Tag Archives: Remodeling

Improve your remodel experience with Houzz

 

HOW HOUZZ CAN IMPROVE YOUR REMODEL EXPERIENCE

Houzz logoI’ll just come out and say it. Yes indeedy, Houzz is yet another niche social media site competing for your attention amidst the din of a sometimes annoyingly-saturated market.

But Houzz is different. I promise it’s worth your time, because it can actually improve your design, build, or remodel experience.

At its core, Houzz is a visual online community giving members pretty much everything they need to improve their homes. Featuring luscious interior and exterior home photos, articles written by industry professionals, and an active and helpful user forum, Houzz provides design inspiration, project advice, product information, and professional reviews, all set in a beautiful, easy-to-use format. You can use Houzz on your computer, tablet, or smart phone.  And it’s FREE!

Houzz is so useful, I encourage all my new clients to create an account, or in the world of Houzz, an ‘Ideabook,’ to help guide me in working on their project. Here’s why: without quality visual aids, there are common key junctures in a design process where the communication between you and your service provider can become… shall we say… a bit murky.

But by using 3D renderings, made even more precise by effective use of Houzz’s resources, you can transform the process of planning your building or remodeling project into an enjoyable and exciting activity that saves you money… money that you can then invest in better quality products and design, not waste because of miscommunication.

Let’s explore the value of Houzz.

What EXACTLY is French provincial, anyhow?

photo of French chateau

Was this what you meant by “French provincial”?

Let’s say, for example, you want a style to be “warm contemporary,” “lakeside cottage,” or “French provincial.”  While each of these descriptions suggests a particular look, there is lots of interpretive wiggle room. You can try to describe colors, provide intricate descriptions of pattern and textile preferences, and explain the type of flooring that you find attractive. But without specific visual examples, all these verbal descriptions will go through the subjective human filter of your designer or decorator. He or she, in turn, may present you with a collection of fabric swatches, floor samples, and colors derived from your descriptions, all prettily arranged together.  Looking attractive on a board is one thing, but will you like how these elements look when they are installed into your real life space?

Houzz gives you concrete visual examples. You can pick and choose pictures of specific elements, fabrics, textures, color schemes, and group them together any way you want, adding notes about what you do and don’t like in each image. Then when you give these elements to me, I can use them to put together an entire room so you can see how everything will look before it’s contracted and built.

Discover Something You Didn’t Even Know Was Possible

How would you feel if you discovered something really cool after your remodel project wrapped up? Don’t be a victim of lost opportunity. With more than 1,500,000 product ratings by industry professionals, Houzz is a grand central station to ideas, concepts, and possibilities that you may not even know existed. With Houzz, you can be a visionary and creatively play with design without big worries about cost. If you want to see how a product, design idea, or creative solution would look in your project, simply find it on Houzz, share it with me, and I’ll work it into your rendering. Of course another option is to fly to Las Vegas to browse the International Builder’s Show, but Houzz is a lot more practical for most people!

Research Your Service Providers

Anyone can use Houzz’s Find a Pro service to research a variety of design and remodel professionals in their area. Over 2 million professionals are listed, along with reviews and rankings from previous clients. For example, my professional profile can be seen here.

Best of Houzz 2014 badgeHouzz gives annual awards for professionals who excel. Castleview 3D recently earned The Best of Houzz 2014 for Service. This means Castleview 3D was rated at the highest level for client satisfaction by the Houzz community!

Have Fun

On Houzz, you’re in good company! As a member of the Houzz community you can ask questions and read input from interior and exterior design professionals and other community members (homeowners and design enthusiasts).

The best part is what you can do with the advice you receive. As a 3D renderer, I help my clients have fun by taking away the mystery and anxiety of a home remodel and replacing it with confidence, convenience, and discovery. Why not try out an entirely different color or style of furniture? You can see the results as they would actually appear in your home. You’ll never be left wondering “what if” again!

Houzz has proven to be a very valuable tool for my work with clients. But you don’t need a 3D renderer to get started on Houzz. Jump in!  Have fun!  You never know, perhaps you’ll find just the idea you need to spark a design change of your own!


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3D renderings from an architect?

