RHB: Lavelle Part 3
Last time we chatted with the Lavelle’s their new vacation home in Hammock Beach, Florida was nearing completion, with the cabinets, paint, trim and flooring materials all being installed. When we caught up with them for our final interview they had spent several weekends in their new vacation home getting the furnishings and finishes just so. More recently they have been able to simply relax and enjoy the retreat they have created for their family.
“Since my husband and I both spend long hours and travel frequently for work, it took every bit of 3-4 months to get the house set up to our satisfaction, because we only had weekend time to do it,” said Kristen. “Now that it is all finalized, we just love going there. It is like a true retreat from our everyday hectic life. Both the house and the community offer a serenity which we just love and look forward to for the next visit.”
Kristen happily reports that the new home “has exceeded our expectations.” Due to lot restrictions, the Lavelle’s had to modify their original floor plan to make it narrower and deeper. They did this using Sater Design Collection’s in-house modification team, and though they were confident that it could be reworked they were a little nervous about the finished room sizes.
“When we were required to resize the house to fit the lot, we were really nervous that the rooms would be too small for us - most specifically the master bedroom/bathroom and the kitchen,” said Kristen. “Now that the house is finished and furnished, all of the rooms are the right size and we don’t have any regrets.
The house has so many different things to offer — beautiful outside spaces, comfortable bedrooms with their own baths, a spacious and open great room and a highly functional kitchen.”
Another amenity the Lavelles particularly enjoy came along a bit later in the process. Last time we chatted, the Lavelles were
trying to reach a decision on whether to add a pool and cabana on the rear of the property to accommodate additional guests and create more indoor and outdoor entertaining space. Ultimately they did decide to build the cabana, and couldn’t be happier with their choice.
“We are especially glad that we added the cabana. It finishes off the house perfectly and provides us with extra space from the main house,” said Kristen. “Fortunately we caught the need for it early enough in the building process and just did it.”
With the cabana addition, the Lavelles feel that the house “has both luxury amenities and casual feel that make it the perfect balance for our lifestyle and entertaining friends and family,” said Kristen.
“The house is highly functional for our lifestyle,” she continued. “Along with our initial concerns about room size, we were concerned about having a three-story house without an elevator along with detached cabana — especially with a 2 year old (Morgan is now 3).
We had a full distributed audio and video system installed that included an intercom and video cameras. This has made all the difference. We can contact every room and also have monitor capability. Because of that, the three story design has not been an issue.”
The colors and finishes the Lavelles selected have turned out better than they hoped. Kristen said, “We are thrilled with our color selections, faux finishes and how all of the design elements have just really come together.”
She continued, “It’s been very exciting to see the finished product come together into the vision that was set nearly two years ago, and now we’re getting to enjoy it!”
Mike and Kristen enjoyed a good working relationship with their builder, River City Homes. “Overall, we would say we had a satisfactory relationship,” Kristen said. “A client / builder relationship is always challenging because on one side you have a financial transaction and on the other you have an emotional transaction. It is just the nature of the beast. Overall River City Homes exceeded our expectations of the finished product. They were also very engaged and fair in dealing with issues and executing to completion.”
Though construction went smoothly for the most part, the Lavelle’s did exceed their initial budget in a few areas, mostly because of adding the pool and cabana that were not accounted for in the initial project. However, because they have built before (this home is their 5th) they anticipated the overages.
“Since we have done this so many times before, we were prepared that we would go over budget,” Kristen said. “Every time we were faced with running over budgeted items we evaluated the value and level of importance for the change. Decisions we moved forward with we are truly happy with, and those that we passed on, we don’t even miss.”
The one element of the building process that presented the most challenge was the fact that the home was being built over two hours away from the Lavelle’s primary residence in Orlando.
“It was harder than we originally thought (being so far away),” said Kristen. “We figured that because it is a second home that we wouldn’t want or need to invest as much time into it. As we got into the process and realized how many new things were on the market since we built our primary residence we ended up putting an equal amount of time into it to ensure that the final product was the best it could be relative to our lifestyle and our budget. It was time consuming, but looking back it was worth it.”
She continued, “It was difficult being so far away because we would often go weeks to months without seeing it, and sometimes this became problematic as it made it harder to ‘undo’ things that weren’t done to expectation or to plan. We worked through it with our designer and builder, and as it got closer to completion we spent a lot more time there than we initially would have expected.”
The fact that the finished home is so beautiful makes all the effort worthwhile. Friends and family who have seen it are impressed with the home as well. The Lavelles are looking forward to sharing the home with family who visit for vacations and special occasions.
“This Thanksgiving will be the first time that we’ll have a large group at the house. We can’t wait to see their reaction. We have had friends and a few family members to the house since it has been finished and consistently people are amazed with the thought and detail put into the design and furnishings. It is the perfect balance of elegance and casual feel to match the beach and vacation community.”
Even though they are not new to the building game, Kristen says they have learned from this process and have gained new insight into building a home. They share some advice with others who are considering building a custom home: “We would recommend they focus on the efficiencies of the things that operate the house and in parallel the things that are most important to you in making your home comfortable and a retreat from your day to
day life,” said Kristen.
“Keeping things in perspective is probably the other thing. For as many houses as we have built, we were hopeful that it would proceed in a timely manner, we would have no issues and we wouldn’t get emotionally invested. That was certainly not the case and probably never would be as long as you are building it for yourself,” Kristen said. Her final piece of advice: “Keeping good documentation and frequently ensuring everyone is on the same page is likely the best method to limiting angst and issues.”
We congratulate Kristen, Mike and Morgan on their beautiful new home and hope it brings them years of joy and relaxation.
About the Builder
River City Homes specializes in building custom homes in Jacksonville, St. Augustine, Palm Coast and Flagler County, either on an owner’s private lot or in one of their distinctive communities. They will help customize plans, create another design or develop a unique plan for your particular lifestyle. For every family, building a home involves more than following a blueprint; River City takes an intricate approach of working together throughout the process of building your new home.
Owner Mike Braniff started building homes in 1975, after graduating from the University of Texas with a Bachelor of Business Administration Degree, majoring in real estate and construction. During the building boom years in Houston, Texas, Mike worked in residential and commercial construction and built as many as 200 homes in one year.
In 1987, Mike started as a “One Man Show.” He was his own salesman, which gives him a unique affinity for the home buyer, along with being the builder, gaining the respect of many of the area’s finest subcontractors, many of which have been with him since the beginning. Since then, River City Homes & Development Corporation has grown rapidly with offices in Jacksonville and Palm Coast.
About the Designer
Dan F. Sater II, AIBD, principal designer for the Sater Design Collection, has over twenty-five years of experience designing innovative luxury homes. Dan specializes in crafting unique designs for view-oriented homes that achieve a sense of openness. Sater homes share a casually elegant atmosphere and seamlessly blend indoor and outdoor living, focusing on the relationship between the home and its surroundings. Dan’s detailed designs often include unique ceiling treatments and divide open spaces with columns and arches.