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A Contractor Spills His Secrets

A builder of luxury homes reveals how he created his weekend retreat on a budget.

I found a very enlightening article today that I would like to share with you written by Nancy Keates of the Wall Street Journal.  You may click the link to see the article at the WSJ website or read it in part below:

As a top contractor in Silicon Valley, Dick Breaux is in a rare position: Amid a national housing slump, he continues to build big and elaborate houses. Projects have included a renovation of a 65,000-square-foot mansion and a 22,300-square-foot redo that required a crew of artisans from England, and he's currently working on a 14,000-square-foot compound with an amphitheater on 12 acres in Hillsborough.

Dick Breaux, a top Silicon Valley builder of luxury homes, uses his experience to create his weekend retreat for less. Nancy Keates has details on Lunch Break.

Yet for most of his 35 years in the area, Mr. Breaux and his wife remained in their 3,000-square-foot ranch house in the less-pricey town of San Mateo. It was like the cobbler who never has time to make his own kids' shoes, said his wife, Kate.

The couple still live in San Mateo, but they have built a new house for themselves: a 6,000-square-foot, four-bedroom weekend home, in a golf community just outside Sacramento. Finished in late 2010, the house includes many of the techniques Mr. Breaux gleaned from the Bay Area's better-known architects and designers. It also cost him $340 a square foot to build, compared with the $600-and-up cost of the houses he usually builds for others. Though some of the savings came from lower labor costs, more came from choices Mr. Breaux made to maximize a luxurious look for less, from selecting standard window sizes and less-pricey patio materials to deciding to use off-the-shelf closets instead of a custom made alternative.

Standing almost isolated on a wooded road, in a development mostly populated by French- and Mediterranean-style houses, the Breauxs's three-story Tudor-influenced house resembles something out of a Grimm's fairy tale, with a slate roof, gingerbread brown wood columns, a pale yellow stucco exterior, light-green window frames and two stone fountains out front. Inside, the first floor is mostly open—"75% of the houses I do now are all open," Mr. Breaux said—with windows and glass doors that overlook the golf course.

To make the exterior look classic and more imposing, Mr. Breaux picked slate for the roof, with copper flashing instead of galvanized metal. Inside, the flooring on the entire first level is radiantly heated limestone. To also convey a sense of luxury, he built very large bathrooms, rooms with slanted corners so they don't resemble boxes and stairways lighted from underneath that give a more flattering glow to the house.

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