IS IT REASONABLE TO EXPECT AN ARCHITECT TO PROVIDE COMPUTER RENDERINGS OF REMODEL IDEAS?

confused-image

Recently, I received an inquiry from a reader asking whether it was reasonable to expect architects to provide computer renderings of remodel ideas. My short answer is… yes and no.

Let’s walk through this important question from the perspectives of everyone involved.

The Client

When you’re the client, you are handing over large quantities of your money and time to an individual to perform a professional service for you: design a living space that fits your budget, your lifestyle, and your tastes. Let’s stop for a moment. Notice how the word “you” or “your” was used seven times in the preceding sentence. That’s because YOU are the single most important individual in this project. You are the paying customer.

A reputable architect will pride him or herself on meeting your needs. In order to best understand your vision, a good architect appreciates as much client input as possible. The more precise you can be in describing your lifestyle, tastes, and budget, the better an architect can design a space that meets your needs.

Once your architect develops a design for you, it’s up to them to make sure you thoroughly understand that vision. If you don’t, you must say so. Not everyone has spatial visualization skills and the ability to see a vision from a blueprint or CAD drawing. If a 3D rendering will help you better understand exactly what you can expect for your enormous investment, then it is absolutely reasonable to expect an architect to help you secure a 3D computer rendering of the remodel ideas.  If they don’t provide this service themselves, they should at least be able to point you to someone who can provide it.

It is also reasonable to expect architects to work with 3D renderings that you obtain from a third party if they do not provide the rendering as a part of their own service.

The Architect

To make sure I clearly understood the architects’ perspective on this issue, I asked for opinions in an architecture-related group on LinkedIn that I’m a member of. Answers were fairly polarized, and seemed to depend on whether the architect was using a 3D type of software like Chief Architect to create their plans versus using more traditional 2D CAD or hand-drawn plans.

One architect said, “With software that works in 3D, the 3D views are not a large cost to me. I am able to create most 3D visuals with the click of a button. These are not idealized renderings. They are enough to get the ideas across when 2D can’t. I can and do raise my base fee. I market this as my advanced approach to doing business. And since it is included, I am not as quickly seen by clients as ‘nickel and diming’ them for every little thing (their words, not mine).”

Another designer commented, “I include 3D renderings in all my plans. I don’t see why you can’t. It tells the whole story of the project and basically it is already there for the most part. So why not include them!? As far as prints [blueprints and line elevations], I usually give 2-3 sets with my price and more at their expense.”

Others were open-minded about working with 3D renderings but didn’t feel any responsibility to provide them. This is an honest and fair position, as it is not yet standard practice for architects to use software that creates 3D renderings, so to provide them for clients means an additional cost in time, money, and scope for the architect. The legal interpretation of today’s reasonable ‘Standard of Care’ for architects does not require the use of 3D.

However, 3D technology will continue to have an effect on the architectural industry’s definition of a reasonable ‘standard of care’ for architects when working with clients. As more clients request 3D renderings and gravitate to those architects who do provide them, I believe that there will eventually be a paradigm shift in standard accepted practices. Remember, at one point blueprints and CAD drawings were not considered standard practice, but today all architects factor these into their general rates.  However, it is probably NOT reasonable at this point to expect to receive 3D renderings at no additional cost, since the architect or designer incurs extra costs for creating them.

The 3D Renderer

3D renderings are excellent tools for communicating ideas, as well as a smart project cost containment strategy for both clients and architects. Until the accepted paradigm makes providing 3D renderings a standard architectural practice, clients will often need to take the initiative to ask for them. If you don’t see it spelled out in your contract, the safest bet is to assume it is NOT part of the package the architect is offering.

But if your architect doesn’t do 3D, that doesn’t mean you need to go without renderings! Ask your architect if he or she would consider contracting these out, or ask for recommendations so you can find and work directly with a specialized 3D rendering service provider yourself.  A good 3D renderer should be able to create a 3D model and high-quality renderings from the standard plans or blueprints prepared by any architect.

If the price your architect quotes you for providing 3D renderings seems prohibitively high, even for such a valuable service, you are certainly free to shop around for a better price.  Just remember the old saying, “You get what you pay for.”  As with so many things, the cheapest price isn’t usually the best choice.

blindfold-guyIn my experience, many clients swear that their investment in obtaining 3D renderings is the best money they spent on the whole project, in terms of time and money saved and headaches averted. I’ve never heard anyone say,

“3D renderings? Oh, no thanks—I prefer to be completely surprised when I’m spending thousands of dollars!”

