Bloom-Here A Non-Profit Helping Women Regain Dignity & Purpose

Melinda Taylor has been a trailblazer her entire life. Her drive, passion, and purpose to help women victimized by domestic violence, sex trafficking the slave trade was born from her own story. Melinda enjoyed a successful career in the beauty industry at an executive level. She ran businesses at a global and national level that catapulted her passion and vision for Bloomhere. After a successful career, she had a burden for abused women because she was living in an abusive relationship and yet succeeding at the highest level of the beauty industry.

Melinda, what happened that turned the corner for you?
I was in my late 20’s flourishing professionally, but the abusive relationship was getting worse. I knew I needed to get help and went to a therapist and realized something was wrong. So I moved to Raleigh, North Carolina, and continued to get my life in order through therapy, yoga, and many things that helped me heal in a beautiful way. I had a home I could come home to every night and sleep in a bed and was able to heal because I had had all the tools I needed to recover and heal.

But that made you think about women who are struggling and don’t have the means?
Yes, during that time I’m thinking about how are women on the street healing? What does this look like for them? I remember, I was on a plane and wrote in my journal “Bloomhere” and I knew! At 40, I met the love of my life and it changed my life. I met Jonathan and he met a woman who was a professional who had her own home, paid her own bills, and made six figures. It was so good for us and falling in love and all that comes with it.

And you made a change, didn’t you?
Yes, I started standing down in my role professionally and stepping down as Vice President, and taking a smaller territory. During that time I was thinking about what I could do and started volunteering to see what women on the street were experiencing and what was going on with them. I would ask them about their stories and learn how they were able to make more money through the sex trade to provide for their kids and life. I visited women’s shelters and began to learn that these women have no money and we have a broken system. No matter how much we were helping these women we were only giving them what they need and we were not giving them the tools and space to heal. We have generational scarring of women whose mothers were all abused and so for us to gradually get to the source we have to go to the source, which is really hard to do.

What was the next step?
I discovered that these women need a home, a safe place to stay. They need a place to stay and not be raped, attacked, or stealing their stuff on the street. So during this time, I went on a yoga retreat and it came to me that these women needed shelter and a house. During this time it was made aware to me that I was the victim of abuse as a child and I was molested by family members, but I had the tools to move through it. After the retreat, I just knew it was time and what my purpose was.

What did that mean realization mean for you personally?
I knew I was going to have to quit my job, tell my partner, sell my house and take out my 401K and start a non-profit to help these women. And we did it!

How did it begin?
I started meeting people and I met seven women by chance one day while volunteering and became friends with them and within six months they gave the money for me to start Bloomhere. They literally wrote me a check and said start it.

What is the mission of Bloom Here?
We take women who have been abused, addicted, and trafficked and give rent, dental, medical, and mental free for two years. Two years is enough time for your body to reset and your emotional state to reset so you can have a chance to learn a different way of life. Their program is broken into four quarters.

Describe those four quarters, please?
It is a very structured program. The women come in and for the first 90 days, they are learning how to care for themselves again because when they are living on the street is lost upon them. They don’t know how to take care of themselves at that point because they are constantly worrying about how they are going to get money living on the streets. The house is self-governed. They are in charge of cleaning, and meals. They have to attend intensive outpatient therapy and their days are full of regulated activities and intentional recovery.

Tell us how you came about producing the body oils, scents, and products?
As I was building this non-profit I began to think about how we are going to sustain this non-profit over the years. Fundraising is hard to do while you are running a non-profit and trying to run a business and being the executive director. I also wanted the women to learn a trade skill and how to work in an environment and for it to be something beautiful, but I also knew body oils from my professional background and how that could be a great product for the women to reconnect with their body, smell and make a living wage at $15 per hour.

Why body oils?
Women on the street have one thing they need. People are always offering things for them to carry from shelters, but the one thing they all agree upon is scented body oils so they can moisturize their skin.

So when do these women work and produce the product for sale?
We have found through trial and error that these women are ready to work after the first 90 days. They will come in and make the oils in the house and they work a minimum of 15 hours per week. Many of them are still recovering, healing, and learning. We adjust to every woman that comes in depending upon their background, story, and circumstances.

How many women are in the program and what is the maximum?
Right now we have four in the program and we are getting another house coming online soon so we will have eight in the program. Our goal is to have 24 women in the program and the bigger goal is to have a shared house with a teaching kitchen and then build tiny houses around this main house.

