Serving McLean, Great Falls, Arlington, VA
and Montgomery County, MD
Kipp and Ginger Gray had high hopes for their four-bedroom Leesburg, VA. ranch-style home with its dark and closed-in floor plan. They had high expectations, too, for the first design-build firm they chose, a reputable firm, to transform the place where they decided to live the rest of their lives—with Ginger’s 79 year old mother, Charlotte, and two 95 year old friends.
"We're relationship people and I run my business like that, so it felt to me that working with Sun Design was like working with me in my business," says Ginger Gray.
But Kipp, an airport facilities design project manager, was dismayed each time the firm he first picked increased project cost by $100,000. It was then that Ginger decided to turn to Craig Durosko, Sun Design founder & chairman, for a second opinion. Craig immediately appealed to her relationship side—she runs a State Farm Insurance agency in Fairfax, Va.—while also understanding the needs of Kipp’s “detailed micromanager” side (Ginger’s words). Craig, his designers, and sales team value engineered the re-design. That way, the whole-house remodel met budget and every one of the Gray’s needs—including working with the family to convert a two-car garage into a master suite to avoid the cost of adding on to the home. They later planned to add a detached garage.
The Grays paid their obligations to the original firm, moved out of their home, and brought Sun Design in to transform every bit of its 2,500 square feet into an airy, inviting space. It would become a retreat Ginger and Kipp could call their own, yet also be suitable for three generations, all of whom could, each day, enjoy the natural beauty of the property’s 10-acre wooded lot, even from inside.
"We made it a single-level home, rearranging every room in the house," Kipp says. "We eliminated the sunken living room—now the kitchen—and widened the halls for wheelchairs."
"They managed us well in an area we were ignorant of, as far as what was available," Ginger says. "Their quiver of trade contractors and suppliers were far better with selections than our previous firm. The other firm, you go to a showroom and pick stuff. Sun would tell us, 'This is good, but this is good too, and we can keep it within budget.' I love my kitchen cupboards and I don’t feel like I compromised at all."
"They did the same thing with the windows," Kipp says. "The first group had us using a window company that offered wood-cased windows throughout, at a very costly price, but Sun Design had access to a different window supplier to produce and install these windows for much less cost—and still include everything we wanted."
"I'm in the insurance business and what I'm good at is giving lots of value in your budget," Ginger says. "Sun Design did the exact same thing. Value engineering is the part they did best, and I don’t feel like I compromised and had to be cheap."
"It was a pleasure working with Sun," Kipp says. Dave Cleary, Sun's lead carpenter (now estimator), was always three steps ahead, anticipating potential problems. Kipp would meet with Dave each Wednesday. One day, Dave told Kipp he had to move a wall forward ¾ inch. Kipp asked why.
Dave explained: "The area for the refrigerator was framed as per plans, but based on the unit's specifications; the refrigerator door would've hit the granite countertop when the door opened. By moving the wall forward, we’ll prevent it from being dented by the granite."
"And yet, it was still just in framing!" says Kipp, incredulously. "I just couldn't appreciate this guy more for his experience in how he ran the project."
"They knew how to lead the business, and us being professional people, they recognized we were busy. We wasted no time having to manage this relationship. I can tell you horror stories from my job. But they would say what they would do, set expectations, and then they would do it. It was so refreshing!"
With the space reconfigured for better flow, with most doors and walls removed, it became easier to move throughout the house. The family, sitting and living rooms were opened, allowing the eat-in kitchen. A bedroom became a home office space, with an outside entrance. The garage, now master bedroom, is a sumptuous suite, like a high-end hotel, complete with fireplace, separate dressing room, and picture windows. Windows were added and enlarged throughout the house to create dramatic views. In fact, every door or window was moved or replaced.
The family room and kitchen is panoramic, because of floor-to-ceiling windows.
And Ginger's mom, Charlotte, cooks in the kitchen every day for her daughter's insurance team at her Fairfax office. "She loves the kitchen and it gets lots of use," Ginger says. "We love everything about it."
"A home remodel like that, what we went through, is a huge issue," says the businesswoman. "I feel like I have nothing to hold me back from referring Sun Design. I went through their process, and to me, it was an incredible experience."