This has been a whirlwind month for the Laura U team and, by now, I’m hoping you have heard all about the Boulevard Show House (aka my house)! It’s an exciting project and I am so thrilled to share the process and redesign of my personal home with you. This is a huge task – and we have a ways to go – but I am incredibly happy with the progress thus far. We couldn’t have made such strides in the renovation planning of our 1925 Tudor Revival home without our talented team of Partners. From the very beginning, we called on the expertise of our Build Partner: Newberry Architecture. They have been with me every step of the way, from our initial tour of North Boulevard, to purchasing our home, and planning out and executing the renovations. They know their stuff!
So, today, we’re asking the experts! The Laura U Team sat down with Gina Brown – Principal at Newberry – to get a behind the scenes look into the skillful minds of the Newberry Architecture Team and their plans for the Boulevard Show House.
Let’s dive on in with our first Q&A of the Boulevard Show House…
LU: We are so excited to have Newberry Architecture on board for this project! Can you tell us about your role in the Boulevard Show House project and what you’re working on specifically?
NA: Newberry Architecture was introduced to the project by Laura and Michael to evaluate the home and what all could be done, as they were considering the purchase. We noticed there were some structural integrity and damage issues, mixed with overall design cohesion challenges that we needed to make sure we could tackle before they invested in the property. After that initial brainstorm and dreaming meeting, they ended up buying the property! From there, the first thing that needed to be addressed was getting the home back to being structurally sound. So we worked with a structural engineer right off the bat to make sure they were coordinating with Laura and the builder. Our next big challenge was working with the Historic Committee. This was very important because the home has a ‘new’ addition in the back, which was added after the original construction of the home. It doesn’t match the original architecture of the home at all, however, the Historic Committee doesn’t see it that way. They grandfathered the house and that property into the same historic registry (as is if it was all built at the same time). That means any changes being made to that added part of the home had to be approved by the Historic Committee and the Boulevard Oaks HOA Committee as well. So there were two historic entities that we had to communicate and facilitate with in order to have all these changes approved.
LU: So where was this in the process? Did you request approval before Laura and Michael decided to purchase the house?
NA: We made some initial phone calls before Michael and Laura decided to purchase, just so we had our research in line. We wanted to know everything that we were going to have to do before they purchased it. Then, as soon as they closed we submitted all the documents to the Historic Committee and put the historic renovation sign in the yard!
LU: Were there any big hurdles with what you proposed and what the committee came back with? Or was it pretty seamless?
NA: The Historic Committee and the Civic Committee [Boulevard Oaks], are very appreciative that Laura and Michael are taking this project under their wing. They have the right intentions to make it beautiful. So with everything that they wanted to implement and that we were suggesting, I think all of the committees were thinking “Oh my goodness, this is going to be such an improvement!” So they didn’t give us a lot of resistance on anything. Also, in the ‘new’ addition that was built in the 70’s, there is a sunken living room and a loft that was structurally unsound. One of the things we have been focusing on with Laura is to getting that space more current and functional. I’m really excited about how it is turning out. From the exterior it is going to be cleaned up quite a bit, so all of the timber wood that is not original to the house is going away. Then when you walk into the interior, you’re going to think you are in a modern and fresh space (even though it is a 70’s building with a sunken loft)!
LU: Yeah, it’s pretty dated in there right now.
NA: Yes, so I’m really looking forward to the transformation of that space the most. We’re doing a cool, floating spiral staircase in there and I think it will be really fun.
LU: Well I feel you have a wonderful team in place and everyone involved is so talented, so I’m excited to see everything.
NA: Thank you! And, speaking of the team, Brooke Brodlowicz and I have been working on this project. Brooke has been in contact with the committees and helping to get all the documents together. She communicates with the spiral stair fabricator to make sure that is going to work and really helps me facilitate all the net symbols of the project.
LU: Great! So what are the first steps in beginning a project of this scale?
