Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Hooray Monet!

A curved dormer for the Monet roof.
The front door wall of the Monet Cottage
A Seurat Cottage window
If you've been keeping up with this blog you will know that we have been working hard on producing four cottages for the children's area of the Dallas Arboretum gardens (See the October 2o, and November 24th posts) . Well, three down now and one to go! You see, we have a secret weapon. Turns out my operating partner, Phillip McCloud is a whiz bang at all of this stuff! Of course it doesn't hurt that he was a framing contractor for twenty-two years. Anyway, he's moving nearly twice as fast as the door/window/oeil de beouf production guy (that would be your's truly!). Could it have something to do with actual knowledge of the trade? Oh well, I'm in there giving it the old college try!

Monet rafter tails
It would be a big stretch to tell you I am an asset to Phillip in the warehouse! Matter of fact it would be an all out lie. But he is tolerant beyond belief as he gives me tasks to perform and laughs when I screw them up. With the amount of effort he is putting into each one of the cottages, our garden exhibit that will last from March through December, will really be special for the kids! I can almost hear my grandkids whooping and hollering as they race through the playhouses! 

An elegant Chihuly bowl - how does he think of this stuff?
And then comes the Chihuly Glass exhibit in May! This will be spectacular! But it's not lost on me that they want us in before Chihuly, and out after Chihuly - heck the Arboretum doesn't want us breaking his stuff! I mean this Chihuly bowl is only $25,000 (I'll take a setting of six please!).

Funny how it works out that we have a wonderful home for the Palmers that is getting ready to start just two blocks away. I guess after the Arboretum cottages we will just have to move our cottage operation over a few streets to work on the Palmer's "mega-cottage!"

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Shop 'Til You Drop!

No, this post is not about Christmas! Aux Contrare - it's about a part of our home building program that enables  us to help our clients pick out wonderful things for their homes. Yesterday I went shopping with the Palmers for appliances and plumbing fixtures and it got me to thinking about the process. 

One of Hoebeke Builder's distinctives has always been to shop with our clients. Most of the other guys will wind their customers up like little toy soldiers with a list of things that need to be selected and turn 'em loose. Total chaos ensues! With a universe of options the homeowner normally gets confused, and overwhelmed. We have an orderly system that clearly identifies those items we will need selected to build your home; dates by which selections need to be completed; vendor lists where we already have accounts; tips for things to look for when making those selections; and charts to record the selections once made. Sounds difficult right? Actually through the years our clients have found our system amazingly user friendly. Could that be why we have two "three peat", eight repeat, and two next generation clients?

It's not enough though to equip the client with specific information needed and let them forge around trying to come up with things they are going to have to live with for years. They need to be lead! We strongly encourage the use of an interior designer, but even that is not enough to systematically get through selections. Since we have the accounts, and since we need the information to be able to complete their home in a timely fashion, we REALLY like to go with them to guide them along. My operating partner Phillip McCloud hates to shop, so yours truly is fortunate enough to make the arrangements and help guide the process. 

Still another reason that I like to shop with our clients is so we get to HEAR our customer. On almost every shopping trip either an expectation of the client, or some treasure they have always wanted in their home is usually revealed. If we don't shop with them - we miss it! Not long ago my client, her decorator, and I were in a tile store shopping hard for hidden treasures. Very casually my client said "...this will look fabulous with the limestone hood in the Kitchen!" (Ah....what limestone hood? First I've heard of it - and oh by the way that will require steel columns, brackets etc. in the wall to support the load!) Unflappable as I always am, I quietly took notes and quickly got the steel in the wall for the limestone! Had I not been shopping, we would have totally missed the need for steel and it would have required major renovation to add later.

We have fun! Lot's of fun! And when you are spending a lot of money for that "tailor made" home of your dreams, it NEEDS TO BE LOT'S OF FUN!! Maybe that explains my second title here at Hoebeke Builders - "Vice-President In Charge of A Good Time!"

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Labor of Love!

We've started! What previously was only a pipe dream is beginning to take three dimensional shape. The Dallas Arboretum "cottages" for the kids are off and running!

Foxworth - Galbreath kicked in some chips and provided us with the materials for both the O'Keffe House, and Seurat's Parisian Townhouse. O'Keffe is currently in production. Once the shell (part of which is seen below) is built on-site we plan to have it gunite'd with pool crete so that we can form a smooth, adobe like finish similar to what Georgia O'Keffe must have experienced as a child. And then we hide the O'Keffe picture inside for the kids to find....

