. Horse travel was the primary means of transportation during Bryan’s development while College Station was born in the age of the automobile.

In College Station, with no centralized community center, its pattern of growth was much more dominated by the sprawl made possible by the automobile. Development happened in a leapfrog pattern because the land farther out was the least expensive.

Development in Bryan however, provided much more condensed and walkable patterns. 

Many of Bryan’s homes were built before residential air conditioning was available resulting in a different architectural style.  Homes were built that sought natural means of cooling, including high ceilings, large porches, and large windows.

There were two notable Architects at A&M about the time of College Station’s incorporation, Bill Caudill and John Rowlett. These two were very influential in the style of homes built during this time and Caudill designed many of the homes built just to the south and north of campus.

This was just before Air Conditioning, so most, if not all, of Caudill’s homes in the area, were designed with no central AC. Caudill and Rowlett would go on to form the notable architecture firm CRS, that has done significant award-winning commercial projects.  They continued to think about residential architecture and even wrote a book in the early 1960s on energy-efficient homes, clearly thinking ahead of their time. 

Texas A&M Campus 1920s

Oak trees, trains, Texas A&M, the evolution of vernacular architecture; these things and so many more are the terroir forming our sense of place and are uniquely different in Bryan and College Station. I invite you to look at some of our home renovations in the towns I call home.