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Tag: nequette architecture & design

The Appeal of the Semi-Custom Home

semi-custom homes

semi-custom homes

We love to show off just how much you can accomplish working with great architectural talent. But not everyone has the patience for that process. Which is part of the reason we spend so much time developing communities full of semi-custom or even turnkey options. Wondering what that means for your options? We asked Louis Nequette, of Nequette Architecture and Design, to explain this particular design process.

If you come in early in the process, he notes, you’ll have more customization options. But you don’t have to do that to have a home that feels special. The key, as Louis describes it, is to create enough designs that we avoid constant repetition. “We want them to have the individuality and identity of custom homes,” he says, but with a more streamlined process.

“What’s been happening mostly is someone has come in as it’s getting built and slightly customized it,” he says. “And some of the happiest people buy it after it’s done.” That’s especially true in our Smith Lake communities, Silverock Cove and Hawk’s Nest.

“Because let’s face it, those kind of second home purchases are impulse, somewhat. They’re emotional, as they should be. And when you see it and you like it, you’d love to be able to use it.”

We want you to be able to get away from it all, including design decisions. But that doesn’t mean you should accept a sub-par space just to enjoy it as-is. We know there’s another way, and we’d be happy to show it to you.

As Louis explains it, we try “to always be completing unsold houses so that someone has that opportunity to buy it and move right in.” It’s a perspective that works perfectly with Nequette Architecture & Design’s creative process: “We imagine that family before they even exist and try to create the right living environment so that they can step right in and have a good time.”



Louis Nequette’s Downtown Design Plan

downtown design

The thing we love about Nequette Architecture & Design is their ability to stake out a timeless middle ground in their design projects. They eschew the starkly modern but refuse to be constrained by the past. And as they renovate their own two buildings on Second Avenue North, we asked owner Louis Nequette to tell us about their downtown design process.


Allocating Space

We worked with Nequette to acquire the two former Harold’s furniture buildings, which are more or less across the street from his current rented space. It’ll be a classic loft district mixed-use project — ground-floor retail topped with loft living — with a twist: the firm will be the building’s penthouse resident.

“Our plan was not to put that floor on there until we climbed up on the roof and got a load of the 360-degree amazing views,” Nequette said. “After seeing that we were inspired and wanted to create a place where we could do what we do every day with as much inspiration as possible.”

The building’s thick industrial walls have enough heft to support an addition, and the one the firm has planned should be stunning. “There’ll be a lot of glass,” Nequette said, to optimize the views.


Weighing Value

The building dates from 1889, according to documents Nequette found, which adds a layer of history to the design consideration. Still, Nequette said the process isn’t far off from any kind of major renovation: “It’s about walking through and finding the redeeming qualities of, ‘Where’s the magic? What’s special about the existing building?’

“Sometimes there’s nothing, and it gets demolished completely. Sometimes there’s so much that it really warrants it being a historical preservation kind of project. And then most cases it’s kind of in the middle, and that’s how this one was,” he said.

Residential units were a natural next step, since the minimal interior framing of a warehouse “makes for a great loft kind of situation.” As for the penthouse addition, Nequette bucked the trend of adding “a modern box on a traditional building.” (He says it’s often a good approach, though, that “creates a lot of interest to clash those two styles together.”)

The deciding factor was the addition’s footprint. “We felt because we wanted to pull the top floor up to the front elevation, that that would look more strange and out of place and not in keeping with the character of 2nd Avenue,” he said. “As opposed to doing what we’re doing, which is take a much more traditionally-inspired approach to that design.


Modernizing Character

“We’ve done both at different times, but in this case, it calls for trying to keep the whole building in character.”

What does that character look like? Neatly-framed windows that emerge naturally from the building’s existing roofline, with a bay window bumping out over the second building. A hint of modern tension in its asymmetry, but nothing that would give you pause.

Looking at the drawings, we were struck by how natural the addition seemed. Which is how we feel about most Nequette Architecture & Design projects. That middle ground we mentioned? It’s a way of designing that feels like it’s always been there, and a result we always love.

Louis Nequette on Buying Downtown Birmingham Living

nequette architecture downtown birmingham living

Wondering if downtown Birmingham living is right for you? And if so, which part of the Loft District really has your name on it? Our friends at Nequette Architecture & Design recently made the leap from renting a downtown office to creating their own downtown development on 2nd Avenue North. They loved the neighborhood enough to buy into it, and we think it’s worth sharing why.

Even since we started this blog–two years ago now–the 2nd Avenue corridor has undergone some dramatic changes. Urban Standard, El Barrio, and Charm were all there, but Bamboo’s owners were still running Tavern on the Summit. And Paramount was an empty former yogurt shop. The “walkable energy” of this now very mixed-use area was part of the draw for his firm, Louis Nequette told us.

“We were trying to find a walkable community environment,” he explained. The firm considered our two favorite over-the-mountain spots, Homewood and Mountain Brook, but also set their sights on the downtown market. They quickly honed in on Second Avenue, according to Nequette.

“We said, let’s move down here and do a short-term rent and just see what it feels like. But it didn’t take but a few months to fall in love with the energy down here and the people and the character.”

Sold on the neighborhood, we helped them close on a building within the same block. A combination of street-level retail, upper-floor lofts, and their own penthouse design studio, Nequette said construction on the development should be completed in November 2017.

And their current space won’t have a chance to be empty, Nequette said. Not only is there a tenant lined up to replace his firm, but an art gallery should be moving into the ground floor as soon as April 2017.

