When Carpenter Bees Strike, Give The Wills Company a Buzz

A skilled carpenter can build a house to last a century. At The Wills Company, our gratitude for the beauty and safety of the homes we live in goes to the carpenters who build them. We have the highest respect and admiration for carpenters…

But for carpenter bees? Not so much!

Carpenter bees are a carpenter’s nemesis, rampaging through fine millwork with nary a care for the skill of the millworking human.

Just look at this piece of cedar we recently removed from a second-story balcony handrail.

So compromised was the wood by invasive bees that it split in half lengthwise to reveal a maze of insect trails. These tunnels are not the destructive work of a sweet, industrious honeybee. This wood-chewing mayhem is the deed of Xylocopa.

You may have met her, buzzing with her lacquer-black friends around, say, your back porch or the steps to your deck. Or worse, on your jungle gym, where her holes are just the perfect circumference for a curious toddler’s index finger. Xylocopa is a sneaky bee, boring perfect perforations as precisely as a drill bit. Once inside the wood, she zigs and zags back and forth, excavating all the strength from the millwork. For a carpenter who expends time and energy building a structure, such boring disregard for craft really…stings.

Not to mention the fact that all that damage can be dangerous. Just think what could have happened if the second-story balcony handrail pictured here had failed… Or if your swingset becomes home to a host of carpenter bees… Or if your bee-ridden stair treads give way under the weight of an unsuspecting climber.

The first step in dealing with carpenter bee damage is to get rid of the perpetrators. You can call a pest control professional, or you can try hanging a quaint carpenter bee trap, designed with a single hole to lure these opportunistic insects into a chamber with no escape. 

Honestly, we can’t guarantee the effectiveness of these homespun devices, because our homemade traps have captured only a few of the flying fiends over the years. We don’t claim to be experts at attracting carpenter bees…

But we do know how to attract talented carpenters! In fact, we have a team of six brilliant problem-solving craftsman, who can tackle carpenter bee damage or any other woodwork repairs.

So if you’re facing insects, rot, or any other damage to woodwork, give us a call at 615-352-1228, and a talented Wills Company carpenter will make a beeline to your house.

Spring Into Summer

Bathing suits from Brownlee.co

It’s Porch, Patio and Pool season, and we are ready to party! Can’t wait to mix cocktails, test recipes and gather friends we’ve missed during dreary winter. Now all we have to do is get the Porch, Pool and Patio ready to party, too! The Wills Company can help you shake off the literal cobwebs at your house and prep outdoor spaces for poolside dining or a festive spring fling. Call our Handyman service (615-352-1228) to knock out a punch list of home improvements and spring cleaning, including:

  1. Clean exterior surfaces such as pool decks, screen porches, patios and pathways
  2. Tune up air-conditioning systems before the summer heat wave
  3. Repair torn or missing screens on porches and windows
  4. Replace broken or outdated ceiling fans 
  5. Clean windows and glass in exterior lamps and lanterns
  6. Repair brick and stonework on patios and pathways
  7. Clean gutters after the spring pollen bloom
  8. Touch up exterior paint on house, pool house and garage
  9. Repair garden fencing and furniture
  10. Change hard-to-reach lightbulbs in the eaves

With a Wills Company handyman taking care of the to-do list, you can get down to party planning, which is infinitely more fun. We have a few ideas for that too — all of them involving local products, services and boutiques.

Colorful totes from Epergne
  • Update your beach towels with a collection of candy-colored Turkish T’s, available at Ash Blue
  • Show off a pair of timeless Brownlee Bathing Company swim trunks, available at Brownlee.co 
  • Set a festive table, with tablecloths, napkins, vases and other accessories from Epergne
  • Load poolside platters with cookies from Christie Cookies, Dozen, D’Andrews Bakery, or Hey Sugar
  • Grab a few growlers from local Yazoo, Fat Bottom, or Jackalope Brewery
  • Fill a cooler with popsicles from Las Paletas
  • Add sparkle to your cocktails with handblown highballs from Reed Smythe & Company
  • Spritz yourself with Thistle Farmsnatural geranium oil bug spray, the essential scent of spring and summer in Nashville!
The Classic Turkish-T available at AshBlue (child NOT included)
Get your sugar some sugar!

