Building Upon the Past

Posted on August 1, 2015 by Amy Hanson
The design pictured is similar to work that will be shown in the Summer Parade of Homes. Photo courtesy of Midwest Design Homes

The design pictured is similar to work that will be shown in the Summer Parade of Homes. Photo courtesy of Midwest Design Homes

As the old adage goes, what’s old is new again. Such is the case for homes being showcased by five companies with entries in this year’s Valley Home Builders Association Summer Parade of Homes that will incorporate reclaimed materials.

The 38th parade will include 34 homes and be held throughout the Fox Cities Aug. 22-23 and 27-30, with remodeling and landscape projects open Aug. 28-30. Tickets are available online at, via the mobile app, at the VHBA office and all homes during event hours.

“Beginning in February with the 2015 Winter Parade of Homes, we started selling tickets online,” says Heidi Zich, VHBA executive vice president. “We now track those ticket redemptions per home via a QR code that is scanned by a smart phone or tablet. This produces great information for the builders at the conclusion of the event. We also have a brand-new website dedicated solely to the parade and an updated mobile app.”

Zich notes that about ¾ of attendees go to the parade for entertainment, while the remaining ¼ have an interest in building, buying, remodeling or redecorating. Whatever your motivation, there are plenty of tips and tricks to be seen at this year’s parade.

Alexander Homes, LLC

Sandra and Troy Blob will be making their own home in one of their two entries from Alexander Homes, LLC in this year’s Parade of Homes. The Alexander Homes member and president, respectively, chose to incorporate reclaimed materials into their Greenville home’s design when Sandra found a piece at a store that she envisioned being part of her home’s esthetic. Fortunately for her, the table sold and she was left to figure out a way to create one. Alexander Homes had used barn wood, sourced from different barns, previously on mantles in homes they built and was able to build a table that mirrored the look of the one Sandra had spotted.

“We started going with a little rustic theme,” Sandra says. “With the table I found and my husband found the barn wood, this all came together. … It just gives the house a little something extra special.”

While Sandra loves the unique nature of the table, it’s not the only item in the Blob’s home where the wood has been incorporated. Reclaimed boards also were used in the basement to create lockers and a bench in a mud room area, along with a theater bar area, vanity, and upstairs mantle and entertainment center.

“Once we started with it, we saw how it would all come together,” Sandra says. “We were always planning to do the mantle.”

She wanted to tie the reclaimed look throughout their home to make it cohesive and cozy. Finishing touches like a ladder purchased from an antique store add to the ambiance, which Sandra is hoping parade-goers identify with.

Griffin Builders Inc.

Foundry brick recovered from Milwaukee, brown board and tobacco lath all will be incorporated into features in the Griffin Builders Inc. home on Purdy Parkway in Appleton. The materials will be highlighted in the lower-level pub and hearth room fireplace in the home that has been sold on contract, shares designer Amy Griffin.

“Naturally, we all have this subconscious desire to honor our history. When we start seeing these products and materials being reused, it pays homage to those who came before us,” Griffin says. “I think all of it is rather humbling.”

The pub will feature a brick built-in structure with columns and the back wall will showcase the brick, along with brown board, or the non-painted side of barn boards, on the interior of the columns. A two-inch solid reclaimed material also will be used for the shelves and counters, Griffin explains.

Griffin Builders is no stranger to using reclaimed materials. In fact, they’ve worked with it for more than 10 years. The business’ Appleton office space incorporates a variety of materials they’ve worked with, including wood found on the Door County side of Wisconsin after the Peshtigo Fire and wood from a Jim Beam distillery. Griffin notes that there is a “charm” to reclaimed materials and she often wonders about the stories the wood could tell. For individuals she has worked with, the stories can be personal and circle back to childhood.

“Like a lot of things, it’s just taken that long to see enough of it and now it’s become exponential,” she says of reclaimed materials. Griffin enjoys using it in unexpected ways by juxtaposing the wood or other materials against something modern from the floor to the ceiling. Finished basements and accent walls have been popular. Most clients start with “bits and pieces,” Griffin says.

“That can make it feel like a very casual room, and yet at the same time, if you’re entertaining it can feel like a very formal room,” Griffin adds. “I always tell people to go with your heart. … It’s about you and how you’re going to use your home.”

