Monthly Archives

February 2012

interior luxury home faux wood beams

Faux Wood Beams for Affordable Architectural Details

By | Custom Home Construction, Custom Home Design | 2 Comments

“Another Affordable Idea to Enhance Your Living Space”

Good taste can be affordable with smart design and strategic use of materials to add elegance and character. Luxury Homebuilder Jorge Ulibarri says faux beams are cost effective architectural elements that create a custom, old-world look on a budget.  “Faux wood beams are the best buy for your design dollar because they are dramatic but cost one-fifth the price of a real wood beam,” explains Jorge, who has designed and built custom homes for all budgets for more than a decade.

Faux Wood Beams in Formal Living Room

Jorge’s best money-saving advice is to plan ahead if it’s new construction. “The beams should be shown in the home’s drawings as with everything else that involves framing, so the framer includes them in the price of the framing package to avoid extra charges.” For homeowners thinking about adding faux wood beams to an existing home, the cost savings are still substantial. Homeowners should have an understanding of how these beams are made in order to hire the right person for the job. Here’s a “how-to” breakdown for creating faux wood beams.

Faux Wood Vaulted Beams in Family Room

Step one is to have a carpenter frame the skeleton of the beam with 2 by 4s. Let the drywall contractor wrap the beams in drywall as he does the rest of the house.

Faux Wood Beams Wrapped in Drywall

Step two is the distressing of the beams. The craftsman will age and season the drywall with special tools. He can get even more creative by adding termite holes or gouges.

Step three is the application of the first coat of paint. This will determine how light or dark the finished wood beam will be.  Next, the craftsman applies a gel stain. Jorge recommends using the color Chestnut for the gel stain for a more realistic finish.

Faux Wood Beams Primed and Ready for Painting

Step four is creating the beam details. Using a special tool, the craftsman creates the grain and the knots in the drywall beam. Once this is done, the beams will sit for 24 hours and then he will apply a light coat of the same gel stain to give it the final look.

The cost to create these faux wood beams depends on volume. For example, in a home where there are 30 to 40 beams, Jorge says the price to finish them can be as low as 60 to 70 dollars per beam. Now if you only do a handful of beams, you can expect to pay a hundred dollars per beam.

“The beams are a good example of what I tell homeowners: better to spend your money on rich architectural elements than on pricey overdone décor. A beautifully built home showcases itself.

For more home design and construction trade secrets and tips, check out the video series, “Trade Secrets by Jorge,” on YouTube at  You can also post your questions or comments to his Facebook page:

interior luxury home cracked foundation

The Proper Fix for Cracks in the Floor Foundation

By | Custom Home Construction, Custom Home Design, Home Repair | One Comment

Another Home Construction Tip from Trade Secrets by Jorge

Cracks in the home’s foundation are a fact of life. Most homes experience cracks in the concrete slab as the home “settles” over time. Those concrete slab cracks can cause marble, tile, or stone floors to crack and it can be a very costly problem after the flooring warranty has expired. Custom Homebuilder Jorge Ulibarri has built homes of all sizes and for all budgets and says the key to preventing floor cracks is to properly repair the slab prior to the floor installation.

“Cracks in the slab do not compromise the floors if the contractor properly repairs and preps the slab with quality materials prior to the floor installation,” says Jorge.

Crack in the Concrete Floor Foundation that Needs Repair

Repairing the Foundation Cracks

After the concrete slab is cleaned and prepped, the contractor should apply an adhesive primer followed by the application of a membrane throughout each crack. Jorge advises homeowners to insist on a quality membrane because cheaper membranes won’t work.

Wire Mesh Adds an Extra Layer of Protection to Prevent Foundation Cracks

Add an Extra Layer of Protection to Prevent Floor Cracks

Jorge adds an extra layer of protection to ensure that the floors won’t crack. “I add a wire mesh between the membrane and the travertine, stone, or marble floors.  This wire mesh reinforces the slab and guarantees the floor will never crack.”

Unfortunately, if the floors already have cracked, you will have to remove the individual damaged tiles or stone and replace them. However, if the contractor has taken the extra protective measure to cover each crack with wire mesh for reinforcement, the homeowner should have no issue with the integrity of the finished floors.

For a step by step description of how to fix cracks in the concrete foundation, check out the latest episode of Trade Secrets by Jorge

wood corbel

Designing the Details Above

By | Custom Home Construction, Custom Home Design | One Comment

“Another Affordable Idea to Enhance Your Living Space”

Ceilings in a home are an ideal canvas to add custom touches that define your home’s architectural style, from Tuscan to contemporary or any variation in between. Luxury Homebuilder Jorge Ulibarri suggests corbels and beams as another great design buy for your bucks. “They look like real wood but cost half the price,” says Jorge, who has more than a decade of experience designing and building custom homes in all price ranges.

