Recently Completed Projects

Stop, Sit, and Stair

Summer ended in an absolute blaze. And so did the finishing touches on Patriece’s Home! Before we get sad and sappy, here’s how the old sweaty 5th-year “leftovers” team completed construction of the project!

The team designed a configuration of off-the-shelf cabinets to fit into the kitchen space of the home as an L-shaped kitchen. With the help and approval of the new homeowner, Patriece, they selected a shade of green to paint the cabinets as well. After the paint and a protective coating was applied, the team used their immaculate intuition (but mostly a laser level) to perfectly align the cabinets and fasten them into a wall. 

Next, the butcher block countertop sat perfectly atop those even cabinets. Voila! A kitchen! 

Well actually, there’s a little more to it than that. The students installed LED strips along the top and bottom of the upper cabinets to light the kitchen workspace and help illuminate the room. The team also designed the lighting in the kitchen spaces—with the help of consultant Thomas Paterson of course—by building “valance,” or cover, for the lighting above the sink. This was the light from the unshaded bulbs that can be cast down onto the workspace and reflected off the ceiling. 

On to the bathrooms! The team want to give a giant “Thank you!” to Mark Smith and Lewis-Smith Supply for donating all the home’s faucets, toilets, and showers. The toilets went in quicker and easier than the team anticipated. Much like the kitchen cabinets, the students installed the bathroom vanities. Then, it was finally time to install the home’s three sinks. The moment of truth came when the team turned on the water supply to the house. It was nerve-racking but successful. No leaks! The veins of the house are full, and the fixtures look nice and elegant in place.

Now, the moment we know you all have been waiting so eagerly for: the hatches. You know, the hatches are ducted to the whirl birds on the roof to drain hot air out of the upstairs in the summer and to shut the house tight to keep warm in the winter. Okay, well, even if you don’t remember, here they are! There are all part of the strategy to subtly, passively cool Patriece’s Home. 

Now for a little bit of interior glamour! The team decided to line the interior of the stair walls with tongue and groove cypress, just like the wood on the porches. Then, they used 1x boards of the same cypress for the treads and risers of the stairs. Now, the entire stair well space is a warm, woody wonderland. And it glows! The team routed out the underside of the stair handrail for LED strips, so that light is cast onto the steps without being obstructed by the person walking. It turns the stairwell into an orangey, glowy nightlight for the rest of the house as well. 

The nook is another special detail at the stair landing. Cypress is used to frame the seat and can be removed for a small, chest-like storage space. Then, on the back wall of the nook, the team color matched the paint of the cabinets to some fabric and used that fabric to make a cushioned wall! Now, when someone sits in the nook seat and chats with someone else in the kitchen, they can rest their back on a soft surface. 

You think those stairs are fancy for a Rural Studio house? Well, the team has another trick up their sleeve! The pantry storage space under the stairs is now enclosed in doors! The team bought three hollow core doors, cut them to the right size and installed them as a single swinging door and one bifold door.

To match the under-stair doors, the team did the same thing and created attic doors that close off the storage space between the trusses of the attics and the upstairs bedrooms.

Finally, on to the finished floor!! The team originally planned to leave the concrete slab as the finished floor but changed their mind, placing a laminate flooring (LVT) through the whole house for a more comfortable, even finish. Many thanks to Interface for the generous donation! The team looked at samples and chose a color that is similar to the original concrete so it agreed with their interior finish colors and the cypress on the walls. Once the team placed an underlayment felt, they were off! They floored the whole house in about three days! Lastly, the baseboards were nailed around the base of the drywall, and the largest tasks of the home were over.

With their days in Hale County dwindling down to a few, the team ran through their punch list. The paint was touched up, towel and toilet rods installed, showers and windows cleaned. On the outside, grass seed was spread and watered, trash and the burn barrel were carted away, the porch was pressure washed, and a concrete paver walkway between the parking and porch was set into the ground. 

With the house gleaming, the team took their final photos, and then let the professional in to do his thing. Thank you, Timothy Hursley, for ensuring the completed Patriece’s Home will be remembered forever. 

The Patriece’s Home team loves their other Rural Studio cohort’s teams very much, so they waited until August 26th to celebrate and open their project at the same time as the C.H.O.I.C.E. House! 

The big day started on the Patriece’s Home front porch. Everyone was sweating buckets in their nice attire and the 104-degree heat, but there was so much for the team to be grateful for, the team didn’t care. 

Lauren has just moved herself and her bestie cat, June, to Huntsville, AL, to start working at Fuqua and Partners Architects. What a Queen! 

Daniel has a fancy new ring to wear to go with his lovely new WIFE! They have both moved to Birmingham, AL, where he will be working for Seay Seay & Litchfield Architects (and knowing him, probably some woodworking on the side). 

Laurel was accepted for the Ghost Residency with McKay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects in Lunenberg, Nova Scotia. She’ll get to intern for the firm, working part-time on a farm, and hopefully won’t freeze to death! 

Adam is going to keep on designing and building! Rural Studio consultant, Kiel Moe, has convinced him to move to Chicago, IL, where he will help complete a house project. Finally, he’s gotten a house to work on that’s rid of the rest of the team (kidding)! 