What’s the key ingredient for success?
What’s missing with these women is a sense of community. We are trying to rebuild here is relationships with women and them trying to rebuild their own sense of community. The big goal is to have these women run the community. To run the body oils, the house, to be on the board. This is not mine, this is for them!

Tell us how the graduates relate to the newbies?
The graduates stay with us for two years because they deal with transitional housing. They are responsible for a certain amount of volunteer hours to mentoring the newbies, them with bus routes, jobs, cell phones, health care, etc. We are building a community of empowering women to encourage one another with dignity and using tools to help them to where they need to be.

How can people help Bloom Here?
First of all, making a financial commitment and contribution is the best way to help because no matter where you are in the U.S. we are only one of 50 houses in the U.S. doing this. So there is a network of us helping women across the country move away from their abuser, or trafficker. So you know no matter where you are you are supporting women across the U.S. to break free and heal. When you give to us that gives the ability to help women in Raleigh but you have helped women across 25 states move away from their abuser or trafficker. We have a network.

Melinda, describe the enormity of sex trafficking and domestic violence in America
Sex trafficking is the number one money-maker in the world. It makes more money than NFL Football, and Raleigh-Durham is ranked sixth in sex trafficking due to its access to I-95 and I-85. Sex trafficking is something most people don’t understand, yes, it’s women from Haiti, children, but also what happens it’s just like prostitution, no woman wants a man to tell her like a pimp to tell her what to do with her body. And the runaways are snatched up and trafficked. We deal with a society where people say a woman could’ve left her abuser and it’s her fault and she could have left. No one knows their story. People typically blame the woman and no one knows the woman’s or child’s story. No one chooses this kind of life to be a stripper or prostitute. It is a generational cycle that we are trying to break.

What About the Men Ensared in this Cycle of Dysfunction?
This is a very hard one for me, but we are even starting to deal with the men who are trafficking the women. Something happened to them and that’s where this is all this grace you have to find in your soul, which breaks you. Yet, you have to realize that generationally something happened to this man that within his soul it’s okay to sell a woman. And that’s a hard place to come too. Many of these men were abused as children and are simply repeating a cycle of generational behavior. This is so prevalent in society and culture.

Jonathan, why Is this cause so important to Wolk360?
This is so systemic within society and we had no concept that people would treat other people this way. It became clear to us as a company that we could provide some support and increase awareness that this is out there and it’s real. It is inherent upon companies and organizations to help people understand how prevalent this is and how we can help as a corporate community to arrest it in tangible ways.

So here is a product, body oils that you can buy that support a product that is doing good and making a difference in the lives of people and the redemption of society and people. Why wouldn’t you invest in something like this?

We are an architecture, real estate, and construction company but we want to help these women run companies. Whether you are a pharmaceutical company, attorney, tax firm, research firm, or whatever you do we need to join together to rise above it and help these women in need.

Wolk360 in Raleigh, North Carolina, is an innovative and creative buy-design-build firm specializing in helping clients create the perfect home. The firm is unique in that it has a multi-disciplinary team of designers, architects, builders, and real estate agents, so clients do not have to deal with multiple players when pursuing their dream. From acquisition, planning, development, demolition, and build they serve residential and commercial clients with high-quality start to finish custom projects. Wolk360 is engaged in ongoing community support for non-profit organizations and helping to improve the quality of life in the Raleigh-Durham area and beyond.

919.291.7622​ Email: jonathan@wolk360.com

Advantages of Real Estate Acquisition, Renovation & Turn-Key Sale With One Firm

Wolk360 is a premier real estate, and design-build firm located in Raleigh, North Carolina, offering multiple levels of personalized service for real estate clients at different levels of need. One of the most recent projects is a unique niche the company is providing for clients who don’t have the time for relocation during a renovation, or their timeline prevents them from going through the process of finding property and waiting on the demolition and design-build process.

Wolk360 founder and president Jonathan Wolk, AIA discusses one of the latest projects within the firm’s diverse portfolio of projects.

Jonathan, what is this new approach?
We’ve got a piece of land we are working with and the opportunity to list two properties right now. One is a site we are listing with the seller who wants us to provide a turn-key design and build construction solution through the buyer. The other project is located in the North Hills community. This particular property was purchased by our company and we are finishing up the renovations and getting ready to list it on the market.

Can you describe the North Hills project?

The North Hills house is a split-level house, which is a very common design for the area from the 1960s-70s. We toured the house and decided to purchase it without a specific client or buyer in mind. It’s a house that was typical of the era with rooms cut up into small sizes that don’t match today’s lifestyles and needs.