Spring is here and summer’s close behind. Call The Wills Company Handyman at 615-352-1228 to get your Pool, Porch, and Patio ready for the season.

These Home Improvements Are A Safe Bet

If there’s anything we appreciate more than houses that are beautiful and well-built, it’s houses that are safe. Whether we’re installing shower grab bars and stair rails or making walkways free from slippery moss, the most important work we do on a daily basis is making sure our clients’ families—toddlers to seniors—are safe in their homes.

If you’ve got a list of nuisances around the house—a wobbly stone, a jiggly handrail, a sticky lock—don’t just learn to live with them. Call The Wills Company to make things right. Here are some of the unglamorous but essential jobs we perform on a regular basis:  

Grab Bars: Installing ADA-compliant bars around bathtubs, showers and toilets can help avoid dangerous slips and falls.


Interior Stair Rails: Whether you need to secure an existing bannister or install a handrail where there isn’t one, our carpenters can get a handle on the situation.


Outdoor Railings: Prevent guests from stumbling on walkways by installing sturdy iron railings, designed either to blend into the scenery or to stand out like works of art.


Brick & Stone Repair: If you’ve stubbed a toe or caught a heel on a front walk or back patio, our masons can get brick and stonework back to its level best.


Door Locks & Hardware: When locksets get stubborn, don’t just stop locking doors. Have locks lubricated and adjusted to function properly. Regular maintenance is the key to secure locks.


Window Repair or Replacement: Windows painted shut prevent emergency egress. We can help open them, or we can help explore options for replacement.


Replace Hard-to-Reach Lights Bulbs: Poor lighting can be a real hazard, and so can climbing ladders! Let The Wills Company replace your hard-to-reach lamps to shine their light on your safe and beautiful home.



How can The Wills Company help keep your beautiful home safe? Call us at 615-352-1228. We look forward to hearing from you.

Credit to the photographer, Kerry Skarbakka for the “falling photos”. You can see more of his work on www.artstormer.com or his website www.skarbakka.com

New to Nashville?

One thing The Wills Company is NOT is NEW to Nashville. For over 30 years we have been designing, renovating, and maintaining houses. If YOU are a recent transplant to our wonderful city, WELCOME!

You may have already notice that the housing marketing in Nashville is complex. There are houses of every age and flavor. Location is usually the primary driver for selection of a residence. Schools, walkability, size of yard, and of course tolerance for TRAFFIC will be key considerations.

Photo credit: Wiff Harmer Photography

The house you select may need tweaking, a general facelift, or a complete overhaul. No matter the size of the project, we approach your unique situation with practical, matter-of-fact, and honest advice. But being practical doesn’t mean you have to settle for blah when it comes to design. We believe everyone should have their heart skip a beat when they enter their home. Most importance you should experience a sense of pride and tranquility.

Your renovation experience shouldn’t be a stressful. Let’s face it, our industry gets a bad wrap. The groans and “nightmare” stories come from bad actors in our industry who usually aren’t in business very long. There is a low barrier to entry in construction but a high bar to sustain a business that guarantees and warranties their work. Further, there are many risks that you assume if your contractor is not properly insured.

So, the primary drivers for stress in a renovation project are cost and duration. These can be managed if expectations are set on the front end. This is why we favor fixed-cost contracts. Further, we employ our own teams to manage your project and work with subcontractors with whom we have long-standing relationships.

We are glad you have moved to Nashville. We care about this city and the house in which you will reside. We look forward to sharing our knowledge, expertise, and skills with you to make your house a home.

Cookie-Cutter No More: Reimagining Old Designs for a New Millennium

Recently, Styleblueprint.com published the below article where Ridley is interviewed on how to best update houses from the era of the “suburban surge” – 1980-2000.  Thanks to the author Stacey Wiedower whose words we reprint here.

