The Rhodo Reno
A case study in “Right Size” Design
By Sean Sullivan, AMB, CGP, CAPS
My wife (Laura) and I decided to buy a 1960’s rancher in downtown Black Mountain to renovate for ourselves. We liked the feel of downtown and wanted to be close in to the lake, park, pool and center of town. We had our work cut out for us though since the home hadn’t been touched in nearly 40 years!
The 900sf shack sat on a crawl space situated nicely on a corner lot near the golf course. Believers in making all things beautiful, and the desire to give every home we touch “curb appeal”, we first nailed down the floor plan. We wanted to keep as much of the original structure as possible, leaving the two exterior door locations, existing room layouts (virtually the same), as well as leaving the original location of the hallway and common bath. Because we had to combine the two end bedrooms into a master suite, we needed to design a small addition on the back to replace the lost bedroom and give the home a proper kitchen.
We enlisted the help of an architect partner to help create the new style, passive solar design, and get the exterior elevations just right. After that was nailed down, we set out to make this the most efficient use of space we could create. Since most of our clients end up building homes larger than they had originally intended (due to having lower levels on sloping lots), we wanted to show what it meant to “right size” a home.
Joe and Shari Parks had the good fortune to be able to retire wherever they wanted. But they were very particular about the company they chose to build their house.
They picked Living Stone Construction, largely on its reputation in Southcliff, the gated community in which they chose to build.
Southcliff, a gated community south of Asheville with dozens of acres of preserved forestland, relies on a few select contractors to build homes that look like they’ve sprung organically from their settings. One of those preferred builders is Living Stone Construction, an award-winning company that designs energy-efficient, green homes that enable residents to live at home far into their years.
At the time they met Living Stone, the Parks were living in Oklahoma in a beautiful 1920s house that they remodeled in 1980. They loved the home but were only partly satisfied with the renovations – “you never get everything you want in a remodel,” Joe said. So they were extra cautious in selecting the builder for the first new home they’d ever had.
Christine Dowd knew what she didn’t want in a house. She didn’t want what she had, which was a house she’d built whose finishes were so rough she ripped a sweater on a door frame.
What she wanted was a beautiful new house in Thoms Estate, a north Asheville enclave of good taste and friendliness that had a couple of lots she liked. She was out there looking at them one day when a couple who lived beside one of the lots invited her in to look at the home that Living Stone Construction had built for them. Christine loved it (and she loved the couple).
“They graciously showed me around their home,” she said. “They loved their house. It was so well designed. You could tell that someone had taken a lot of time to get all the details right. When I walked out of their beautiful home, even though I’d contemplated other builders, I’d made up my mind to go with Living Stone.”
And so Christine, recently retired as a presenter for Apple, went to see Sean Sullivan at Living Stone Construction, a builder of green and energy-efficient homes whose work continues to win awards for design, function and price points.
Sarah Watkins knew what kind of house she wanted to build. She just had to find the kind of builder who would love the challenge of creating it as much as she did.
She and husband Casey found the builder they wanted in Living Stone Construction and its president, Sean Sullivan.
“The thing about Sean was that when I presented what I wanted in our home, he loved it,” Sarah said. “It was a bit different from some other projects he had done.”
Sarah had spent a year and a half putting her family home near Asheville together in her mind. Picking up just about every architectural magazine available, she knew enough about what she wanted that she sketched it all out. She knew the textures, finishes and ambience she wanted in the home.
She and Casey visited several builders in the Asheville area. Living Stone was among the last they visited, and they were immediately impressed by the company’s approach, plan and thoughtfulness. They liked that Sean took them to Living Stone job sites to see not only the houses under construction but also the process by which Living Stone built them. They liked that the owners loved the homes Living Stone had built for them.
Laura and Sean Sullivan decided to put Living Stone Construction’s design-and-build process to the test when they renovated their home in Black Mountain.
Sean, owner of Living Stone, and Laura, owner of ID.ology Interior Design, wanted to see how well their in-house process works for the many clients the award-winning team attracts. They bought an older home in a venerable neighborhood and treated themselves as clients.
Through work that raised the roof and added square footage in back, the Sullivans confirmed that Living Stone’s meticulously thought-out process makes renovating an existing home or building a new one as easy for clients as possible.
“I would say that we confirmed that our process does work,” Sean said. “It works very well. And we learned some things along the way to improve the process of our clients going forward.”
