Design-on-the-fly remodel ends up in award-winning whole-house redo

Piece by piece remodel results in successful transformation

June 05, 2012

There are some simple truths in life: You really shouldn’t start shooting a movie without a script. It’s not the best idea to bake a cake without a recipe. And starting a remodel without a design is typically not a good way to go.

Despite that, this Austin, Texas, whole-house remodel ended up being not only a beautiful transformation but also a successful business endeavor.

“This project was different from any other project I’ve ever done,” says Kevin Gallaugher, a senior associate at Dick Clark Architecture. “They wanted to start construction pretty much immediately.”

After Gallaugher’s initial meeting with the client, and one rough free-hand sketch, the homeowners told him they had decided to just replace the kitchen cabinetry. That was that, thought Gallaugher, as he prepared to move on to other projects. At the same time, the homeowners had hired Royce Flournoy’s Austin-based Texas Construction Co. to undertake the construction of the then-small project.

Little did Flournoy and Gallaugher realize the project would come to dominate the next 18 months of their professional lives.

‘Domino effect’

The home was basically new, having been built as a spec home by a local builder but sitting unsold for several years. Before the new owners purchased it, they knew they weren’t happy with the design but recognized its prime location. They wanted to renovate the interior of the home to reflect their active lifestyle and improve the exterior curb appeal.

Once Texas Construction Co. started working on the cabinets, removing baseboards and refloating the floor, the clients realized the new look didn’t match other parts of the home. They quickly contacted Gallaugher to design a fireplace, then cabinetry.

“Once they started to see some character develop, they said, ‘We can’t just do this one thing and not do that,’” Gallaugher says. “This process went on for a year-and-a-half.”

By the end of the project 18 months later, virtually the entire 5,000-square-foot home had been remodeled, says Flournoy.

“It’s a really, really tough way to build a project,” Flournoy says. “But I think it was the only way this client could engage in the project. I think we had to do it that way or it wouldn’t have worked out.”

This approach presented obvious challenges from both a design and a construction standpoint. “I was frantically designing to stay one step ahead of (Texas Construction Co.) to make sure the project kept moving,” Gallaugher says.

Flournoy had to make sure he, his team and his trade contractors all stayed on top of the design changes.

“We kept one of our in-house crews on site throughout the entire project, so we could make changes on the fly and redirect work pretty quickly,” he says. “It required a lot of management time on my part personally to make sure we were able to make it all come together.”

Luckily, the company’s other projects that were going on at the same time ran pretty smoothly, giving Flournoy the extra time he needed.

Both Flournoy and Gallaugher say that having the right partners on the project, along with constant communication, helped ensure it was successful. Throughout the project, Flournoy, Gallaugher and the clients met on a weekly basis to discuss the work that was in progress and to review potential changes or updates the clients wanted to make.

Gallaugher “did a wonderful job of giving us information as quickly as we needed it,” Flournoy says. “We would go to a meeting in the morning where the client would make a lot of changes and by the end of the day we’d get the update of the plans so we could redistribute and reorganize how we were going to execute the work.”

Likewise, Gallaugher credits the Texas Construction Co. team for their ability to roll with the changes, stay organized and keep on budget. In the end, there were more than 100 change orders on the project.

“It was fortunate that we have a really good accounting system for our firm, and a full-time bookkeeper, and a very transparent system of billing for our clients,” Flournoy says. “It was quite a process keeping track of all that stuff.”

Total transformation

By the time the project was completed, almost the entire home, inside and out, had been remodeled.

The house received a greatly upgraded appearance and boost in curb appeal with new Lueders limestone that was used not only on the façade, but also enclosed the newly landscaped front yard. In what Flournoy calls his favorite feature of the home, the front porch was enclosed behind a 20-foot-wide, four-panel lift-and-slide door system from Dynamic Architectural Windows & Doors that helped blend the inside and outside, but still offered privacy.

The entire interior was redesigned to mix private and public space for entertaining. While the owners wanted a formal dining room, they also wanted an informal space for eating when it was just them and their children dining. Gallaugher designed a dining island in the kitchen that they use most of the time for family meals.

The formal dining room was inspired by the clients’ appreciation for Asian cuisine and lifestyle. The large table features a built-in Teppanyaki grill so food can be prepared and served by a chef right at the table. The new wine room houses the clients’ extensive collection.

Finally, the homeowners wanted to upgrade the living space, with a more luxurious master suite offering a view of the city, a private children’s studio and a floor plan that helped the space flow better.

“The house didn’t have a whole lot of warmth and was … a little confusing,” Gallaugher says. “Now, it reflects the more sophisticated, sleek look they were looking for.”

The remodel was so successful, the home was featured in the AIA Austin Homes Tour 2011 last fall, and won a 2012 NARI CotY award.

“We went through so many little things, I didn’t even realize until the project was done that it had added up into a really nice looking project,” Gallaugher says.

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