Don’t call Brian and Andrea Hubbell flippers. Even though they admit what they’re doing sounds a lot like that, the husband-and-wife team behind HubbHouse think they can come up with a better term, one that conveys their more thoughtful approach.
“We’re definitely not a quick-flip company,” says Brian. “Quality is really important and the process is really important.” The couple prides themselves on taking great care with the tactile and experiential—everything from paint color and lighting to cabinet hardware and doorknobs—with each of their projects.
“We’re really particular about things that you touch,” says Andrea, especially since they try to redesign each house as if they were going to live in it themselves. Brian admits they’ve considered moving in to each of their speculative houses.
Last September, they began work on their biggest project yet, transforming a three-bedroom, two-bathroom house off of Rose Hill Drive. Until now, they’ve stayed mostly in the three-bedroom, two-bathroom arena, but HubbHouse 6, as they call it, will end up being a five-bedroom, four-and-a-half-bath home when it hits the market in April. They’ve added a second story and increased the square footage by 40 percent.
“Previously we’d just kind of opened up walls and made small programmatic changes,” says Andrea. “We really had to put our architect hats on for this one.”
We met them on site to ask a few more questions about their operation.
What’s your background?
Andrea Hubbell: We met in college our first year at the University of Florida in architecture school. We did four years there and then moved to North Carolina and Brian worked in building a little bit and we both worked in design and then moved to Charlottesville so I could go to grad school at UVA for architecture.
Brian Hubbell: When we first moved here, we both worked at Bushman Dreyfus Architects together. We actually applied there together, in the same envelope. I think it was intriguing enough to the partners that they hired us both. After that, Wolf Ackerman Design and Rosney Co Architects. And then I went on to direct user experience design at a local software company for about six years while Andrea operated her architectural photography company. During that time, HubbHouse was getting on its feet and Andrea got her real estate license. Now HubbHouse is my sole focus and Andrea is a full-time Realtor with Nest Realty.
Are you interchangeable on each job, or do you have different roles?
BH: It’s more collaborative in the beginning than it ends up being towards the end because we both design this together and then once it gets into execution, that’s where I step in and manage the projects.
AH: I start the process by finding the initial property and doing all the research and figuring out the market dynamics. Then we make the decision to move forward or not. Brian takes over during the build and then I’ll market it and sell it at the end.
Are you getting a lot of comparisons to Chip and Joanna Gaines [from HGTV’s “Fixer Upper”]?
AH: We don’t compare ourselves that way, but we get that a lot.
BH: We get a lot of, “When’s your HGTV show airing?”
AH: That’s incredibly flattering, so we’re not offended in any way. I’d love to be the next Chip and Jo.
What are your main goals when renovating a home?
AH: It’s really important to us, when we identify a property, that we’re not completely transforming it into something else. We were very careful about how we decided to add on to this one [HubbHouse 6] by going up, but trying to keep the majority of that square footage inside of a roof space and with dormers so that it still has the character and feel of the neighborhood. The surrounding context is really important to us.
Our first official renovation project was the 11th Street Bungalow and that house was just in such poor condition. It had a structural beam that had been compromised, so the whole house was caving in at the center. But we walked into it and we were both like, “Ahhh! This is such an amazing house.” That’s in the 10th and Page neighborhood and we wanted to be really careful on that street, too, to respect the history. So many families have been there forever and we didn’t want to be seen as outsiders coming in and changing the face of the neighborhood. But, at the same time, somebody needed to save that house. So we kind of took that on as our responsibility. The neighbors were very much involved —stopping by and getting tours and getting really excited about it—and that was fun, to become part of the community on that street.
Any horror stories?
AH: We bought a house on Rose Hill and we still had our previous house because we were planning on a light renovation before moving in. Brian went out of town for a few days for a work trip. We had a 7-month-old baby; I’d drive by every now and then, but I had no reason to pop in and check on it. So he gets back into town and he’s meeting people over there—this is within a few weeks of us buying the house—and he walks in and a supply line had broken.
BH: I unlocked the door, and all I could hear was the hiss of pressurized water. I ran into the kitchen and discovered a geyser. The burst had flooded the basement and a significant portion of the first floor. The kitchen was a total loss.
AH: It was like, okay, now we’re really gutting it. Let’s do this. It was a horrible moment, but we wound up being able to make decisions about that kitchen that we wouldn’t necessarily have made if we hadn’t had the necessity of taking it down to the studs.
BH: We just picked up HubbHouse 7. It’s in Belmont and back in the three-bedroom, two-bathroom range. Ultimately the market dictates the type of project we undertake; you can only improve what’s available to purchase. We don’t really have a targeted resale market; we respond more to the house itself both from a business and design perspective. If it’s a home that we can bring a substantially better living experience to and still operate the business then we’re game.