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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!

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. 


Bathroom Remodel

Bathroom Remodel

There are so many great reasons to remodel your bathroom! 

1) Increase the value of your home

2) Improve energy efficiency 

3) Enhance aesthetics and so much more! 

For this bathroom and client, the reasons were twofold and of tremendous importance. What if you have a bathtub and shower that you can’t get in and out of? 

Our solution was ripping them both out and creating a wet area with a roll-in shower and walk-in bathtub. We placed a slip-resistant tile between the two, to prevent any falls. 

Now, the bathtub is equipped with a large heated seat with mounted grab bars for safe entry and exit out of the tub. Remodeling this space allowed the creation of a safe haven for our client and of course, a cozy and welcoming space to relax. 

Mastering Color in Residential Remodeling

Mastering Color in Residential Remodeling

My name is Hugh. But today we will be talking about color so, today, I am Hue: a person of color.  The color palette is such a powerful and unifying element in interior design that it is to a where we start.

In the process of guiding clients through selections and interior design, we start thinking about color by thinking about mood. We want to know the mood that our clients want for their entire home as well as the areas we will be remodeling.

With our hedonic (focused on creating happiness) approach to design we often seek designs that create connection to nature. Though it is a bit tricky, color can play a role in creating this connection by choosing colors outside a window to set the palette. The reason that this can be tricky is that colors in nature change seasonally. Many of those colors will only change in shade and tone allowing an inside color to fit through the seasons. Other colors such as seasonal flowers are only present for part of the year. But this, too, can provide delight that mimics nature. The thrill of the first blooms will be heightened and shared indoors if they match an inside color.

 

Another way to mimic nature is to use the pattern of color that are found in nature. That is dark floors, somewhat lighter walls and light ceilings.

The intentionality of color can also be used to create connection to indoor features as well. Matching colors in a favorite piece of art or furniture can bring a room together in a deep and layered way.

In addition to paying attention to what is happening outwardly it is also good to look inwardly. What are the colors that best flatter you? Just as people tend to pick clothing that is more flattering to their skin tone or hair color, they should also think about dressing themselves in the surroundings of their home.

One strategy is to use color symbolism. For example, choose one color or intensity of color for public areas and another for private areas.  Though subtle, this can help inform the intention of the space.

Just as color can create connection to outdoor landscapes or indoor features, it can also help connect interior spaces. The open concept is very popular. At times a designer will want spaces to be open and connected yet distinctive. Color can help create this effect. Likewise, color can help pull together two spaces that are tangential and slightly divided. A line of sight into an adjacent room that uses similar colors can help create connection.

A general rule of interior design is to create a color ratio of 60% of an ambient color; 30% of a highlight color and 10% of an accent color. It is generally discouraged to use more than three colors in a single room… but rules are made to be broken. General rules should not be forced into all situations.

Light colors tend to make small rooms feel lighter and airier. This can also be a good place to create some pop with a bit of a deep color used for accent. A small room using light color can also depend on interchangeable items such as towels to provide accent color thus allowing for easy seasonal changes.

Large rooms provide a great opportunity for an accent wall of a different color. This is a good time to pick up a color from a piece of art, furniture, or something out a window. An accent wall will add interest to a plain room.

Don’t be afraid of vibrant colors. They can be fun and interesting. And if you don’t like them, you can paint over them. If you tend to be cautious, consider limiting the amount of vibrant color you use rather than eliminating it all together. Even if it is only an accent in a single room a vibrant wall can create a fun surprise.

Color can also be used to bring attention to other features as well. A subtle way to do this is lighten or darken the trim or door color by one or two steps from the wall color. For more dramatic appeal use a contrasting color to draw attention. This method adds depth and interest to a space.

Color can help accentuate or create important lines in a design. Consider a long blank wall with a low ceiling. This potentially annoying feature can become a point of interest by lining up photographs in the same size and color frames accentuated by a line that is slightly larger or smaller than the height of the frames and two steps lighter than the wall color, or of a color drawn from the photographs. This will accentuate the linearity of the space and make it interesting.

Use black to create emphasis. It can draw attention to a specific item such as a piece of furniture or it can add emphasis to something in its field of view. A light-colored picture on a black background will pop. Red will become even more dramatic when given a black background. This is to be used sparingly unless you want to create a goth ambiance.

Use the color wheel to your advantage. Colors next to each other create harmony; they tend to be calming and relaxing. Colors opposite each other on the color wheel are complimentary but also create contrast. They insinuate activity and movement.

Stay mindful of lighting. A color will look entirely different in the morning than it does in the afternoon, than it does at night. Added lighting on an accent wall can create a dramatic effect. There is no element in design more important than lighting.

Mirrors can play a nice part in the plan. They provide an opportunity to amplify light as well as color or a dramatic line. Pay attention to what is being reflected in a mirror because it has at least twice the impact that it would without the mirror.