Tuesday, January 13, 2015

A Flawless Fit

Cory and Natalie Kaun were shopping for their own home, in which Cory, a welder by trade, planned to oversee the building of. Driving around their Red Deer, Alberta neighbourhoods, they noticed the familiar red, white and yellow logo on the majority of new homes going up. “It seemed like everyone was using Home Hardware,” says Cory, “so we thought we’d go see about a quote.”

Little did they know, that the initial visit with Tim Johnston, Building Consultant and Estimator at the Executive Home Building Centre, would result in a lot more than just their own home. It would lead the young couple into realizing a dream they’d shared since high school of starting their own business, Larkaun Homes.

“Our house just went flawless. It went up with no problems. And Natalie and I enjoyed doing it,” says Cory. Six months later they were back in Tim’s office and as Tim fondly says, “We’ve just been going ever since.”

Since Cory was still welding at night and Natalie was finishing degrees in massage therapy and pharmaceuticals, they couldn’t have gone into the construction business without Home’s help, says Cory. “It all comes down to the packages. They make life a lot easier. It’s one-stop shopping.”

Tim agrees: “They buy everything they can from us with the package ... framing lumber ... finishing lumber ... windows and doors and roof trusses and floor systems.” For Cory that provides peace of mind in knowing both the bottom line and that it won’t budge. “With the crazy market that we’re in, any given day the costs can be driven up. But Home’s material packages lock in. They guarantee their prices until the project is complete,” says Cory.

And for two young entrepreneurs in their mid-20s having the solid reputation of Home Building Centre backing you up also comes in handy. Especially in thebeginning, Cory laughs, when “people look at you and say, ‘You’re the boss?”

A dozen or so houses later (Cory’s lost count, but Tim guesses in the 15 to 20 range) and Larkaun Homes was ready to take on a bigger challenge. “Natalie and I owned this higher end lot that we wanted to do something special with.” Flipping through the pages of the Beaver Home & Cottage Design Book they came across the Lake Louise. With just a few minor tweaks to the floor plan it was exactly what they’d been looking for.

Making changes is welcome, even encouraged, says Tim, so that clients get exactly what they want out of their home. “You can flip through this book and take any plan you want and start drawing lines on it and say I want to do this, and I want to do that. Every home has the potential to be a custom home.”

Because of the size of the lot, Cory and Natalie felt the Lake Louise should be done on a grander scale. We wanted to blow up the square footage and give (a potential buyer) more value for their money.” Two feet were added to the bedrooms and another four to increase the kitchen and garage area. The revised plans were sent to Architectural Solutions at the Home Hardware head office in St. Jacob’s, Ontario, where the changes were made to code, and then sent back in a full set of blue prints.

In the open-concept, cathedral-ceiling upper floor, Natalie insisted the hardwood be installed on a 45-degree angle. “It adds a lot of character. Because the room is so big, it gives it a bit of direction,” she says of the unorthodox yet eye-catching effect. The maple kitchen cabinets are an inventive mix of dark and light stains. And the living room focal point, a homey gas fireplace, is rocked in from floor to ceiling. “It is called the Lake Louise. You’ve got to have a little stone in there,” laughs Natalie.

The first thing everyone notices when they walk in the door, however, is theacid-etched concrete flooring in the front entrance, bathrooms, mudroom and basement. A lustrous, swirling pattern of mottled dark and light browns with flecks of charcoal, “they’re gorgeous,” raves Tim. And heated, adds Natalie, for those who fear cold feet.

But it’s the David and Goliath partnership between Executive Home Building Centre and the Kauns that gives the Lake Louise, and other Larkaun-built homes their solid foundation. “We have a special relationship. They take care of us and we look after them,” says Cory. And the customer reaps the rewards of this relationship, says Tim. “From the blueprint stage right down to if there’s a problem because paint won’t stick to a baseboard,” Home Building Centres stand behind their material packages.

“We’re (Home Hardware Stores Limited) the big corporation - with what I think is an excellent reputation - and Larkaun Homes is the young up and comer. They’re putting their imagination to the plans. The combination of the two is building some pretty nice houses in town,” says Tim. And the Lake Louise is a perfect example of every package home’s potential. “They’ve basically taken our plans to the next level. We can tell our customers if you want to see what can be done, here’s the design book, go drive by the house.”

While Cory and Natalie didn’t have a buyer in mind while building the Lake Louise, they didn’t have to wait long. A month before it was finished, the very first couple to view the bungalow made an offer, enthuses Cory. “They just came along and said we’ll take it.”

The basement was unfinished in the original plan so Cory and Natalie designed a theatre room, games room and bar in addition to another bedroom and bathroom. And rather than brick they chose a stone tile trim for the exterior of the house. But what really makes it stand out from the others on the block is the interior design. Which is all Natalie, says Cory. “When it comes to colour and flooring ... she puts the flash on the homes.”