TOP TEN LUXUXY DESIGN TIPS INSPIRED BY THE HBRA’s LUXURY HOME TOUR

Ten Hot Luxury Design Tips from the HBRA Greenwich and Darien House Tour

by Sharon McCormick | May 2, 2017
Sharon McCormick, of Sharon McCormick Design,  was one of the sponsor’s and volunteer’s of the recent CT Luxury Home Tour, presented by the HBRA of Fairfield County.  The tour showcased four gorgeous homes in Darien and Greenwich and really presented excellent examples of some of today’s hottest interior design trends.  Here are ten luxury design tips she noticed — and loved — throughout the tour:
White kitchens:  Each home on the tour had a white kitchen.  The idea of a bright, clean space to gather, entertain, and spend time with family must have universal appeal.
Waterfall Islands:  In a waterfall island, the sides of the kitchen island are clad in the same stone as the counter top.  The seamless, modern look of these islands is very popular.
Polished Concrete Mantel:  A polished concrete fireplace mantel and surround has a sleek, contemporary look.
Shiplap:  On walls and ceilings, the raw, rustic look of shiplap provides a great contrast for modern design.
Quartz Counter Tops:  High durability and low maintenance make quartz, with its endless color options, a trendy choice for counter tops.
Integrated Appliances:  Appliances that blend seamlessly with the kitchen cabinetry are so popular right now.
Smart Homes:  Integrated smart home systems aren’t just trendy technology — the ability to customize settings for lighting, climate control, home entertainment, and security is a convenience that can cut energy costs and help you make the most of your home.
Barn Doors:  Interior barn doors, like shiplap, provide a rustic, textured look to an otherwise modern space.
Ghost Chairs:  No, it’s not a seat for a poltergeist, or even an invisible chair!  Ghost chairs are transparent chairs made of acrylic, plexiglass, or polycarbonate.  This modern choice takes up less visual space in room and is super trendy.
Outdoor Living:  Bringing the inside out is getting easier, and more luxurious, thanks to the growing line of weatherproof options.  You can have a giant television by the pool, a state of the art sound system by the spa, and custom outdoor dining areas, all unaffected by the worst weather New England can throw at them!

WBC to Appear on Property Brothers “Buying & Selling”

When HGTV experts Jonathan & Drew Scott needed help in Westchester County for their Property Brothers show,  “Buying & Selling”, they called upon local custom home builders Chris Wright & Judy Doyle of Wright Building Company to help transform two dated homes in ‪Westchester County to two amazing properties with smart, stylish living spaces.  You can watch these spectacular transformations take place ‪April 26th and ‪May 24th on HGTV.

Wright Building Company has been the area’s premier builder of fine custom homes for over 30 years. They are well respected among homeowners, architects and interior designers by providing experience, process, skill and communication to every job.  They have built and renovated over 100 homes and always provide individualized consultation and ongoing communication to ensure their client’s needs are satisfied.  Chris Wright is proud to say, “our homes are not only beautiful, they are the most efficient homes around”.
Wright Building Company has 3 Divisions; Custom Home Building, Additions & Renovations and Estate Care.
For more information on Wright Building Company call ‪203-227-4134 or go to www.wrightbuild.com

 

BUILDING A FAIRFIELD COUNTY CUSTOM HOME IN 2017

Technology and innovations in many industries have advanced so quickly that it seems like all of a sudden we’re living in an episode of “The Jetsons,” right here in Fairfield County. Futuristic technology, building materials, and equipment have proliferated the home building industry. Homebuilders, as always, must adapt. Good contractors always do. The driving force behind today’s high-tech custom home can be attributed to advancements that provide better efficiency and easier-to-manage systems, fixtures, and equipment.

IoT Smart Home Technology
For the past few years, smart home technology has been built into custom homes across a range of equipment and entertainment systems. Lighting, appliances, garage doors, locks, security systems, and more can be controlled through your smartphone and home-based hub.

The next big thing to come in smart home technology will be the fully connected Internet of Things (IoT). Although we currently have a variety of smart devices, IoT is the idea that one single network connects all of these technologies to allow them to work at their fullest potential with maximum ease of use. Smart home manufacturers are working hard to make this a reality. We’re seeing more and more connected systems from manufacturers such as Amazon, Nest, and Phillips.