Headliner Homes, LLC

Headliner Homes, LLC’s Neenah parade entry will feature reclaimed and modern materials throughout the whole home from reclaimed mica in the

This photo illustrates some of the reclaimed work Headliner Homes has done. Photo courtesy of Headliner Homes, LLC

This photo illustrates some of the reclaimed work Headliner Homes has done. Photo courtesy of Headliner Homes, LLC

first-floor powder room to concrete countertops with butcher block in the kitchen, along with a brick wall in the dining room using materials from a building in Chicago and a hand-hewn mantle in the three-seasons room.

“Reclaimed stuff is actually more expensive than new stuff by far. It just depends where you want to put it,” says Katie McGuire, owner and principal designer of Collaborations, LLC, who works with Headliner Homes.

“Like Katie said, you have to pick your battles though because the costs add up quickly,” says Ryan Smith, owner of Headliner Homes, who says reclaimed materials are on average double the cost. “It’s usually the touches and mix to make it all flow.”

Smith enjoys being able to push the envelope with his homes and appreciates when clients give him creative freedom. His focus is aligning creativity with the continuity of the design.

“When all is said and done, you won’t know if this lumber is old or new,” he says motioning around the room.

“If you do it throughout the whole home, it looks like it was planned out from the beginning,” McGuire adds.

Still, it takes a lot of time, effort and energy from sourcing materials to executing a design to get it all just right. And, of course, building with reclaimed materials isn’t without its challenges and flexibility is important, Smith notes.

“(Clients) know what they want to see, they can see it in their mind, but it’s only available when its available,” he adds.

Midwest Design Homes

Metals from factories, barn board mantles and industrial lighting is what Katie Jane Ferrito, designer and new home consultant with Midwest Design Homes, is finding clients are gravitating toward. Midwest Design Homes will include a spec design located in the Clearwater Creek subdivision in Appleton in this year’s parade. The home’s design will include a steal ceiling and barn door.

“I think it’s just something different that people like that patina or natural look,” Ferrito explains. “It’s time for things to get a little rustic.”

Barn doors are an updated take on an older design trend.

“The barn doors right now are what people really like,” Ferrito says. “People have always gravitated to pocket doors and this functions like that, but gives them something pretty to look at.”

Ferrito likes to mix elements together, even though materials like barn wood and metal are opposites from an esthetic perspective. Basement bars, great rooms and tray ceilings in bedrooms are all getting the reclaimed treatment, along with floors, kitchens, dining areas and mantles.

“Everyone likes a little bit of it. At least one little touch,” she adds.

VKB Homes, LLC Photo by Julia Schnese

VKB Homes, LLC
Photo by Julia Schnese

VKB Homes, LLC

A Neenah home, bought as an estate purchase in December 2014, was “a diamond in the rough” for interior designer Misty Hermanson of VKB Homes, LLC. The first-time entry from the company that specializes in flipping homes is a house built in 1931 with a completely changed floor plan. Hermanson and her husband, Rich, began the project in March 2015 and finished it at the end of June.

“I knew instantly I wanted to take this character and charm, and put a modern flair on it for a family who would appreciate this kind of architecture with modern touches,” Hermanson says. “With flipping, we have a tight budget, it’s not just about restoring and reclaiming.”

Because of the nature of the homes that VKB Homes works with — found through foreclosures and estate sales primarily — each home sold comes with a one-year warranty, Hermanson adds. The property will be put up for sale for an asking price of $219,900.

“We tried to restore everything we possibly could,” Hermanson notes of features like the living room’s fireplace and lead pane windows, an old accordion-style coat rack in the front closet, the railing on the stairway leading upstairs, glass doorknobs, skeleton keys and hardwood floors throughout the home.

The first floor initially included a bedroom with a makeshift bathroom that has been transformed into a dining room and full bath. Doorways also were redirected. The four bedrooms upstairs and the main-level and second-level closed-in porches remain untouched. It was important to Hermanson to keep the bones of the home, retain the structure and respect the property. She makes lists before any demolition work begins in order to ensure items don’t find themselves in the dumpster.

“This is what I love, this is my canvas. I’m the artist, I’m the painter,” Hermanson explains of the pride she takes in her work. She’s hoping those who look at the home “see there is beauty in pretty much every house. … I’m not a ‘lipstick flipper.’ I care about people, I want to do it the right way.”


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