On a split level, you come in and you’re on the main level with the kitchen, living, and dining rooms. This house has a nice sunroom too. We went in to modify the house to the way people live today.

What kind of changes did you make?
We removed all the walls and the interior walls from the main level. So now you have a nice open kitchen with a bar and instead of entering with a little foyer, you walk into this nice beautiful open area. Removing the popcorn ceilings along with the light coming into the kitchen creates a sense of bright open space with all new cabinets, quartz countertops. Along with removing carpet and installing new bamboo floors throughout the house.

And the bedroom renovations?
The upstairs bedrooms were actually decent so now with Covid everyone is looking for a home office, a home yoga, a reading room, or something similar. However, the bedrooms were too small for a master bedroom, but ideal for a children’s or guest bedroom. Our team renovated the upstairs bathroom with built-in shelves and opened up that space with all new fixtures. Going downstairs there was a den with a fireplace and now that we have the sunroom, we converted that space to the master bedroom. Now when you come down the stairs you’ve got a nice sized laundry room, the MBR with a really nice walk-in closet, and a master bathroom. We went from a master that was 12X12 to one that is 20X14.

Why not just tear it down and rebuild?
Now you have a luxurious first floor MBR with a fireplace and a separate entrance away from the kids, guests, and the rest of the house. It offers a great deal of privacy. This is a neighborhood that is known for tear-downs and rebuilding what we call “Mc-Mansions”. Instead of tearing it down and building a $2M house, we decided to preserve the original house.

Also providing significant updates that allow us to check all the real estate boxes of an open floorplan with a first floor MBR, quartz countertops and it presents like a $1M home that you can buy for ¾’s of the price without having to do a total demolition and rebuild. Split levels are typically not a desirable floor plan because they tend to be cut up, so we just made this a very desirable floor plan.

What are the advantages of this approach?
From a company standpoint, we control the entire process. Since we are the client we are making the financial, investment, and finishing decisions which means we can move a lot faster. This increases our turnaround time. For example, choosing a bamboo floor finish eliminates the laminate price point to save money but still provides an elegant look and feel. We are doing bamboo in the entire house except for the bathrooms and laundry. This offers sustainability and green features. The advantage for our company is that we are not only making a profit on the renovation but also on the sale of the listing.

How will you market this property & is this something you will continue to pursue?
We will list it with MLS soon and post it on our social media channels that it’s going to be on the market very soon. I would say this is 5-10% of what we do versus contracted customers to turn a property. I think this is a way to serve clients in a different way. Some want to go through designing, renovating, and building, but others just don’t have the time and need a place sooner. This is a way to fill that void. If someone wants a house in North Hills this is a way to get it now as opposed to going through the long process.

What does this cut for you in terms of the typical process?
There are several examples. One is with the hardwood floors as we’ve discussed before with supply chain issues. This hardwood floor has a particular glue to adhere it to the concrete floor but there is no glue available to do it. So a design-build owner might have had an issue with this delay and this could’ve put a damper on it because we are waiting up to 30 days for the glue to show up. It can delay closings, but providing the opportunity for someone to move into a place fully renovated and brand new without having to deal with the supply and logistics issues cuts the time frame drastically.

What is the value of the property pre and post-renovation?
We bought the house for $400K and we are putting $100K into it and will sell it for $650K. In this neighborhood, somebody else would’ve bought it, demolished it, and built a $1.5-2M home.

What about structural challenges?
We didn’t have many on this project because the changes we were making were all interior updates. The walls were not an issue because the roof stood on the trusses and we didn’t have any exterior load-bearing wall changes.

This is the kind of project we would like to pursue once a quarter. At this point, we don’t have the capacity to do one more than one at a time, but as we keep getting more and more successful with them we can get more done in a shorter span of time. Location is critical to these projects and we are very selective about them.

When homeowners in communities like North Hills see this kind of transformation without a total demolition they get a greater understanding of how they could transform their home into 21st Century functionality. It opens doors for surrounding neighbors to dream and consider the possibilities for their homes without relocating.

Wolk360 in Raleigh, North Carolina, is an innovative and creative buy-design-build firm specializing in helping clients create the perfect home. The firm is unique in that it has a multi-disciplinary team of designers, architects, builders, and real estate agents, so clients do not have to deal with multiple players when pursuing their dream. From acquisition, planning, development, demolition, and build they serve residential and commercial clients with high-quality start to finish custom projects.