IN SUMMARY

Remember, a good architect will want to create a positive experience with you. Don’t hesitate to ask about 3D renderings. Your architect will appreciate you being up front with your concerns so that he or she can address them before you move too deeply into a project. This clear communication is a recipe for peace-of-mind and a successful outcome for everyone.


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A fun, creative kitchen remodel

HOW A STRESSFUL KITCHEN REMODEL BECAME CREATIVE AND FUN

Major kitchen overhauls represent a huge investment of time, energy, and trust. Think about it — after carefully poring over and painstakingly selecting paint colors, cupboard styles, flooring options, fixtures, appliances, floor plan layouts, window treatments, etc., you have to trust that your contractors will deliver something that meets your vision.

Sounds stressful, doesn’t it? But there is a way to improve the trust with your contractors and service providers… and consequently free up your energy for a fun, creative kitchen remodel. Recently, a friendly couple discovered first-hand how they could renew their trust in their service providers and embrace the fun in their remodeling project.

A Little Background

When the couple first contacted me, they were in the process of planning a major kitchen overhaul.  They had plans and elevations drawn up by a reputable kitchen designer. But they were getting frustrated  because they just couldn’t visualize the end result from those black-and-white CAD drawings. Luckily, as they were looking through an issue of DesignNY magazine, they saw the write-up about CastleView 3D.  

They sent me a message.

“We are planning a remodel and having difficulty with our plans. The folks doing the kitchen have very limited imaging software and we are having difficulty communicating our wishes. Can you help?”

Why, yes!  Yes, I can help!

Since the couple only lived about 40 minutes away, I got in my car and paid a visit to their home (a rare treat for someone who works virtually with people all over the country).  We talked about what they wanted, I took some photos, and they gave me copies of the plans and elevations prepared by their kitchen designer.

More than a Kitchen

As we chatted, it quickly became obvious that they weren’t just remodeling their kitchen — they were actually redesigning the entire main living area of their home. The home had undergone some quirky remodeling before they purchased it.  The kitchen was enclosed by partial walls within a great room with a vaulted ceiling (see photos).  There was an awkward spiral staircase directly inside the main entry which they were planning to replace. They also wanted to give the fireplace wall a makeover by eliminating the stone facing, adding a hearth, and incorporating a Kozy Heat gas fireplace.

partially-enclosed-kitchen-photo-1

Photo of partially enclosed kitchen area within great room

partially-enclosed-kitchen-photo-2

Photo of partially enclosed kitchen area looking towards front entry

creative-kitchen-remodel-photo-3

Photo of awkward spiral staircase and landing.

The Innovative Vision

This couple loves to cook and entertain.  Their plan was to remove the partial walls surrounding the kitchen and extend the kitchen area across the whole back side of the great room, allowing them to use the entire space to socialize and interact with their guests.  A large center island would be added, as well as cabinet/work areas at each end. They had decided on painted black and white cabinets with custom-made concrete countertops.  The center island was to include a bar-height counter in the general shape of the Nike® “swoosh” logo, with the front covered in sheet metal with rivets. As a final playful touch, they wanted to incorporate a custom bubble tile mural from Mercury Mosaics on the back wall above the stove (similar to this one, inspired by the work of artist Gustav Klimt).

The overall effect was innovative and modern yet filled with creativity and fun!

Using their plans, elevations, and ideas for materials, finishes, appliances, lighting, and decor, I created a detailed 3D model of the space.  Then we worked together through several draft versions to arrive at these final renderings of their new kitchen design (click images to see full-size):

3D-rendering-kitchen-remodel-1

3D rendering of kitchen remodel plans showing new center island, bubble tile backsplash, and new staircase

3D-rendering-kitchen-remodel-2

3D rendering of kitchen remodel plans showing new fireplace wall and center island

3D-rendering-kitchen-remodel-3

3D rendering of kitchen remodel plans showing counters, center island, and new stairs and landing

A WONDERFUL WORKING RELATIONSHIP

My clients were ecstatic to see their ideal kitchen come to life. Once they had a good understanding of the process, they really got into trying out different ideas and finish materials to see how they’d look and whether they would work out as they hoped.

