Home truly is where the heart is…free to be expressed, safe to be seen, and authentically acknowledged.
In the final post of Pippin’s Inspired Life series, I share with you my heart. I introduce you to my true love and forever partner in life and in business, Wes Stearns. Together we designed an industry hallmark home (Healthy Haven) and grew Pippin Home Designs into a firm rooted in health, wellness, love, and inspiration.
A Perfect Match
My previous marriage ended in a painful divorce, and after taking the time to heal my wounded heart, my focus shifted to a busy, single life amidst managing a growing business. While enjoying my freedom, I started feeling the yearning for companionship again. A girlfriend convinced me to create a profile on Match.com. I didn’t have much time to invest in a dating website, though I did my part by getting clear on what I truly desired.
I wrote in my journal a list of all the attributes in a partner I wanted and those that were deal breakers. I made space in my home for my future mate by clearing out one of the bedside tables, half of the closet, and half of the bathroom vanity. I set my intentions, made my peace with the universe, and let Match.com do the rest. Occasionally I would check the website, never feeling very impressed. After the free 3-month trial I decided it wasn’t meant to be. I gave my ‘matches’ one final swipe before cancelling my account and low and behold someone caught my eye.
Mr. Wesley Stearns captivated my attention! Oh my goodness he was handsome, tall, the right age, he had a great smile, a job as MRI Department Supervisor at a local hospital, his interests were similar to mine, and he rode a Harley. You know, all the important stuff. I sent him a wink and he winked back. I started the conversation, and it was all over from there. I later learned that he had just created his profile that day, the last day that I was ever to be on Match.com.
So, yeah, we’re the Match.com success story! As cliché as it may seem, I’m forever grateful I opened myself up to the possibility of online dating. Miraculously, Wes seemed to have walked right out of my journal and into my life and shortly thereafter into my home. Wes and I moved in together and were married within a year. That was 17 years ago now, and I can honestly say that each year gets better and better.
I think there’s magic in meeting someone a bit later in life,
after having learned more about yourself, and having experienced
the trials and tribulations of relationships built on shaky foundations.
Wind Beneath My Wings
My relationship with Wes was built to last. One day, early in our relationship, he told me “I’m going to be the wind beneath your wings” and of course, I swooned. What girl doesn’t want to hear those words? Though I had no idea what such a claim would look like.
Almost immediately he began joining me on my many travels across the nation to attend AIBD conferences, workshops, and meetings. He accompanied me in my final year of a 4-year training program with the National Institute of Classical Architecture. The following 3 years he joined me at the North Carolina Solar Center at NCSU in Raleigh where I completed the Healthy Built Homes series (now called Green Built Homes). Wes was my study buddy while I worked towards my Green Building Diploma, and Renewable Energy Technology Diploma. Together, we fell in love with the possibilities of Green living and Green home design.
The wind was starting to pick up and Wes could see in my heart a deep desire to put to work all this precious knowledge we had just obtained.
Serendipitously, our small cottage home on the lake needed a new roof and I’d be damned if I was going to replace the roof of our home without also employing sustainable housing techniques. This was just the impetus we needed to practice what we preached. Mind you, this was in the early 2000’s and convincing my clients and their builders that they ought to be incorporating Green design in their home was still quite a challenge.
A Home Greater Than the Sum of its Parts
The more we allowed ourselves to dream, the more our dream became a possibility. We thought about what our needs were. We needed a new roof and a bigger home, one with studio space so I didn’t have to endure a commute.
We thought about our intentions and desires. We wanted a Green home that could be used as a facility for teaching others about sustainable home design. We wanted our home to incorporate more ease and comfort without the high price tag of utilities. We wanted our home to FEEL good, designed with feng shui techniques to assure flow and harmony throughout. Our life was beginning to feel like a fairytale, and we wanted to make sure our home could support our love and happiness.
Having recently learned about ways a home can make its inhabitants sick in the Healthy Built Homes courses (more on this in the next blog series), we wanted to show everyone how health and vitality can be supported by the structure around you. We envisioned beautiful entertaining spaces for fun gatherings of different groups of people to experience a whole new way of living.
