Outdoor living areas should encourage you to get out and enjoy sunshine and fresh air. If your backyard makes you want to hide inside, you are doing it wrong. Ready to spruce things up? Here are some options guaranteed to add to your al fresco experience. Some of them can even be added by your Vanbrooke builder.

Start With a Covered Patio

We’re not going to lie. Texas gets hot in the summer. If you plan to entertain outdoors, a covered patio is a must. Many builders offer covered patios as a standard part of the design or as an option. Patios increase the value of your home, so it is worth it to upgrade. Another must-have upgrade is an extended patio. Larger patios help you create separate zones for conversation and dining. Some builders will even allow you to add a separate patio area for a pergola or fire pit.

Add an Outdoor Kitchen

Your Weber or Hibachi grill not cutting it? Upgrade to an outdoor kitchen. Built-in grills define the space, look great and usually come with a prep counter. Some even have mini-refrigerators and sinks, so you aren’t traipsing in and out of the house letting the flies in.

Bring on the Fire

The grill shouldn’t be the only thing you are firing up. Outdoor fireplaces and fire pits add ambiance and provide a focal point. You will be able to use your backyard year-round (hey, even Texas gets cold in the winter). Outdoor fireplaces are cozy and romantic while fire pits are a natural gathering spot in the evenings. Fire pits get extra points because you can roast marshmallows over them.

Enhance Your Landscaping

If your builder offers more landscaping options than sod, take advantage. A beautifully landscaped backyard encourages you to get outside and smell the roses. Professional landscapers know what plants look best and can use them to divide the space into zones making your backyard appear larger. If your backyard doesn’t have an irrigation system, see if it one can be installed while your house is being constructed. That way you won’t have to put one in yourself.

Room for a Pool?

If you have a large yard, a pool is a definite consideration. Kids love to splash in them. Parents love to lounge around them. If your yard is smaller, you don’t have to miss out. Many people are putting in plunge pools. You can’t swim laps, but you can cool down on a hot day.

What About Water Features?

The right water feature adds elegance to any backyard. Water is soothing and a buffer against noise. Water features aren’t limited to birdbaths and fountains. With a little creativity and careful planning, you can add a small creek, koi pond or waterfall.

Choose Furniture Wisely

Outdoor furniture has come a long way. Most sport all-weather fabric and are water-resistant to one degree or another. Create a conversational area with chairs, a sofa or love seat and a coffee table. Some coffee tables can store your cushions in the event of rain. For dining, go with wood, not metal. No one wants to take a seat on a metal chair that has been baking in the sun all day.

More Outdoor Spaces

Don’t focus solely on the backyard. Other outdoor areas may need your attention. Do you like conversing with the neighbors? Add a covered porch. Porches add to your home’s curb appeal. They are great places to drink morning coffee, greet guests with lemonade or keep toddlers corralled while you do yard work. Another way to add curb appeal is picking the right elevation. Builders usually offer a choice of brick, brick-and-stone and stucco. Choose what works best for you.


Vanbrooke homes feature CAT 6 wiring which means your movie and music downloads will be very fast. It also means you can load up on smart home technology. Smart devices make homes more comfortable, energy-efficient and safer. If you are just jumping on the smart home bandwagon, here is the best tech for 2002.

Lights, Camera Action

Lights, motion sensors and cameras ensure you feel safe and secure in your home. The Ring Smart Lighting System is a favorite with home security experts. Easy to install and relatively inexpensive, the lights are motion-activated. To make them smart, you need a Ring Bridge. The bridge allows you to connect lights to Ring doorbells, Amazon Alexa, Ring Cams and the Ring app. That way you can see who has turned on your lights late at night and record their movements.

Who is at the Door?

Smart doorbells and locks add another layer of security. Smart doorbells have video cameras that link to a screen in your home or an app on your phone so you can see who is at the door. Ring makes a good video doorbell. Many builders install them, including Vanbrooke builder Lennar. The Ezviz DB1C Wi-Fi is a budget-friendly option that supports Alexa and Google home voice commands.