My extraordinarily talented business partner Phillip McCloud really knows his way around a circular saw! Me? - well I'm good on the stupid end of the tape measure or the dumb end of a chalk box. Anyway, with his strong direction we will do some of the work ourselves and rely on a "little help from our friends" to get the component parts built in a warehouse, ahead of the on-site erection in February. We should be finished ahead of our completion date of February 19th.

It makes our heart sing when we think about all those kids crawling through these cottages! Who knows, maybe the next great Monet, or the next great world class architect may shortly be running and laughing in our Arboretum "Small Homes!" Sounds like a plan to me!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Blessed? Or A Blessing?

With Thanksgiving right around the corner it's awfully tempting to reflect on the multitude of blessings that the Almighty showers down upon us! Last time I checked I was not forging through the City landfill looking for my next meal; we had plenty of hot water for this morning's shower (that right there puts us in the upper 1% of the WORLD!); we have a roof over our head, and we have  a comfortable bed in which to sleep! Sure, the building business is no where near what we want it to be, but through God's infinite grace we have yet to miss a meal. We are truly blessed!

But we also pause to remember those who are a "blessing" in our lives! That list from this boy's life is wwwwaaaaaaaaay to long to count, and even longer to try to enumerate here! Just last week another of God's "blessings" dropped right in our lap.

Dale Chihuly - "Through The Looking Glass"
As outlined in my post of October 20th (For the Kids!) my business partner Phillip McCloud and I committed to build four cottages for the Dallas Arboretum in conjunction with the Dale Chihuly Glass exhibit coming in May. The Arboretum accepted the designs of four of Dallas' most talented Architects - and now we have to get them built. Ahhhhh, that's on a very modest budget! Needless to say, when we started detailing the cottage design with each of the Architects, each wanted all the bells and whistles. Ahhhhh, that's on a very modest budget! Blessing #1: it appears that Foxworth Galbraith Lumber Company, our standard lumber supplier, may kick in the materials for at least one of the cottages! Two of the Architects have relationships with other lumber suppliers so we are hopeful on that score as well. But how do you build four "cottages" of approximately 225 square feet each with nothing more than a 10' x 20' mini-warehouse space?

Blessing #2: enter Stan Goodell! Phillip used his connections in Celina to find Stan, and he very graciously offered us a 2,400 square foot warehouse for the next 90 days - FREE!! Now THAT'S a BLESSING!! Suddenly we don't have to worry about weather; and we can field a crew (many hands make lite work)! You just have to admire those who step out of nowhere and want to help, giving of themselves unselfishly, and not caring about what's in it for them! Isn't that the very definition of a "blessing?"

Friday, November 4, 2011

Our "Jack" Attack!

He finally has arrived! Shelby, Jake, and McCall's son/brother Jack stepped into this world Monday morning about 1:25am. Dolly and Dutch are struggling to contain their excitement!

Fortunately the Navy was gracious to Jake, granting him a couple of days to meet his son. Although he couldn't be their for the birth he was able to oversee Jack's trip from the hospital back home. Everyone is doing very well!

Even Jack's cousins are getting in the act! Rachel Ledbetter drove all the way from Monroe, Louisiana yesterday to meet Jack. Hard to know who is enjoying whom - more!

Big Sis McCall is warming up to the idea of having a little brother. She has been an enormous help to Shelby and Jake - sometimes!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas!

Have I mentioned that I am married to Mrs. Christmas? Every year our home looks like the inside of a Christmas package - it just explodes with color and fun! This year is no exception. It's just that it happened on October 25th - a WEEK BEFORE HALLOWEEN!

If one tree is good, two is better! Ahhhhhh, but one is upside down!
But there's method to Molly's madness. You see, within a matter of moments Shelby and Jake will be having their second child, AND the Christmas rush is already on at Heart's Desire, Molly's retail store! To say that she is way out ahead of the curve is to put it mildly!

Old 'stick in the mud' Bob (Dutch to some of you) wouldn't be up for decorating that early so Molly got really smart and brought in Michael Hamilton to do the honors. Michael has a wonderful touch, and he is loads of fun, so the two of them giggled like little girls all day long while they decorated. Kind of put me in the mood!

While many will think it kind of odd that we decorated so early, I really kind of like it! Careful though - too many kind platitudes and next year Molly may start decorating for Christmas in JUNE!!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Is It Dinnertime Yet?

One of the incidental benefits of working with Velma Mitchell is sampling the food that she cooks! Ohhhhhhh man, can she cook! I gain weight every time I'm around her! Recently I posted about the upcoming Velma's Kitchen (That "Locked On" Focus! - July 21st) that is going in the BonTon area of downtown Dallas. It's happening! Slowly, it's becoming a reality!