Dreaming through each one of these elements of life that were so important to us ended up being the advent of my You-Inspired Discovery Process. At the time it was just a fun exploration of creating my future with Wes. Little did I know that this technique would someday be coined by my branding strategist and turned into the central thesis of designing unique homes tailored specific to the individual personalities of my clients.
We certainly designed a very unique home for ourselves. Wes and I sat down night after night and added onto the design of what was to be our hallmark home: a living museum of sorts, an educational center, and hands on experience of what the future had to hold. Something magical was happening. It was the alchemy of two passionate minds meeting to create a home greater than the sum of its parts.
Where There’s a Will There’s a Way
The industry was still far from keen on the concepts of Green Design and finding others to collaborate with was challenging. The engineer we hired to provide the structural design for the construction drawings told us that the footings of the very old very small cottage would not support all the additions we were planning to make.
Well, where there’s a will there’s a way! And better yet, when you have the proper know how, you can work outside the box.
I just so happened to be designing many beach homes at the time and they were all built on pilons, used as a safe and secure alternative to traditional housing foundations that were capable of withstanding hurricane level winds and crashing waves. I thought, ‘why not build onto the cottage in the way I was designing the beach homes, using pilons around the existing home such that none of the addition would be load bearing on the original foundation’? When I suggested this unconventional idea to the engineer, he blinked a couple times, cocked his head to one side and said, “well, I suppose that would work”.
It turned out to work marvelously! We renovated the inside of the 1965 cottage to appear seamless with the addition surrounding it. We popped the roof off, added a second and third floor, and the original home became a walkout basement level. Our new home, elevated in both space and innovative design, incorporated a bridge to enter on the new second floor level.
We included more Green and sustainable techniques and materials than you could count. The home utilized active solar with multiple photovoltaic panels used for the hot water heater. All of our appliances were Energy Star. We used Icynene insulation made from completely recycled material that doesn’t contain any harmful gasses, toxic chemicals, or synthetic blowing agents. We were very careful to make sure the HVAC system was designed and sized appropriately for the house. The tight building envelope created by sealing the attic and crawl spaces allowed us to maintain the highest efficiency of our HVAC system. We used sustainable metal siding and roofing and we reused as much material from the existing structure as possible. With prefab trusses, bamboo, cork, and marmoleum flooring, we minimized the toxic materials in as many components as the current industry would allow and our Green dream was aptly dubbed Healthy Haven.
Project: Live Green
Healthy Haven demonstrated all the aspects of a Pippin IMPACT Home and we called our initiative Project: Live Green. We began hosting events, and teaching people about Green living as soon as the day we broke ground in 2006. Our second event (Art, Wine & Green) was held while the home was still in the framing stage. The framing that afternoon was used to hang art for sale by local artists while we discussed the Green elements that were to be incorporated into the home.
The home was completed in 2008, and that first year we hosted 11 Open House Tours for a variety of different groups. All vendors who participated in creating Healthy Haven were invited to join us at each event to give product demonstrations, offer information about their services, and be available to answer questions.
For two consecutive weekends in a row, we partnered with the local Habitat for Humanity and opened our home to the public for a fund-raising event educating the community about Green Design. 100% proceeds from ticket sales and sponsorship went to Habitat for Humanity and 100’s of people were able to experience the wonder of Healthy Haven.
We taught about Green Design within the industry, recognizing that there was still significant disparity between what was capable and what was being practiced. We hosted the students from North Carolina State University Green Building I Diploma Series with the intention of offering inspiration from a hands-on display of what they were working towards. We also hosted an AIBD, NC Society meeting, as well as a National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) in hopes that we could communicate effectively that Green and Sustainable are not just for new home designs. Healthy Haven had proven that a remodel can be even more sustainable than a new home when reuse of original materials is utilized.
We went off campus to extend our reach by speaking at local colleges about Green Design. And we taught the young by inviting the local Girl Scouts to our office building to introduce them to the potential for a Greener future.
Wes Takes Pippin Home Designs by Storm
Living in this home was a full-time job, though we both already had full time jobs. In fact, we had been wondering for quite some time how we would be able to spend more time together. We contemplated working together, having already proven to ourselves that we made an excellent team, Healthy Haven was prime example of that. Though, Wes worked at the hospital and there was no chance I would be joining him there.