919.291.7622
Email: jonathan@wolk360.com

From Real Estate Acquisition Through Design-Build

If you’re considering buying and renovating an established home to fit your unique needs or dreams, you will have to deal with multiple people and companies. To complete the process, you will have to secure a realtor, architect, builder, contractor, and possibly even deal with other vendors. For the average layperson, it can be all too consuming and confusing. But, what if one company could do it all from real estate acquisition and closing through the design-build process? Imagine dealing with only one company to purchase a property, design, and build your dream place.

Wolk360 in Raleigh, North Carolina, is an innovative and creative buy-design-build firm specializing in helping clients create the perfect home. The firm is unique in that it has a multi-disciplinary team of designers, architects, builders, and real estate agents, so clients do not have to deal with multiple players when pursuing their dream. From acquisition, planning, development, demolition, and build they serve residential and commercial clients with high-quality start to finish custom projects.

Company founder Jonathan Wolk, AIA, is passionate about finding properties that are an exact fit for clients and seeing the project through from design, demolition, and build-out to occupancy. The approach is called the “full 360”. We sat down with Jonathan to discuss their disciplined 9-step process.

Jonathan, what led you to create the “full 360”?
When we were just doing design-build, I discovered that the decisions were made before the designer or builder, coming from the real estate side. For example, someone would say they wanted a three-bedroom, four-bathroom house and are looking for it but can’t find it. When a designer, architect, and builder look at existing properties, they can see ways to transform a house to fulfill a clients dream. A real estate agent can’t do that.

Even if our firm isn’t handling the real estate side, we can look at an existing house in a culture of tear-down and build from the ground up and imagine something that delivers precisely what the client wants. So, instead of tearing a house down and rebuilding a $2M house, we can work with the pre-existing structure and produce a renovated custom home at a lower cost. Being part of the acquisition process allows us to be on the front end, helping the real estate agent and the buyer achieve their goals.

So there is an easier way?
We’ve created a streamlined process. It’s very similar to what Apple has done with fully integrating their software and hardware. We are looking to incorporate real estate, design, and construction. The client has a single source of responsibility and continuity, so they don’t have to deal with multiple sources, contracts, and vendors. It smooths out the entire process, so the client has worked with one team that helps deliver their vision at the end of the day.

This process does take a lot of pressure off the clients, right?
Everyone is busy, whether it is a residential or commercial client. Time is a precious commodity. It is a complex and emotional process for the buyer. For many people, it’s the most significant investment they will make, and there is a lot on the line. So to find three companies on your own that you can afford to share confidential information and time with is taxing. When people meet with us and we explain the turn-key process, they get it. By dealing with one company, they save time, reduce their anxiety, and can save money along the way.

Think of it this way: Many real estate agents don’t want to find a $300,000 home when the client has a $750,000 budget because they work on commission, and that’s understandable. Architects have a reputation for imposing their will and don’t understand budgets, and because we are a team, we have a sensibility about design and budget. Our goal is to design the client’s vision. If you look at our portfolio, our projects are very diverse because we produce what our clients want and we aren’t promoting a stylistic or cookie-cutter agenda. I love those architects that push a stylistic agenda, but that’s just not our style. We understand our client’s goals, and we work with them to achieve those goals.

Simultaneously we work to help them with a budget. Today, with labor and material costs fluctuating dramatically due to supply and demand, Covid, and dramatic price increases, we have to work that out early in the process and monitor it constantly to execute.

The Wolk360 approach is really about a relationship, isn’t it?
For many, this is the most significant investment in their life or that time in their life. It is about a relationship, and there has to be a high level of trust. And we have gone through some of the most challenging times of my career over the pandemic. Between labor and material shortages and strange weather, this year has been challenging. Conversely, everybody is busy, which adds to it.

They have to trust that we will execute even if there is frustration over a delay. For example, we had a project where we waited months for the windows, and when they arrived, they were the wrong windows, then we had to wait for months for the correct windows to arrive. Our team works endlessly communicating with our clients. I’m a believer in a very open book process and constantly communicating with our clients. It’s an intimate relationship, and to do that with three separate companies (realtor, design, and construction) that’s asking a lot of the client. If you drill down into it, that is a lot of sharing with many people. What ends up happening if you don’t want to share it with three different people you end up compartmentalizing, and then the three entities don’t have the complete picture, vision, goals, and constraints.

