HOME WORK

by LINDA HAYES / photography by HOLGER OBENAUS

FOR JEREMY BLACKSTOCK, owner of LowCountry Contractors in Isle of Palms, forming relationships with clients is a building block to success. “I like meeting with customers, establishing relationships with them to really understand what they’re looking to do, and then making that happen,” he says. “During the reveal, when their project is done, seeing the excitement on their faces and the satisfaction they get from the transformation is what I enjoy the most.”

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Over the last four years, together with co-founder Sean Cartwright and with the assistance of interior designers Katherine Brickell and Alexandra Little, Blackstock, a contractor by trade, has grown LowCountry into a thriving, versatile business. Over that time, adjusting to the changing lifestyles of customers has prompted a focus on interior remodeling, especially kitchens and bathrooms.

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Noting that people are using their homes a lot differently today than they did 20 years ago, Blackstock is seeing some significant trends in those areas. Rather than an emphasis on formal dining rooms, for instance, customers are interested in creating open areas that serve as gathering places for family and friends. Central kitchen islands that offer ample cooking and prep space, as well as seating for dining, are especially popular. Bathroom trends of late include pulling out freestanding or Jacuzzi-style tubs and replacing them with generously sized steam showers with elaborate glass, marble or mosaic tile detailing.

Materials and color choices are evolving as well. While classic white is still quite popular for kitchens, new darker, even black, finishes for cabinetry are gaining traction. “It’s a fun new trend, which our designers are on top of,” says Blackstock. In addition to shopping with clients to seek out the newest, most state-of-the-art products and materials, the project design teams often utilize a sophisticated software program that allows them to do three-dimensional renderings of a space.

“It’s the coolest thing,” says Blackstock. “Customers can come into our office and see a major kitchen transformation—sinks, appliances, tiles—in 3-D on our big screen in the conference room. Or they can even put on 3-D goggles and virtually walk through their project. Either way, they can see exactly what they’re getting before we even start the work.”

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Exterior remodeling is also keeping the LowCountry team busy. Interest in replacing vinyl, stucco or brick exteriors found in many older homes in the area with HardiePanel siding is growing, and a new code mandating upgrading windows to new impact-rated versions for coastal locations is bringing a surge in window replacement. That the new windows are also tinted aids in energy efficiency, a concept close to Blackstock’s heart as he has achieved status as a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Accredited Professional, a credential awarded by the U.S. Green Building Council. Refurbishing existing decks or building new ones is another popular aspect of the business in an area that sees the detrimental effects of salt water.

Beyond remodeling and maintenance offerings, LowCountry is also entrenched in the custom homebuilding arena, and it is known for a high level of detail that often begins with the initial contact with homeowners and/or their architects. “The earlier we get involved, the better,” says Blackstock. “That way we can be involved in decisions like styles or colors and help avoid potential design flaws.” As new home projects progress, LowCountry employs a specialized software program that gives customers the opportunity to interact with their project progress online. At any time, they may sign on to get daily or weekly project summaries, photos, videos and reports on scheduling and budgets, for instance. “That way they are able to see exactly where they are on their project,” says Blackstock. “It’s reassuring, especially for clients in New York, California or other distant areas.”

And for those looking to sell a house? “We have what we call a ‘Fix-n-list,’” he says. “In partnership with local Realtor Patti Blackstock, we will do a walk-through of a house prior to it being listed and note what improvements need to be done to get it ready to market.” Upon approval of a plan, LowCountry will pay for the updates, for which they are reimbursed once the house sells. “Often, the owners get more for the home than they anticipated. It’s been very successful.” *

Linda Hayes is an Aspen, Colorado-based freelance writer specializing in architecture, design and the luxury lifestyle. Her articles have appeared in LUXE, Hawaiian Style, Elle Decor and Mountain Living.