The corbels and shutters that Jorge uses on his homes are made of foam but look like real wood. “I use these design features to accent my homes for that authentic old world look,” says Jorge.

Faux Wood Corbel Made of Foam

The foam corbels pictured in this article cost approximately $22 each and installation runs $5 each.  A set of foam shutters retails for $180 with installation at $40 a pair.

Faux Wood Shutters Made of Foam

These products are easy to maintain and come with a lifetime warranty. I buy them from the manufacturer, Ackue International at

“These products work well on my homes because the textures and finishes are very realistic.”  Jorge uses corbels on the exterior and interior of his homes in high profile areas such as the tower entry. Here, the 24-foot-high ceiling features corbels surrounding rustic beams every two feet.

Tower Entry with Corbels and Beams

The effect is very affordable to create. Jorge explains that the rustic wood beams are actually framed lumber that is covered in drywall, faux painted, and distressed to look like real wood. “This is a great builder trade secret because I only pay $70 per beam.” Other costs associated with the faux wood beams are included in the packages for framing and drywall that get negotiated into the total price of house.

Beams with Barrel Ceiling

The barrel ceiling is another architectural feature that draws the eye upward. This type of ceiling gets its name because it looks like the inside half of a barrel. Again, it’s done affordably in the framing stage. Barrel ceilings lend themselves to many styles and finishes including faux painting, brick, travertine, or stone. “Travertine is a very good deal in sizes 4-inch by 4-inch or 6-inch by 4-inch. The cost of the material is $4 per square foot. The installation requires two craftsmen a day of labor, which runs approximately $400. “

To bring warm up a room, tongue and groove ceilings made of southern yellow pine wood can instantly upgrade a living space.

Tongue and Groove Ceiling

Jorge says the material to create tongue and groove ceilings runs approximately $3 per square foot and includes the wood staining. The labor is $2 per square foot.  “Think strategically about where you add in tongue and groove ceilings. It’s cost-effective to accent small, highly visible areas as opposed to larger areas to maximize the “wow” factor and your budget.”

For more home design and construction trade secrets and tips, check out the video series, Trade Secrets by Jorge, on YouTube at  Post your questions or comments to his Facebook page:

Ceiling Details-Designing the Look Above

By | Custom Home Construction, Custom Home Design | No Comments

In this episode of Trade Secrets by Jorge, learn how to enhance your overhead living space with strategic architectural ceiling details. Luxury Custom HomeBuilder Jorge Ulibarri shows you various ceiling designs he uses in his homes and offers honest cost breakdowns and tips on how to create rooms that make you look up and go “Wow.” Also, for the latest tips, design finds and other useful information on home design, architecture and homebuilding, be sure and “like” his Facebook page at and register to win a free custom made wrought iron winery door valued at $3000.


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interior luxury home family room fireplace

Home Design with Wrought Iron

By | Custom Home Construction, Custom Home Design, Fireplace design | One Comment

In this episode of Trade Secrets by Jorge, Luxury Custom Homebuilder Jorge Ulibarri shares design ideas on the use of wrought iron doors and accents to customize your home. Learn money-saving tips on creating an old world custom look with strategic architectural touches using wrought iron. Jorge shows you various locations and uses for wrought iron including winery doors, window treatments and stairwells. For more information, go to

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Design Tips for Wrought Iron Details

By | Custom Home Construction, Custom Home Design, Fireplace design | One Comment

“Another Affordable Idea to Enhance Your Living Space”

Wrought iron goes with any architectural style and it never goes out of style. It’s one of those architectural and decorative elements that instills a sense of legacy in a home. Whether wrought iron takes the shape of a chandelier, staircase or front door, the material symbolizes something solid with a storied past as if it has endured for generations. Wrought iron can showcase a homeowner’s personal expression or add period charm. Strategically incorporating wrought iron accents into a home’s décor can add character and ambiance for an affordable price. Here are a few suggestions.

The front door is one of the most highly visible architectural elements that defines the style of a home. A custom-made wrought iron door can make a statement and add to the home’s curb appeal.

The double-door wrought iron entry is a trademark of Custom Homebuilder, Jorge Ulibarri. “The beauty of wrought iron is that it can carry the design theme throughout the house from the front door, railings, winery door, windows and so on,” explains Jorge.