NA: The first thing you need to do is invite us to come to a meeting with the realtor. Let’s look at layout and brainstorm to make sure all the things that they want to achieve are reasonable for cost, time and the investment that they intend to make. Michael and Laura did that with us, and it was such a smart decision on their part.
LU: So were there any alternates for the Boulevard Show House, in particular, that may or may not be uncovered yet?
NA: Yes, so when we measured that space we discovered that the whole kitchen ceiling was only 7’10” tall. It was very unusual and very low. We didn’t know if there was a plumbing pipe, a beam or the stairs causing this. So we intended to raise the ceiling, but knowing that when we open it up we may find a challenge; we had an alternative design solution in place. Luckily, when we opened it up the beam had been abandoned and was not being used for any structural reasons, so we are able to raise that ceiling back to 9 feet.
LU: What portion of the house are you most excited to work on? And…I have a feeling I know the answer!
NA: Well, that really is a hard question to answer, for instance, we’ve uncovered a lot of windows that were actually sheet-rocked over. That’s one of those renovation surprises! The house previously felt so dark and very dated, and now with all that natural light, it’s going to change the whole experience as they’re living there.
LU: So how did you go about discovering those windows that had been sheet-rocked over?
NA: Some of them we could see from the exterior, so we knew about a few. For example, there is one in the guest bedroom. When we were studying the floor plans and the photographs, Brooke was able to uncover that one. However, the ones in the master suite, the landscaping had overgrown in that area so we couldn’t see them until they cut all that landscaping down. It was a nice surprise! Another surprise was the fireplace. At first glance, people would probably think that it was original to the house, but it’s just an appliance. There was no chimney, so we were able to take that out.
LU: So how would you describe the overall architecture of the neighborhood, and what needs to change in order for the Boulevard Show House to match the rest of the neighborhood?
NA: The whole neighborhood is very classic: a classic family Houstonian neighborhood. You drive down that street and you know you’re in Houston. The oaks, the style of architecture, and the era of all the homes feel like Houston. The front facade of the home is very much in keeping with that style…but as you move towards the back of the property, it loses some of that.
LU: It changes decades!
NA: Yes, and I told Laura from the very get-go, when we were first texting about this project, that I am excited to make this home their family home. Where they will be raising their kids and walking down the street, meeting new friends. With every project that is the heartbeat for us, but especially with Laura because I have a personal friendship with her. It was important to make this house their home.
LU: I can just see the girls running around in their new playroom and enjoying the pool!
NA: Yes and when we walked through that little pool house, thinking about the girls having their birthday party or a slumber party there, that was so exciting for me.
LU: I love it! So what is the best way to get started with your team? Do you want people to fill out a contact form on your website or give you a call, what is best?
NA: Either way! The best thing to do is set up a consultation meeting to go through their project and what they are wanting to accomplish. We work on all scales and scopes of projects. We’ve done master closet remodels to over 35,000sq ft. new construction, residential and commercial.
LU: So it sounds like you guys do it all! Do you have a specific part of Houston that you like to focus on?
NA: Most of our work is in the greater Houston area, but we do have projects out of the city, in other parts of Texas and out of the state. We have projects in California, Colorado, NY, Virginia, Florida, Belize, and Italy. But our bread and butter is the greater Houston area.
LU: So how long have Newberry Architecture been around?
NA: Newberry Architecture was founded in 1997, so 20 years in October.
LU: Congratulations! It’s a big year for you guys. This has been so informative, is there anything else you would like to add?
NA: Yes, we are so excited to be part of the entire team on the Boulevard Show House project, everyone from the builder, to Laura and Laura’s team, and the suppliers. We are thrilled to be working with this collaboration of people.
And Gina, we feel the same way! I am so happy to be partnering with my friends at Newberry Architecture. Gina and Brooke have worked so hard to make this our family home and it shows in the progress so far. It is clear they have set a great foundation for this project and the results are going to be AMAZING. I hope this session of “Ask the Experts” has you excited to come tour our finished product next Spring! For more information about The Boulevard Show House, check out the announcement and progress updates on our blog, Facebook and on the Boulevard Show House website. Until next time, XO|LU