Lock and Leave

Smart locks allow you to open doors without keys. Locks respond to your fingerprint or voice commands. The Kwikset Halo Touch Fingerprint Smart Lock also allows you to use keys and your phone to open the door. The August Wi-Fi Smart Lock has embedded Wi-Fi and integrates with all smart assistants.

Kitchen Helpers

Amazon Alexa, Google Home and other smart assistants shine in the kitchen. You can use voice commands to add items to shopping lists, look up recipes, set timers and play music while you cook. Smart appliances such as the Anova Precision Oven, AmazonBasics Microwave and LG Signature InstaView Door-in-Door Refrigerator make life easier by responding to voice commands to set timers, watch food cook via your tablet or open the door when you are carrying bags full of groceries.

What About the Family Room?

You can use voice commands to turn on televisions, search for your favorite show and turn up the volume. Most TVs work with personal assistants such as the Amazon Echo and Google Home. Smart speakers offer high-quality sound and are voice-activated. The Sonos One supports AirPlay. Smart bulbs such as the Wyze Bulb Color feature Bluetooth feature Wi-Fi. You can control the ambient temperature with smart thermostats such as the Ecobee Smart Thermostat and the Nest Learning Thermostat. Both come with remote sensors you can place in other rooms to keep the temperature consistent throughout your home.

Bed and Bath

Mattresses have come a long way. The Sleep Number 360 i8 Smart Bed allows you to set the perfect firmness for each of you. It also tracks your sleep trends and can make recommendations for getting a better night’s sleep. Got allergies? The Dyson Purifier Cool TP07 keeps the air clean so you can sleep better. Hands-free in your bath is healthier for you. The Kohler Veil features an automatic opening and closing system, night-light, a heated seat, a warm-air drying system, an automatic deodorizer, a self-cleaning function and an emergency mode that lets you flush up to 100 times during a power outage. The Kohler PerfectFill smart drain and bath filler will draw your bath with just a voice command.

Did You Close the Garage Door?

How many times have you wondered if you closed the garage door? With a smart garage door opener, you never will again. The Genie SilentMax Connect Garage Door Opener connects to your home Wi-Fi network, allows you to create users and access schedules and can be controlled via a phone or tablet.



Bathing. Primping. Escaping. We spend a lot of time in our bathrooms. Vanbrooke builders know this which is why they put a lot of thought into the standard baths they design. They also allow you to go a few steps further at the design center where options and upgrades can help you build the bathroom retreat of your dreams. While not all builders offer the same options, here are the ones you will want to look for:

Super-size Your Shower

We dream of tubs filled with bubbles but realistically showers are better. Not any showers, super-sized, walk-in showers. Walk-in showers have no thresholds to trip over, so they are great if you have small children or plan to age in place. They are easier to clean. They can make your bathroom seem larger since there won’t be an irregularly shaped tub taking up floor space. Add multiple showerheads and a bench seat for a more luxurious look and feel.

Types of Tubs

If your definition of relaxation includes a glass of wine, candles and bath salts, choosing the right style of tub is important. Freestanding tubs make a statement and can pretty much be put anywhere in the bathroom. Whirlpool or jacuzzi tubs add an extra layer of relaxation in the form of jets installed in the walls behind the tub. Walk-in tubs are great for homebuyers that want a tub but have accessibility issues.

Do You Really Want to Touch?

A great investment is touchless faucets and toilets. They help prevent the spread of bacteria, save you money, are convenient and easy to clean. Hands-free faucets and toilets use less water which will save you money on your water bill. You also won’t leave the water on if you get distracted.

Get Smart

Home automation technology is creeping into our bathrooms, and that isn’t a bad thing. Smart mirrors can adjust vanity lighting via a voice interface. Technology can keep track of your water usage and even detect leaks. Digital faucets have settings that can control temperatures to prevent scalding. There are even shower panels that allow you to control temperature, water flow and steam in the shower as well as letting you play music or watch television.

Terrific Tile

 Tile comes in many different textures, colors and materials. Porcelain is durable and water-resistant. Ceramic is less durable than porcelain and has a tendency to crack, allowing moisture to seep in. Stone is a great choice as it is water-resistant and durable. Whatever material you use, make sure to tile your shower to the ceiling for a finished look.

