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Southlake Style

Building Up Southlake

Jul 02, 2018 09:31AM ● By Ashley Madonna

As families grow and life changes, houses can feel less homey and more congested. Sometimes, this is less about the lot size and more about the use of space, so owners turn to renovations to fall in love with their homes again.

According to a recent report from The National Association of Remodeling, 75 percent of homeowners have a greater desire to be in their home after finishing a renovation. And 67 percent of people feel a major sense of accomplishment after the project has wrapped. 

That’s where John and Elizabeth Huffman, owners of Black Door Renovation, come in. Whether you watched the husband-and-wife duo on their HGTV show or have called up the couple to complete a renovation of your own, they are known for their expansive portfolio of beautiful projects that have helped families find greater joy in everyday life. They have been members of the community for more than 10 years and have been changing locals’ lives with their work ever since. 

Handy Huffmans

The college sweethearts met at Texas A&M and got married after graduation. After living in Washington D.C., the two moved down to Southlake and started a renovation company that would soon become a household name in our town.

Along with their partner, Rick Baker, the group tackles a wide range of projects from home remodels to decor updates. But they are known for some pretty luxurious and transformative renovations that make homes more than livable for their clients.

So when Southlake residents Keith and Gina Coulter wanted to add some square footage and customize their home with more functional elements, they knew whom to call.

The Coulters had gone to church with Rick years before the project took off, so they were attracted to working with a group that shared the same values and a sense of integrity as their family. And they knew the Huffmans had the experience

that would help give them the most return on their investment while also treating their living space with care.

The Huffmans sat down with the family to get a feel for what the Coulters’ dream home would look like. While John says clients’ ideas often need to be distilled down to a singular vision for the completed project, the Coulters already knew what they wanted their upgrades to include.

“Gina had a very good vision for what she wanted aesthetically,” John says.

After making their wish list and seeing where they could expand, the Huffmans and Coulters agreed they wanted to build up and out, open things up, create a good flow and incorporate natural light. So, they got to work.

“We also wanted to personalize the house a little, by adding a dedicated space for the dog as well as a model railroad train room,” Gina says.

Black Door Renovations brought in a draftsman to create the plan, got the permits, settled on the details and got the ball rolling so the materials would be ordered by demo day.

Throughout the planning period, the Huffmans were able to bond with the family, ensuring they ended up with their desired outcome for the renovation.

“We want people to view us as partners,” John says. “And, this family is just awesome.”

While the Huffmans work on three to five projects at a time, they put an emphasis on top-notch construction and planning to ensure their families feel taken care of. It’s a large reason why their clients choose them for home renovations.

When the Huffmans are not working, they are spending time with their three children: Caroline (11), Andrew (9) and Anna (7). John also acts as City Council Place 5 and sits on several different city committees, like the Southlake Parks Development Corporation and Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone. Elizabeth homeschools their three children and chairs two committees at their local church. And both are pillars of the community by participating in things like this year’s Dine to Donate, which benefited GRACE

Adding On

On demo day, the Black Door Renovation team started out the project by leaning into one of the latest renovation trends of the year: adding onto the second floor by using the space above the garage. In the Coulter’s case, their expansive six-car garage was taken down to a five-car and new framing was added on top of the previous attic space. The completed renovation added about 1,000 additional air-conditioned square feet to the property and created a little bit more room for the family to settle into.

With this new space, Black Door Renovation tailored the Coulter’s first floor to fit their lifestyle. They pushed out a wall 10 feet into where the garage once stood and added an enlarged laundry room and a new mudroom for their dogs. With an exterior exit to the backyard and a dog bath installed right inside, their fostered Irish Setters were given a place of their own where their owners could rinse them off after running around outside.

“This adaption shows creative ways to add more space without pouring foundation,” John says. “We are marrying form and function.”

They were also able to create a covered porch and cedar pergola so their two high schoolers, Caroline and Colin, and pets had a comfortable spot to relax outside.

After walking upstairs and looking at the once cramped attic space, it’s clear the project gives the home more breathing room. The Huffmans raised the roof and reframed the space above the garage to add on a new bedroom, bathroom, living space and air-conditioned storage. So the four-bedroom home was converted to a five-bedroom, which adds serious value to the property when the family decides to sell.

“In most of these big houses that are four to five bedrooms, you can run out of space quick,” John says. “Sometimes, they aren’t even built for every kid to have their own room.”

But the multi-faceted project also brought in some updates that freshened up the look of the interior. Their kitchen previously seemed separated from their living and dining rooms, but by building out an open-floor concept, the Huffmans were able to create a better kitchen flow.

Keeping Up With Trends

On the 2017 Remodeling Impact Report, the NARI asked realtors to rank interior projects that had the highest appeal to buyers and added the highest value to homes for resale. Complete kitchen renovations and upgrades held the top spots on both lists. Attic conversions to living areas were also on the top 15 in each.

Knowing the value of the central hub of the home, as kitchens are commonly used, the Huffmans installed one big island kitchen to retain convenience and functionality while allowing space for walkways. After pushing out the exterior wall in their living room and installing larger windows, the entire first floor felt bigger, brighter and airier. 

But not all walls can easily be taken down. During the project, the Huffmans discovered that same wall had a major support beam. So instead of spending more money on moving that, they created a stud wall where the previous wall stood to make the new, pushed-out wall an easier and more affordable project.

“We are managing the client’s wishes with the practicality of the current structure,” John says.

They also installed new flooring to make the entire space feel more cohesive and introduced muted colors that gave the home a more transitional feel. The Huffmans know that, most of the time, their clients are looking to add in something specific with their renovations. While adding square footage is often a great monetary investment, John says that most of their clients are looking to match their homes to their specific life experiences.

“Usually the client’s goal is trying to achieve a meaningful change in the home to make it more viable for them,” John says.

In the Zone

Before starting any project, the Huffmans ensure that all of those meaningful changes comply with the client’s local Home Owners Association’s covenants or requirements for home addition projects. Some HOAs have their own architectural committees that must review and approve remodels before demo days can be scheduled.

Renovators also must check in with the city’s Planning and Development Services Department to see what is the maximum building height and lot coverage along with other code requirements. Guidelines for residential additions and remodels can be found on the city’s website.

“Each zoning district has specific building height, setback and lot coverage requirements which can be found in the City’s zoning ordinance,” Senior Director of Planning and Development Services Ken Baker says. “Individuals may contact the Planning and Development Services Department - Planning Division for assistance in determining the zoning of your property and building regulations.”

But the city is happy to see people put in the time and resources to improve their homes because they want to stay in the town they have come to love. 

“Southlake is a great community to live, and people are staying in their homes longer and investing in their property,” Ken says.

Creating Meaningful Change

The Coulters felt the same way. Gina wanted to remain in her home, so she gave it the updates it needed to freshen up the space.

“We love our neighborhood and the lot. The remodel will give us the feel of being in a new house,” Gina says. 

After four months of preconstruction and six months of construction, the Coulters saw their ideas come to life.

“This is a very personal, intimate thing – being in someone’s home,” John says. “It takes time, but our clients are looking for quality construction. And clients walk away with a space that they will use and that’s inviting to them.” 

Gina says that her family will enjoy the personalized area that speaks to what’s important to them – especially the expanded family room and dog room. And it was the Huffmans that really helped it all come together.

While the Huffmans continue to make Southlake more beautiful – one project at a time – they also are making our community a better place to live with their efforts. And they prove you don’t have to look beyond your own backyard to find your dream home.