Home Efficiency
As efficiency becomes even more important to homeowners and builders, we’re sure to see a continued increase in equipment that uses less energy. As a result, geothermal technology is poised to become more of a norm. Geothermal heating and cooling units are highly efficient and more readily available than ever. Another system likely to become more popular is variable speed HVAC. Variable speed works by slowing down and speeding up power output based on the heating or cooling load of the house. Traditional systems simply turn on and off. This type of equipment can be up to 40 percent more efficient than traditional units. Other systems likely to become more popular include ductless mini-split systems and radiant heat.

Home Building Materials
New home building materials are always surfacing. Some take off, and some fade away. For 2017, there are a few materials that have the potential to make an impact on how homebuilders construct custom homes. One is recycled steel. Builders are choosing to use smaller amounts of steel over large quantities of wood that often require more complicated framing systems, particularly in luxury homes. Another is insulated concrete forms. Interconnected foam replaces plywood foundation forms, and the foam remains in place as an insulator. Composites on decking, trim, and siding will likely also grow in popularity as homeowners become more comfortable with them.

Virtual Realty
We’ve had 3-D animation to aid home design for several years now, but virtual reality (VR) is poised to eventually replace it. VR is on the precipice of taking off, and it will affect a wide range of industries. VR already exists in certain capacities for home builders, but future advancements will allow homeowners, architects, and homebuilders to step inside a full-sensory immersion and experience the spaces, functionality, and technology of a custom home before it’s even built. It’s hard to say when this type of experience will be the norm, but it’s safe to say it will be here before we know it.

One of the most exciting aspects of being a custom homebuilder, particularly in the luxury markets of Fairfield and Westchester counties, is seeing the home building process evolve and improve. Advancements have been rapidly made over the past few years and will likely continue to progress at a fast clip. I’m looking forward to seeing what’s next.

MAINTENANCE NEEDS FOR A NEW CUSTOM HOME

We’ve built over 100 custom homes across Fairfield County, CT, and Westchester County, New York. One thing that remains constant across all of these projects is the need for regularly scheduled maintenance. Home buyers often don’t think of maintenance after they’ve built a home. After all, it’s a brand-new structure with top-of-the-line finishes and mechanical systems. Just like any other advanced mechanical device, however, regular maintenance will be required to keep it running properly.

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Your homebuilder should walk you through regular maintenance as part of the planning process, before construction. This way you’ll know what to expect after the keys are turned over. The most significant maintenance needs will come from the home’s mechanical systems. They’ll require yearly tune-ups to stay functioning at peak efficiency.

Whole-Home Ventilation Systems
Today’s luxury custom homes are built almost airtight. We accomplish this by using the latest materials and building processes, such as spray foam insulation, advanced exterior home wrap and flashing, and all-in-one exterior insulation and sheathing panels. The result is super efficiency. Hot air stays in during the winter, and cool air stays in during the summer. When air can’t escape, however, mold can grow, and airborne toxins can be trapped inside. For this reason, whole-home ventilation systems are now a standard mechanical component in custom homes.

There are four main types of whole-home ventilation systems. Your architect and homebuilder will work together with you to determine the right setup for your custom home. Regular maintenance is fairly simple. The filter, which is easily accessible, should be changed out yearly. And ductwork can be cleaned every three to five years.

HVAC Systems
Heating and air conditioning systems should have yearly scheduled maintenance conducted by a professional HVAC contractor. One exception to this is the filter. Energy Star recommends checking the filter once per month and cleaning it or replacing it depending on the level of residue and any wear. Professionals will conduct a yearly checkup that will include inspecting the thermostat settings, tightening electrical connections, checking refrigerant levels, and cleaning and adjusting blower controls, among other steps. Quality homebuilders will offer a maintenance program that typically includes these types of checkups.