For years Mike Fechner and Velma have faithfully worked the BonTon neighborhood, loving on the people and sharing the love of Jesus with everyone who would listen - and some who wouldn't! Mike quickly figured out that Velma possesses a gift for cooking. Velma dreamed big of one day having a restaurant where she could not only cook, but entertain the neighborhood. What better way to share Christ than to serve them a great meal and tell them about the bread of Life?!! Mike picked up on that dream and is making it come true. A place where Velma can cook, care, and teach - it just may not get any better than that!

The support has been AWESOME!! Everyone is chipping in: Jim Bell acquired the land; Jeff Williams of Graham and Associates surveyed the property, and promises further help with the engineering; Jim Hillhouse of Alpha Testing did our soils testing; Steve Waddill of Waddill Group, and Stephen Pickard of Good, Fulton, and Farrell kicked  in the architectural work; Richard Chamberlain of Chamberlain's Steakhouse, and Paul Vineyard and family of the Bubba's and Babe's restaurant fame have overseen the menu and kitchen design; Bob Bowen of Manhattan Construction not only is lending his construction expertise, but cost estimating the project as well! ALL PRO BONO!! Countless hours have been spent in the planning and design of Velma's Kitchen. We all want to see it happen. The City Fathers wants to see it happen. It's happening!

Our prediction is that people will come from near and far to sample Velma's cooking. Don't count on them leaving with just a belly full of great food - something tells me that they may also have Jesus Christ in their hip pocket!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

For The Kids!!

In the end it's all about the kids! Our next generation looks to us for care and nurture, but also for fun, entertainment, and sometimes even education! So when our friend Mona Crider approached me about a project for the Dallas Arboretum I was all about it!

The Arboretum has asked Mona to come up with four children's playhouses that represent the lives of four artists, all of whom were active in the Progressive movement, and created outdoor works of art. All four were influenced from their childhood surroundings: Monet lived near a water lily pond; Seurat came from wealth in Paris; Piccaso grew up in Spain near the sea; and Georgia O'Keefe lived out West, eventually settling in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Now, I'm no dummy, so when Mona enlisted my services to build the playhouses, I convinced her that we should go to the real talent here in town to get the playhouses designed - my Architect friends!

Robbie Fusch blessed us with Monet; Paul Turney found Seurat's influence from Parisian architecture; Wilson Fuqua went way out of his very conservative nature in producing Piccaso; and Clint Pearson discovered Georgia O'Keefe's style in Santa Fe adobe. All of the designs are wonderfully unique! All will compliment the gorgeous gardens at the Arboretum!

We plan to have the playhouses finished by mid-February, just ahead of "Dallas Blooms!" Each cottage will have a reproduction of one of the artist's works of art hidden so that the kids can find the painting. Hopefully they will make the connection to the style of architecture that may have influenced the artist's work. All of it will be just plain fun!

It turns out that the Dallas Arboretum wants the children's cottages to function in concert with The Chihuly Glass Exhibit that will be placed in the gardens in May. They are expecting 1 million visitors to see the collection which will be featured throughout the day, and lit at night as well. Here are a few examples of his work.
All of this will be wonderful, but it's time to go to work! You know, the kids are waiting...

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Meet Mary Poppins!

"Space, the Final Frontier!" Was that Dr. Spock of Star Trek fame that said that? Or were they referring to the housing market's trend towards "downsizing?" Regardless, with property taxes going up; energy costs skyrocketing; and 'the new conservatism' suggesting something other than massive square footage, people are becoming sensitive about doing more with less. Suddenly, for the first time in thirty-two years in business, people are asking for help in getting their homes organized. 

Enter Karyn Dismore of Design Concepts of Frisco, Texas. I call her "Mary Poppins" because with a tap of the umbrella, and a snap of her fingers, things just seem to find their place in your home. Her credo is "everything has it's place, and a place for everything!" A native of Zimbabwe, she even has that wonderful Mary Poppins accent! Clients love her for a lot of reasons, but her Mary Poppins bag of tricks continues to spew forth wonderful solutions for all of a home's dysfunction. Have I said that she is absolutely delightful while solving your problems?

Karyn and her husband Grant have become dear friends of ours. In fact, Molly and I are even the "grandparents" that their folks cannot be because they live so far away. No way can we possibly take the place of their real grandparents, but maybe we can be helpful when the girls have activities that require that certain elderly hug.  We love their girls! 

Several years ago when a client complained about how disorganized her house was (with four kids - ahhhhhh, no wonder!), I suggested that they talk with Karyn. Five years later she's still there, now working with the kids to try to keep things in their place! I'm telling you, she's good - really good.....