Wes had become fatigued watching so many sick people leaning on the health care system, unaware of the implications their homes could be having on their health. He felt like he held a secret that nobody at the hospital wanted to know. His work showcasing Healthy Haven and teaching people who were open to receiving the forward-thinking notion of healthy homes and Green living felt more rewarding to him than his chosen career path in health care. Having been burned out for a long while, I finally was able to convince him to redirect his efforts towards his passions. Wes’s many talents provided plenty of options for him. He said goodbye to the hospital and dove back into his long-lost love of photography and started his own business.
Life seemed to be coming up roses. We had more flexibility in our schedules since we were both entrepreneurs though we were still equally as busy. Then one day my CAD guy announced that he was burned out and needed a break. The void in my team at Pippin Home Designs was just the opening Wes needed to see how he could once again become the wind beneath my wings.
It only took him about one minute to ponder the possibilities of jumping on board with Pippin Home Designs. Sure, he would have to learn CAD and a whole new software program, though the Chief Architect 3D program looked fun and his experience with photography software gave him an advantage.
He saw our opportunity to work together every day, support one another in our creative endeavors, and be able to spend more of our lives together. He also envisioned moonlighting as Pippin Home Designs professional photographer and videographer.
With gale force he committed fully to Pippin Home Designs, elevating our potential as we soared together into the future as a cutting-edge design firm capable of creating hand-drawn dreams that come alive with 3D technology.
Like oxygen to a flame, Pippin Home Designs was ablaze! We were winning awards left and right.
Healthy Haven made the front cover of Smart Homeowner Magazine and won numerous design awards in Green Home Renovation categories over the course of many years including the ever-coveted Grand ARDA Award through the American Institute of Building Design. It also won the Green Residential Remodeling Project of the Year Award recognized by the U.S. Green Building Council.
We had made a name for ourselves, and Pippin Home Designs was acknowledged with both the Green Advocate of the Year Award and Green For-Profit Business of the Year Award by the Charlotte Business Journal and U.S. Green Building Council.
With Wes beneath my wings, I was viewed as a leader in the industry, honored with many accolades and professional awards, named as the Most Influential Woman by The Mecklenburg Times, and given The Charlotte Mayoral Proclamation Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Advancement of the Green Building Industry.
My induction into the AIBD College of Fellows has been the pinnacle of my career. As the highest achievement a member can receive within the American Institute of Building Design, the College is comprised of Certified Members who have notably contributed to the advancement of the profession of building design. I was the second woman ever to obtain fellowship.
Though it may be my name on these awards, I credit my husband and business partner, Wes Stearns, for each of them. I wouldn’t be where I am today without him, his artistic eye and photographic talent, his creative influence acting as my sounding board, his love and support in business and life. It was he who chose to be the wind beneath my wings, and we’ve been soaring ever since.
My life as well as my business have undergone numerous growth spurts, challenges, and changes. The turbulence teaches me how to remain steady. My support system carries me along the current. Following the flow of inspiration has provided fresh air when things have felt stale. I’ve learned that the best we can do is continuously create possibilities and leave the rest to the powers that be.
Healthy Haven is now being enjoyed by another homeowner. Our days of hosting live home tours are over. We now have switched gears to teaching in a different way, via this blog with inspiration able to reach an expanded audience. After all, the intention has always been to pass along to others the knowledge and benefits of Green living. I’d say we’ve been quite successful in our mission.
Check out our upcoming Sick House Series in which I discuss the many ways your home is likely making you ill along with remedies designed to heal.
I intend that my inspired life inspires you to live your best life in the home of your dreams.
Inspired by you,
Jenny Pippin, CPBD, FAIBD, CGP
Pippin Home Designs
I am Jenny Pippin, founder of Pippin Home Designs and creator of my own inspired living. I grew up as an ordinary southern girl, working in the fields of my family’s tobacco farm. It didn’t take me long to realize I had greater gifts and so I chose to step into my power and create my own path in life, inspired by my heart’s true passion. (More on my personal story HERE!)