For a firm with a big stake in building community, Nequette believes 2nd Avenue is the ultimate design lab for his firm. “It represented everything we wanted to embrace and the type work we do and learn from by participating in.

“We said, why not find a way to be permanently involved.”

How the Gladstone Adds Character to Crestline Park


Our Birmingham developments are a way to access older neighborhoods without living in an older home, our own Carter Hughes told AL.com. The Gladstone townhomes in Crestline Park are no exception. They’re a best-of-all-worlds model, and we asked architect Louis Nequette, of Nequette Architecture & Design, to explain how he created it with us.

The Gladstone provided “a unique opportunity to take a larger piece of property in the middle of a pretty thriving neighborhood area and add some affordable, more urban living offerings,” Nequette said. And of course, it was right in line with our goals for development in Birmingham more generally.

“There’s really been nothing developed in the Crestline area in probably 60 years,” Hughes told AL.com as Gladstone Building One was reaching completion. “Our focus is really to provide products that people haven’t had lately to encourage people to live in our city.”

But there are also the realities of urban infill, of putting a new development into an older area. The design brief for Nequette? “We had to fit into the price points of the area, we had to fit into the character of the area, and we had to create a sense of place,” he said.

Crestline Park “is a collection of influences,” Nequette explained. But there’s a prevailing English character his firm captured in the Gladstone’s “simple, cottage-inspired” design. “So you have some traditional influence mixed with modern-day living,” he said.

Nequette has also been conscious of designing a community, not just a collection of homes. The Gladstone is “its own little destination–a nice green surrounded by townhouses that look out onto a walkable street, rather than just being townhouses surrounded by a parking lot,” he said. “It’ll be its own little district within Crestline.”

Instead of an isolated enclave, it’s a model of the way new communities interact with older ones. Or, in our book, urban development at its best.

Smith Lake by H2: Defined by Nature, Designed for “Connection”

hawk's nest on smith lake

What do you look for when you’re buying a lake home? Other than geography and enough rooms, what is it that makes a lake home feel right? One man who knows those answers is Louis Nequette, owner of Nequette Architecture and Design. The firm has worked with us to design our two Smith Lake communities — Silverock Cove and Hawk’s Nest — so they’re well-versed in what works for lake living.

Defined by nature

The biggest design difference on the lake, says Nequette, is that there’s no real backyard. Instead of one grand entry point, a lake house has two: the lake and the road. The lake is the hands-down winner in the contest, he says, and “the houses should be designed to front the lake instead of back up to the lake.”


“You don’t really get to get away with that being the only front because we still arrive by car, and we want a sense of arrival and a sense of a front door on that side as well.”

That two-entrance perspective isn’t the only way a lake house differs in attitude, according to Nequette. As a second home, it doesn’t have to do the work of closeting your entire wardrobe. It can shed “some of the gratuitous square footage” of your main home, so you don’t spend valuable lake time tidying.

“It needs to stay simple. It needs to stay airy and open. It needs to have materials that make you feel like you’re at the lake, not at your city house,” Nequette says.

It needs “to blur the lines between the inside and the out,” he says. “So let the outdoor environment and the indoor space come together.” In other words, the lake house’s job is to let nature take care of the grandeur.

Designed for “connection”

But those homes are part of a larger community. Fortunately, community is also a Nequette specialty. “At Hawk’s Nest we took the typical kind of sequencing of your dock connecting to the house and we allowed this boardwalk to cross all of those and become the waterfront sidewalk that any of the residences can use,” he says.

“So that if I’m at my dock, and my neighbor’s at his, it’s an easy way for me to go say hello and visit, take a walk at night along the waterfront–because that’s where you want to be–and give that opportunity for community connection and growth.”

Like entrances, community space operates on multiple fronts: “Once you accomplish that kind of rustic connection to the outdoors and sense of community, what we’ve done is provided and allowed all those to wrap around a central green,” Nequette says. “Because what most lake communities don’t offer is that open-air place that’s not on the water.”


Looking for your place on Smith Lake? Check out our Silverock Cove and Hawk’s Nest communities.

Design Notes From a Boutique Build

h2 boutique build in crestline

h2 boutique build in crestline

The Crestline custom home in our Instagram feed is not just an H2 build but an H2 home. It belongs to one of our co-founders, and we love showing it off. But this boutique build is about more than personal style; it’s about the way we do business. We believe so much in our partners at Nequette Architecture & Design because we live with their work.

Consider the way Louis Nequette described the project in an Instagram post:

“How do you design a new roomy house in an old established neighborhood without killing the old school street scale? This courtyard house in Mountain Brook maintains a cozy Crestline cottage scale from the street while wrapping it’s floor plan all the way around a private courtyard pool. 3 Bedrooms in the attic line expand the design to support this ever-growing family.”

It’s the epitome of our boutique build philosophy, where space matters but quality matters more. Located in an older neighborhood, the design can’t rely on overblown entryways and conspicuous volume. It can’t rely on sheer square footage to carve out enough space for a family. That’s where design comes in.

It relies instead on the comfortable luxury of stairwells steeped in sunlight, of archways and corbels, and an open plan that refuses to be just another box. And while it’s true that this level of detail really only comes with custom design, we think you’ll notice elements that have made it into more turnkey builds. Into places like the Gladstone.

The bottom line is this: the folks who design your H2 community home are the same ones who design ours. Theirs is the work we know and the vision we trust.

And the trust works both ways. Designer Bill Aroosian lives at Abbey Road, where he designed the kitchens. Jeffrey Dungan, of the former Dungan Nequette partnership, also made his home there. They had enough faith in our communities they literally bought into them. It’s our favorite kind of testimonial.