Cypress Turn Courtyards in Graywood is one of Tupper Homes' many local developments. (Special to the American Press)
Last Modified: Wednesday, May 14, 2014 5:30 PMRemember the Southwest Louisiana economic recession of the ‘80s? Glenda and Randy Tupper do. “It was so bad that someone started selling bumper stickers that read, “Last one out of Lake Charles, turn off the lights,” Randy said.
In was in the midst of those tough times that the couple started their business, Tupper Homes. They had their McNeese degrees. Glenda’s dad, Clayton Ferguson, gave them a set of construction management books and plenty of encouragement. After Randy worked for Builders SavMor for a few years and became familiar with the construction industry, he knew he could do the work, and do some things a little better than what he was seeing being built in the area.
“Acadian or country style was big then. I just developed some plans that we would like to live in, a smaller comfortable home and secured bond money for first time homebuyers and started building,” Randy said.
“Failure wasn’t an option,” Glenda said. “Not that I didn’t worry at times.”
That was over 30 years, and hundreds of houses, ago. Now the Tupper’s 30-year old son, Matt and his wife, Amber, are part of this family-run local business. Tupper Homes has transitioned from builder to builder/developer and includes a design studio. They’re currently working on their seventh development in the Lake Area.
They’re not much for talking about their work; they’d rather be doing it. When they’re on vacation, they look at houses, visit trade shows, go to the Parade of Home tours in other areas and enjoy visiting new flea markets (and talking about houses). On the wall is a sign that Glenda picked up during one of her and Randy’s many flea market jaunts: “Satisfaction is a silent salesman. He works here.”
Exploding from a wall bulletin board in their reception area and framed in the conference room are thank you notes from customers.
“We just treat people the way we want to be treated,” is the explanation that Glenda gives for the many cards and letters.
The Next Generation: Matt and Amber Tupper
When people ask their son Matt how long he’s been in the business, he likes to answer, “Before I was born.” That’s when his mom was hanging wallpaper. When Randy and Glenda took 11-month-old Matt to their first national homebuilder’s show, they found out after they got there, that strollers weren’t allowed. “He got pretty heavy about that second day,” Randy said, chuckling.
As a child, Matt helped his mother deliver water and popsicles to workers in the hottest months. “At Garrett’s Paint, the owner would give him a penny for the bubble gum machine, at Stine’s the treat was usually donuts,” Glenda remembers about the times when she was picking up what the business needed with her son in tow.
As soon as he was old enough, he jumped into framing, foundation and tile work, etc. He’s also worn every hat in the office, bookkeeping, payroll and designing the Tupper Homes website. Now his wife, Amber, is learning the ropes.
They’ve just built their first house. The story about Matt and Amber’s home is a little out of the ordinary and not just because it’s traditional on the outside and industrial/eclectic on the inside with plenty of repurposed and salvaged features.
It’s also interesting because it’s on the same piece of property as the house where Matt grew up.
“We just happened to be riding by and saw the ‘For Sale’ sign on the lot,” Matt said. Randy and Glenda sold the home six years ago, but it had been destroyed by fire and torn down.
Matt and Amber designed a house that should hold its value on the real estate market in the coming years, a home with a traditional exterior and built to popular dimensions, 2,100-square feet with three bedrooms and two baths.
They also added the newest construction features that buyers look for: energy efficiency, a hypo allergenic air system, a tankless water heater, a radiant barrier roof decking, a 20 SEER air conditioner, a post tension foundation and custom dog kennel built-ins.
The interior isn’t standard. It’s creative, with the feel of an industrial loft and full of reclaimed and repurposed highlights. The house manages to be sleek, yet homey at the same time.
One of the lights is an old exit sign from Immaculate Conception Cathedral School, the pantry door handle bears the Cadillac brand, an old railroad cart has been repurposed into a coffee table and the kitchen’s pendant light covers were fashioned from old signage.
Reclaimed wood, like doors salvaged from an old University of Louisiana at Lafayette dorm, and brick spattered with long forgotten paint jobs add warmth and character.
Randy, Glenda, Matt and Amber are all collectors, loving the process of discovering something that can be used in their own homes – or in the homes of their customers.
In the office is a large reclaimed old corbel resting on its side on the top of a file cabinet. “There’s another stashed somewhere in the back,” Glenda said. “They’re waiting to find the perfect home,” she said.
Not All Courtyard Homes Are the Same
Randy and Glenda first saw the design for courtyard homes during one of their national convention trips and built the first to be built in the area almost 30 years ago. They realized that empty nesters would be interested in a well-built house that would allow them to downsize, leaving more time for the activities they enjoyed most.
“Everyone thought we were nuts when we started building them,” Glenda said.
Randy and Glenda realize that “courtyard homes” and “patio homes” have become synonymous in the minds of the consumer and point out that a true courtyard home actually has a courtyard. “A courtyard home doesn’t mean just a smaller house on a smaller lot – at least to us it doesn’t,” Glenda said.
Their courtyard homes started at 1,600 to 1,800 feet. However, their Graywood courtyard homes have at least 2,000 square feet and some have as much as 3,000 square feet.
Randy said that “downsizing” is relative. “Some of the purchasers of these houses previously lived in huge houses.”
Tupper Homes Lake Charles developments include Woodgate, which is part of Stillwood in South Lake Charles, Pecanwood on Ernest St. across from the library, Hidden Gardens and Hidden Treasures off Lake Street near I-210, Azalea, Magnolia and Cypress Turn Courtyards in Graywood, and Five Oaks on West McNeese.
Silver Spoons and Tricky Grays
Glenda Tupper named her design studio, which includes flooring and custom window treatments, Silver Spoon because she’s earnest in her conviction: “You don’t have to be born with a silver spoon to have a wonderfully decorated home,” she said.
It was also a way to make building and decorating a home easy and fun for tcustomers, which goes along with the Tupper Homes slogan: “Making home building a pleasant and exciting experience.”
Glenda said that the transitional style is very popular now, but it can also be tricky. “People want a modern look, but they don’t want to give up that cozy feeling. Doing transitional involves finding the perfect comfort zone between traditional and modern,” she said.
With her most recent design projects, she’s seeing more streamlined design, lighter colors and more grays, which, according to Glenda, can be tricky.
She against “matchy-matchy.” “Don’t go out and buy a complete set of anything,” she cautioned. “I love to mix in the things that my clients already have, things that are special to them, with new products. Clients should keep the things that tug at their heart strings. That’s what can help make a house into a home,” she shared.