turned remodeler Bill Winters says being a remodeler is more
satisfying than being an architect because "an architect
only creates the plans while the remodeler does the design and
builds the project."
Bill Winters wants to live to be 100,
but only practice his trade until hes 99 1/2. So, whats he going
to do for his final six months?
"I guess Ill revisit my best
accomplishments," he mused.
And, at the rate hes going, hell
have to be quite selective for the 58-year-old Winters was named the
2003 winner of the Milwaukee Metropolitan Builders Association
Remodeler Sales Person of the Year.
Though he earned bachelors and
masters degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, his
interest in remodeling was roused by his own personal experience.
"I remodeled my own Milwaukee bungalow that I bought in Wauwatosa
because I couldnt afford to pay someone to do it and I loved it -
especially the woodworking and cabinetry."
He added, "It must be in my genes.
My paternal great-grandfather was a residential carpenter and my
maternal grandfather was a tile setter. The more I did on my house,
the more I realized that I liked that work better than being a
professional architect where I did large institutional and commercial
projects. So I switched to remodeling and began The Winters Group 15
years ago with my partner, Bill Schultz."
He and his wife, Peg, his interior
decorator, have five children and two grandchildren. When hes not
working, he loves reading and walking along the Lake Michigan
He finds being a remodeler to be more
satisfying than just an architect because, according to Winters,
"an architect only creates the plans while the remodeler does the
design and builds the project. Also, in remodeling, I feel I am able
to incorporate all my interests into a project. Its like
problem-solving, which can be tricky."
He explained that in new construction
the client dictates a wish list while in remodeling there are a lot of
givens that cant be changed. "For me, that is aesthetically
and intellectually challenging."
In doing an addition, he said the
client usually wants the exterior of the home to blend. "No one
wants the project to scream addition from the outside. But the
interior lends itself to more options. Personally, I like to mix the
old with a contemporary flair. Most projects are budget-driven, and
thats good because it helps me achieve their goals while meeting my
Another advantage, according to
Winters, is that in remodeling you never do the same project twice.
"In commercial architecture and sometimes in new home
construction, everything begins to like alike. For me, every project
is different. My goal is not to have our work stereotyped and not have
our jobs look the same."
One of his most challenging jobs was
remodeling a kitchen in a Fox Point
home. "It may not sound difficult, but the home was built in the
late 1800s and the owner wanted the new work to match to the original
moldings and trim. We had to custom everything," he
Winters acknowledges that there is a
trend toward teardowns rather than remodeling. He believes in the end
remodeling can be more expensive than new construction because it is
more labor intensive. "Even though the plumbing, electricals and
other mechanicals exist, there are pre-conditions in the home we have
to start with.
"From a financial standpoint, if
you buy a house to knock down, you lose your equity. It may be more
resourceful to work with what you have. In either case, were seeing
people staying put. They like their neighborhoods and dont want to
move. It seems this has become even more common since Sept. 11. The
value of your home is your largest investment and they are becoming a
refuge for families."
Quiet and casual in his manner, Winters
said he is driven by seeing things being built. "Ive been
building things since I was a little kid.
Im blessed with three-dimensionality. I see things on paper and
then see the tangible results. Its very satisfying," he said.
The projects he most enjoys are when he
assembles a team up front - from the design phase to the landscaping.
His work can be problematic because it
is weather-related. "Naturally, it seems just when we open up
the roof, it rains, But, thats the
nature of the business," he mused.
"Honestly," said Winters,
"clients have to have a sense of humor or the process wont
work. When I have my initial consultation, if the client doesnt
laugh at least once, likely I wont take the job. We cant be too
uptight about things that are out of our control."
He never denies that remodeling will be
disruptive, messy and dirty. "It cant be avoided, but we tell
the client to focus on the end result."
He says he is a proponent of the book,
Not so Big House. "I tell my clients to build for their
needs and put any extra money into details such a fine cabinetry or
other details to make the home unique."