As winter dipped an icy finger into the waterfalls flanking the entrance to White Oaks subdivision, the participants in the East Alabama Living Showcase Home moved indoors. In our previous issue, we described how this Auburn home, located in The Manors section, rose from the ground under the watchful eyes of custom homebuilder Michael Dilworth of Dilworth Development Inc; the architect, Scott Fry of Fry Design Group; and the buyers, Jimmy and Johanna Bottoms. In this issue, we moved to a more collaborative phase, as the builder invited decorator Linda Ayers and her partners to coordinate the interior design.
“When trying to pair my clients with the right vendors for selections, I like to meet with my clients first to determine their budget and style for a particular room or concept. I’ve worked with enough vendors to know which would fit what the buyer describes the best. It maintains good dialogue with my clients and saves my client a lot of time and aggravation,” Dilworth said.
This is the third house the Bottoms have built, but the first one to which Johanna has had to adjust her style.
“I come from a more formal house, and because that is what I’m used to, my previous houses have all been like that. In this house, Michael has some architectural elements that give it a rustic feel,” Johanna said, referring to wood beams and stone work. “This house is 180 degrees from what I have now, but Linda has really shown me howyou can have two different feels in the same house.”
Bringing more than 20 years of design experience to the table, Johanna found Ayers “wonderful to work with.” As partners in the Auburn design store Vignettes, Ayers, Cheryl Daniel, Patty Diskin, Carolyn Burkhalter and Cissy Yarbrough, combed through magazines and trade materials to cobble together a jumping-off point for the home buyers.
Ayers said that once she got a feel for Johanna’s tastes, it was time for a field trip.
“One of the first things we did was go to Atlanta to look at kitchen showrooms. We needed to get an idea about granite patterns and such. We needed a visual to glean ideas for different areas (of the house),” Johanna said, adding that Jimmy accompanied the ladies on the trip. “The main thing Jimmy was interested in was a new recliner.”
Ayers responded with a smile, “I knew we needed Jimmy on board. I took him straight away to a showroom in the Atlanta Decorative Arts Center, and we got him the Rolls Royce of recliners. He was a happy man then, leaving us the rest of the time to look at different showrooms.”
Once a pattern was selected for various countertops, Ayers and Johanna began picking out paint colors with plans to return to Atlanta to select fabrics and rugs. “It’s important to have your fabrics flow visually. You have to think beyond that one room and how the eye travels through an open floor plan. For example, if you did this for this chair, then you’d want that to flow out onto the porch that’s seen from the room,” Ayers advised.
While collaborating with the design team on the interiors, Dilworth also began closing the building envelope. “The interiors take longer, but the house has to be dried-in at a certain stage for the interior to be able to stay on track,” he said.
After the framing was completed, Dilworth met with the Bottoms to determine the best location for things like air vents, thermostats, electrical panels, etc. “The electrical is something we always handle with great detail. We had multiple meetings with the electricians so that we can maximize the impact of features of the home through lighting and electrical service,” Dilworth added.
A valuable feature of the home is its Energy Star rating. Shon Richey of Advanced HomeEnergy Diagnostics LLC examined the East Alabama Living Showcase Home plans and provided on-site inspections to ensure the highest level of energy efficiency. Working with David Kahn and Brycen Williams of Ecological Insulation, Richey calculated the airsealing and insulation quality of the home along with a blower-door test and duct-blaster test. From this, he advised Dilworth on energy savings, which Dilworth was able to pass along to the Bottoms.
“With consumers becoming more aware of energy costs, the investment in Shon’s plan-specific consultation will become standard practice,” Dilworth said.
Following the energy-plan consultation and implementation, Dilworth discussed how the house would look when finished. Asking questions like “What do think of an old reclaimed beam here?” or “What if we made this interior wall solid brick?” allowed the builder to learn a lot about the buyers’ tastes. The responses to these questions helped determine the personality of the house.
“By knowing this, we can then expand on the owners’ taste and ensure they stay on track,” Dilworth said.
The discussions related to roof material were a good example of the collaborative effort that Dilworth practices. Johanna wanted a brown-tone slate, but Dilworth knew most slate isn’t brown. The builder eventually found a company, Slate Select, who recommended a product used on the Biltmore House.
One of the final collaborations during this phase involved the brick. Dilworth ordered random cull bricks because he planned to install the Boral Recote system to them. Therefore, the color of the brick was unimportant; only the texture was valuable.
“We ended up buying a bunch of random-colored bricks with good texture. It is always fun when I’m stopped somewhere and am asked about my polka-dotted houses,” Dilworth laughed.
The builder maintained his eye for the unique, even during the conventional process of painting the exterior cornice. “We did a fun and different eave detail. We crafted exposed rafter tails and painted them to match the windows,” Dilworth said.
Dilworth’s up-to-the-minute flexibility also defined this home-building experience for the Bottoms. The couple approached Dilworth about re-designing the back porch to include a built-in for a Green Egg as well as a grill. With typical enthusiasm, Dilworth responded, “Oh, yeah, we could make something really cool. How crazy does he (Jimmy) want to make it?”
Dilworth summed up his business practices by saying, “When you figure out where the customer wants to go with the house, and then take them beyond that, you can always plan to have a new fan of your building experience.”
Follow us as we enter the final stage of the East Alabama Living Showcase Home. More importantly, we hope you’ll join us for our open house this summer. Come see the beautiful interior-design work of Vignettes along with the building quality of Dilworth Developments Inc. as the home nears completion. Details on the open house in the next issue of East Alabama Living.