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Everyone has a dream house.

In the past year, more and more Dallasites have been making their dreams come true-the number of remodeling permits issued by the city has skyrocketed.

But remodeling is a vague word that covers a variety of things. Correct diagnosis is important. Successful remodeling begins with an understanding of your house’s architecture. Do you want to “restore” it-that is, return the house to its original appearance? (If you don’t know, there are specialists in preservation, like Thomas Craft, who can assess the project.) Or you might “rehabilitate” it-adapt it far contemporary use while preserving the architectural significance of the building. Remodeling is the process of changing the design of a building with primary regard to your own lifestyle. Here’s a look at the ins and outs, ups and downs, and yes, the trials and tribulations of making your house into your dream home.


For Doug Travis, “high-end” has more than one meaning.

A contractor since 1981. Travis started out working on high-end traditional homes, and now he’s moving up again- to high-rise apartments.

“High-rise people know they’ll never get their money out,” Travis says, so they do what they want. Which usually means, as it did with Jerry and Susu Meyer’s high-rise home (designed by architect Amy Wingrove of Acapella Designs), gutting and completely re-doing the whole thing. In high style.

Travis works on a cost-plus contract; jobs average about $250,000 to $300,000. The obvious challenge of high-rise design: Everything has to be hoisted aloft. Travis has built booms on the top of buildings to haul up moldings too long to fit into the freight elevator. At the Claridge. one contractor put up a temporary freight elevator on the outside of the building.

Neighbors require more consideration. Travis puts acoustical material called “Quiet/Core” between the concrete and the new floor surface so noise doesn’t translate downstairs. And some high-rises don’t have any space under the floor, so plumbing possibilities are limited. Obviously, a water leak can wreak havoc on the floor below. As Robert Frost should have said, “Good plumbing makes good neighbors.”


Don Romer is naturally a low-key guy. That’s OK. He’s in a business where patience pays.

He chooses his own projects, rarely doing more titan two jobs at once. Romer prefers a certain kind of building, whether he’s working from the ground-up or remodeling: high-end, contemporary, architect-designed. Architects appreciate his work because he understands theirs.

Attention to detail doesn’t come cheap. Romer tells prospective clients that they can expect to spend a minimum of $ 125 per square foot to remodel a room and up to $200 per square foot for kitchen or bathroom.

“I’m just very attentive to detail.” Romer says. “In some ways, I’m like an artist who’s making reality out of their concepts. They have a vision, but it doesn’t become something until it’s built. That’s my role, turning it into reality.”

Because of his finely honed appreciation for architectural detail, Romer refuses to be hurried when he’s on a project. “These jobs are very labor-intensive,” says the contractor, “They require a high level of craftsmanship.”

“He’s a first-class, old-school contractor, basically an engineer type, who wants to work on good projects,” says architect Ron Womack, who heads up the American Institute of Architecture’s small business group.

Bui old-school doesn’t mean limited: Romer is also versatile. He remodeled mega-builder Henry Beck’s University Park home in a mostly contemporary style. Romer also built the sleek, stone-topped bar in the living room and created a glass walkway along the courtyard. But he also painstakingly removed the antique English paneling from Beck’s previous house and carefully fit it together in the new study, repairing parts of it and rebuilding others.


“The thing that really separates a good remodeling contractor from a mediocre one is people skills,” says David Ludwick, an architect who has been referring clients to Thomas E. Russell, Inc. for the past 20 years (and who hired Russell to build his own house.) Russell personally oversees each remodeling job. “It’s a people business,” he says, echoing Ludwick, “not a two-by-four and Sheet-rock business. The biggest mistake is choosing a remodeler for the price.”

His projects include kitchens and cabinets, modest bungalows and mansions. They cost from $50,000 to $150,000.


Remodeling often means specializing-customizing a house for the owner’s particular needs. Converting an extra bedroom into a wine cellar, for instance, or carving out space for a gym or media room. Timothy Caulton has received awards in three categories from the North Texas Remodeling Association (NARI): residential kitchen over $20,000; whole-house renovation over $100,000; and room addition over $75,000. All have been nominated for national awards.

If a client comes to him with no concrete plans, Caulton brings in a designer to work out a realistic budget. He uses a specialized Microsoft program to manage his projects from beginning to end. “We’re trying to become a company that sets an industry standard,” he says.


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