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Austin Builders and Architects: Ada Corral and Carlie Bailey

After studying engineering at Vanderbilt, Carlie Bailey made her first foray into construction by remodeling her own home in Old Enfield. Bailey continued to build in Austin for the next 12 years, establishing her firm, CB Crafted Homes, in 2013 to focus on high-end, luxury remodels in Central Austin and Westlake. She sat down with Ada Corral, who makes up half of Jobe Corral Architects, with Camille Jobe. Originally from Puerto Rico, Corral serves on the board of Ballet Austin and the Board of Adjustment at the City of Austin and, in 2018, became the first woman to receive the Austin Under 40 Award in the category of Architecture, Engineering and Construction.

Ada Corral: We do a wide variety of projects, both residential and commercial and some public projects. How about you?

Carlie Bailey: We do really high-end residential remodels and additions. Every project has different puzzle pieces that we try to make work in an existing structure, which is both the fun and the challenge.

At first, some subcontractors confuse Carlie Bailey for the designer or architect instead of the builder on job sites.

AC: Yeah, remodels are always trickier when figuring out budgets and timelines. We estimate as well as possible, but we try to bring in contractors early. We think that’s the most successful way to do it, but I’m wondering if you have any suggestions for how to do that better.

CB: It’s so critical to get as many people as possible on board from the beginning. The builder’s going to think through aspects that can’t be designed on paper, and in the same breath, it’s hard for us to estimate, because the level at which people can finish out a house—there’s just no end to it.

AC: We do a lot of initial images with clients to determine what we’re really talking about. They might tell us a specific budget, and maybe that comes out to, say, $350 a square foot, but you’re showing me pictures of a thousand dollars per square foot. So really laying out what we can do for your budget—we like to say, There’s always a project there.

CB: Of course, there’s a middle ground. And it’s really great that you take the time to identify your levels. Some architects don’t do that, so clients bring these beautiful architectural drawings, but we put together an estimate and they fall out of their chair. It’s critical for the architect to have those hard conversations in order to break down the priorities between wants and needs, and I was going to add that if there is an interior designer in the mix, bring them in early, too. So much of the budget is contingent upon those finishes, and I don’t think clients really understand how much can be spent there.

River Ranch by Jobe Corral Architects.

AC: Yes. Another thing clients ask is if they can save money by purchasing fixtures and tile themselves. We think it makes sense for the architect to coordinate those because we’re looking at the whole project, making sure the design is consistent. I think clients don’t realize how much there is to select, but what do you think about clients buying everything themselves?

CB: I always say we really want things to run as efficiently as possible because we want things to be done as quickly as possible. We really have to make the purchases because we have to coordinate all the logistics, from quantities to deliveries and making sure that materials are stored safely. It’s really the client’s best interest we have at heart in order to keep things running.

AC: Well, since we are both women, I was wondering if you could tell me about your experience
in the industry. I’ve been specifically asked to join organizations because they want a non-white woman, and I always want to be asked because I’m qualified. So I’ve thought a lot about how to achieve diversity and realized that the best thing I can do is just be out there and do really good work. I think that’s how we can elevate women in the profession: I never want to be selected because I am a woman; I want to be selected because I’m the right person for the job. So what’s your experience?

CB: I always get asked on job sites if I’m the designer or the architect, so I have to tell them I’m the builder and their face is always priceless. Once they meet me, they like it, but I think it’s just a different experience. There’s just a more personal, relaxed approach, a little more emotional intuitiveness, but like you said, it’s better to pick the person that’s right for the job and not because of their gender.

Architect Ada Corral also serves on the board of directors for Ballet Austin and is a member of the City of Austin’s Board of Adjustment.

AC: Well, I’m excited to have another woman to work with. It’s definitely a different relationship and it’s a way to support each other.

CB: There’s so much work in this town, so many houses to build. It’s never a bad thing to encourage one another. I also know you try to be really involved in the community and I’d like to hear what you guys do.

AC: Yes, my partner, Camille Jobe, and I outlined from the beginning of our firm that giving back to the community is incredibly important. We both volunteer with several organizations, but when we can give back via projects, that’s the perfect solution. We just completed restrooms for the Trail Foundation on Lady Bird Lake, working with a community in a part of town where people feel like they’re being left out. We had the opportunity to create a project with them and for them, reflecting the personality of that area. And we always encourage the rest of our office to volunteer their time in just making Austin better.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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