Wood-Burning Chimney
Wood-burning fireplaces that are used regularly should be inspected once per year. Chimney cleaning removes soot and creosote buildup in the chimney liner, smoke chamber, damper, and firebox. Creosote is highly flammable and accumulates fairly quickly. It only takes a thin layer to potentially cause a chimney fire. Venting systems on stoves and furnaces should also be cleaned. In addition to safety, keeping these channels clear of debris will help create more draw and put less strain on the systems, allowing them to function more efficiently.

Security Systems
Today’s smart home security systems are changing the home security game. One thing that hasn’t changed, however, is the idea of maintenance. Having a maintenance program in place will cover yearly professional inspections. These typically include the inspection of battery function as well as signal and sensor transmission, and the repair of any damaged or malfunctioning parts.

Of course, any home requires standard upkeep on a variety of additional interior and exterior features. A good caretaker, or maintenance program from your homebuilder, can help with issues as they arise. Most homes need gutter cleaning, countertop oiling, paint and/or stain touchups, and more. By having a good maintenance plan in place, you can keep your home looking like new for years down the line.

ANSWERS TO ESSENTIAL LUXURY HOME BUILDING QUESTIONS

Each custom home that we’ve built in Fairfield County and Westchester County has been a unique experience. Although many of the essential construction processes and materials apply to any custom home, there are always factors that need special consideration. This is the nature of custom luxury home building. It’s taken us years to learn how to anticipate, adjust, and excel at the ever-changing home building landscape. This is why we’re uniquely positioned to help homeowners understand what to expect before and during the home building process. Here are a few of the essential questions that we’ve tackled through the years.

Questions

How much does it cost to build a custom home?
There is a wide range of factors to consider when determining the cost of a custom home. Estimating these types of projects can be a full-time job. For that reason, we don’t provide numbers without having critical pieces of information. Establishing price will require a formal sit-down to discuss your needs and wants for your custom home. The size of the home, materials used, amenities, location, building team requirements, and many more factors all must be considered.

How long does it take to build a custom home?
Each home is different, but the rough timing to build a smaller, 5,000-square-foot custom home is between 10 and 12 months. For waterfront homes in Greenwich, Darien, and Westport, the timing will likely be longer. Permitting, planning, and construction will be more challenging here. The types of materials and additional outbuilding and amenities can also affect the timeline. For example, it will require more time if you’re looking to build an expansive pool house, guesthouse, wine cellar, and/or recording studio. Structural elements, such as large vaulted spaces, and custom features will likely add time.

Having a comprehensive building team in place can help make the job go faster. For large custom home construction projects, it’s ideal to have a homebuilder, architect, engineer, and interior designer in place before beginning the process.

What types of home building restriction can I expect?
Nobody wants to be restricted when building his or her dream home. Creative, resourceful, experienced builders and architects can help homeowners realize their dream by understanding how to work within the regulations and restrictions of certain Fairfield County towns. Greenwich, Westport, New Canaan, Darien, and Fairfield are some of the most desirable locations for custom home building. As a result, the building lots have mostly been carved out, and the population of homes is plentiful. There are very few open lots left in these towns. Teardown home sites, and any newly subdivided land, will likely require creative planning and construction techniques.

Each town is different when it comes to zoning restrictions. Some areas have historic districts with special regulations. Waterfront property has a variety of regulations. And footprint and teardown rules apply in many of the towns’ popular areas. Your homebuilder will guide you through the restrictions when the search areas have been established.

What am I not thinking of that I wish I had before building?
Building a luxury home is a time-consuming endeavor for the homeowner. Although this process can be stressful, there are steps you can take to help things run smoothly. The first step is hiring the right homebuilder. You need someone running the job who is experienced and understands the process, regulations, materials, relationships, etc.

Second is planning. When you take the time to plan ahead, the process will run much smoother. This starts by assembling the right team. Your builder can help guide you through assembling a team. From there the team will map out the entire process in detail, from permitting to handing over the keys.

Third is time management. You’ll need to make a wide variety of choices. If you allocate specific time to manage this part of the project, you’ll find it easier to handle.

The best way to fully understand the process is to set a meeting with your contractor. You’ll be in a good position to start taking steps toward building your dream home.