Living Stone Construction, and ID.ology Interior Design, were a pleasure to work with throughout all facets of our project. They were integral during our design stage and handled our fast-track schedule like true professionals. It is so rare to work with people who don’t make excuses or point fingers – Living Stone Construction and ID.ology are comprised of those rare people.
With Sean and Laura’s design-and-build business model, we knew exactly what was going on. It was helpful as far as keeping us on point for the amount we’d budgeted for each part of the house. It was very transparent and reasonable to me, more so than with other builders. We knew what we were getting.
Sean Sullivan and his group are the most professional and pleasant builders I have the had the pleasure of working with. They go to great lengths to determine what their customers want (and their budget requirements). Then they do everything possible to “under sell and over deliver”. Sean is an exceptional builder that delivers an exceptional home.
Over the last 10 years, time has not marked the home – nothing on the inside has needed re-staining, and nothing on the outside has needed re-painting. It’s been very minimal for the yearly things you would think you had to do. We don’t have a list of repair people because we haven’t needed them.
The building supervision was good. The communication was good. We didn’t have any problems with the billing. There really weren’t any surprises. It was really easy, which is almost unheard of in a construction situation.
He does things right for the sake of doing them right and that was the impression we got with every facet of our experience with Living Stone. That made us just be able to trust them and trust their system.
They have a process that is thoroughly thought out, thoroughly vetted and thoroughly effective. The process from start to finish was totally transparent and the bottom line was that it was a fun process and not a stressful process.
I was impressed with the emphasis on high quality construction, energy efficiency and an aging in place concept. If you choose LSC and ID.ology you’ll have the piece of mind that you’ve chosen the best.
I couldn’t be more pleased. Michael and I feel like we are on vacation, everytime we walk into the kitchen. Frank and all the crew has really made this project go smoothly, and I can’t thank Living Stone enough.
We chose Living Stone because of Sean but we love Living Stone because of their team. Molly, Pam, Frank, Laura and our main man Mike! Mike drives our home’s construction, can answer any question at a level you can understand and is a pleasure to work with. Laura organizes and improves all of our design decisions, gives us inspiration and keeps everything on track. Sean, it is a credit to you that you have surrounded yourself with so many truly good people.
I have to comment on everyone’s integrity. Everyone has been of the highest caliber and truly made us feel like they care about us as people, our satisfaction and that we are getting a home, not just a house. I rate every aspect of this process, every member of this team and every subcontractor, an A plus!
The process of design+build and creating something that is so energy efficient is a miracle to me. Sean has a way of putting things together so that we get the product that we want and then he puts together the quality product that he knows he can build.
I don’t know why someone would not choose Living Stone to build their home. It is such a polished production that gives you a polished complete finish. You have no doubt that the product you have is the house you dreamed of!
We built this home from a remote location so we had to put a lot of faith in Frank the Superintendent, Sean of Living Stone, and Laura the designer, to make sure they were building this home to our specifications and to meet our needs. Frankly I have to admit I was extremely impressed. I don’t think they missed anything and they exceeded our expectations.
It’s special, it’s wonderful and I keep pinching myself because I cannot believe that this is our home. Living Stone Construction, headed by Sean Sullivan more than met our expectations. They hit a grand slam out of the ball park. This house is amazing!
Your integrity, skill, kindness and warmth shows in your words as well as your actions. We are and will forever be grateful to have worked with such an amazing group of people. Being part of the Living Stone family is our blessing. Thank you.
The energy efficiency of the house has made it very comfortable through some very extreme weather and our energy bills have been remarkably low. The energy star rating of the home has really paid off. Truly, I haven’t had energy costs this low in 20 years.
Sean has the rare quality of being able to see the big picture while being engaged in the fine details of his projects combined with the ability to effectively and efficiently communicate both in a way that not only gets the job done but gets it done with a commitment to excellence that has enabled him to be a leader among his building industry peers across North Carolina. I have known Sean for close to 10 years and have a great professional and personal admiration of his work and character.
Sean’s knowledge of building practices and principles, conceptually and practically, really impressed me. I eventually saw his work in person and was blown away by the craftsmanship. He is a TRUE craftsman — no cookie cutter work here. The houses he builds are incredible — the floorplans are well thought out, and the details are really special.
