Desiring a remodel for this year’s Idea House as opposed to new construction, Southern Living set out to assemble an all-local team and choose the perfect structure. “We chose Austin as the site for our Idea House because it’s a booming Southern city filled with curious, design-minded residents,” said Zoe Gowen, Southern Living‘s Senior Home and Garden Editor. With eyes and hearts set on Austin, the brand reached out to Meredith Ellis. A Hill Country native, Ellis started in New York before moving to Los Angeles, then back to Texas with her husband and family. Since moving home, she has been busy designing and opening and running JAMES Showroom with her husband.
The rest of the team came together quickly, as they had all worked together before: Chris Sanders of Sanders Architecture and David and Catherine Wilkes of David Wilkes Builders. According to David Wilkes, Ellis and Catherine Wilkes were actually childhood friends who reconnected when Ellis returned to Texas.
David, on the other hand, grew up far from the Lone Star State, across the pond in England. His uncle was a builder, so he was raised with close ties to the construction and remodeling industry. David’s interest in the field led him to study construction engineering and management at the University of Wolverhampton’s School of Engineering and the Built Environment, a highly respected and revered program in England. He came to Texas in the mid-1980s. He began working for Austin Remodeling in the early ’90s and gained hands-on experience as a carpenter along the way.
Catherine Wilkes, David’s wife, grew up in Louisiana. Her job path was influenced by family, as her father was in the remodeling industry. The couple is known for their incredible renovation abilities, but also for their green and environmentally-sound building practices. Catherine serves on the board of the Austin chapter of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI), of which David is also a member.
As David Wilkes Builders is well-known for its remodeling work, David suggested a few tips for homeowners considering a renovation in the Lone Star State. First, “Be realistic about your expectations versus your budget.” He explained there are plenty of ways to get off track in this area, so be prepared for the unexpected. At the Idea House, the team faced problems with the staircase, causing Sanders to rework his architectural plans. David and Ellis quickly adjusted their building and design plans to keep the project moving. “Make sure you pick a good team early on in the process,” Wilkes said. Hiring professionals who have already successfully completed work together is ideal.
To read more about the before and after of the 2018 Southern Living Idea House, and everything in between, you can find the full story in the October 2018 issue of Texasliving magazine.