THE PROS THAT MAKE UP A CUSTOM HOME BUILDING TEAM

Building a custom home requires a team of experienced construction professionals. Even small home renovations and additions require the expertise of several home building pros. For luxury custom homes the need for multiple skilled professionals is even greater. The process typically starts with the contractor or architect. From there, numerous tradesmen are brought in throughout the process.

team

Contractor/Homebuilder
Homebuilders, otherwise known as contractors, or general contractors, will be responsible for the entire home building process from the ground up. The builder works closely with the architect and other pros on the scene, but is responsible for putting all the pieces of the puzzle together, from estimating the job to delivering the keys when the home construction project is complete.

Contractors of luxury custom homes have an enormous responsibility. Building any home is a significant undertaking, but building a 10,000-square-foot luxury home in Greenwich, CT is a massive job that requires skill, knowledge, and experience across a wide range of responsibilities. Having an experienced homebuilder on your team is critical to achieving the highest-quality work, and having the job done on budget and within the agreed-upon timeline.

Architect
Homebuilders have strong working relationships with local residential architects. At Wright Building Company, we’ve worked with a variety of the most skilled professionals in Fairfield and Westchester counties. For some new home construction and renovation jobs, our clients have come to us first. We then recommend the architect to best suit their needs. Other times, the architect will have established the client relationship and will reach out to us for construction.

The process of custom home architecture starts with information gathering. Working closely with the builder, the homeowner and architect will flush out the homeowner’s wants and needs. From there the site is measured, plans are drawn up, and surveying can typically be done. If the land is challenging, the builder may conduct feasibility studies, with the help of land engineers and the architect, to determine the best way to build complex structures on sloping, rocky, or waterfront property. A schematic is then typically drawn up, and the design and development process can begin.

Land and/or Structural Engineer
With the types of custom homes that we build, structural and soil engineers are often involved in the planning process. The same is true for large home renovations and home additions. Custom homes in towns like Greenwich, Westport, and New Canaan are often very large structures that have multiple heavy load requirements and unusual architectural elements. In addition, these homes are often built on land that requires creative and scientific consideration. Waterfront property can be some of the most challenging.

Subcontractors
The contractor will typically have a project manager on staff to run the operation on the ground. The home building company will oversee the entire operation, and the subcontractors will be responsible for day-to-day construction. Numerous subcontractors work through the process. Surveyors and excavation professionals are some of the first to arrive on the job site. From there we have foundation crews, framers, plumbers, electricians, HVAC pros, masons, finish carpenters, lighting experts, home technology and AV pros, landscapers, and pool installers, among others.

Ensuring that a custom home is built properly requires a wide range of considerations. One of the most important is hiring the right subcontractors. Luxury home construction leaves virtually no tolerance for imperfection. To achieve this level of detail across every step of the process requires highly skilled and experienced experts.

At Wright Building Company, we take great pride in delivering the highest-quality renovation and custom home construction work. The end result is a happy family with a beautiful new home that they, and we, can feel good about.

OUR RECENT CUSTOM HOME AND RENOVATION PROJECTS

We just wrapped up a productive peak homebuilding season in Fairfield and Westchester Counties. Among other projects, we finished a really interesting custom home in Wilton. And we’re slated to move into the colder months with a couple of notable renovation projects. 

barkahamsted-house

We wrapped up the Wilton project in late summer. The homeowners are in and loving their new home. This proved to be an exciting endeavor. The home was modern with exquisite detailing throughout the interior and exterior, and the lot was in a nice wooded, private location.

On the roster now are a full gut renovation in Litchfield County and a structural repair and renovation in Easton. The Litchfield County home is in Barkhamsted on a wooded 2-acre lot. This is another modern and required taking the entire interior down to the studs. When complete, this will essentially be a new home with only the foundation, basic frame, and utilities saved, which were all in good condition.

On the exterior of the Litchfield County home we removed the roof and installed a Grace roofing system. This advanced rubberized asphalt formulation enables a watertight bond, with the roof deck acting as a barrier for both water and ice. The roof finish will be either metal or traditional asphalt. The home has a 1,000-square-foot deck.