Oftentimes, the homeowner designs the wrought iron details of the front door and Jorge orders it custom-made and imported from an artisan in Monterey, Mexico. There is a significant cost savings Jorge can get by working directly with artisans in Mexico. Jorge is able to pass on the savings to his clients. “I’ve had clients who have added their initials to the scrollwork of front door and the hand railing design.” One example pictured here showcases a front door with matching scrollwork on the floating staircase.

Wrought Iron Front Door with Matching Scrollwork on Staircase

Homeowners can expect to pay approximately $6,000 to $8,000 for one of these doors depending on the size and the design. “I do caution homeowners to make sure they are purchasing from a reputable company and that the door is certified and tested. I’ve seen very poorly crafted doors that can be a nightmare,” says Jorge.

Wrought Iron Winery Door with Grapes and Leaves Theme

The winery door is another highly visible opportunity to showcase wrought iron. The doors to the winery can feature a theme such as leaves and grapes or perhaps the homeowner wants his or her initials. Jorge says the cost to design, handcraft and import a winery door is approximately $1,800.

Wrought Iron Winery Door with Scrollwork

The master bath is an ideal area of the home to add a touch of wrought iron as well. One example pictured here is the window in the master bath overlooking the tub. This window is made of frosted glass for privacy and serves as the backdrop for wrought iron detail. Jorge says the cost to create this wrought iron decorative window is approximately $300 to $350 depending on the window size.

Master Bath Wrought Iron Decorative Window

Master Bath Wrought Iron Window

For more design ideas with wrought iron accents including various locations and uses, watch Trade Secrets by Jorge, a video series that offers money-saving tips to create that custom-home look on a budget.

Trade Secrets by Jorge, Designing with Wrought Iron

To learn more about Jorge’s work, visit

Fireplace Design Tips from Trade Secrets by Jorge

By | Custom Home Construction, Custom Home Design, Fireplace design | 2 Comments

In this episode of Trade Secrets by Jorge, Luxury Custom Homebuilder Jorge Ulibarri shares tips and design ideas for creating a fireplace that is both functional and a focal point of the room. Learn about various materials, labor costs and design considerations when adding a fireplace to an existing room or including one in your design plans. As always, Jorge welcomes any questions or comments. For more information go to

Watch the latest episode of Trade Secrets by Jorge for “Another Affordable Idea to Enhance Your Living Space”

[youtube width=”600″ height=”365″ video_id=”JHl2iSwkk94″]

Fireplace Design Tips to Light Up a Room

By | Custom Home Construction, Custom Home Design, Fireplace design | No Comments

The fireplace has evolved from purely functional to a decorative showpiece in the home. It transforms the room and becomes a focal point adding character and enhancing the home’s architectural theme. Even in hot climates such as Florida where Luxury Homebuilder Jorge Ulibarri designs and builds homes for all budgets, the fireplace is an essential feature. “A well-designed fireplace has a commanding presence. It serves as a social gathering spot inviting people to gather around the hearth to enjoy and admire one of the most dramatic spaces in the home,” says Jorge. He has several tips for designing a fireplace that makes a statement in any room.  There are three elements to consider when designing a fireplace: the shape, the surround, and the tower finishes.

Fireplace shape: The basic design of a fireplace is a towering box. The first design challenge is to create movement. “The fireplace should be multi-dimensional, incorporating niches, arches, columns, and mantles to create a fireplace with movement.”

Fireplace surround: There are many fireplace surrounds to define the architectural style. Some of the most common materials for surrounds include travertine, marble, precast and wood. Jorge typically uses fireplace surrounds made out of travertine or precast to suit the old-world style of his homes.

Fireplace tower finishes: The selection of the tower finishes can be the hardest choice to make because they are the most visible elements of the fireplace. Depending on the size of the fireplace, cost will dictate the final selection.

One example that incorporates these three design elements is the formal fireplace pictured here that Jorge created.

It soars 24 feet with a travertine mantle and two columns sitting on a hearth. “This is a good example of how to spend money on the design and framing rather than expensive finishes. The total cost of this fireplace is $1,600. A money-saving alternative is to use precast stone instead of travertine, which will cost half the price.” Another option for this soaring fireplace is to plaster the whole thing all the way to the ceiling giving the room a Tuscan feel. The price to plaster the whole fireplace all the way up to the ceiling is $1,000 and it’s worth every penny,” says Jorge.

Another example of a well-designed fireplace is pictured here in the family room.

