News from the Tennessee Valley Living Today
FRIDAY, AUGUST 17, 2007
LIVING TODAY | HOME | ARCHIVES | COLUMNS

Jesslyn Reeves' favorite part of the home is the front door, a gothic arch that fits in with the English Tudor look of the house.
Daily photo by Brennen Smith
Jesslyn Reeves' favorite part of the home is the front door, a gothic arch that fits in with the English Tudor look of the house.

Swell dwellings
Custom-built house features
new trends on local home tour

By Patrice Stewart
pstewart@decaturdaily.com · 340-2446

Her tile man is the central figure in her life right now.

And she pays close attention to new trends such as beadboard on walls and ceilings, mudrooms with storage, unusual lighting fixtures and copper bowls for powder-room sinks. Then she incorporates them into her houses.

Jesslyn Reeves of Decatur, who is the only woman builder participating in the Parade of Homes, tries to decide which tiles to use in her custom-built home.
Daily photo by Brennen Smith
Jesslyn Reeves of Decatur, who is the only woman builder participating in the Parade of Homes, tries to decide which tiles to use in her custom-built home.
Jesslyn Reeves of Decatur is the only woman builder participating in the Parade of Homes that opens Saturday, and most women can relate to the way she gets ideas.

She and her husband, attorney Greg Reeves, started Albany Building Co. Inc. a couple of years ago. They are building the custom home at 3418 Highland Drive S.W. in Chapel Hill Estates for their family — unless someone buys it before they can move in — but put it on the Parade of Homes so everyone can see it.

They also built a house at 707 Appaloosa Lane S.W. in The Farm subdivision, which will be on display the next two weekends.

Jesslyn's University of Alabama degree is in marketing and public relations. Perhaps she got the bug for building houses when she was president of the Junior League of Morgan County and spearheaded its first showhouse project in 2005, raising about $65,000 for charity through tours and events.

"That Junior League showhouse and working with all the designers was definitely a learning experience," she said. Touring the home "is kind of like watching 'Extreme Home Makeover' — you only see an hour of what took months of planning and work."

Her husband's brother, Steve Reeves, built the Junior League showcase, and she went on to help him with other houses by choosing colors, tile and other items.

"Then Greg said if we enjoy this so much, we ought to start our own company, so we did, and this will be our sixth house," she said. She and workers have been working day and night this week, trying to put tiles in place and fixtures hung by tour time.

Blending old, new trends

"I'm the project manager for each house and coordinate everything, and I enjoy it," said Jesslyn. "I love the old houses in the historic districts, and I pull ideas from photos of them and books such as 'Tudor Revival Houses in America from 1890 to the Present' and '500 Small Houses of the 1920s.' "

They put together their floor plan with ideas and the help of a draftsman. She also scans Southern Accents and other magazines for trends to incorporate.

"My trim guy tells me if I bring him any more magazine pictures, he's going to burn all my magazines," Jesslyn said.

Her favorite part of the house is the front door, a gothic arch that fits in with the English Tudor look of the house. She found the perfect example of it in a Town and Country magazine and took the photo to the English Cotswolds to Renaissance Woodworking in Decatur, and they copied it for her front door.

She looked for old wood doors to incorporate in the house and finally found some that had been in a Catholic school in Chicago. Two sets of Gothic-style doors with glass are included in the master bedroom suite.

Mud room

Off the laundry room, Jesslyn also included a "mud room" with built-in bench and storage where their children, Audra, 11, and Colby, 4, can sit and take off coats, boots and bookbags.

"Mud rooms are growing in popularity to help organize the space between your garage and kitchen," she said. "I went for the look of a potting shed with sage green and custom beadboard."

Paint power

She consulted designer Scott Willis on colors, and they came up with shades of yellow, gold and sage green for living areas and kitchen, a blue-green for the master bedroom and deep poinsettia for the powder room.

"The good thing about paint is you can be a little brave, because you can always paint over it and in a weekend redo the room."

Greg said some of his ideas for the house included the courtyard off the master bedroom and the stone in his office, which is located upstairs near the den, children's bedrooms and guest bedroom.

"I've learned that it doesn't matter what I pick out, because Jesslyn has veto power," Greg said. "And my ideas always cost more anyway," such as the courtyard and the stone shipped from Minnesota for his office.

Greg, who built two houses and two townhouses in the 1990s, before he was licensed to practice law, said construction runs in his family. In addition to brother Steve, who is treasurer of the Greater Morgan County Builders Association sponsoring this tour, their dad, uncle and grandfather have worked in building and construction.

"Greg's family has been in the business a long time, so they know who to hire. And I like to have people around me who know more than I do," said Jesslyn.

She would like to build a couple of custom homes a year, but she noted that it takes a lot longer — about a year compared to the five or six months for a speculative house.

Bye-bye, split-level

Plenty can change in 30 years, especially when it comes to our taste in housing. A few shifts that the U.S. Census has tracked in new housing:

  • In 1976, 12 percent of new houses were split-level. By 2006, less than 0.5 percent were that style.

  • In 1976, 39 percent of new homes had gas heating. In 2006, 62 percent had gas heat. Most of the gain came at the expense of electric heating.

  • One-third of new houses in 1976 had 11/2 or fewer baths. In 2006, 95 percent had two or more.

    Source: U.S. Census

    - The Washington Post

    Customized features

    Here are some features to look for when you tour the house at 3418 Highland Dr. S.W. during the Parade of Homes:

  • A great room with gas fireplace, a sunroom with traditional fireplace, and a large dining area next to the kitchen but no formal dining room.

  • “His and hers” offices, with a wall of stone in his and built-in desk and shelves in hers.

  • Art Nouveau style door knobs in flat black.

  • Travertine tile in two colors for the foyer and sunroom, plus hardwood floors in some areas and carpet with the look of sisal in others; 2-inch-square accent tiles set into tiles in bathroom floors.

  • Chrome, wrought-iron and other specialty lighting fixtures.

  • Kitchen with granite-topped island and Electrolux Icon stainless steel appliances, including two dishwashers, a 6-burner gas cooktop, refrigerator and freezer built in “Sub Zero” style, and a wall of cabinets and shelves instead of a pantry closet.

  • Old-fashioned tongue-and-groove beadboard.

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