New Service Launched

I am pleased to announce a new service LaFollette Custom Homes will be providing in our effort to bring you the best home design, construction and maintenance in the marketplace. Beginning this spring—yes, spring is actually here despite the snow on the ground—we will be offering a home service program to help you keep your home looking and functioning its best. LaFollette Home Services will provide you with the same level of expertise and detail that we apply to large projects, but on a smaller scale. I am loathe to use the word “handyman” because that really does imply that work on one’s home isn’t very important and that couldn’t be further from the truth. I often get calls from clients stating that they “hate to bother me” but they need to have some doors hung, their deck fixed or drywall repaired. I love to send my team out on these jobs because I know that they will use the same care and skill to complete little jobs as they would a new addition. My goal is to take the worry of home ownership away and ensure that you have time to enjoy your beautiful home. Some of the home services we can provide are:

New Decks—we will design a deck to complement your home—not create a wooden eyesore.

Window Replacement—replace outdated windows with affordable and stylistically appropriate versions.

New Doors—we hang and replace new doors to fit the style and function of your home.

Drywall Repairs—we will patch drywall and you will never know it was patched!

Painting—a good paint job is extremely important and can make a world of difference. From custom decorative paint to color selection and application, we can help.

Hardscape—make better use of your outdoors with a new patio or walkway with creative updates.

Every job that LaFollette takes on is equally important and is treated in the same professional manner. You won’t have to worry about smoking on the job, cursing, loud music, unfinished work or a lack of quality. My crew knows what I expect on each and every job and they don’t disappoint.

Contact our office and I will gladly see what we can do to ease your worries and make sure your home is in tip-top shape.

Steve Eyke,

Architecture and The Green Movement

I have been frustrated with the lack of awareness concerning the value of “Green Technologies” in the construction industry. Everyone wants to know if the products they are using are “Green”. A whole industry has emerged that instructs us (architects, builders and contractors) on the principles of green building. State and Federal agencies spending public dollars on construction projects want us to be LEED certified. The whole process of teaching the next generation good old Yankee Ingenuity has dissolved into marketing. Not that marketing is bad, but where is the meat?

The meat is in common sense. 100 years ago people did not build homes with bamboo flooring, or vinyl siding. They used locally available materials that were inexpensive and close to the end user. Why? because it cost less. There is no mystery here. Craftsmen were trained in the art of masonry, or carpentry and they understood the classic styles of architecture. They built homes that developed into neighborhoods that displayed a local style based on climate considerations, customs and local materials.

Now we have Plastic Homes, that do not display the organic nature of local natural materials, they do not reflect any style. The natural materials that ground us to our environment and give us a connection to mother earth call to us intrinsically. I have found communities built in the 1920’s, 30’s and 40’s reflect a sense of style and of place and most are still viable communities with well maintained homes today. That is the value. Not does bamboo grow commercially in quick manner that is easy to replenish. If we build disposable housing it does not matter what we put into them.

The value is in economics. Good old common sense. We have become so affluent that we have lost or ability to understand value.

Steve Eyke, owner
LaFollette Custom Homes, Ltd.

Custom isn’t custom anymore

I have often considered removing the word “custom” from the company name. It has become a standard slogan to be “custom” in the construction industry. If you are a builder who builds in a plated sub-division and offer variations to your standard floor plan, are you a custom builder? If you are a builder who specializes in tapered columns that are in the “craftsman style” are you a custom builder? if you provide an energy star insulation package in your homes are you a custom builder? What if you build large homes for the affluent, but adorn your projects with standard products and services that you find at the local lumber yard, but add one more piece of molding to your crowns. Does this mean you are a custom builder?

It is sad to know that we have lost our way. The art of crafting residential housing is a dead art form. contemporary builders use slogans as “custom” in their marketing to define their product. The word rings hallow to me

So what would I consider custom? Well with any art form we look to our past as we build upon the lessons from the true masters of their field. In music, literature, political science (yes this is an art form) and architecture we can all name individuals that defined their craft.

In architecture we have Frank Lloyd Wright, Andrea Palladio, Robert Stern and the brothers Greene. They designed, and in the case of Robert Stern, are designing for the rich and powerful. Does this mean that only the wealthy can enjoy artistry in their homes? Are the rest of us confined to the offerings at Home Depot?

For the majority of us this is true. Since the 1940’s there has been a slow erosion of the trades that offer services in the building industry. Stone masons have been replaced with synthetic stone. Plasterers have been replaced with drywall. Finished in place hardwood floors have been replaced with laminate flooring. Stucco and wood siding contractors have been replaced with vinyl and aluminum. As these new product and services become mainstream, a new generation of builders and consumers do not have access to the old trades. They have been lost to mass production. More for less. Now more usually means larger, not well crafted.

We are victims of our success. Manufacturing and technology allow us to have more for less but at a cost. We have slowly killed the skilled trades in the process. Demands for their services have declined as we find new and cheaper ways to imitate. There are no longer professional guilds of craftsman that teach the trade to a new generation. Our schools do not offer instruction in the time honored and respected traditions of the trades. Most entry level workers fall into the industry by happenstance as they struggle to start a career and life for themselves. With little instruction or guidance they are soon installing stick on stone as the manufacturer has made the process easy.

So here we are and what do I consider custom? Well I believe that a middle class family can have a finely crafted home. A custom home that is designed and built as an artistic expression of one’s favorite architectural style. Whether you like Prairie, Shingle or Arts and Crafts the information age allows us to research and rediscover these styles. If you like Queen Anne Victorians but do not posses a high society budget, then build a “Folk” Victorian. Hire a professional and start on the quest to build or renovate your home. Be your own advocate, and realize that less is more. Detail and craftsmanship are more important than size. build The Not So Big House as advocated by Sarah Susanka. Do not follow trends as this is a marketing trap we all fall into to buy the latest and greatest mass produced products. Honor the traditions of the trades.

Steven Eyke, Owner
LaFollette Custom Homes, Ltd.