After all, with detailed 3D renderings you are free to play with ideas without the risks of investing piles of time and money!

I received a lovely thank-you note at the completion of the project (as well as a really nice review on my Houzz profile):

I am so very pleased with these photos [renderings]. It has made my kitchen come alive! I will be using these religiously to get through the chaos of the remodel. Thank you so much!

These clients were great to work with because they really discovered the value of 3D renderings in helping them to achieve the exciting, fun kitchen of their dreams. In the end, they knew exactly what they wanted and were able to communicate that vision clearly to their contractors and service providers. It was a win for everyone!

Do you have remodeling plans you’d like to see come to life in 3D?  I’d love to hear from you.


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Visualizing a contemporary home remodel

A CRISP, CLEAN, CONTEMPORARY HOME REMODEL DESIGN

Recently, CastleView 3D worked with a couple in Florida who were undertaking a major remodel to the townhome they had purchased.   They had a few preliminary 3D views done by someone working in Sketchup, but they weren’t really satisfied with the level of detail they were able to see, plus they felt the process was taking too long.  That’s when the wife did a web search and found CastleView 3D.  After a brief phone conversation and a couple of emails, a wonderful working relationship was born.

We spent a great deal of time visualizing numerous versions of the kitchen and master bath designs, tweaking the details to get them exactly right.  The couple wanted a sleek, clean, contemporary design — no fuss, no frills, and no curves or rounded edges.  The color scheme was light and neutral — taupe, ivory, palest green, and white, with natural limestone, bleached wood floors, glossy lacquered cabinetry, and some dark wenge wood accents.  Below are photorealistic renderings of these two room designs.

The kitchen design features glossy white lacquer European-style frameless cabinets, frosted glass pantry doors, white quartz countertops, a large island with serving area, and a backlit backsplash behind the stove.

[click images to open full-size]
Contemporary home remodel - kitchen design rendering

Kitchen, island, and dining area

The master bath has limestone counters and tile, white wenge wood floating cabinets, a steam shower enclosure, a skylight, and pale green walls.

Contemporary home remodel - master bath design rendering

Master bath

Over a period of several months, the clients and I also explored various options for the great room, the office, the home theater, the exercise room, and the master and guest bedrooms, to help with finish material choices, lighting, and space planning.  We also worked on visualizing the patio, pool with decorative water wall, and landscape design.  It took over 9 months for the couple to get everything designed to their satisfaction and subsequently approved by their homeowners board.  Below are a few of the renderings done for this project, out of more than 200 total.

Great Room design rendering

Great Room design rendering

Office and home theater rendering

Office and home theater rendering

Home theater design rendering

Home theater design rendering

Landscaping for front entry

Landscaping for front entry

Patio, pool with water wall, and rear landscaping

Patio, pool with water wall, and rear landscaping

These clients were very enthusiastic about the value of their work with CastleView 3D in visualizing their contemporary home remodel.  They say it was extremely helpful in their design planning to be able to see detailed renderings of their ideas.  Some things they originally thought they wanted, such as stainless steel cabinets and a dark marble counter in the kitchen, were eliminated once they saw how they would actually look.

The wife says that the 3D renderings helped her to communicate with her husband and get him excited about her ideas for their home.  The renderings also helped the couple communicate with their contractors about exactly what they want.

“Working with CastleView 3D has been a real gift for us and has made an incredible difference.  Saved us many, many mistakes in our build.  I had no idea how incapable I was of visualizing things from blueprints and plans. We tell people about you all the time!”

NOTE:  All modeling was done in Chief Architect X5.  Renderings were done in CAX5 or in Thea.

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3D renderings of vacation homes

THREE WATERFRONT HOME VISUALIZATIONS

Over the summer, CastleView 3D worked on three visualization projects for clients who were building or remodeling waterfront vacation homes. Rochester, New York (where our world headquarters is located) is situated on the shores of Lake Ontario and in the midst of the beautiful Finger Lakes region of upstate New York.  So lake homes and waterfront cottages are definitely on a lot of people’s minds around here.

Each project was very different, in terms of the starting point and what the clients needed to see in their 3D renderings.  These projects demonstrate some of the many ways that 3D visualization can be useful when building or remodeling a vacation home.

