By: Kali Newlen-Burden | Photos by: J. Sinclair
BUILDING THE BUSINESS
ICON Custom Builders transforms homes and leads by example – focusing on superior quality and creating positive working relationships that have turned into friendships with clients, subcontractors and trade partners. Owner and President Chuck Hicks shared how ICON got its name: “What it says is what we wanted to be: an icon in the industry.”
Prior to launching the business in 2005, Chuck and his wife, Shawn Bowman-Hicks, were flipping their own houses. Every few years, they would relocate for his job with Sara Lee (now Hanes). They were both drawn to older homes so they would buy, renovate, move, repeat. After Chuck left the textile business years later, Shawn encouraged him to get a general contractors license and pursue home renovation full-time. Shawn remembered saying, “What’s the worst that could happen? That we’d start this company and it would fail, and that would be okay.”
Chuck recalled, “When you start a business like this, who’s going to hire you? Who’s going to take that risk?” They had to begin somewhere, so they purchased a house to renovate and flip. Chuck self-performed many aspects of the renovation over a five-month period, working day and night. It took about three months for him to physically recover. With only $10k in profit, he laughed and said, “that was my income for the first year.” Nevertheless, he and Shawn remained dedicated to the dream.
The husband and wife team got more involved with the community and the Homebuilders Association, connected with realtors and participated in open houses and showcases. After buying and renovating several homes with an expanding team, they began the transition to exclusively client-driven projects. People started to take notice. “Our business grew every year because we were doing a great job renovating, and people kept hiring us,” Chuck recalled. “We kept building our business.”
Chuck credits ICON’s success to his incredible employees, subcontractors and trade partners. “To have the right people on the team has been a real focus,” he said. From master carpenter Don Guilbault’s custom pieces to project manager Doug Johnson’s problem-solving skills, every team member provides a valuable perspective to each project. Over the last 16 years, ICON’s workload has increased and the team has expanded, but the emphasis on relationships has remained the same.
The key is hiring people that are smarter and better than I am. It’s still hard to let go [of control] but I trust that my team can do it. – Chuck Hicks
A TIMELESS TRANSFORMATION
When homeowner Denise Hiller called ICON to lead a major renovation on her home built in 1928, Chuck knew his team would rise to the challenge. The project centered on a kitchen renovation, but the scope also included updates to the laundry room, mudroom and powder room. Doug Johnson – who oversaw the project – recalled, “one of our biggest challenges was creating this new open space which totally contradicts the original style of the home, which had a small kitchen and butler’s pantry.” He added, “tying new and old can really be a challenge.”
The goal was to modernize a few key spaces while preserving the home’s character and charm. Denise had a purpose behind every design decision: “I wanted it to feel like it could’ve been there the whole time.” ICON partnered with architect Mark Shaver, Jenny Roush Newman of West End Cabinets and Amanda Hiatt Interiors to bring Denise’s vision to life.
Jenny Roush Newman played a key role from the beginning. “I wanted to make sure that the homeowner would have a functional space that still fit the style of the home,” she said. The tiny footprint of the kitchen made it difficult for two to cook at the same time, so expanding the space was a priority. Once the floor plans were finalized, Jenny looked at the “flow,” carefully examining traffic patterns and appliance locations. She then designed the cabinets with form and function in mind. “I feel like I can have people in there and be talking to my kids while I’m working,” Denise shared. “It feels really functional and I’m happy to be in there now.”
ICON used Jenny’s final floor plans to determine window, door, lighting and vent placement in each space. She collaborated with Denise to design a corner hutch to replicate one that had been in the original breakfast nook. “Details like dropping the height of the hutch and adding a smaller profile crown, arch valance, glass doors, and decorative V-groove make it look like it had never been touched!” Jenny shared. They also said goodbye to the 1950s-style metal cabinets that didn’t accommodate the 2020-sized pots and pans that Denise uses.
Interior designer Amanda Hiatt served as a guide throughout the process to perfect every last detail, like incorporating aged brass hardware that will wear and patina to provide some soul and depth. She explained, “we wanted the cabinets to function as modern, but wanted it to feel like we had not stuck this brand-new white box on the back of this beautiful brick 1920s home.”
It’s not just the kitchen that received an upgrade. ICON renovated the laundry room and mudroom, and relocated a bath. They also designed an adjacent space for Denise’s two children to complete their schoolwork. “It’s nice having them here where I can pop in and help if I need to, and we’re all together,” Denise shared. Each space shares similar design features – marble countertops, wooden shelves and warm colors and textures – that flow beautifully to create a cohesive look.
DEDICATION TO DETAIL
Just like every home is unique, so are the details ICON incorporates to transform a space, no matter how complicated or time-consuming. Amanda will often ask Chuck, “can we do ____?” and he always responds, “we can do it.” For the Hiller family’s renovation, Doug came up with the idea to use a reclaimed door as a pocket door between the kitchen and mudroom: “it probably matches the house in age.”
“A lot of contractors would shy away from asking you to go look at a salvage yard for a door that’s going to be harder to install,” Amanda said. But Doug did not hesitate because he knew that incorporating older pieces was important to the client. This vintage door was heavier and thicker than a modern wooden door, so ICON’s carpenter Don Guilbault put in the work to ensure it slides and glides naturally. Adding some antique brass hardware to it “makes it feel like it has always been there,” Doug added.
Another creative solution involved a transom window above the pocket door between the kitchen and dining room. In a typical situation, they would cut a hole through the wall, but that was not an option. They could not risk disrupting the original wallpaper in the dining room. The solution? Creating a faux transom using mirrored glass. “It looks like you’re looking into the dining room, but you’re actually getting a reflection from the lanterns in the kitchen,” Amanda shared. “It mirrors the other glass transoms in the rest of the space.”
Denise was thrilled to be able to cook on Thanksgiving Day, just like the ICON team promised. “They made it happen for me,” she shared. Despite delays and disruptions due to the Covid-19 pandemic, ICON continued doing business safely and efficiently. Amanda has come to expect this level of service when working with ICON: “when they tell you the turkey is going to cook on Thanksgiving, they’ll be there to make sure everything gets done.”
This reflects ICON’s top priority of building client relationships. “After a project is complete, they don’t just disappear,” Amanda shared. “They’re still around if something goes wrong.” ICON’s intent is that Denise and her family are happy today, tomorrow, next year, and the year after that.
“Clients can have that confidence that we’re here, that we stand behind our work and that we always take care of any issues that may arise,” Chuck said. “Once we engage with clients, if they need a lightbulb changed, we’ll come change the lightbulb.”
Customer service and craftsmanship – to get the combination of those two things is not easy in this industry. There are some great people who build, but it’s not the same quality. And there are some people who provide really good quality, but they do not care for the customer the same way that ICON does…I feel like [the ICON team] checks all the boxes for me. – Amanda Hiatt
Thinking about how to transform your home? Contact ICON Custom Builders at www.iconcustombuilders.com or call 336-306-9055 to schedule a consultation. Connect with us on Instagram, Facebook and Houzz. We look forward to partnering with you on your next home project!
J. Sinclair Photography: www.jsinclair.com
Jenny Roush Newman (West End Cabinets): www.westendcabinetcompany.com
Amanda Hiatt Interiors: www.amandahiattinteriors.com
[fbcomments url="" width="100%" count="off" num="15" countmsg="Facebook Comments"]