Most of our clients are incredibly busy. We typically deal with people who own and run their own companies; they have families, and having meetings with three different companies takes up a lot of their time. Dealing with one company promotes trust and saves a lot of time.

Can you describe the 9-step process?
Everything begins with a consultation which we call the “why and what for?” For example:

– Why are you looking for a house?
– What kind of house or neighborhood?
– Why are you looking to downsize?
– Why are you looking to expand your business?
– What’s happened in your life to promote this change?
– Are you new to the area?
– What do you need, where do you want to be?

The process is about trying to get a feel and understanding of the reasons clients want to move and the specific location where they want to live. Then, we ask about the budget, their programmatic requirements, do they even know what those are, is this a forever home or a five-year home? Are the kids young or leaving soon to go to college? Is it an investment property? We discuss all of these things in the initial conversation to understand what the client wants. The next step is the real estate component.

Step 2: Real Estate
This step involves agency agreements, contracts, the total budget, and determining what we need to look for in terms of property size, look and feel, location, etc. We establish the budget to decide if we are finding an existing home to renovate or if we need to search for land on which to build.

The second phase of the real estate process is looking at properties, touring houses, and making offers. Wolk360 ensures the client has the necessary bank approval to make offers loaded up, whether for a property or an existing home. We do a quick schematic design if we find something, primarily a remodel, renovation, or even a tear-down. At this point, we have our feet in two phases. We are in the real estate phase, but we also jump into the design phase to look at a specific property and what it can do for them.

If they like what our team proposes, then we do a quick napkin budget and make an offer on the property, and in this market, we may have to make several offers on the property they want. Eventually, we get it, and then we move into the design phase.

Please describe the design phase.
We survey the house or the property, and we come up with a design and do another construction budget where we look at floorplans, elevations, materials, and further input from the owner. Then we move into construction documents.

What are the construction documents?
These are the plans we use for building and permitting. They are detailed drawings, and we work out the details of what they want, like quartz/granite countertops, fixtures, flooring, tile, and more of those materials. While working through construction documents, we also work through the pre-construction, finalizing the budget, and putting together a loan package: the design plans, project schedule, and the final pricing budget to close. The client can present this to their lender and say here is the property, design, and what it’s going to cost. Now they have a total package and can close on their construction loan and their mortgage.

What’s the next step?

We can begin construction with another contract and the necessary deposits to get us going with a launch meeting to kickoff and get all our contractors on site. We review the schedule, everybody’s role and review final selections with the owner. We begin construction, and depending upon the size of the project, it can be a two, three, six, nine, or 12-month process. We do regular updates with clients onsite and let them know what’s going on during this time. I always tell clients that things move very quickly at the beginning of construction, whether it’s demolition and framing, then it gets all sheeted up, and things slow down. After that, the tedious work begins like plumbing, electrical, HVAC, drywall, finishes, and other minute details. It seems like everything is cruising to the owner, and suddenly it comes to a grinding halt, but it doesn’t because now you are doing the small, tedious work of finishing, and that takes time.

Throughout the construction process, we communicate with the clients on progress, material, and supply delays. We used to touch on this, but in today’s market, we have to stress it. It’s not just shipping delays, but material cost increases are crazy. For example, a year ago, 2X4’s were $3, and today they are $9! When you are buying 100 2×4’s that’s a huge hit. A lot of our clients understand it, and nobody likes it. We don’t like it, and it doesn’t increase our profit, and that’s why at the beginning of the process, we communicate these escalating material costs, so there are no surprises for the client. We have to build in contingencies, and we share this at the beginning of the process.

Our team understands this emotional time for our clients and that a lot of money comes with a great deal of trust. It’s a frustrating, crazy, and exciting experience. The building or renovation of a house is a stressful process for families. Someone once said that building a house breaks up more marriages than infidelity. We take that into account from the get-go and communicate that to new clients. The Wolk360 team wants to make the process as smooth as possible for our clients and ourselves.

Wolk360 is grateful for our clients because most of them understand these nuances, and they have the means to afford it.

What happens upon completion of the project?
Upon completing the project, we do a final walkthrough with the client to start generating a punch list early. We get our CO and, they can move in and start living in their new home, but it doesn’t end there for us because that’s when our warranty begins. There is a one-year warranty. We tell our owners not to wait for the year to be up if something were to arise. We make sure to do quarterly warranty check-ins. We tell our clients not to wait for the one-year warranty but to let us know when anything concerns them.

