Small Homes, Big Ideas
How Michelle Flores and Kristen Harper are making their home improvement dreams a reality
by Avery Tanner
Inspiration often strikes when you least expect it. For Michelle Flores and Kristen Harper, the owners, designers and couple behind design and construction firm Remodel Boutique, inspiration struck during a marathon of home improvement shows. Harper was home sick when she decided to get her real estate license after logging more than a few of hours watching HGTV. After experimenting with a number of design projects at home, Harper and Flores got their start in the investment world. Investing soon launched the duo into remodeling, and Remodel Boutique was born.
Flores and Harper have since built their company into a successful firm restoring life to homes in town, many of them in East Austin. Building on the east side means working with homes that are smaller than most, something Flores and Harper see as an exciting challenge instead of a hinderance. Flores says most of their projects are homes averaging around 1200 square feet.
One of these East Austin homes was noticed by Marc Vassalo, the author behind the book “Little House in the City: Living Small within City Limits.” The home is featured in the book because of its small size and beautiful design. Not only was it a project for Remodel Boutique, but it was also the couple’s personal home. The women had been looking for a home with re-modeling potential in their budget when the house came on the market as a foreclosure. They scooped it up and started to work on it while living in it.
Harper considers it their first real labor of love. “Even though it was small, it was a much bigger undertaking than we were imagining,” she says. The process of redoing the house helped them realize the importance of bringing unique ideas together to form one cohesive plan. “We often have different visions for things and that’s really helped us in clearly communicating with clients,” Harper says.
Their design process is a modern one, primarily consisting of using Pinterest instead of a more traditional vision board. Harper and Flores strive to find the essence of what clients hope to create in their homes. Flores explains: “It’s kind of like watching HGTV with that experience of them saying ‘this is all the stuff we want’ and then we execute it.’”
Flores and Harper enjoy working on the east side primarily because of the people – often young first-time homebuyers with tight budgets but plenty of creativity. The self-described “designer spirit guides” say that the best part of their job is making a living through thinking outside the box.
As for the future, Remodel Boutique was recently announced as a small business finalist in Austin’s Box Bazaar entrepreneurship competition. As a finalist, Flores and Harper will receive a work space in Box Bazaar, a business incubator installation on Manor Road. Flores and Harper attribute the success of Remodel Boutique to their commitment to uniqueness and, of course, practice. Flores says, “We’ve done this by practicing, practicing, practicing. You really can teach yourself to do something and then build it from the ground up.”