By Michelle Venus
The husband-and-wife team behind Forge + Bow tap their chemistry in each project they take on. Their next project, a pilot for HGTV, could lead to national exposure.
Ask Annie and Jordan Obermann how they got started renovating houses and they turn to each other with a smile. There’s a story here, for sure.
“Well, it’s been a bit of a journey,” says Annie. Jordan, fresh out of college, had some experience with renovating and flipping houses when the two got married in 2009 and suggested they do “side projects” in addition to their day jobs. He was a mortgage broker with a real estate license, Annie worked as a hair stylist, and they owned a property management company. In their spare time, they worked on the “side projects”—renovating their house.
“Yeah, we’d buy a house, live in it for a couple of years while we renovated, and then sell it,” Jordan explains. They did this three times and are ready to embark on the fourth adventure. The Obermanns’ Mountain Avenue house is under contract and they will move later this month to a new home.
After their first son was born (they’re expecting their third baby boy in March), they spent time reflecting on work/life balance and what they liked to do best. Answer: renovate houses.
They knew they were good at it. Friends and family loved the end result. When they put their homes on the market, they received multiple offers for over the asking price in a matter of hours.
Jordan put all his efforts behind the design and renovation work while Annie continued at the salon. Annie saw how much fun he was having and decided to quit the salon and join him on this wonderful adventure.
“So we started Forge + Bow,” said Jordan.
Annie: “That was two years ago.”
Jordan: “Two-and-a-half. No, it was three years ago.”
Annie: “No, two years ago. We were doing it for one year and then I started full time.”
The tea kettle whistles in the kitchen and Annie jumps up to answer it. “I think it was two-and-a-half,” Jordan whispers. Then he laughs. He and Annie have great chemistry. It’s easy to see why they make such a good team.
Jordan reactivated his real estate license, they bought a house, and started their first we-don’t-live-here project. This time, they decided to try something different. Not wanting to compete with flippers who purchase less-expensive homes and quickly spiff them up with cosmetic fixes, Annie and Jordan took their chances with a higher price point to see what would happen.
“We did try to get into that starter-home market,” explains Jordan. “But there would be 20 competing offers and we just couldn’t break into it, and, really, that’s just not what we’re interested in.” So they jumped up into the $400,000-$500,000 price range, invested more into the renovation to make the house that much more special and more fun for them.
Forge + Bow found its sweet spot. It was up and running. Fast.
Annie comes back with the tea. “We had multiple offers on that property even before it hit the market,” she says as she settles into her seat.
Soon homeowners were calling, asking for the Forge + Bow aesthetic. It made sense from a business perspective to move in that direction. Having witnessed the ups and downs of the real estate market, getting into client renovations offered more security for when interest rates increase and people stay put in their homes.
What is the Forge + Bow aesthetic? Jordan and Annie exchange a look. Each lifts a shoulder. “I don’t think we identify it with any specific taste,” says Annie. “The aesthetic is very intentional for what is true to the home. We look at the original architecture and bones of the house and find the relevancy. We won’t completely change it; we work with what’s there. But we add some modern flair to make it more contemporary.”
“We let the house speak to us,” says Jordan. “The house dictates what it needs. When you remodel, you run into problems and solving those problems often drive the direction of the project.”
“And the design,” Annie chimes in.
“And the design,” Jordan agrees. Forge + Bow’s mantra is “perfectly imperfect.” The team looks at the imperfections of a home and fine tune them into perfection. “It’s never going to be absolutely perfect, but if you work with the imperfections, then you get as close to perfect as you can.”
Following trends is not in the Forge + Bow playbook. “It’s a balance between designing something everlasting and adding something trendy,” says Jordan. “You don’t want to walk in a house and say, ‘Oh, 2017!’”
Annie imagines how the house will look on Christmas morning or during a birthday party or when a family member is snuggled on the sofa, fighting off a cold. Functionality is just as important as the aesthetic. “We want the owner to be proud of the home’s beauty, but feel comfortable enough in it that they can leave their shoes in the living room. Our designs have a casualness about them. They’re very homey and livable,” she explains.
The company’s name is reflective of their aesthetic and process. Brainstorming over dinner one night, Annie and Jordan started playing with word combinations. “Forge came to us right away,” says Jordan. “We like the sound and strength of it. It’s about the quality and longevity of the design. It’s something that lasts. It’s crafted.”
When they hit upon bow, it all fell into place. This bow doesn’t wrap around a package. This bow is paired with an arrow. “We were watching the Hunger Games; I think it had an influence,” says Annie.
The bow they imagine is elegant and graceful. It encompasses the artful side of the company and represents precision—hitting the bullseye, being on target with both design and construction. “The name really helped us define who we are as a business,” Annie explains. “We’re about quality and longevity—the forge—and being intentional and accurate while being graceful. There’s a balance between the two sides.”
In the Spotlight
If there is a theme Annie and Jordan have heard over and over from clients, it’s “You two are just like—fill in your favorite couple—on HGTV.”
Then one day, they got a call from Denver-based High Noon Entertainment, a production company known for its HGTV programming. “Good Bones,” “Fixer Upper,” and “My First Place” are on its roster. Someone from High Noon saw their work online and thought there was something special there. After many conversations and FaceTime interviews, Annie and Jordan signed with High Noon.
“That was about a year-and-a-half ago,” says Annie.
“A little less than that,” says Jordan.
“No, a year-and-a-half,” insists Annie.
“Oh yeah, you’re right,” says Jordan.
“I am,” says Annie.
It still doesn’t feel quite real that a television show could be in Forge + Bow’s future. Every step of the way, Annie and Jordan thought something would fall through. First they shot a five-minute “sizzle,” which was sent to HGTV for consideration.
“We thought the network would hate it,” says Jordan. “And then that would be that.” But HGTV didn’t hate it. They were ready to see a pilot.
High Noon came up to Fort Collins and shot the episode. “We felt better about that than we did about the sizzle,” says Annie. “But you never know, and we just didn’t put a whole lot behind it. Just because you shoot a pilot doesn’t mean it’s going to get accepted.”
HGTV accepted the pilot and it’s scheduled to air this month. Taking a cue from Forge + Bow’s “perfectly imperfect” ethos, the show is titled “House Perfect.”
If that goes well, the network will order a series. “We’re just going to wait and see,” says Annie. “It could take a year, a year-and-a-half before anything moves forward.”
“Or two years,” says Jordan. “Or they could decide to move with it immediately. Or not at all.”
Annie and Jordan don’t get to see the pilot before it airs nationally. They’ll be surrounded by friends and family and staff when they watch it with the rest of the world.
Michelle Venus is a freelance writer and editor living and working in a little old bungalow in Old Town Fort Collins. To comment on this article, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.