This project was not just built by these four but so many others who gave them much needed help and guidance. The team is so thankful for the support of their donors, consultants, and Rural Studio faculty and staff. They are also so grateful for their families who kept them sane and student colleagues who made Hale County home for a time. 

Finally, Patriece and her children were the best possible clients the team could have received, and it was such an honor to build a house for them to own and live in.

Well, goodbye for now. See ya at Christmastime at the Cheesecake Factory! 


The Patriece’s Home Team 

Make Good C.H.O.I.C.E.S.!

Surprise! The C.H.O.I.C.E House is complete! For the past couple of months, we’ve had our heads down and our eyes on the prize, but the team couldn’t leave Hale County without one last update. Keep reading to see how we’ve been, what we’ve done, and where we’re going!

high view of site

Picking up where our last update left off: shortly after drywall, both our team and Patriece’s Home team set an opening date, August 26th! That meant one final Hale County summer, culminating in a packed porch party to celebrate two teams, two projects, and two years of work. So, we certainly had to get to it on-site.

In July, we focused our efforts on wrapping up our exterior and landscaping strategy. In keeping with the units’ ADA compliance, we developed an accessible route to both the units and washer dryer volume using a poured sidewalk and driveway. A big “Thank you!” to our neighbor and local concrete finisher, Charles Woods, for his crew’s help on these last two pours. Also outside, we planted three trees—a trio of black gums that we hope will provide color, delight, and most importantly, shade, in the years to come. Finishing out the courtyard space, we reused the old sidewalk pieces to create a boundary between the current courtyard and the “mowable meadow,” the portion of the site designated for strategic expansion as C.H.O.I.C.E. and their housing programs grow.

As August arrived, we moved back inside to start all of our finishes: flooring, tiling, shelving, trim, you name it! We also welcomed a bonus member to the team. Davis’ fiancé, Elisia, joined us from Oregon for the final six weeks of the project. To keep the momentum going, the team split up to focus on different finishes. AC claimed the built-in shelving and appliance nooks, Davis took on installing the floor tile and LVT with Elisia, and Hailey learned how to tile two showers in a matter of days! 

The final work week very serendipitously aligned with the time-honored tradition of “Neckdown.” In our last full week on site, we were fortunate to have over a dozen of the new students hard at work. With the countdown to our opening on, the new crew helped us touch up paint, tidy up the units, and set up for one heck of an opening on Saturday. If that wasn’t enough of a group push to the finish, we even had some very special helpers fly all the way from Vancouver, Canada and Kansas City, Missouri. Thanks Jackie and Caitlyn!

We then wrapped up the week (and two years!) of hard work with a joint project opening. Nearly 200 hundred friends, family, and community members showed up and braved 100+ degree temperatures to celebrate with us, packing the front porch to enjoy Newbern Mercantile BBQ and an excellent veggie spread from Abadir’s. It meant the world to us to see those we hold nearest and dearest all in one place to watch us cut the ribbon on a project that we know Emefa and all of C.H.O.I.C.E. will use well as they continue serving their clients and community. Even better, we got to open right alongside our friends on Patriece’s Home team!

people on porch

So, what’s next? In the coming days, the team will pack up and move on to our next chapters. Hailey is taking her talents to Spain, where she’s working as a Language and Cultural Assistant at a school in Madrid. Raymond is sticking around Hale County for a while to work with the Studio. As for Davis, he’s Portland bound, though you might soon hear wedding bells for him and Elisia on a vineyard in Virginia. And AC? For now, she’s heading West!  

Thank you again to everyone that joined us on this journey the past two years. Words cannot express how grateful we are to this place and every single person that’s ever been a part of it. Until we see you all again, make good C.H.O.I.C.E.S.

-AC, Hailey, Davis, + Raymond

student team on site

Another Hale Summer? That’s Hot

Hello! Welcome to warm weather. Boots are on the ground, water is in the air, and the Patrice’s Home team is in the sweaty swing of things. 

Spring came and went, and now Summer is here. So the grass is a growin’ on Patriece’s site—or at least it was trying to until the team took the trencher to it. Now the home is connected to the water supply, electric, and septic tank! Not to worry, the students are diligently spreading grass seed and turning on the sprinkler to give Patriece a lovely lawn. 

Look at this gorgeous Cypress wood porch thanks to an amazing donation from AC Hardwoods out of Clarksdale, Georgia! The team is using these tongue and groove boards to clad the interior of the home’s porches. First, the boards were sealed on all sides to ensure they last and weather nicely, then the boards were cut and nailed in. Look at them glow! With wood on five sides, the warmth and interiority of the porches feels great. 

The students contracted out the drywall work to ensure a well-crafted finish, but before the contractors arrive, the final touch is installing the water heater. Some (you know who you are) doubted, but it fits between the trusses! 

The team covered the floor and then the drywall magic happened! Patriece’s Home got a glow-up just in time for Pig Roast.

The Studio’s closest friends, neighbors, and collaborators arrived at Patriece’s Home first thing Saturday morning of Pig Roast weekend. The crowd got to hear and see what their support has helped build and accomplish thus far! 