This stone fireplace features a wood beam as the mantle. An arched niche above the fireplace with tongue and groove as a backdrop serves as a built-in for the flat screen TV.  Jorge says the fireplace finishes here cost between $2,500 to $3,000 and required two days of labor to construct.

Another cost effective tip is to use a stucco finish on the fireplace surround and tower and use stone and wood as accents in key places such as a mantle, header or a heart. This will cut the cost down of the stone to a minimum and will still give it an authentic Tuscan-aged look.

For homes already built, the homeowner can add in a ventless fireplace, which will not require cutting through the existing roof. Installation is simple. The unit costs approximately $2,500 and the installation runs $500. Depending on the design and finishes, the unit could cost an additional $3,000 to $4,000.  For more information, check out the latest episode of Trade Secrets by Jorge which focuses on Fireplace design. Click here to watch.

Defining Space with Floor Transitions and Arches

By | Custom Home Construction, Custom Home Design | 2 Comments

“Another Affordable Idea to Enhance Your Living Space”

Today’s cost-conscious consumers want easy and inexpensive ways to enhance their living spaces without breaking the bank. Luxury Homebuilder Jorge Ulibarri builds million dollar homes and says anyone can add affordable architectural elements that give a home that custom look on a budget. One of Jorge’s most stunning and functional design ideas starts underfoot with floor transitions and ends upwards with archways.

Mosaic transition and arches in the hallway define space

“There are many affordable ways to create and define space in a home with the strategic use of floor transitions and archways,” explains Jorge, who has more than a decade of experience designing and building custom homes for all budgets.  What is a design transition? A transition visually divides space. It’s a design element or embellishment that visually marks a spatial boundary or highlights an architectural detail.

“Transitions are design details that are often overlooked but are the mark of a well- built, well-designed home.” Jorge recommends travertine mosaics as an ideal choice for floor transitions because they are affordable, easy to install, and have a lot of design potential. “In an open floorplan, I place travertine mosaic mats under the archways to separate the rooms. This way, we maintain the open floorplan but we give each space a visual separation from the other. These mosaics come in 12-inch by 12-inch mats and they are roughly $10 per square foot. The installation runs around $120 a transition. I would use transitions sparingly and strategically in high profile areas of the home.”

Travertine Medallion in Tower Entry

Floor medallions also serve as eye-catching focal points to define and highlight a space, especially in high traffic areas of the home.  Jorge uses two types of floor medallions in his homes: wood inlaid and travertine mosaic.

Jorge says there are thousands of choices when it comes to floor medallions.  The example pictured with this article is in the tower entry of the home. It is a 36-inch medallion. “To save money, we enlarged it to 48 inches by adding 4 by 4 mosaics all the way around it to compliment the staircase risers, which also have the same mosaics.” The cost to add this travertine medallion is  $120 for materials and labor according to Jorge.

The wood inlaid floor medallion is another stunning option. The example pictured here is in the foyer of the home. “I typically put wood floor medallions in the entry way or foyer of a home. These hardwood inlay floor medallions are laser cut. I purchase them online from Atlanta Inlaid Floors  Installation is simple. Once the floor is completed, we do a template of the medallion. We trace it over the floor, cut out the travertine, apply liquid nails to the floor and insert the medallion. The key thing here is to make sure that the medallion is flush with the existing floor, not too low or too high.”

Wood Floor Medallion in high profile area

Wood floor materials also make artistic transitions from room to room. Another creative idea is to use wood floor planks to “frame” around stone or tile floors. The wood accents can pull from the beams or tongue and groove ceilings to create a lot of warmth and character.

Instead of blowing your budget on interior decorating, consider investing in visual enhancements to the bones of your home -the walls, floors, and ceilings. The return on investment will be much greater with a well-built home that showcases itself instead of a home that requires overdone decorating to “dress it up” and compensate for architectural shortcomings.

For more home design and construction trade secrets and tips, check out the video series, “Trade Secrets by Jorge,” on YouTube at  You can also post your questions or comments to his Facebook page:

Trade Secrets by Jorge- Floor Design Ideas

By | Custom Home Construction, Custom Home Design | One Comment

Custom Touches that Will Floor You

In this episode of Trade Secrets by Jorge, Luxury Homebuilder Jorge Ulibarri focuses on floor design. Jorge takes viewers on a tour of one of his homes that showcases a mixture of floor designs and materials. Jorge shares ways to create and define space with floor transitions and offers ideas to add affordable custom touches such as floor medallions, wood details, and mosaics to create that luxury look on a budget.
Watch the latest episode of Trade Secrets by Jorge for “Another Affordable Idea to Enhance Your Living Space”

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