1.  Canandaigua Lake Cottage:  The Front Porch Addition

[click any image to open full-size]
Canandaigua Lake Cottage: "Before" photo

Canandaigua Lake Cottage: “Before” photo

Canandaigua Lake Cottage: Rendering with porch and dormers

Canandaigua Lake Cottage: Rendering with porch and dormers

This couple had just bought a small fixer-upper cottage on Canandaigua Lake.  They were planning to enclose the original front porch to enlarge the great room, replace most of the windows, and add a new full-length front porch to take better advantage of the view.  The series of visualizations done for them from their photos and hand-drawn sketch of the floorplan allowed them to evaluate various porch options.  It also helped them decide on the shape and placement of dormer windows in the attic to bring more light into the kitchen and great room areas.

2.  Sodus Bay House:  The Siding Question

Sodus Bay House: Front "before" photo

Sodus Bay House: Front “before” photo

Sodus Bay House: Front rendering with pergola

Sodus Bay House: Front rendering with pergola

Sodus Bay House: Rear "before" photo

Sodus Bay House: Rear “before” photo

Sodus Bay House: Rear rendering with siding and transom windows

Sodus Bay House: Rear rendering with siding and transom windows

This client was in the process of building his own vacation home on Sodus Bay, but couldn’t decide on exterior finishes.  Using our renderings created from his photos and hand-drawn floorplan, he was able to experiment with different colors and types of siding, stone, brick, and wood finishes for the exterior, plus various shutter styles for the windows.  We also tried out two different treatments for the front entry, a shed roof porch and a pergola, and suggested the addition of transom windows on the back side of the house to bring in even more light.

3.  Canandaigua Lake House:  Visualizing the Interior

Canandaigua Lake House: Main floor plan

Canandaigua Lake House: Main floor plan

Canandaigua Lake House: Interior rendering looking toward kitchen

Canandaigua Lake House: Interior rendering looking toward kitchen

Canandaigua Lake House: Interior rendering looking toward main entry

Canandaigua Lake House: Interior rendering looking toward main entry

When these clients first contacted us, they were still in the planning and design stages for the lake house they were building on their large lakefront lot at the southern end of Canandaigua Lake.  The new lake house was being built as a lovely year-round retreat, to augment the small summer cottage already on their property.  They had blueprints and elevations drawn up by their architect, but they needed detailed visualizations of the interior spaces to help them choose finishes and determine furniture, kitchen, and bath layouts.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I love being able to use 3D rendering to help people visualize their building and remodeling ideas, especially for fun spaces like cottages and vacation homes.  Making big decisions about the construction and decor of your home is scary — you know you’ll have to live with a wrong decision for a long time, or else pay big bucks to have it made right.  So much easier to experiment and try things out when only pixels are at stake!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

NOTE:  All modeling was done in Chief Architect X5.  Renderings were done in CAX5 or in Thea Render Studio.

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The value of Houzz for remodeling projects

DO YOU HOUZZ?

I find Houzz.com to be an extremely valuable resource for both my own and my clients’ remodeling and redecorating projects.  In case you’ve been on another planet for the past couple of years, here’s what Houzz is all about (in their own words):

Houzz is the leading online platform for home remodeling and design, providing people with everything they need to improve their homes from start to finish – online or from a mobile device. From decorating a room to building a custom home, Houzz connects millions of homeowners, home design enthusiasts, and home improvement professionals across the country and around the world. With the largest residential design database in the world and a vibrant community powered by social tools, Houzz is the easiest way for people to get the design inspiration, project advice, product information and professional reviews they need to help turn ideas into reality.

Houzz is like Facebook, Pinterest, Wikipedia, Architectural Digest, and House Beautiful all rolled into one.  So it probably goes without saying that it can be very addictive.

On Houzz, you can search a huge database of images for architecture and decor ideas, using just about any style or design or color keywords you can think of.  When you see something you like, you can add that image to a personal Ideabook.  You can also add notes about why you like that image or what specific aspect or item in it appealed to you.  Your Ideabook becomes a montage of features you’d like to include in your room or home.

Houzz Ideabooks are particularly useful to me in my work with clients.  The Ideabook my client puts together tells me a story about what they want to see in their renderings. And because pictures speak louder than words, I don’t have to spend a lot of time guessing about what exactly they meant by “I want a French country living room.”  The images they choose to include in their “French County Living Room Design Ideas” Ideabook can communicate very clearly the specific look they have in mind, especially if they’ve annotated the images with comments about particular features.