The Living Stone Construction Design/Build team, are the best in the area. I have been in, and around, the building and real estate industry throughout my life and I have never met a builder that has as much integrity, passion for what he does, care for his clients and the motivation to always exceed expectations, drive to continue learning and honing his skills and techniques to offer his clients the best. Anyone who hires Living Stone Construction will not be disappointed and will have the home of their dreams!
I have known Sean for many years and can say with out a doubt he has the highest degree of professionalism, attention to detail and desire to provide a spectacular customer service experience I have ever seen.
Sean has an extremely professional TEAM who supported my clients initially and now throughout the process. He builds trust and it is deserved — Sean has high standards for himself and that is obvious in how he does business.
I have built or renovated 5 homes and completed tens of millions of dollars of commercial construction. Sean is the most professional, knowledgeable, honest, organized residential builders it has been my pleasure to know. He recently completed our custom home in the Settings of Black Mountain and exceeded our expectations in every way. From his staff to his sub contractors, excellence is practiced every day.
From a professional standpoint Sean Sullivan with Living Stone Construction goes above and beyond to make sure his clients as well as the general public and colleagues are as educated as possible with building homes in the mountains.
Simply awesome company !!!! If your looking for the best, you need not look any further. Custom built quality homes and fantastic folks who care about you and your new home! Living Stone Construction you are the BEST!
Sean Sullivan’s team of builders are top notch. They converted a small residential building into a arts n crafts commercial masterpiece.. With over 2,000 sq ft of addition; everything looks as if it’s been here since day one. I highly recommend Sean and his team of experts.
The process of design/build and creating something that is so energy efficient is a miracle to me. Sean has a way of putting things together so that we get the product that we want and then he puts together the quality product that he knows he can build.
Sean is the most organized manager I have encountered. I would match his management skills against any of the Managing Directors of the Fortune 500 Company that I worked with in project management, financial planning, and negotiations. He expects and demands the best from his employees, as do Living Stone’s clients. He is a true leader. Pam Potter
From the beginning, Sean was a great listener, offered ideas and introduced us to his team. We have been extremely happy with everything that has been done so far. We anticipate the building phase with great joy! A top professional for sure.
Having worked together on an award winning home, I found Sean and his team to be attentive to the quality of construction, committed to incorporating sustainable building practices and materials, and thorough in tracking costs. He was very willing to work with my team during the construction process which provided the best level of service to our client. Sean is a builder that I recommend highly.
LSC was a pleasure to work with throughout our remodeling project. Frank worked diligently to meet our deadline for completion of late January, despite snow and ice. Their ability to deliver a quality product in a timely manner while still being able to adapt to unforeseen circumstances was greatly appreciated.
We love our home. In addition to building a quality home, Sean is honest, responsive, a pleasure to work with. He really makes the entire process flow quite comfortably. Living out of state when we had our home built was initially cause for some concern for us. Sean and the superintendent of our project were in constant communication with us, letting us know well in advance when decision points were approaching. And the weekly pictures were wonderful. I wouldn’t have been able to cope without them. Probably the best comment I could make is that if we were to build again, we’d use Sean again in a heartbeat
Sean Sullivan’s skills and experience exemplify superlative leadership in business and construction. His commitment to doing the right thing and being focused on the best interests of his customers is always clear. The consummate professional, Sean’s strong relationships with the many disciplines within the trade establish him as one the best go-to contractors in the business!
Living Stone did a fantastic job on our mountain house. They far exceeded our expectations and always kept us informed throughout the entire job. Their crew are real craftsmen- from carpenters to painters, they were professional in every way. If you want a beautiful and well-done job, these are the guys. We highly recommend them, so if you have bad experiences in the past, call Sean and deal with a real pro
As an architect specializing in custom residential home design in the Asheville area, I have had the opportunity to work with Sean Sullivan on multiple custom home designs in The Settings of Black Mountain. Our experiences have been very positive, as has been the feedback from my clients. Sean’s strong work ethic, commitment to quality craftsmanship, attention to detail and customer satisfaction was exceptional. In the world of construction it’s refreshing to work with someone who values honesty and integrity. Sean takes pride in each and every home he builds. I look forward to our continued working relationship and can confidently recommend Living Stone Construction
I couldn’t be more pleased. Michael and I feel like we are on vacation, everytime we walk into the kitchen. I’m actually afraid to start living yet, for fear of messing something up. Frank and all the crew has really made this project go smoothly, and I can’t thank Living Stone enough.