They team has now entered their second leftover era, so immediately after Pig Roast weekend they got back to work!

Thank you 3rd-years for staying to help dig the French drain in exchange for helping with the roof on Rosie’s Home! They also helped build a very nice gravel pathway to connect the two porches on the west side of the home. 

And to shade that path: thank you to R. Scott Williams from Montgomery, Alabama, for donating two Willow Oaks and one Overcup Oak! These three trees create boundaries and zones in the yard. They will also eventually shade and match the height of this new home over its long lifetime!

The team then transitioned indoors for a bit as they started to prime and paint! And paint! And paint. And…. 

The team then finished all the trim around the interior of the windows! They chalked and wood puttied the blemishes and then, guess what, painted. 

Finally, with the walls finished, the team gets to start putting on the home’s jewelry. Outlets and switches, Ooo Lala!

Speaking of jewelry, we forgot to mention the shiny whirlybirds on the home’s finished roof! Those three gems, spinning away, are proof of the house’s passive cooling strategy, as hot air drains out the second floor of the home. 

Well, while we’re admiring the outside, look at these gorgeous window shades that were fabricated by Rural Studio alums at Blackshop, in Birmingham, Alabama. Thank you so much, Zane and Cassandra! 

The team installed the window shades and that was the final go they needed before finishing the exterior flashing and siding! They cut and screwed corrugated metal sheets to finally cover up all that green. And just like that, the exterior of Patrice’s Home was finished!! And, just in time for the heat of summer, the team moves inside. The next blog post will be the last for Patriece’s Home, so check back in and you’ll see the final touches on the interior. So exciting!

P.S. Whoops! The last exterior finish is that pop of red on the door! 

Doing the Most Post-Roast

It’s been a busy month on site at the C.H.O.I.C.E. House. Read ahead to see how we are stepping up and rocking on in our push to the finish. 

 As always, we wrapped up the academic year earlier this summer with a Pig Roast toast. We spent the day celebrating the graduating students and sharing our progress with friends, family, and visitors, far and wide. After a few fireworks and some much-appreciated words of encouragement, we got right back to it, kicking off our second Hale County summer. We’ve broken up our days into inside and outside tasks, starting our mornings outside and working our way in to beat the heat.

The first order of business outside was to build and pour the concrete for our steps. The cascading steps have concrete bookending both sides, and the first step is concrete as well. Like all previous pours, this process included building formwork, setting it, and layering up a sandwich of dirt, gravel, vapor barrier, rebar, and mesh.  

Next, we braced ourselves to climb up into the porch trusses and finish our porch bracing strategy. The goal here was to create a triangle of 2x4s that tied the porch trusses to each other and then back to the units. 

Meanwhile inside, a local contractor hung our drywall over the course of a week, setting us up to jump right in to painting and finishes in the weeks ahead. In the meantime, we met with civil engineer and friend, Adele Schirmer. Working with her, we developed a strategy for directing water away from the units and towards an existing drainage ditch.

Continuing our slate of meetings, engineering consultant Joe Burns stopped by our site to confirm some final structural questions, while our professors, Andrew and Steve, along with David Hill (APLA Associate Professor and Graduate Landscape Architecture Chair), helped us talk through some landscape questions that arose in response to our civil engineering conversations with Adele.

Between meetings (and summer thunderstorms), we installed metal siding. Save for a few front porch fixtures, our exterior envelope is complete!

Back inside, the units are painted and ready for trim and fixtures.

As our opening fast approaches, we’re calling in all the help we can get. Meet the team’s newest member and resident morale booster: Miss Cauliflower!

very cute kitten wearing overalls

How does it feel to be this close to the finish line? Ask Davis.

davis looks unnervingly happy

Sun and Steel

Raise the roof! The C.H.O.I.C.E. House is finally dried in. After several days of dodging rain, pollen, and morning dew, the team wrapped up our roof assembly with 64 panels of charcoal gray metal. Of course, we couldn’t have done it without 5th-years Meagan and Ashley, John Marusich, and our resident roof cognoscente, Andrew Freear.

With the installation of the ridge vent and bathroom vent done, our heavy hat is officially complete, meaning we can turn our attention inward and onward to preparing for drywall installation. 

hailey installing roof vent


The biggest pre-drywall tasks are plumbing and wiring, both of which are well underway. Plumbing involves running hot and cold lines to the showers and food prep sink, as well as installing vent pipes in those same spaces. We’ve also run lines to the washer and an outdoor spigot. The plumbing process is like a puzzle. When solved correctly, you get a hot shower and clean dishes! Wiring rough-in, on the other hand, is something akin to weaving al dente spaghetti through a popsicle stick loom. One bright yellow cable at a time, we’re connecting circuits of switches and receptacles and fixtures, around 40 in total. The results are shocking! 

Once these larger tasks are complete, we’ll be able to finish pre-rocking, framing our interior soffits, installing our ducts, and tiling the showers. One might say we’re really “springing” forward. Until next time, when we’ll be sheet-rocking and rolling. 

davis installs sheet rock