The interior will be rebuilt with intriguing lines and a variety of eye-catching features. Most notably, we are installing two new staircases, both of which will make a statement. In addition, the interior is getting spray foam insulation that will help seal the house and provide optimal energy efficiency. Other interior details will include built-in, pull-out storage units and the latest modern finishes and fixtures.

We’re also working on a traditional-style home renovation in Easton, CT. This project requires some major structural repair and reworking of existing interior space. It’s the type of project that gets to the core of Wright Building Company’s experience and value. When it comes to structural elements, it becomes a job for a true professional. This is why, although this is a smaller project for us, we’re proud to lend our expertise. We’re applying the same skills that we’ve honed on large custom homebuilding jobs throughout towns like Westport, Greenwich, and Darien.

The Easton home is an interesting project. Large portions of the frame have been ravaged by termites, compromising the integrity of the structure. We will be replacing multiple headers and framing as well as reworking and rebuilding some of the interior spaces. We estimate this to be about a three-month project.

One of the things I’ve really enjoyed over these past few months is seeing our Architect and industry friends and colleagues across Fairfield County. Judy and I have been out and about. I often think about how lucky we are to be part of such a wonderful homebuilding community. We’re looking forward to the next round of building jobs soon.

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A CARPENTER AND A CONTRACTOR

Building a custom luxury home is a monumental task. Any home construction project consists of several moving parts, but custom luxury home building in Fairfield, Darien, Westport, and Greenwich is a different ballgame altogether. When you’re searching for a homebuilder, it’s important to know the difference between a contractor, also known as a general contractor, and a carpenter. Choosing the right professional to manage your new home, addition, or renovation project can mean the difference between a smooth ride and a complete disaster.

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The first thing to understand is that building a custom home requires significant management skills and experience. This includes planning, estimating, subcontractor management, process, material ordering, code and permit process, etc. A carpenter is someone who builds with wood. The good ones are skilled at construction and are typically subcontractors for the general contractor. The contractor is the manager of the project and is responsible for running the entire operation from start to finish.

Choosing the wrong type of professional to build your custom home can lead to serious problems. Carpenters have been known to take on larger, more complex projects than they’re qualified for. They always start with good intentions, but once they dive into the complexities of building from the ground up things can get out of hand fast. When this happens, the schedule can suffer severely. More important, the home can be built in an unsafe manner, and the budget can be exceeded at great lengths. We’ve taken over several large home construction projects in Fairfield County that were improperly managed. The result every time is work that needs to be redone. This comes at a significant additional cost to the homeowner.

The biggest challenge with custom home building is the sheer volume of responsibilities. It starts with estimating. The estimation process is highly complex because it requires accounting for virtually every element that goes into the construction of a custom home. This includes all of the building materials, technology, and subcontracting for plumbing, HVAC, electric, landscaping, pavement, fencing, masonry, pool, etc. It also includes knowledge of permitting, code requirements, engineering, etc. From there qualified subcontractors need to be hired, and the entire process needs to be managed along the way.

The contractor not only needs to be knowledgeable of the process, but they also need to be professionals who are good at communication, organization, and technology. There are a lot of very talented carpenters in Fairfield County, but a contractor with all of these skills can be hard to find.

Contractor for Home Renovations and Additions
Building home additions and renovations in Greenwich, Westport, and surrounding Fairfield County can sometimes be like building an entire custom home. Many of the same processes and materials are often required. We’ve seen small renovations turn into full-scale home rebuilds. A good contractor will always help you consider how the rest of the home will be affected by any new work.

When you’re ready to start a home construction project, always look for a homebuilder that is a qualified subcontractor. Choosing the right professional in this instance can make a world of difference.

WHAT TIME OF YEAR IS TOO LATE TO BUILD A SWIMMING POOL?

Nobody wants the summer to wind down, but just because the colder weather is approaching doesn’t mean it’s too late to build a pool. Late summer is actually a good time in CT to build. Fairfield County summers can stretch into late September, and several of our clients enjoy their heated pools and outdoor spas into November, depending on the weather.

