This week on Home Stories, Ashley plays detective in the Braddon apartment of CEO Philippa…
Feeling apprehensive about taking on an extension, renovation or new home build in Canberra? Homes by Howe’s transparent and thoughtful consultation and building process will put you at ease.
He may be an award-winning builder with a portfolio to make any design lover’s jaw drop, nevertheless, Brendan Howe doesn’t hesitate to smash building industry stereotypes.
The Managing Director of Homes by Howe, which specialises in knock-down rebuilds, new home builds and renovations, is on a mission to make the home design and building process as stress-free and transparent as possible. It’s something Brendan believes should be standard across the industry, but often isn’t.
“Unfortunately, many builders offer ‘all-inclusive quotes’ that are far from that,” Brendan tells me.
This can often lead to additional costs like government charges, disconnection fees or engineer and survey reports that you may not have budgeted for. Some companies even neglect to include the cost of demolition or asbestos removal, which can easily add tens of thousands of dollars to your project. This is all before building work has even started.
Brendan strongly believes in consulting a builder when designing your home. It’s a common misconception that all architects know the cost of building materials and structural requirements.
“A recent client had plans drawn before consulting us. We quickly noted that making a room 300mm shorter, would mean they could use timber instead of steel supports,” explains Brendan. “This will save them thousands of dollars and wouldn’t impact the usable space of the room.”
This is why Homes by Howe offers a Design and Consult package.
“We work with our clients and their budget. This package produces game-changing results that saves them valuable time and money.“
Brendan notes that this process also allows him to provide an all-inclusive detailed quote, room by room, right down to the brick.
Brendan doesn’t believe that he should be the gatekeeper to the construction industry, hiding the process behind a quote and the occasional check in. Instead, he wants to demystify it as much as possible—he’s even written articles that help educate you on some of the pitfalls and traps of renovating and building in Canberra. After all, he says, “you’re not supposed to know this stuff—that’s why we want to share our knowledge.”
When it’s time to build, Homes by Howe offers a bespoke app to allow clients unprecedented access to their project schedule and details. As Brendan puts it, clients don’t have to put blind faith in the process—they’ll see every element come together with their own eyes.
“We wanted to make sure clients had full oversight of their project. We upload photos and commentary of each aspect of the build, which they can access anywhere via the app. There’s also a calendar that tracks the various works being done and their expected timelines, so you can see that, for example, tomorrow they’ll be starting the tiling. It holds us to account and makes sure the client feels confident in the work being done, as it’s being done.”
The result is a sterling reputation among clients past and present. Indeed, renowned Canberra photographer Adam McGrath—who took the beautiful images in this article—had only one name in mind when it came to building his dream family home in Burra with wife Netty.
“Homes by Howe put all our ideas together and produced a home that surprises and excites us every day. As the seasons change, we are discovering more beauty throughout our home,” says Adam.
“Homes by Howe was honest with us right from the get-go and kept us on track explaining how certain decisions would affect the cost of the build and kept us on budget,” says Adam.
“But more importantly, they had ideas throughout the build that not only saved us money but gave us features we never would have thought of—and are now key aspects of the home.”
Commitment to quality no matter what the client’s budget is, is also at the heart of Homes by Howe. And Brendan’s passion for detail is obvious as he guides me through his new display home in Chapman—a sleek, split level family home where convenience blends effortlessly with modern design.
In the bathroom, Brendan draws my attention to how the tiles sit flush with the carpeted hall and notes that this levelling of the bathroom and hallway comes standard as part of any project, no matter the budget. It might seem a small thing, but it’s a thoughtful detail that Brendan says has saved many a stubbed toe.
Another example lies in the display home’s curved entranceway, a design element mirrored in the kitchen where wooden feature walls wrap around an Insta-worthy butler’s pantry.
“I love the way the curved walls guide the eye through the foyer to the main living spaces,” says Brendan, before adding with a grin that, “as a father of a little girl, I’m also aware that the fewer corners a house has, the better.”
The display home gives potential clients a taste of what they can expect in a Homes by Howe build. Featuring Miele appliances that can be remotely controlled via an app on your phone, smart-tech Velux skylights that close when they sense rain, and luxe fittings and furnishings to name a few.
But Brendan is the first to say that clients of any and all budgets are encouraged to engage his services.
“I don’t want people to look at this house and think they can’t use Homes by Howe for their extension or new build because we will be out of their price range. We work with budgets from a $20,000 renovation to a $4 million new home, and anything in between. This is why our display home features both high end details on the top floor and more cost-effective solutions on the lower floor.”
Feature image: Brendan Howe and his daughter Ivy in the new Homes by Howe Chapman display home.
Photography: Adam McGrath