When people first meet Lisa Richardson Vincelli, they usually ask about the modeling career that took her to New York City and Milan, into the showroom of the late Gianni Versace and onto runways all over the world.
But Vincelli is far more enthusiastic about her remodeling career.
The 50-year-old still works about twice a week posing for JCPenney and other clients — she recently shot a Texas Lottery commercial that features an elephant.
But her 9 to 5 is general contracting. Vincelli started out flipping houses, first in Lake Highlands and then Lakewood. But that petered out when the economy turned and she couldn’t get loans. So last year, she started LRV Remodel & Design and went to work remodeling other people’s houses.
“I’ve basically been remodeling since I was 16,” she says.
That’s when she and her dad built a cabin together in the woods of her native West Virginia. He died when she was 19, and she went to college in Florida, where she “got drafted into modeling” when she entered a contest with a friend.
She worked full-time as a model in Germany, Italy and New York for about seven years before settling down with her first husband in Van Alstyne, north of McKinney. They bought a ranch in 1990 and raised Arabian horses.
“Someone offered to buy our ranch, so we priced it really high, and it sold,” she says.
They bought another ranch, built a house on it, and sold it four years later for a significant profit. That’s how Vincelli got a taste for house flipping, and after her divorce, she made it her job.
She bought a “really cute little three-bedroom house” near the Bath House Cultural Center.
“At first, I would live in them for about two years and work on them,” she says.
When she sold one for a profit, she’d buy another fixer-upper. In all, she flipped about 12 houses. And then the banks stopped lending.
“I thought, well, I’ll just wait it out until they start lending again,” she says.
But that never happened. So she started offering remodeling services to her friends.
“I’ve gotten a lot of business from my friends’ parents,” she says. “It’s really turned out to be a networking thing.”
So far, she’s done about seven jobs, ranging from roofing and kitchen remodels to helping people get their houses ready to put on the market — cleaning, painting, landscaping, changing out lighting and fixtures.
Vincelli says she always shows up to work with her subcontractors to make sure they’re all communicating and being held accountable. She thinks some general contractors fail to “make the women happy”.
“Guys care if there’s a leak in the roof or something,” she says. “They care. But really, their main concern is that their wife is happy.”
Along with general contracting services, Vincelli offers interior design help. She found homeowners often are overwhelmed with choices — which paint color, tile, fabric and fixtures to choose.
So she shops for them, or she takes them shopping with her to narrow the field.
But she really likes getting her hands dirty.
Last year, she put in labor as “a grunt worker” for her stone guy, and they laid 1,000 square feet of flagstone in her patio. She worked a day with a roofing crew to learn what they do. And she and her husband, jazz saxophonist Joseph Vincelli, have learned to do Venetian plaster.
Vincelli once gutted and remodeled a 1916 craftsman bungalow in the M Streets, but her favorite houses are one-story homes built in the ’50s and ’60s.
“They have good bones, good floor plans,” she says. “They just need a little TLC and maybe a wall taken out to open them up.”
Vincelli, it seems, just likes old things. She also is restoring two vintage cars — a 1957 Triumph TR3 that was her dad’s, and the ’75 Triumph TR6 she took with her to college.