Tray ceilings, wainscoting and carpet, carpet, carpet. In the late ’80s and throughout the ’90s, home construction saw a massive surge as American suburbs expanded. Square footage soared, but design didn’t advance at quite the same pace.

It was the era of the McMansion, when houses went up as quickly as builders could turn them around. And inside, homes of this era have a lot in common.

“I think Nashville was behind the times, style-wise, and many houses even built into the 2000s are really ’90s or late ’80s houses,” says Ridley Wills, founder of Nashville design-build firm The Wills Company. “Every house had these brown, thick finishes, lots of roofline, lots of architectural features going on.”

BEFORE: This carpeted stairway bound by wooden bannisters is classic ’80s design.

AFTER: By getting rid of the sharp angles and wooden handrail, and swapping out wood for iron for the bannister, this reimagined staircase has a more refined, updated feel.

Today, a different sort of revolution is taking place in the residential landscape, with a focus on smart design. Instead of maximizing space, it’s about taking the space you have and using it to its max potential. Instead of mirroring your neighbor, it’s about infusing your space with your own unique personality.

In other words, cookie-cutter is out.

That’s why, for The Wills Company, these ’80s, ’90s and early-2000s houses represent not a page from the design past, but an opportunity for the future. More and more clients are coming to the firm asking for a revamp of their homes’ tired ’90s-era style.

“We’re doing one right now with big, huge rooms and a big, huge, circular staircase,” Ridley says. “It’s a young couple in there, and they said, ‘What do we do with this?’ They’ve got four boys, and they needed more room.”

The goal for The Wills Company is to help the family open up the space while also minimizing adornment and lightening the finishes — essentially, taking that 1990s space and making it read 2018. “They have one of everything in there — a little bit of this and a little bit of that. It’s a hodge-podge of styles,” Ridley says. “The more we can simplify, the better off it’s going to be stylistically.”

Certain features of ’90s-era homes, like built-in TV niches, are over and not coming back. Others, like tray ceilings and built-in bookcases, will cycle in and out of style. But for a house that reads right now, overloading on architectural detail is out, Ridley says.

“We did another house off Granny White,” he says. “It had more vaulted ceilings than you can imagine, and that’s very typical of that period. We kept the high ceilings but got rid of all the fancy detailing, and that helped.”

BEFORE: Note the multiple levels in this tray ceiling.

AFTER: The same bathroom has scaled back crown molding while the ceiling height remains unchanged.

Something else that helps is to focus drama into one room or one feature so it makes the intended impact. For example, in a 2018 space you might see a charcoal fireplace wall in a house otherwise painted all white. In the ’80s and ’90s, though, drama exploded from every surface.

“Every room does not have to be vaulted and uber-special,” Ridley says. “Focus on where you want that drama to be, and let the other spaces be less. It gives the space that has drama all the more drama. When you do every room with a vaulted or tray ceiling, it gives no specialness to the rooms that do have it.”

We all know openness is the hallmark of modern-day design. On every HGTV show, in every shelter mag and on every home design blog, open and airy spaces abound. And typically, the first thing a homeowner charged with updating an ’80s or ’90s space wants to do is open it up.

That’s important, Ridley says. But the renovation also needs to fit the size, shape and style of the house. “You can be more communicative between the rooms, but you need to let it be the house that it is,” he says. “Don’t try to turn it into a New York loft because it’s not going to be a New York loft no matter what you do. Edit it down. Get rid of some of the fussiness of it.” That alone, he says, will help the space feel more open.

Another way to open up a space is to focus on its entry point. In many ’90s-era homes, for example, rooms with 10-foot ceilings are accessed by 6-foot, 8-inch doors. “Sometimes just raising the doors helps in these rooms to open up the space,” Ridley says. The same goes for bathroom countertops, which trend several inches taller than in the ’80s and ’90s.

BEFORE: French doors and a relatively short archway (in comparison to the tall ceilings) make the space feel cluttered and claustrophobic.

AFTER: Getting rid of the French doors shown in the “before” shot and heightening the archway are both impactful ways to make the space feel more open.

BEFORE: Note the recessed lighting and the height of the bathroom countertops.