WOLK360 was founded in 2016 by Jonathan Wolk, AIA, as a turnkey solution for small and mid-size projects to provide a single source for busy Owners. To provide cost-effective solutions to our clients, we are a lean organization with a team of reliable sub-contractors that has a long history of working together. Projects range from new residential, residential renovations, first and second-generation office, and retail fitups ranging in size from 1,000 sq. ft. up to 100,000 sq. ft building renovations.

(Phone) 919.291.7622​ Email: jonathan@wolk360.com

Chop The Top #2

Wolk360 is a real estate, design-build firm specializing in helping clients acquire property and build their dream home, business, or investment property. A recent project in Raleigh named Chop the Top #2 is a prime example of its capabilities in helping clients fulfill their dreams. Jonathan, President and founder, recently discussed the project:

We worked with a real estate agent to help their client who saw one of our recently completed projects and they liked it.

We toured a beautiful house on a corner lot in downtown Raleigh. The plan is to gut the inside of the house, reconfigure the downstairs so they will have a large kitchen, expand the front room with large windows, and a porch on the back of the house. Then we will “chop the top” off the house and add a second floor with a master bedroom, bedrooms, and a reading nook with beautiful glass.

We are going through the budgeting process and will then go over a final budget to finish the plans, submit for a permit, and get ready to start construction. We have already begun some exploratory demolition to check on things like the foundation and wall conditions. Our goal is to begin the primary demolition and construction later this month.

How old is the house?
The house was built in the early ’50s, just after WWII. One of the cool things about this property is that it’s located in an older section downtown on a corner lot. We did discuss the possibility of tearing the house down and rebuilding. However, if we tore this house down, we would not rebuild as big of a footprint because of the new “setback” requirements. One of the benefits and value this property gives is building more space by maintaining the existing footprint than a tear-down—one of the nuances I love about this property and project. We are adding value to the property by saving the house because you would not build it today.

After seeing what we did with the Hargett Street project, an old bungalow we gutted downtown, they came to us. We took them on a walkthrough of that project, and they liked what they saw. The client said, “This is precisely what we want to do. Can you help us?” We worked with their realtor to find properties and search together to see what might work. Then, we found this particular property. Being an all brick house gives it value. Even though it’s in bad shape, it’s got character and is in a great location. You could not build this house today under current restrictions and codes.

The client currently lives in the suburbs, and they are downsizing. They’ve lived all over the world and want to live downtown. They like the culture downtown. The ability to walk to a bar or restaurant is a plus as well. They can downsize with a smaller house with more character than what they had in the suburbs. The design we’re working on meets their new living needs and preferences. It has this entertaining kitchen and a nice-sized living room. We are using the space on the lower level, and instead of all these rooms chopped up like they were, we are opening up the entire lower level. The footprint and square footage is good; it’s just basically how do you open it up? How do you make it bigger than it is? And with the opportunity to add in a second-floor provides them all the benefits they need for their lifestyle and focus as they transition into empty-nesters.

What are the challenges in a project like this?
We sat down with the clients and talked about their specific needs and what they wanted. They have elderly parents and enjoyed a ground-floor bedroom that is a bedroom but not a master bedroom. And quite frankly, that was good because it wouldn’t fit with the house’s Footprint configuration.

What I like about the place is that it’s got a small foyer upon entry, but then it has this nice sized living room that’s essentially existing with an old wood-burning fireplace that we will convert to gas. Then, it had a tiny kitchen, small bedrooms, a dining room, and we decided to open up all that space to give them a nice big kitchen that works off the living room and found a nice little niche to put the stairs in for the second floor.

When you come to the second floor, you’ve got a master bedroom that essentially sits over the living room, and you have a nice-sized master bedroom that stacks. The goal was to simplify using the existing parameters of the house and staying within them. So there are multiple bedrooms upstairs and a little niche space, or a reading room. The design opportunities started to come together. We have the windows for the bedroom that cast a lot of light for the upper hallway, and that nook has a nice high window that brings morning light into the room. Going back and forth with the clients, we wanted to maintain the exterior brick and keep the stone front porch, and everything will be painted white. After putting together the design, it’s come together nicely and meets the client’s goals.

Describe the process of chopping the top of the house to add the second floor.
One of the first questions to ask is; can the footings support the second story addition? The answer was no, so we had to come in and reinforce the footings to add the second floor. In Chop the Top 1, we built additional foundations and added posts to support the additional floor. We are doing an elevated slab in this house so the whole floor is structural and easier to bring down the loads to where they should be. When taking off the roof of a home, you’ve got to look at the foundation and start underground with exploratory work to decide what the solution is for going up.

