Top Remodel

CG&S Design-Build operates out of an old family home, and much like the business itself, the place has had some work done. The company converted the south Austin ’60s ranch-style home into a sleek and modern office-studio, which is fitting for this former construction outfit that’s morphed into a one-stop destination for home remodels. 

Well-regarded for warm and contemporary renovations all around Austin, CG&S handles every aspect of a job, from the rough idea to the architectural plans to the actual construction work. The approach makes more than a little sense to anybody who’s felt caught in the vast chasm between aloof architects and short-sighted builders. “With us, the builder and architect are working together from the beginning of the project to the end,” says Stewart Davis, CG&S co-owner and head architect. 

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Davis joined the company after first joining the family. His wife, Dolores Guerrero Davis, along with her siblings, purchased the Clarence Guerrero & Sons construction business from their parents in the ’90s. With Dolores at the helm as general manager and her brother Billy as co-owner and president, Davis soon came aboard and added an in-house design firm to the established, three-generations-old business. In ’94 in Austin, a construction/design mash-up team under one roof was a bit of a wacky approach, but the idea quickly caught on when clients saw the benefits. “People who work with us like the convenience and lower risk of having someone doing everything,” says Stewart.

In that vein, some of CG&S’s most striking jobs completely rethink a home. One project—dubbed “Collector’s Paradise”—is a contemporary reimagining of a ranch home whose “bones” are hardly recognizable underneath the second floor addition, new roof and completely reconfigured first floor. Architects are trained to tailor reality in this way, but general contractors or DIYers may lack that kind of vision. “It’s one thing to redecorate, but thinking about new ways a house could be laid out is a whole other matter,” says Stewart. “It’s the house you’ve lived in for so long that your brain is conditioned to see it only one way.” 

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A complete home renaissance is one thing, but let’s say you’re a client hoping for a big-impact change but you’re on a budget that can only afford one big project. Stewart suggests targeting the kitchen. Simply expanding the area, or flipping the kitchen to the back of the house and away from the center, can open up vast possibilities and launch a refreshing domino-effect of new flow, light and life for a home. “When that one change gets made,” he says, “then everything falls into line.”

Regardless of the size or scope of a project, CG&S always has clients prioritize what they want done and schedule those goals into different phases of completion. The first phases are usually the most complicated tasks best reserved for the pros. “Anything that changes the layout of the house or adds space are things you want a professional to do,” says Stewart. But many of the subsequent phases may include jobs that homeowners can take on themselves, like installing new light fixtures, painting shutters, taking up carpet or even doing a modest revamp of a kid’s room or guest suite. “Surface things like ceiling fans or paint can go a long way toward changing the look of your house,” he says. The most important thing is to make sure everyone is on the same page and knows what’s going on. “Don’t go into a project without understanding what happens, when it happens and what it will cost,” he says. “Do whatever it takes to avoid surprises.”

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Over the many years, CG&S has seen the popularity of myriad house styles come and go (and worked with many of them): cleaned-up craftsmen, Texas Tuscan, ultra-modern, even barn-chic. But one trend the company doesn’t see going away any time soon is green remodeling and building. If solar power and rainwater collection aren’t at the top of your priority list, though, Stewart says you can still plan ahead by ensuring there’s adequate space on the roof for the required panels and gutters. But he also says not to be too hard on yourself if these projects aren’t on your remodeling short list. By reinventing instead of tearing down, you’re keeping materials out of the landfill. And, according to Stewart, “The act of renovation is, by definition, green building.”

Though CG&S is in the business of changing the way people think about their homes, it strives to keep one idea constant in the minds of those about to embark on a remodel: “It’s supposed to be fun and fulfilling in the end,” says Stewart. “And that is possible.”

by Steve Wilson | Photos by Tre Dunham and Paul Finkel