How to Fail Well With Gabby

Episode 57: Welcome to the She Builds Show, I’m your host, Stefanie Olson. Today, I have an amazing guest, Gabriela Narvaez from Guild Properties. Gabby is a fully licensed general contractor, designer, and real estate developer. With her company Guild Properties, instead of completely demolishing aging homes, they transform what is already there into a modern space, both sustainably preserves the character of a house but also gives it a design-unique edge. Gabby strongly believe in giving new life to older homes that in turn provide unique and valuable living spaces. She specialize in kitchen, bathrooms and small space renovations, bringing into center focus the importance of good design and functionality.

Ready? Listen in…


•  So that is sort of like how it began… We started with the kitchen, I was able to do it. It turned out beautifully. I loved it, I loved the whole process, I even loved when it was demo and the space was a mess and no one in my house liked it, except for me. Yeah, because you can see what it’s going to look like, right? Oh yeah, I could to see what it’s going to look like, and I didn’t mind living in a construction zone, even though we had… We were having babies, because not only one baby, two babies came back to back, you know? So that’s how it started. So then we renovated her first house that way, we sold that one, made a lot of money and then bought our second house and so forth, and then we did it again. But then it got to the point I had no more houses to renovate. So I was like, What do I do? So we started investing in real estate in Arlington, and so we would buy… This properties had needed a lot of work, renovated them and sold them. Like we started flipping houses, and then eventually it grew into friends of mine would approach me and be like, Hey, I need to remodel a bathroom or a kitchen or whatever, can you help me? And I was like, I got you. (5:03)

•  I think it’s a combination of a lot of things Stefanie. Something that is a big part of my story is I became a teenage mom at the age of 18, so I had a baby as a freshman in college, and sort of like, I was very young, I was a baby with a baby, and I was introduced, I had to grow up really quickly, right? And it’s sort of like a lot of people back in Nicaragua where I’m from, viewed it as this terrible, tragic thing that would happen to me… Right? In terms of my society, where I come from, I was pretty much like walking around with a scarlet letter on my chest… Yeah, an unwed teenage mom at the age of 18, but in a way, I didn’t… It was hard, but I didn’t view it that way, right? It was just like, in my head, failure, even back then, it was never sort of an option.  (10:01)

•   Absolutely, I think just empowering other people to feel like, Okay, yeah, I can do this, and that’s a thing, it’s like… I don’t know if you’ve heard of Matriarchy Build… Have you? Yeah, I’m on their platform. You are too, right? Yeah, yeah, I guess, I think you are. And I just love that they’re just trying to put us, people like us with the experience, in the hands of anybody that wants to be able to go, Okay, I may not feel comfortable doing this, but there’s a woman that I feel connected and easy talking to, and they have the experience and knowledge, and they’re willing to share that with me for a pretty nominal fee, just to buy us for a little time, an hour or a couple of hours, and help them with their project. I think it’s such a beautiful and smart way to empower other women to just try things… That’s so cool. (24:36)

•   It’s been a beautiful thing, and also with this one client that I’m talking about, she really was involved in a lot of the design process for the renovation, and you know she was really scared to make the incorrect choice on a quote on quote, whatever, tile counter top. But I was like, You need to go with your gut. It doesn’t matter what your mom or your next door neighbor. Their opinion is about what’s going to go in your house, like this is your house, your remodel, and you need to make your eyes happy, your eyes are the most important eyes. No one else matters. Exactly. And she took that and she ran with it, and she was having so much fun and she was making all of these bold decisions, and she wallpapered, like… Let me just give you an example, it’s not generally my aesthetic, but I’m also having so much fun because it was so different from me Stephanie. Yeah. She had this powder room and she really wanted a wallpaper of old school cassette tapes, black and white. I was like, Oh my God, and we were going with this sort of modern aesthetic and we did it, we installed these old school black and white cassette tapes, and this beautiful brass mirror and like a hunter green, really modern floating vanity. Oh, wow. (29:36)


Gabby grew up surrounded by the sounds of construction and design. The loud drill of power tools and conversations between contractors were a part of her normal life in Managua, Nicaragua where her father was a civil engineer and ardent developer. For Gabriela, real estate, design, and renovation has not only been a lifelong passion but also a constant part of her daily life.

In 1999, Gabriela moved to the equally humid city of Washington, D.C. Over two decades later, and she has not left. She has found a newfound passion for the properties within the District and the ones that surround it. From the single-family colonials in Arlington to the federal-style townhouses in Georgetown, Gabriela sees potential in renovation everywhere.

Demolition, development, and design excite Gabriela. As a fully licensed general contractor, designer, and real estate developer, she strives to create spaces where families can live both beautifully and joyfully.

She currently resides in Arlington, Virginia with her husband, three children, and their lovable poodle-mix.


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