The next step is to chop it off with selected demolition on the interior and take the roof rafters off piece by piece. They will come back in and add the flooring and foundation support, then add the walls and a new second-floor roof.

It’s about a nine-month timeline, give or take a month. Supply and logistic demands will mean we have to order ahead of our specific project calendar. Spray foam insulation is an issue the industry is adjusting as we have many other supply and cost issues.

Wolk360 in Raleigh, North Carolina, is an innovative and creative buy-design-build firm specializing in helping clients create the perfect home. The firm is unique in that it has a multi-disciplinary team of designers, architects, builders, and real estate agents, so clients do not have to deal with multiple players when pursuing their dream. From acquisition, planning, development, demolition, and build they serve residential and commercial clients with high-quality start to finish custom projects.

WOLK360 was founded in 2016 by Jonathan Wolk, AIA, as a turnkey solution for small and mid-size projects to provide a single source for busy Owners. To provide cost-effective solutions to our clients, we are a lean organization with a team of reliable sub-contractors that has a long history of working together. Projects range from new residential, residential renovations, first and second-generation office, and retail fitups ranging in size from 1,000 sq. ft. up to 100,000 sq. ft building renovations.
(Phone) 919.291.7622​ Email: jonathan@wolk360.com

The Full 360: Casa de Abuela in Raleigh, NC

Wolk360 in Raleigh, North Carolina is an innovative and creative buy-design-build firm that specializes in helping clients create the perfect home. The firm is unique in that it has a multi-disciplinary team of designers, architects, builders, and real estate agents so clients do not have to deal with multiple players when pursuing their dream. From acquisition, planning, development, demolition, and build they serve residential and commercial clients with high-quality start to finish custom projects.

WOLK360 was founded in 2016 by Jonathan Wolk, AIA as a turnkey solution for small and mid-size projects to provide a single source for busy Owners. To provide cost-effective solutions to our clients, we are a lean organization with a team of reliable sub-contractors that has a long history of working together. Projects range from new residential, residential renovations, first and second-generation office, and retail fitups ranging in size from 1,000 sq. ft. up to 100,000 sq. ft building renovations.

One of their more recent projects has an interesting story behind it. Firm founder and president, Jonathan Wolk, AIA tells us about a unique and challenging renovation in Raleigh’s historic Mordecai community.

What can you tell us about Watauga and the backstory behind the project?

Watauga goes by several names. 1206 Watauga Street is the address of the house but officially the project goes by the name ‘Casa de Abuela’ because the owner is like a mother/grandmother to me. I started calling her Abuela, which means grandmother in Spanish. We also call it “chop the top” because we’re taking off the roof and adding a second floor. It will have a fresh new modern look to it, and I couldn’t be more excited to build an amazing home for someone so close to me.

This old neighborhood sounds really interesting, is there a backstory to it?

There is a great story about “Mordecai”. A Jewish man moved to Raleigh and built his business and name, but he didn’t want to be perceived as being Jewish because it was North Carolina in the early 1800s. Instead of pronouncing it by the traditional Hebrew name of Mordecai he changed it to be pronounced as, “Mor-de-key”.

Describe the vision and how it began?

It’s an interesting story because the client wanted to find a house downtown in a nice little community with sidewalks, etc. She also wanted to find a house that we could renovate. We looked at possible tear-down sites to build a new house, but those were not in neighborhoods that were walkable for her. She wanted to be able to walk to the coffee shop, the pharmacy, pick up small groceries, and other errands like that. One Saturday we drove around and looked at a bunch of open houses, however nothing was quite clicking.

So how did you find the right property?

A friend of my girlfriend called her while we were in the middle of this search process and said that her hot water heater was on the fritz and asked if I would come by and look at it. It just so happened she was looking to move, and I told her about my client and asked if I could bring her by to look at the house. I then took the client by and told her to look around because the neighborhood met her criteria and it’s a great house to renovate. It’s an all-brick house and something we could really renovate and build-out. We put the deal together and made an offer. We call this deal the “full 360” because we represented the seller, buyer and now we are doing the design and starting on the construction which shows our wheelhouse.

Why this neighborhood?

Mordecai is a downtown community that is going through a huge transition. Unfortunately, a lot of houses are getting torn down and cutting lots in half to put in two houses or a McMansion. She wanted to keep the old home and preserve the history of the neighborhood while adding her value and vision. We’ve been collaborating on the design since March, then began demolition in June. Our target date for completion is towards spring of 2022.

