People are becoming more and more aware of their effect on our precious earth and this new trend is especially apparent in Austin. “Go Green” is a common buzz motto and I for one am so grateful that this new way of thinking is beginning to reach more and more people. Hopefully soon we can all join forces to take productive steps in protecting and conserving our environment. With this idea in mind, Launch 787 and Modern Home Tours began the Smarter Spaces Tour, a home tour showcasing the innovative and energy-saving designs specifically sized for smaller spaces, as each home on the tour is less than 2,500 square feet! The tour makes it clear that luxuries do not have to be reduced to enjoy our homes to the fullest while at the same time minimizing the energy we use and the negative impact we have on our environment.
Launch 787 is a large scale concept, promotion and production company that, according to the company, produces unique, out-of-the-box events that create value for local business owners while keeping attendees engaged and always coming back for more. This year’s tour featured 11 homes in Central Austin that included efficient energy use and a smart use of space by local designers, architects and builders.
A stunning home on the tour at 4813 West Park Drive, designed and built by husband and wife team Gil and Michelle Lohr of GnM Lohr Homes, boasts 4 stars through the Austin Energy Green Star rating program and uses space more efficiently by combining rooms for multiple uses to maximize the space. I had the opportunity to ask this dynamic duo a few questions and learn more about them.
Q: Why was the home on West Park Drive specifically chosen for the tour this year?
A: The West Park home was chosen for the tour because it maximizes the amount of living area by combining what are typically segmented rooms into one open space. Our clients were downsizing from a much larger home, so during architectural planning we had to determine how to incorporate the functions of all of these rooms into 2,100 sq. ft. The answer was to remove walls and combine rooms. For example, the dining, living and breakfast areas were joined, as well as the laundry room and office. By marrying these spaces into a larger area, the flow of the home is unobstructed and actually visually tricks the eye to make the room seem more spacious. Other space savers were incorporated into the details, like in the master bedroom closet, which has shelving and rods built all the way to the ceiling to maximize the capacity of clothes it can hold.
Q: What are some of the “Green” options that this home possesses that helped it receive a 4 Star rating?
A: The Austin Energy Green Star rating system takes into account energy efficiency, emissions reduction, and water conservation. The West Park home roof overhang shields windows and rooms from direct sun, reducing solar heat gain in the summer. Yet the roof is shallow enough to admit warmth during the winter months, ultimately decreasing the amount of AC/heating system usage. Additionally, 100% of the lighting in the home is energy efficient, including all windows and appliances. The high performance glass, double pane windows obstruct direct sun while being strategically placed to allow for natural light inflow. In order to conserve water, simple upgrades were made to dual flush toilets and a tankless water heater. These are easy additions many people could implement in their own home!
Q: Gil, how does being a real estate agent, in addition to being a builder, really impact your business?
A: It’s really just an added benefit to our clients, and in fact, I was the real estate agent for my clients on West Park. As a builder/real estate agent, when we find an appropriate lot for my clients, I can have the foresight and advise them on future home changes and additions. I can recommend where to build, give guidance on the size of home, etc. It also helps me monitor the real-estate market and see if sales are generally going up or down.
Q: Gil, what inspires you most when you are creating your homes?
A: I love that someone will live and enjoy the house that we built and managed from concept to completion. When our clients are happy, we are happy!
Q: Michelle, I know you are passionate about color, art and painting (I love how you initially found this out by painting on the walls of your home when you were younger!), what is your favorite part about designing interiors for customers
A: I love working with my clients to design home interiors and help them to realize their dreams. I find that the three most important elements when designing or decorating homes are: colors, materials, and lighting. As an artist, I also like to assist my clients in incorporating art into their lifestyle. Adding the perfect painting to a bare wall can enhance the overall mood of the room and add visual interest. I also photograph all of the homes that we build. Photography, like painting, allows me to capture the home in many ways. It’s just another artistic outlet, like architecture, construction and interior design!
It’s important to discuss your interior design goals with your builder, as all of these areas can be outlined and defined before the home is complete. A great advantage to being a builder, who offers interior design, is that we already envision the final result during the construction phase where we can make alterations much more easily.
Q: Michelle, I noticed you frequently re-use an object for something else for example: a sewing machine for a table! What are some other object transformations you have made?
A: I have transformed a door into a mirror, a library case into a table, and made a table out of a door. You would be surprised what can be done! It’s the décor equivalent of using an existing 1960’s structure to build something new. I love repurposing items because it carries the eco-design approach through into the furnishings.
Be sure to also check out GnM Lohr’s blog, containing tips, ideas and current projects!
It is very exciting to know that Austin is becoming one of the lead cities for living in a more environmentally-friendly way. So much so that it is taking it to the next level and actually offering home tours based on the idea of smarter living to spread the word! Another great tour to check out is the annual Austin Modern Homes Tour founded by Krisstina Wise of The GoodLife Team which offers a tour of efficient energy usage homes with a modern twist. More and more “green” homes and products are surfacing in the Austin marketplace and it’s a trend I hope to see continue. Go Green!