AFTER: The recessed lighting was swapped out for tasteful sconces, and the countertop is slightly higher, a simple swap that makes a big impact.

BEFORE: This is a textbook ’80s his and hers bathroom — a luxury of the era.

AFTER: The same space has an updated feel thanks to a new, taller countertop, modern fixtures and new flooring — a tasteful blend of both hardwood and marble.

Flooring is another fix that can help turn a tired ’90s design into a modern-day space. In the ’90s many rooms were carpeted, including living rooms, dining rooms and sometimes even bathrooms. Now, hardwood rules the day. Adding hardwood flooring, painting wood-tone trim and changing out light fixtures and hardware are easy updates that go a long way, even without a full-scale renovation.

Another easy update, of course, is paint. The jewel tones of the ’90s and Tuscan hues of the 2000s are out, replaced by cool neutrals like white, cream and gray. “Paint can make a huge difference,” Ridley says. “Edit down, get it cleaner, get the lines and details consistent throughout the house.”

The 1980s, he adds, were the era of “Dynasty” and “Dallas” and “Falcon Crest.” He credits (perhaps blames) these nighttime television dramas for giving rise to an era of “more is more.”

“It’s all of that era – sequins, beads,” he says. “Everybody was trying to create that in their own house. That’s fun from a nostalgia standpoint, but everything doesn’t have to be the fanciest thing.”

Even if your home screams ’90s on the outside, inside it can be a clean-lined, relaxing retreat that speaks to the modern era. “Your house is not going to be this uber-modern home on the outside, but the interior decorating can be,” he says. “Interior design can go a long way in a house like that, and it’s worth investing in the decorating.”

For example, he and his team recently worked on a house with a giant living room with vaulted ceilings and an ornate center staircase that divided the space — in other words, drama from floor to ceiling. The homeowners struggled with where to place the furniture.

“There was no wall good for seating, and no one wanted to sit in there because it was so cavernous,” he explains. “So we made it into a grand, wonderful dining room. You can consider repurposing rooms — they don’t have to be what you thought they were. And the dining room is an example of a room that can move — it’s just a table. Most new houses don’t even have dining rooms.”

Along these lines, Ridley’s number one tip is to take the cues your home is already giving you, apply your taste and style, and think about ways your house can embrace the way you live. Pare it down to the essentials — that’s what modern living is really all about.

“It’s on a case-by-case basis,” Ridley says. “It’s also about simplifying. What do you like about the house? Let’s work with that.”

To learn more about The Wills Company, visit willscompany.com.

Kitchen Dreaming

Ah, January. Month of plans and dreams. Even if your 2017 Resolutions Manifesto has already lost its charm – don’t worry, those “Learn Italian at Home” tapes will be there when you’re ready – it’s always a good time to enrich your life in the kitchen. And aside from a great new cookbook (like the handful we gave and received over the holidays), nothing inspires the happy cooking life like a tweaked and improved kitchen.

Considering a kitchen renovation this year? Here are three ideas to get you going. We’re big believers in a “dream-first; dream-big” foundation for any home project: you can’t know what you really want unless you’ve considered many ideas – especially the unfamiliar and extraordinary.

Already a happy home cook? Let these gorgeous kitchens spark your cooking imagination. Just think what you’d be inspired to create in spaces like these.

1. Try Color. We love the clean and classic look of an all-white farm kitchen. But color – a lot, or a little – can add an important emotional depth to this central family space.

  • Design by Steven Gambrel.

2.  Step away from the built-in cupboards. Especially ones that match. We appreciate the tidy, clutter-wrangling appeal of uniform closed cupboards on kitchen walls and work islands. But there’s something fresh and inviting about kitchens that mix in open shelving and old-fashioned tables, breakfronts, and presses to create a more life-collected feel. It takes a commitment to keep all your dishes and gear pared down, neat, and dusted, but if you’re ready for that, it can work beautifully. Here are a few that get it right.

Let us know where your kitchen dreams take you. And when it’s time to make those dreams happen, the Wills Company can help. Ridley Wills and our design-build team will be ready when you are.