With the imminent arrival of several client's plans that are scheduled to come off the drawing board, we are at a perfect place to design in all the "tricks" that will ultimately produce wonderful storage. In a downsized home every square inch becomes important for maximizing storage and organization! Watching Karyn in a meeting last week reminded me of how important planning ahead really is. Undoubtedly several trips to two of her favorite haunts, The Container Store, and Ikea are in her immediate future!

When George Banks asked Mary Poppins how long she would be staying she replied "I shall stay until the wind changes." Well, that's substantially different than Karyn - she stays until the job is done! 

Thursday, October 6, 2011

All Hat, No Cattle!!

You've seen this guy before - you know... big, bold, and blustery with a sales pitch that rivals TV's best pitchman. But Mr. Pitchman couldn't back up his hype if his life depended on it!! Sadly we see this personality way too often in society - "all hat, and no cattle!"

I knew a guy like that once, he used to work for me. Everything always sounded so perfect. 'Did you do this, and take care of that?' "SURE, NO PROBLEM!" Wrong - -  problem.... First time he went on vacation I discovered that nothing was done as it should have been! Worse, all of the trades responsible for that work were scurrying around trying to cover his tail because he wasn't taking care of stuff in a timely, and orderly fashion. DISASTER! Sure did cost me a lot to clean up his mess!

When I seek truth, I always run to the Bible. Plainly, it says "Say only yes if you mean yes, and no if you mean no. If you say more that yes or not, it is from the Evil One." (Matthew 5:37) Charge me guilty for my lack of discernment!

But we all get suckered occasionally. Sometimes the pitchman is sooooo smooth and persuasive that we take it hook, line, and sinker. Kind of like the "Evil One" referred to in the Bible verse above. My business partner, Phillip McCloud is amazingly plainspoken - doesn't say much, but when he does his "yes is yes, and his no, no." And everyone really relates to his character! There's no guessing as to what he means or wants. Believe me, it's right up front, what you see is what you get!

Everyone started out in basically the same place. Innocent, without pretense, plainly asking and telling with a childlike faith. Where did we stray?

Monday, September 26, 2011

Ain't No Double Wide!

Courtesy of Connor Homes / Jim Westphalen Photography
"MANUFACTURED HOUSING!" Conjures up the worst of images in your mind doesn't it? Two halves of a mobile home driving down the highway, backing up traffic. Cheap, vinyl paneling lining all of the walls. Tornado magnets. Hound dogs sleeping under the porch. But the home above 'ain't no double wide' and it is by definition...manufactured housing!

Seeing is believing so last week my business partner and I went to Middlebury, Vermont to kick the tires at Connor Homes. This was not completely unprompted - our new clients, Cozy and Mark Palmer have dreamed of a New England clapboard home for years. We are thrilled that they not only selected us to help fulfill that dream, but also wanted to help us understand the Connor Homes building process by taking us to the factory. It was a truly spectacular and amazing tutorial!

You really can't believe what we saw!  Imagine 110,000 feet of warehouse, roughly three football fields, where entire homes - and I mean big homes, were being assembled. The efficiency was staggering! How about only 1.6% waste from all of their manufacturing processes! Heck, we will haul off fifteen or twenty 40' dumpsters full of waste from any one of our jobsites! Connor is "green" REALLY GREEN! What they don't cut up for blocking goes into bins for the local compost company to turn into chips for the compost pile.

Maybe the best adjective to hang around Connor's Homes neck would be "semi-automated." We watched in amazement as a 10' tall by 14' long, 2 x 6 wall section was completed in about five minutes! But then when you have automated tables that pre-determine where the studs go; when those same tables roll the nailed wall section on to the next station where the wall is squared up and plywood sheathing is tacked on; where doors and windows are cut out of the wall section sheathing with two man routers; and finally where that sheathing is face nailed with a power nailer that has twenty nail guns firing simultaneously, you can produce wall sections that fast.

Connor's manufacturing software is so good that each wall section is numbered, and stacked according to when in sequence we will need that part to assemble on-site. The Palmer's 3,800 square foot house frame will be completely produced in about seven to ten days!  Could this be the changing face of the home building business?

We will supply the foundation, roofing material (metal standing seam), systems (mechanical, electrical, and plumbing), as well as necessary labor. But even all of the interior cabinets and trim will be supplied by Connor - by flatbed, later in the building process. In a world where really fine homes are usually built in 18 - 24 months, is it possible that the Palmer's will be living in their home five months after Connor Homes shows up on our jobsite? Those timelines used to be reserved for small tract houses, and - you guessed it - DOUBLE WIDES!