Build-in Storage

Nobody likes a cluttered bathroom. Consider your needs before going to the design center. Many builders offer closet organization systems to give you more vertical and horizontal space for clothes, shoes and accessories. If you like your towels close by, ask about adding a linen closet.

It’s All About the Floors

Bathroom floors need to be water-resistant, stain-resistant and great looking. Ceramic tile comes standard with most homes, but you can upgrade the color, style and quality. If you choose ceramic, make sure that a high-quality glaze is used so that it resists wear and tear. Stone floors are gorgeous and water-resistant but can be harder to maintain depending on the type of stone used. Either works well with radiant floor heaters. If you want your floors to be eco-friendly, choose long-lasting linoleum.


A school should do more than teach academics. It should seek to engage the wider community. Huggins Elementary has been doing that for nearly 45 years.

Huggins was founded in 1978. Since then, it has become an integral part of the community providing children with a high quality, differentiated education, as well as helping build character. Skills that will stay with them as they progress through life.

Assisting them on this journey are highly trained teachers and staff. In 2022 Niche ranked Huggins’ teachers among the top 50 in Fort Bend County. Their success is demonstrated by state-mandated test scores that are well above average and the joy with which kids engage with learning.

Last year the school joined the Holdsworth Campus Leadership Program. The two-year program is designed for sitting principals and their teams. Participants learn how to identify and foster teacher leadership in schools through individual growth plans, feedback and coaching. An emphasis is placed on cultivating a continuous improvement mindset and culture of collaboration.

A unique feature of the school is the division of kindergarten through fifth-grade students into houses. The five houses are a mix of all grades where older students are encouraged to help younger students succeed.  The purpose of the houses is to teach collaboration, good character and citizenship.

While the school is venerable, instruction is modern with Smartboards in the classrooms and computer and tablet carts for the kids. The 4 Rs are supplemented by art and music classes. Gifted and Talented and special education classes are available.

The secret ingredient for student success is community collaboration. The school boasts a strong parent-teacher organization — Friends of Huggins — that works to support teachers and students through volunteerism, yearly fundraisers and donating classroom materials.

Vanbrooke is proud to be part of the Huggins community. We love our Huggins Hounds!


One of the top high schools in Fort Bend County is located in Fulshear, and Vanbrooke students are zoned to it.

Fulshear High School opened in 2016. Three years later, it placed in the top 20 percent of all schools in Texas for overall test scores. The percentage of students achieving proficiency in reading/language arts was 75 percent — significantly higher than the Texas state average of 47 percent. The state average for math is 51 percent, but Fulshear High students average 62 percent proficiency.

Those scores earned the school an accountability rating of A in 2019, placing it among the top 20 percent of high schools in Texas. (Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the state waived accountability ratings for the 2019-2020 school year.)

This year, Niche ranked the high school No. 16 on its 2022 list of the Best High Schools in Fort Bend County.

The school boasts a wide-ranging curriculum that features honors, Pre-AP and AP classes. The AP participation rate is 60 percent. Students score above average on the SAT and ACT.

The school is state-of-the-art with a competition gym and two weight rooms outfitted with the latest strengthening and conditioning equipment. There is also a dance studio. All classrooms have Smartboards. The auditorium features lighting and sound equipment rivaling that found in professional theaters.

The band hall boasts orchestra rooms, ensemble rooms and music libraries. The high-quality facilities have spurred the Chargers to ever-increasing success. In 2016, the marching band won seven awards. Since then, the band regularly achieves recognition and took home the 2020 state championship. In 2021, they advanced to the state finals.

The school is also known for its winning girls’ volleyball team. The Lady Chargers won the 4A state championship in 2020. Last year, the team — now 5A — advanced to the state finals again. They were named the 2020-21 Sugar Land Sun Girls Team of the Year.

The school has much to offer all students with 26 clubs available including a film club, future health professionals, theater club and coding club.

Fulshear High is a Lamar CISD school. The district was named the No. 3 best school district in Fort Bend County and the No. 12 best district in Houston by Niche. Out of 1,018 school districts reviewed in Texas, Lamar CISD ranked No. 106.

Vanbrooke is proud to be part of the Fulshear High School family!