Updated: Jul 1
We have come quite a long way with the new Casa Vilora HQ on our property in Sealy, TX, and it is looking very handsome......like a well-fitted tuxedo.
After a lot of weather delays, the team started picking up the pace last week, and before long, we have most of the building shell complete.
Our interior framer started his work a few days ago, while the shell was being constructed by the erectors. That has shaved quite a few days off the schedule, and I have renewed hope that we will have an actual office in a few months. No more designing from my kitchen island!
I moved away from being a home-based business quite early in my career - maybe about 3-4 years in, I leased my first commercial space in the Montrose area in Houston. So moving back home temporarily last August has been its own little challenge, so the new HQ can't be ready soon enough.
In case you are new here and haven't been following along this journey, you can get caught up HERE and understand a bit more, the vision behind all of this.
While we will still not have a warehouse, which was one of the key reasons for this long pursuit, it is in the making......I just have to take a moment to breathe.
So you're building a house and an office?
Yes, I know it seems like a crazy proposition, but it wasn't planned that way. We started the office project back in 2020, and we should have been long moved into an office. But delays caused the overlap, which ended up working out for the best. These were to be two buildings in two different locations, but God had other plans, and we now have both buildings on the same property, which was a low-key long time dream anyway. You can learn more about how that all came about HERE
How big is the office?
The building footprint is 40x60 (2400sf), but we are building 2 stories and will end up with roughly 4600sf of office space.
Is the building made from SIP (structural insulated panels)
The building frame is red iron with metal sheets for the body. The metal sheets aren't insulated, so an optional layer of insulation is added as they erect the building.
Why does the construction look so different from what I am used to with wood construction?
The steel building is ordered and assembled by an erector based on the specifications given to him. I got to choose the building size, leg height, roof pitch, colors, window and door placements, insulation or not. It is highly customizable with lots of other options. The erector may or may not provide the slab, but it must be prepped with specially placed anchors and ready for them to erect the building. Insulation is added as they attach each metal wall and roof panel.
People use these buildings for lots of purposes including agricultural, barns, garages, workshops, and very recently with the popularity of barndominiums, people use them as homes.
Obviously if you use it as a home, you will need interior rooms, as is the case with our office - we need walls inside. Therefore we hired a separate interior buildout crew to frame inside. Our framers actually started to frame before the shell was completed, and I think that may have confused a few people as we shared the progress on social media.
I have to admit, before I was on a quest to find cheaper land to build my country home, I wasn't that familiar with Sealy. Sealy is a small town about 25 minutes west of Katy with a population of 7085 (7086 now that I am moving there. Hahahahaha). There is not a huge market here for interior design, but it has been gaining in popularity lately, and I am hoping in a few years I can say that I was an early adopter.
But understanding our business brand may shed some light on the fact that our offices are more of a "corporate office" and not necessarily a showroom. We welcome our clients to come to us there, but the reality is that most of our work happens in our clients' homes, and we will always go to them - even for design presentations if they so choose.
Katy will still be our core market (we will maintain a Katy address), but we are hoping to also see some growth in Sealy. Most homes in Sealy are custom homes and custom homes usually require a strong design/build team.
What's your vision for the new space? How will it be used?
This question was asked by a great friend of mine - another designer who is also building out her leased office space. The answer may seem obvious, but it stopped me in my tracks and made me think.
Nothing against other designers' dreams, because I had them too, and even attempted them, but I too wanted the cute, boutique retail space with steady foot traffic and the large showroom that showcases the amazing products we have access to. Then I realized that's not at all what I want.
I didn't enjoy having to "fluff" the boutique retail space everyday, and despite being in a popular Katy shopping center, never got that much foot traffic from customers who were ready to buy cash and carry.
I still had planned to pursue a small element of a "showroom" with the former office (that we sold), but it no longer seemed feasible with the move to Sealy.
The above rendering was one of the two designs we came up with for the kitchen. This would have taken up a considerable amount of floor space in the office and it was meant to display materials, as well as for use as a test kitchen where we would host events with chefs.
This was the other option, with some lower priced kitchen cabinets.
We decided against a show kitchen for the new office because I just didn't feel it would get used as often as I was hoping. In our last space, the kitchen hardly got used for anything other than making my morning coffee.
Our new kitchen will be a small kitchenette just for office use.
The new office will be our work environment with no retail sales or showroom. All our tools will be within close reach. It is essentially a design studio. We will have beautiful welcoming spaces for our clients to come to, but if they choose not to make the drive out to Sealy, we will still put all these spaces to use.
You will enter into a small foyer area where we will greet guests. Walk-in clients will absolutely be welcomed, but I imagine that most will make an appointment.
We will then have a "bull pen" area for the design assistant team, which I will begin to hire once we settle into our new space.
We will have two conference rooms - one on each level. One will be a client meeting room and the other will be more of a classroom. I plan to do a lot more local face-to-face coaching for new designers in the Houston area.
There will also be another large resource room on the second level, where my office will be.
I have been very strategic over the years about growing a team, and I will have room to grow here. One thing that has been brewing in my brain now that I am the builder for my new home, is possibly venturing into Design/Build for future projects. We now have the room to grow into that.
What about the warehouse? Did you give up on that idea?
It's funny that what started this whole thing several years ago, is the thing that ended up at the bottom of the list. Hahaha.
A warehouse space is still high priority for me. I definitely want to bring this piece in-house, but it is all about timing.
Our former space (that I sold - shown above) did have a small warehouse, but it was not a long-term solution. Without a 4' loading dock and just a grade level rollup door, we would still have to use a third party to do most of our receiving. We would still have to get a separate location - whether leased or purchased.
With the new office, though there's plenty of land, building a warehouse there didn't feel right since my house will be a short 50' away from the office. I did not want the property to look like an office or industrial park.
The goal is to spend the rest of 2023 looking for land nearby to build another steel building like the new office, but with a loading dock just for receiving products.
So, I called my neighbors across the street several months ago to ask if they knew of any land available for sale in the area, and she said she had 3.5 acres available, BUT, she only wanted it used for residential or agricultural. So basically they would not sell it to me knowing my intent.
They only just now put up this sign (shown above), so I am hoping they are at the point where they are ready to offload it. AND, now that they can see that I would not build a monstrosity (based on what I built across the street), they may go for it. I am giving it a few more months before pursuing that. Too much going on now.
Those are all the questions I can think of for now. Drop any that you have in the comments and I will be happy to answer.
This photo was taken earlier this week before all the roof was done. You can see the framers started before the shell was even complete.
I expect to be moved into our new space by May.
It will be a while before we can host an Open House because we will be knee deep in the construction of the house, but we will have a whole party planned so all our clients and well-wishers can see all that we have accomplished.
If I haven't said thank you to all my blog readers in a while, let me take this opportunity to thank you for coming here and supporting us as we grow. We look forward to serving you in 2023 and beyond.
Wishing You Beauty And Inspiration.