Pool Timing

How late is too late to build? It’s not ideal to build a pool in winter, but it can be done. Just as with home construction, we build pools year round, despite the cold and harsh CT winters. Of course winter is not nearly as popular for pool building as the other seasons, but it is possible to accomplish if your timeline calls for it. The key is to incorporate the right process and materials. Ideally you want to take the winter to plan your pool and perhaps start the process with the idea of breaking ground when the soil is not frozen and there will be no issue with concrete curing.

The length of time required to build an in-ground, gunite pool is typically six to eight weeks, including permitting, drafting and plan approvals, construction, gunite cure time, and basic masonry surround. It will likely take more time if you’re planning extensive landscaping, masonry work, dramatic changes to grade, blasting, or pool house construction.

As builders in Fairfield and Westchester counties, we’re no strangers to difficult terrain. We’ve come across severe building challenges, most of which were overcome with diligent planning and engineering. There can be heavy ledge in Greenwich, Westport, Darien, and most other area towns. If this is the case, we need to blast the pool site. Depending on the extent of the ledge, this can make the project considerably more expensive.

Another typical building challenge that we’ve seen is sloping property. In some cases, heavy excavation and outside fill can help reduce the slope. For more extensive cases, retaining walls can be built to carve out a level section for the pool. With creative design and attractive masonry, a natural stone retaining wall can play into the layout in an appealing way. Spas can also be built into the slope to create a tiered approach.

If you’re planning to build a pool, talk with your builder in detail about your plans for the site, and make sure to inform them of all the amenities you would like to include. Although it can be an investment in time and capital, the lifestyle payoff can be significant.

COMMON HOMEBUILDER CODE VIOLATIONS AND WHY WE ALWAYS BUILD TO COMPLIANCE

About 45% of residential home construction inspections result in a code violation, according to a survey done by the International Code Council (ICC) and the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). This was a fairly surprising figure to me. There are probably hundreds of home builders and contractors in Fairfield and Westchester County, and it’s likely that a fair amount of them are not qualified to build homes, particularly luxury homes. They simply don’t have the experience, or they do not employ the appropriate measures to undertake complex home construction projects.

Code

Building a luxury home is an extremely complex undertaking that requires in-depth knowledge of a wide range of construction processes, regulations, and materials. The planning phase alone for a 12,000-square-foot home, like the ones we’ve built in Greenwich, Westchester, and Darien, requires months of working and reworking. And when you consider building on the waterfront, the complexity can be staggering to new builders.

The top violation, according to the study, was missing documentation such as the engineer’s foundation letter, structural plans, HVAC plans, etc. Most builders get into the business because they like working with their hands and being outside. This is understandable, but the reality is that luxury home construction projects require a lot of desk time and paperwork. As a result, residential contractors need to be extremely diligent and organized. They also need to have a propensity for strategic planning, assessment, and estimating. Most important, they need to know how the entire home gets built — including engineering requirements, site assessments, foundation, complex framing and load requirements, trade management, code requirements, etc.

Achieving this goal takes determination, commitment, and experience. Unfortunately, a lot of builders get into the trade with little or no experience, thinking they can do it all. I’ve seen this happen, and the results can lead to real problems.

Several of the violations involve structural elements, including improperly placed anchor bolts, braced wall errors, weakened joists and beams, and deck ledgers and braces. This is when we can all be thankful that we have thorough building code requirements. These types of errors gone unchecked can lead to major structural issues that have the potential to cost large sums of money down the line for the homeowner — or, worse, the next owner. And let’s not forget about the safety issue. Collapsing decks are too common, and can result in people getting seriously injured and worse.

The next set of violations is related even more directly to safety. They include stair rise/run errors, improper stair handrails and guardrail heights and sturdiness, and missing or inadequate fire blocking. Homeowners often take these safety measures for granted, but building a safe home is critical to the delivery of the end product. We are responsible not only for the comfort of our clients, but also for ensuring the home is safe for years to come.

The last two code violations, according to the study, were air-barrier gaps, and exposed kraft-faced insulation. These can also lead to safety issues. The bottom line is that when you hire a homebuilder, you need to be confident that they understand how to build a luxury home properly. The vetting process should go well beyond the review of their portfolio. Most of the time, the best builders have been in the business for years.