6 Energy Efficient Tips for Your Nashville Home

By Henry Walsh

Dream Green

Ah, the simple and natural life in beautiful Tennessee – you can’t imagine being anywhere else! Nashville is one of the most eco-friendly cities in the nation. That’s why it’s essential to use ecologically sustainable options when remodeling your home. You’ll increase your property’s value as you help to improve our environment. The City of Nashville’s Division of Sustainability defines sustainability as elements that reduce carbon, waste, greenhouse gas emissions, and energy.

When designing and building upgrades to your Nashville home, you can add some design flair and “go green” in many different ways.

Start by reducing the amount of heat and electricity you use. The cost of energy-saving projects vary, but in the long run, the benefits of lower utility bills are worth it. It also pays off when the time comes to put the house up for sale. Doing your fair share to protect the environment is a big plus, too. These six remodeling and “fix-it” projects will get the job done.

1. Insulation

Weather-stripping, caulk, and sealant prevent heat from escaping during the winter and keep cool air inside during the summer. Controlling air flow with rigid foam insulation, especially in the attic, will make your home more energy efficient. Structural insulated panels (SIPs) on floors, ceilings, and walls cut down on wasted power and reduce outside noise. Leafy trees and awnings placed outside west and east-facing windows create natural shading.

2. Natural and Artificial Light

Let the sunshine in! Solar tubes and skylights bring in nature’s bright light. You can install clerestory windows in high-up wall sections where the sunshine streams through. Wood or vinyl framed multiple-pane windows reduce energy costs by keeping drafts at bay. Ask an architect about the feasibility of adding natural light windows for cooling and ventilation. Designing a solar energy system should start with an energy audit to see how much juice your house is using each season.

Compact fluorescent light bulbs use 75 percent less energy than standard incandescent ones, and they last 10 times as long. LED lights (light-emitting diodes) are brighter, do not burn out but instead dim over time, and are not hot to the touch. LEDs shine in a specific direction which allows them to use energy more efficiently than incandescent bulbs.

3. Eco-friendly Appliances

Replacing older units with energy-efficient appliances is a great way to upgrade your Nashville home. Look for Energy Star appliances such as dishwashers, washers and dryers, refrigerators, dehumidifiers, and air purifiers. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s yellow Energy Star label will help you choose the right appliances for your home.

4. Water Usage

Install low-flow showerheads and faucets, and low-flush toilets to reduce water usage. Low-flush toilets use about 1.3 gallons of water each flush, instead of the standard 1.6 gallons in regular toilets. The EPA estimates a savings of $90 per year. Showerheads have also gotten an upgrade by cutting down on the amount of water released. Look for the EPA’s WaterSenselabel when purchasing new showerheads for your bathroom. While you’re at it, ease up on those long, hot showers and fix the annoying dripping and leaky faucets!

You can save even more money by looking outside. Install a concrete patio to absorb heat and cut back on the size of the lawn. Plant drought-tolerant plants and check your sprinkler system for leaks.

5. Natural and Recycled Materials

Remodel your Nashville home with real wood, cork, bamboo, ceramic and stone tiles made from natural and recycled materials. Forest Service Council (FSC) wood is available for flooring and framing. It’s certified to be harvested in a sustainable manner. Recycled materials are also available from retailers who specialize in repurposed sinks, cabinet hardware, and flooring. Want to remodel the fireplace? Consider applying recycled tile or glass blocks around the hearth.

You can also use recycled wood in your yard and garden. Build a birdhouse with sustainable materials. Use recycled wood or bamboo to make a compost box. Use the compost box to recycle food scraps and nourish your garden!

6. Alexa, Turn Off the Lights!

Whichever method you prefer, adding smart technology will help you remember to do simple things. For example, a programmable thermostat will cut down on energy costs and keep the home temperature level. You can turn off lights, turn the heat down or the air conditioner off with the tap of an app.

Whether you’re getting it ready to sell or just want to remodel your Nashville home for a long stay, being energy-conscious will pay for itself. More importantly, it will help you to leave less of a carbon footprint on planet Earth.

Henry Walsh is a gardening writer and eco-conscious living advocate. He recently began his homesteading journey after many years of incorporating the principles into his urban lifestyle.

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.