Russwood New Build Breaks Rules, Becomes Instant Classic on

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Photography: Michael Hunter

Remember when we kept track of things we loved by tearing out magazine pages and putting them in a binder? It was an idea book for our future homes. The digital age changed everything and brought us the ultimate idea book with the launch of in 2009. Houzz founders Adi Tatarko and Alon Cohen were remodeling their own home. They wanted an easy way to communicate ideas to their team, and they also wanted to be able to find skilled professionals.

They were not alone.

What began with 20 friends sharing ideas and images became a worldwide phenomenon in record time. Houzz is now more than a website. It’s a community with 40 million monthly users across the world, and it’s the go-to site for anyone who is searching for ideas, products, or professionals related to the home design and building industries. It’s also a platform for professionals to display their projects. In doing so, users can save a photo to an idea book, just like those binders we used. But now, you can share those images easily with family, friends, designers, and builders. It’s like allowing someone access to your brain with a form of instant visual communication.

Imagine what it must be like when you add a project to Houzz and get an overwhelming number of responses to it. That’s what happened to ICF Custom Homes founder Rob Champion and his wife Reneé.

“They built 5125 Royal Crest as their personal home and documented it on Houzz,” Dave Perry-Miller Realtor Jason Bates said. “We helped them sell it last summer.  It was so popular (and drop-dead gorgeous) that Houzz gave them an award based on the number of times their photographs were saved by readers. The project also received a Best Design Award.”

While every photo received attention, the bedroom at the top of our post today was saved to over 8,000 idea books. Even the Houzz staff loved this project and added that room to their list of Top 10 Bedrooms of the Year. Reneé and Rob worked with the Cantoni design team, and in particular Stephanie Stephenson, to create the interior design of the home. That cool Ala bed is one of the reasons the master bedroom received so much attention from Houzz readers.

This project began when Rob received a call from a previous client. “He asked if I wanted to buy his mom’s house in Russwood Acres. I thought it would be fun to build a sprawling single-story industrial modern house, something that had a little bit of a Seattle modern flavor, inspired by Kundig Olson. But we wondered if the buying pool would see that as unique and something they’d want? The worst thing that could happen is we’d live there indefinitely.”

This would be the first new construction in Russwood Acres, and the Champions were not sure how it would be received.

“We knew we’d be trailblazing, but we also did not want to build anything that would upset the neighbors,” Rob said. “So, we built it for ourselves and broke a lot of rules! We figured if we could sell it great, and if not we’d be very happy here.”

When you are a builder by trade, and you’re building for yourself with only you and your wife to please, you can try out interesting materials and designs.

“We used a lot of raw steel,” Rob said. “Our fireplace surround is a piece of raw steel with a bevel to it. It’s very modern, but we surrounded it with Chicago brick. My idea was a steel surround with the bevel. Reneé wanted the brick. We both won!”

“My favorite thing in the whole house was the wood ceiling treatment in the formal dining room,” Reneé said. “Both of us (including our daughter) spent an entire weekend burning the wood giving it a charcoaled effect. The treatment is called shou sugi ban.  It originated in Japan in the 18th century and was traditionally a family affair then as well.”

The Champions planned to stay in the house two years then try to market it. But, Ryan Streiff and Jason Bates had a house listed down the street, and people kept asking about the Champions house. After a chance meeting at an open house, Streiff and Bates asked if they’d be interested in a hip pocket listing.

“We had a buyer within 30 days,” Bates said. “It never went into MLS.”

The risks paid off, but the Champions were out of a house. They are renting while they break a few more rules with the next build.

So, has all the attention from Houzz readers made an impact?

“It elevates the perception that a potential customer has of you,” Rob said.” It validates and reinforces your talent and your legitimacy.”

We can’t wait to see what the Champions do next, and we’ve got their page bookmarked!

Karen Eubank is the owner of Eubank Staging and Design. She has been an award-winning professional home stager for more than 25 years and a professional writer for 20 years. Karen is the mother of a son who’s studying music at The University of Miami. An ardent animal lover, she doesn’t mind one bit if your fur baby jumps right into her lap. Find Karen at

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Karen Eubank

Karen is the owner of Eubank Staging and Design. She has been an award-winning professional home stager for more than 25 years and a professional writer for over 20 years. Karen is the mother of a son who’s studying for his masters at The New England Conservatory of Music. An ardent animal lover, she doesn’t mind one bit if your fur baby jumps right into her lap.

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