Can you explain the scope of the project and its various stages?

The house was built in the 1950s, with brick and hardwood floors that we debated to save or not. Deciding not to save them and use all new hardwood floors throughout. It’s your classic post-WWII 3 bedrooms, one bath, small kitchen type of home. We are blowing out the back of the house so that we can expand the kitchen. There is a swimming pool which we’re going to fill in because the client would like a garage instead, but still enough room for a fenced in backyard. Blowing out the back end for the kitchen remodel will allow us to also expand the master bedroom and create a master bathroom. In its original state, it is about 1,000 sq. ft, and when we finish it will be about 2,500 sq. ft. The lot is just under a quarter acre which is why we must build a second floor.

Can you describe that process?

When we expand up, there will be two bedrooms and a bathroom with a nice loft space. The client wanted a lot of natural light and some volume to the living-dining area. To create this, we will build an angled roof with a loft including an outdoor living space to where she can go on a back porch and the front porch. All the space in this house will be utilized to fit her wants and needs.

In the design process what were the challenges for your team?

Just adding the second floor is a challenge. Then, adding the second floor with a big hole in it because of the volume space we are creating provides a structural challenge. We have this wall we are tearing down and expanding it up another ten feet. We wrestled with a lot of different issues like sun angles, roof visibility, and materials. One day I had this epiphany after fighting all these issues and thought “why don’t we just change the slope of the roof from low-left to right-high, to low-right to left-high” which solves all these problems for us. It might take a couple tries to get the design right, but once it’s right its perfect.

How do you physically add the second level while trying to preserve the first floor?

Adding the second level while trying to preserve the first floor is crucial going into construction timing. We’ve essentially been doing all the demolition we can do from the inside of the house. When the project gets to the point where we are going to rip off the roof, adding the second-floor framing and new roof will be right behind it. Sequentially the goal is to flow from demo right into new construction so that the house is open for as little as possible. Which is the reason why the team decided not to go through the gymnastics of trying to save the original wood floors. The client wanted new wood floors for consistency and an updated feel anyway, so it all worked out beautifully.

Is this a total renovation in regard to the original floor plan?

Yes, we are taking all the drywall out, all the electrical, the old ductwork, and coming back in with all new materials, wiring, plumbing, HVAC, etc.

How are supply-chain interruptions and material shortages affecting projects like this?

There is just an unprecedented number of issues that have been a struggle industry wide. What we are doing now is anticipating shortages, or backorders to make sure everything arrives on time.

Continuing to plan and budget Abuela, we are aware of these issues ahead of time. Whereas the projects starting a year ago or even six months ago were very difficult to receive materials. The team now knows to expect the unexpected. For example, Sherwin Williams ran out of the paint we needed! We drove an hour to get three gallons of paint! Also, lumber comes and goes but there are still times you can’t get the plywood you want.

Has this made your team better in terms of overall planning?

Every project is different, but the experience helps us in all the best ways. The team uses an order calendar to schedule materials. For example, when the project is ready to build foundations it’s time to order the framing package, then the window package, then it’s time to order the drywall package. Each project uses this step-by-step process.
Looking ahead knowing what non-traditional long-lead items are, is key to a productive schedule. Overall, staying updated on material availability is a real benefit of the design-build process because when designing we are communicating with our major trades. They can inform us of possible backlogs and shortages.

Jonathan, doesn’t this project really capture the essence of Wolk360?

WOLK360’s philosophy is to help the client from buying, to designing, then building their dream home. That is a key part of our culture. It’s not “Oh I found this house what can you do with it?”, instead, its “here’s the house you’re looking for and we can make into exactly what you want.” For Abuela, she wanted to be in the old neighborhood and not do a teardown. We found a solution that brings both of those worlds together, the old and the new. We’ve got the old neighborhood downtown that is walkable and able to expand on it, making it something new and contemporary to provide the things she wants – daylight, volume, a larger MBR, outdoor and patio/porch space.

We were able to take the bones of this house and basically expand upon it. This is building off the groundwork that was laid out for us, but even though it is going to be a contemporary home its proportions and base tie back to the original neighborhood. WOLK360 is excited to keep the character of the neighborhood by complimenting and keeping the fundamentals of the Mordecai neighborhood.

(Phone) 919.291.7622​ Email: jonathan@wolk360.com