One of the first things you’ll notice about Boisean Heather Echevarria’s building and design portfolio is the diversity of her projects. Via her company, Innovative Custom Homes, her discriminating tastes come alive on major remodels, complete tear-downs, reimagined spaces and cutting-edge new construction. Boise is the ideal city, a virtual playground, for creating spaces called “home.” From the North End to the Boise Bench, Boise’s unique heritage is preserved and celebrated by forward-looking designers and builders like Heather.
In Boise’s North End historic district, the authenticity of a home’s natural beauty, character and location is the name of the game. The owner of a historic 1925 home on 17th Street sought Heather to preserve the home’s cultural relevance by coupling gorgeous architecture with modern, eco-friendly elements. After extensive lead-based paint remediation, the home was taken down to studs, and the entire floor plan was reworked to make it both contemporary and functional, maintaining its place in the North End. Design elements included luxury wood windows, insulation for energy efficiency and soundproofing and state-of-the-art Miele appliances. The basement evolved from an awkwardly placed second kitchen and unusable bathroom to a beautifully appointed space for relaxation, two bedrooms and a full bath and a luxurious sauna. The 17th Street home exemplifies thoughtful restoration and impeccable modernization.
From the moment Heather witnessed the million-dollar view from the 1,510-square-foot dilapidated Boise Bench home on Hillcrest Drive, she envisioned intelligent versatility. Capturing the unparalleled vista of Boise had not been a priority for the builder in 1956, evidenced by the original ranch-style brick home with an unfinished basement, low ceilings and very few windows. Now, capitalizing on form and function, the Hillcrest home draws inspiration from the beauty of the breathtaking foothills and its unspoiled panoramic view of downtown Boise. Incorporating premium amenities such as hardy porcelain slab countertops, CoreTec luxury flooring and generous floor-to-ceiling windows into the now 4,867-square-foot home allow for natural light to dance throughout the home, generating a feeling of effortless comfort.
Heather is one of very few female designer/builder/general contractors in the Treasure Valley. Innovative Custom Homes was presented with the 2018 Company of the Year Award from the Building Contractors Association of Southwest Idaho, and at the 2018 World of Concrete conference in Las Vegas, she received the ICF Builder Award for Best Small Residential on her Treasure Valley concrete-built home, the Toronto, all while simultaneously chairing the spring Boise Parade of Homes. To be clear: Heather doesn’t want to be known as “Boise’s female builder,” as that moniker does not speak to her skill sets, drive or vision.
“I wanted to stand out from the crowd for harnessing something unique and was drawn to ICF building [building with insulated concrete forms] as a distinctive choice. It’s about building a better home and constantly improving the home living experience.”
As the most innovative construction method on the market today, ICF drew Heather’s rapt attention. Using a combination of styrofoam, rebar and concrete, she creates the most energy-efficient and disaster-resilient home on the market. Tested to perform equivalent to an R-50 stick frame, this equates to the neighbor paying $200 per month to heat and cool their home, while Heather’s customers are paying around $75. Safety is one of her priorities, and ICF homes boast a three- to four-hour fire rating versus 45 minutes with a stick frame structure. Another selling point is the soundproofing, so no matter if it’s planes, trains or automobiles, ICFs have an STC (Sound Transmission Class) rating of 55-plus versus a standard home at 15.
And though Idahoans don’t have to worry about tornadoes or hurricanes, it’s nice to know that if their home is built out of ICF, they don’t have to worry about these either. While stick frame homes were historically less expensive at the initial point of build than ICFs (with ICFs still providing substantial savings over the long term), ICFs are now extremely competitive with the cost of stick-built homes on the rise. This translates to a build price per square foot that is a no-brainer, coupled with substantial savings month over month throughout the home’s long lifespan.
Not satisfied to be a builder in name only, Heather is a hands-on general contractor on every part of the build process, including when it is time to pour those concrete walls. Her trifecta of local knowledge, number sense and design is unparalleled.
A lover of the outdoors and live performances, Heather drank in the Idaho Shakespeare Festival’s ASL-interpreted production of Mamma Mia! in 2018, her first-ever play in Boise’s gorgeous outdoor amphitheater on the river. She fell in love with the experience and the Festival’s avant-garde approach to theater access for deaf patrons, so much so that she is co-sponsoring Idaho Shakespeare Festival’s 2019 Access Program, particularly Signing Shakespeare. 2019 rolls in with abounding innovation, whether that be at an outdoor Southeast Boise performance or in one’s own home.
2004 – Innovative Custom Homes opened its doors focused on remodeling historic homes.
2008 – Heather started designing new construction projects.
2010 – New construction projects with Heather as general contractor.
2016 – Designing and building ICF homes.
Timeline for Historic 2016 17th Street Reinvention:
- March 2016 – Remediating: Lead paint remediation and proper disposal, then demolition down to studs.
- April 2016 – Rebuilding: Reframing interior and exterior walls. Added blown-in insulation to exterior, new water and sewer lines (replacing 1925 systems) and electric switched from overhead to underground.
- May and June 2016 – Taking shape: Extensive electrical work, new drywall, luxury wood-clad windows, doors, trim, floors, HVAC, plumbing and siding installed. Although new, this renovation preserved the look of the original 1925 home.
- August 2016 Finishing touches: Elements selected for “home” feel. Deep-cleaned and new furnishings delivered.
- September 2016 Moving in: Though new, exterior strongly resembles the original, meeting today’s building and energy codes.