As an example of how this works, I put together an Ideabook of my own with images of beautiful bedrooms that I liked, including notes about what appealed to me about each image.  You can see it here.  Then I modeled and rendered this luxurious, serene, bed-sitting room using the elements I liked best from each image.

3D rendering of a beautiful bedroom created by CastleView 3D based on Houzz.com images

3D rendering of a beautiful bedroom created by CastleView 3D
(click to view full-size)

I started with the rug and general layout of this room, which was my favorite, and then added in various other elements from some of the other rooms. I love the muted color scheme of taupes and blues with white trim and natural wood floors — so relaxing.  Actually, I love everything about this space because I designed it just for me!  

There are many other useful features on Houzz.  You can search out a variety of home design professionals, find information about specific products, engage in topical discussions, or get your home design problems solved by the Houzz community.  You can follow others (and be followed in return), read and write reviews of professionals, see before-and-after examples, and much more.  Houzz is pretty indispensable these days for anyone interested in home design, decor, and remodeling.

Ready to get started?  Follow CastleView 3D on Houzz!


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Rehabbing an old house – virtually!

HELPING A NON-PROFIT ORGANIZATION BY REHABBING AN OLD HOUSE IN 3D

CastleView 3D recently completed a very interesting project.  A remodeler in Illinois contacted me on behalf of his client, a non-profit organization.  The organization was interested in rehabbing an old, run-down house.  They wanted 3D renderings showing the house as it might look AFTER the rehab was finished, to share with their stakeholders and members.

All I was given to work from was two not-especially-clear photos of the current property, which they had affectionately dubbed “Big Blue” — no floor plan, dimensions, or roof plan.  My task was to try to recreate Big Blue as accurately as possible from these two photos, adding foundation landscaping, raised garden beds in the side yard, and some kids on bikes playing outside.  In other words, I needed to make a derelict house look safe and inviting.

Photograph of Big Blue house from front

Photograph of Big Blue from front

Photograph of Big Blue house from side

Photograph of Big Blue from side

It’s obvious from these photos that the house has “good bones” and was once a grand home, but is in desperate need of both cosmetic and structural rehab work.

Here’s the virtual transformation (click image to see full-size):

3D Rendering of Big Blue house from front

3D Rendering of Big Blue from front

3D Rendering of Big Blue house from side

3D Rendering of Big Blue from side

I found out a bit more about the non-profit organization and their plans for Big Blue after the virtual rehab project was complete:

  • The organization is called Beacon Place, and is based in Waukegan, Illinois.  Beacon Place was started by a group of volunteers who had worked in that part of Waukegan for years running a food pantry, among other programs. Last October they decided to move some programs that were piloted at the pantry into a new and larger facility.
  • Once rehabbed, the house will be used by people from the surrounding community, in particular — but not limited to — the children.  There will be a technology room for use by children after school and for their parents; once a child spends enough time learning about the computer, they will be given one to take home (how cool is that?).  Volunteers will help them sign up with Comcast for the $10/month fee that they qualify for due to their income status.  
    There will be a teaching kitchen, gardens for the children, and a summer lunch and backpack program. They plan to listen to the community and provide them with space for ideas they bring to the table.
  • The location of Big Blue is perfect for what the group wants to do. The east side of the house is open space  owned by the park district.  Beyond this open space is a park and beyond that is Lake Michigan.
  • The organization will be relying extensively on volunteers and community members to rehab Big Blue.  It is currently uninhabitable since there is no electricity or water (the pipes have all been stolen).  Please contact them if you live in the area and can help out with this worthwhile project, or would like to support it with a donation.
  • Visit Beacon Place’s website for more information about their programs.

This is the kind of project that is a pleasure to complete.  In some ways, it reminded me of the “roof with a view” project I did a couple of years back, where I added a virtual second story and deck to help sell a home with a fantastic view of San Francisco Bay — but, inconveniently, you had to stand on the roof to see it.  Both projects involved recreating existing buildings from photos rather than from blueprints or plans.  And both involved showing the potential of a house beyond its current state or condition.

I love what I do, and I never get tired of saying how passionate I am about the power of 3D modeling and rendering to help people visualize the future and watch their dreams take shape!


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