After all, nearly three decades spent working in real estate provides plenty of time to gather ideas.
And it has paid off.
From his-and-her coffeemakers to a full-size outdoor fireplace, Dee Dee and Joel Gruwell’s house has personal touches galore. Their son-in-law made all of the cabinets, raw wood to the finished product. Their daughter-in-law designed the drapes. And the kitchen is for the entire family – two sons, a daughter, two daughters-in-law, a son-in-law and three grandchildren.
Their work is a family affair, too. The Gruwells own Gates Four Properties and share an office with their daughter, Monica Luongo. They not only sell new and existing homes but also help new homeowners pick out everything that will go inside, from bathroom tile to kitchen faucets. So when the Gruwells decided to build their own home in Gates Four, they knew exactly what they were looking for, an open floor plan that combined the best of all the houses they had seen.
“We do this every day of the week,” Dee Dee says. “It made these decisions a lot easier for us.”
They had help from builder Jimmy Hobbs. Hobbs learned the trade from his father, and the two of them quickly became known for adapting plans to suit a family’s needs. They could see unused space on paper before the bones of the house even came together. Pretty soon, it was a running joke among builders who would ask the Hobbses what house plans they would use for their next project even though they already knew the punch line. “It started out as this one,” they would say, “but we don’t know what they’ve got now.” At the Gruwell house, Hobbs found space for an extra bedroom upstairs and room for an attic so large that the Gruwells were able to cancel the storage shed they had been using.
“A builder is one who can find space and see space,” he said. Otherwise, “It’s just a cookie-cutter house. That’s just not me.”
Now that the Gruwells have been in their house for about six months, Joel says he still wakes up every morning feeling as if he’s staying in a resort. It’s easy to see why. The master bedroom has a soft glow thanks to rope lighting hidden in the double tray ceiling. A walk-in tiled shower opens into a large bathroom with a whirlpool tub. A sound system pipes music into almost every room of the house. A lighted alcove, one of two, dresses up a tiny powder room.
But the kitchen is the true heart of the house. The Gruwells love to cook, a legacy from the years they spent in Italy. As an Army colonel, Joel Gruwell took the family all over. As they moved away from Fayetteville and came back again, Dee Dee worked for the Riddles, the family that developed Gates Four and other neighborhoods. In Rome, the Gruwells hosted enormous dinner parties for dozens of guests and never had a bad meal at any restaurant in town. It’s also where their daughter met her Italian husband. With an Italian son-in-law and Brazilian daughter-in-law, good food goes without saying.
And the Gruwells have the right tools – a six-burner stove with warming shelf, a 48-inch sub-zero refrigerator and large drawers for pots, glass mixing bowls and casserole dishes.
And of course, cabinets.
It took their son-in-law, Giuseppe Luongo, a professional cabinetmaker and owner of G.L. Euromaster, five months to complete the kitchen cabinets and built-ins in the study. The kitchen island is one solid piece of granite that weighs about 1,000 pounds. With two of the three Gruwell children living in North Carolina, it’s not unusual to see the extended family cooking chili in the kitchen or grilling tenderloin on the outdoor grill. They have the choice of eating in a formal dining room, in the kitchen or, on warm days, taking meals on the screened-in porch.
Brandon and Lisa Gruwell make the trip from Winston-Salem to cook – and brainstorm about the next design project. Lisa is a visual designer at 1502 Fabrics in Winston-Salem. She helped Dee Dee design her custom-made drapes, including the panels that adorn the large master bedroom window with a view of the Gates Four golf course. Lisa calls the style of the bedroom – and entire house – updated Old World with a regal touch. Stephen Horvath, owner of Gabriel’s on Raeford Road, helped with accessories and artwork.
It might give some in-laws a qualm or two about decorating their mother-in-law’s brand-new dream house. Luongo and Lisa said they never had a doubt.
“I am so lucky to have married into that family, and I think that has a lot to do with it,” Lisa said. “We have a blast together.”
And they’ve all put their touch on a house built for two – or 11.