Jenifer Hofmann, owner of J. Hofmann Homes & Design, used her skills to create her dream home
By Brooke Spach | Photography by John Michael Simpson
Jenifer Hofmann and David Hofmann’s home in Calvander – an unincorporated community just north of Carrboro which marks the transition from “town” to “county” – represents many things. It’s a gathering place for friends and neighbors, Jenifer’s canvas for creative experimentation and the couple’s fifth home in their 20 years since moving from Michigan to North Carolina. It’s also been a home renovation project since 2020, spearheaded by Jenifer herself, a certified remodeling project manager and owner of J. Hofmann Homes & Design. “We’ve renovated four homes and built three [in our lifetimes], and it never occurred to me to hire anybody,” Jenifer says. “When it wasn’t work, it was a hobby.”
JUST THE RIGHT SIZE
The house, situated on just over two acres, was originally built in the ’80s and had a significant addition in 2011. The couple gutted the kitchen, remodeled the living areas and completely redid the home’s attached apartment. They also added on a breezeway (that leads to a new two-story garage complete with a fitness center on the upper level) and created a fire pit area in the backyard.
Now empty nesters after their daughter, Anna Hofmann, graduated from UNC in 2021, David and Jenifer were able to downsize from their last home in Durham’s Hope Valley neighborhood.
“One of our criteria was we wanted to invest in a house that felt spacious but didn’t have a lot of wasted space,” Jenifer says. “We had rooms in our old home that we never used. But in this house, we use everything.”
Each of their previous homes were picked for their close proximity to the university, where David has been a senior associate dean at the UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School for the past six years. They’re a Tar Heel family through and through, as Jenifer’s largest current project – a $2.5 million renovation of the campus’ North Carolina Study Center – shows.
Jenifer was able to leverage her expertise as a designer to make important decisions throughout the home, such as how to maximize space in the relatively small kitchen and where to place the garage. She also used the semi-blank slate to try new things, like the exterior design of the fireplace and tiling in the fitness center bathroom. Jenifer plans to use both of these techniques in future projects for her clients. As project manager, Jenifer says everything was made possible by her trusted vendors, including Kitchen & Bath Galleries, Ace Asphalt and Wilkinson Supply Co.
“Every project is different,” she says. “There’s a formula that you follow, but you never know what you’re gonna get into when you’re tearing into someone’s walls or floors. That makes it really challenging. Every day, you encounter something new, and you encounter problems or issues that were unforeseen when you started.”
In the case of their dream home renovation, which started during the thick of the pandemic, the challenge was supply issues. The pair closed on the home in November 2020 and wasted no time getting started, demolishing the kitchen the day after. Their custom cabinets, which typically take six to eight weeks to arrive, were delayed until April 2021. Jenifer and David lived in the home throughout the entire renovation project. For those five months, they were without running water in their kitchen and eating lots of takeout. David fondly recalled having a long card table held up by moving boxes with a microwave and a toaster oven on it. Now, the couple says they’re “almost there” with feeling settled into the place.
“Homeownership always includes changes in maintenance and replacement, so there’s always something that needs to be done,” he says. “There’s always a little bit of a project. But I would say we’re into typical projects at this point.”
RETURNING TO ROOTS
Jenifer fell in love with home improvement early on in life. Her mother was an interior designer, and their family lived in an 1830s home in West Lafayette, Indiana, that her parents worked to fix up for nearly a decade.
“I grew up on a construction site,” Jenifer says.
So both times she toured their soon-to-be home in Calvander, Jenifer says it just felt right. It reminded her of that childhood home in more ways than both being fixer-uppers.
“To me, this is like the dream setting,” she says. “It’s so familiar to me from my childhood – not the style of the house because I grew up in a historical house, but in terms of being surrounded by the woods and nature. I immediately felt like I loved this place.”
One goal Jenifer had in choosing a new place was an indoor-outdoor living feel. She and David both enjoy spending time outdoors and love that they can see all the way to the wooded backyard from the foyer. On an ideal Saturday, you can find David cycling on the quiet roads by Maple View Farm and Jenifer with her hands in the dirt, working on the landscaping. Another favorite activity is making the short walk from their home over to Hogan’s Magnolia View Farm (the residence of UNC’s mascot, Rameses!) to feed the horses and pet the cows.
“We want to just be able to enjoy our home,” Jenifer says. “My business is really about helping other people enjoy and get to a place where they feel good about their home so that they’re comfortable inviting others into it. Hospitality to me is really important.”
“It’s a gift in today’s world,” David adds.
“It’s not about being fancy or formal, it’s just about gathering together on a heart level,” Jenifer concludes.
Despite her “occupation hazard,” as David lovingly calls Jenifer’s itch to start a new personal project every few years, it seems the Hofmanns are staying put in their contemporary forever home. The couple has plans for another small-scale remodel in the future: moving the primary bedroom to the first level to enable them to age in place. Only time will tell, but when asked if they thought they’d stick around: “I really do,” Jenifer says. “We are old, and we are tired. And we love this place. I don’t foresee moving anytime soon.”