Brick & Batten
Take a Look Inside the Virtual Exterior Design Company
Writer: Jane VanOsdol
Photography provided by Brick & Batten
Spurred on by their family’s passion, the two started Brick & Batten in 2017, a virtual exterior design business. They opened their online doors in June, and within the first month they were already up and running with clients, thanks in part to fans who had followed their posts on social media for years.
Their business model is simple, innovative and genius. People submit a photo of one side of the exterior of their home that needs updating. Vaccaro and McDowell use software to cosmetically update the home’s exterior (no structural issues are addressed), sending a virtual rendering of their recommendations back to the client, complete with a clickable shopping list of all the design elements.
The sisters are careful to include clients in the process. After the client purchases the package and before McDowell and Vaccaro start working, the duo talks to the homeowners via FaceTime or Zoom.
“We care about their space, where they spend most of their time. We honor their wishes and desires,” McDowell says.
A comment section also allows clients to specify any of their must-haves for the project.
Brick & Batten has established relationships with suppliers so they can offer the best pricing on exterior supplies, most of which are available for purchase on their website. Clients then have the option of purchasing from Brick & Batten or locating the items elsewhere. Some of their suppliers include Timberlane Shutters, Pacific Home & Garden and Doors by Decora. Clients are also in charge of either implementing the changes themselves or hiring local help to do it for them.
With McDowell living in Carmel and Vaccaro living in Atlanta, Georgia, an online business works perfectly for them and allows them to help clients from all across the United States. Customers are a mix of both sellers who want to increase the curb appeal of their home and owners who are staying for life with a desire to make their homes the best they can be.
The sisters love design and helping others, so they have priced their service affordably. To be even more budget friendly, they suggest that homeowners complete the outdoor upgrade in stages. For example, painting a home is best completed in spring or fall due to weather conditions. Use the summer to add flowerpots and other landscaping. Doors and shutters can be added during the summer or fall.
A La Carte Options
In addition to their regular service, clients can elect to add two other options provided by Brick & Batten:
• A rendering of an additional side of the house
• A virtual landscape consultation designed to their exact geographic location and soil type
These choices can be added before finalizing an order on brickandbatten.com.
McDowell credits her parents with instilling in the girls a passion for design since the time they were little. Her dad worked in insurance, but buying properties and fixing them up was his passion. During family vacations to the East Coast and southern Florida, they would drive for hours looking at homes while her father pointed out all the architectural details and discussed whether they were mid-century modern or Victorian.
Blueprints and home plans were always laying around the house, which he would discuss with the girls, asking their opinions. They’d often find design magazines left open to articles circled for them to read. When they went away to college, their mailboxes were full of information he’d mail to them.
“These are his archives that we grew up loving and living every day,” McDowell says.
While both Vaccaro and McDowell pursued other careers, they started social media accounts where they posted about design, and they talked about starting a design company someday. In 2017 “someday” became a reality. McDowell quit her job as a teacher, and they launched the business.
They’ve since completed design training classes, exterior color classes and American Society of Interior Designer workshops.
“We’ve surrounded ourselves with experts in the field,” McDowell says. They also welcomed their sister-in-law Shannon Gallimore to the team, whose strengths are design, creation and innovation.
In the short time they’ve been in business, they’ve completed about 50 homes.
“Our clients are excited, which makes us excited,” she says.
Although they’re just starting, they have their eye to the future.
“I’d like to find a way to reach out to people who have been in natural disasters like hurricanes [and help],” McDowell adds.