AJH Renovations has a niche market renovating old homes in downtown Greenville, S.C., though it didn’t choose this particular market for the competitive advantage.

“We do it because it’s much more exciting and fun,” Chuck Hartman, managing director at AJH. The team typically works with homes dressed in real wood and brick, rarely renovating the ’80s and ’90s style vinyl-clad suburban versions. Working with historic houses reflects how the team creates its designs: Both designers do all their work on the board, pencil and Bruning eraser in hand, without using design software.

“Our designers have said the feel and touch of the pencil is different than the touch of the mouse,” Hartman says. “I think the mouse creates a disconnect between the designer and the actual project that the pencil does not.”

The designers draw both 3D and perspective sketches that help customers visualize the finished remodel. Coupling the actual home pre-renovation with the designers’ sketches makes it easy for clients to envision how the home will look post-renovation. In fact, Hartman says that drawings from CAD software can be off-putting for his clients. The one issue that he admits to, however, is the increasing difficulty in finding the Bruning erasers his staff loves.

The “old school” method might sound time-consuming, but Hartman doesn’t believe it hampers the team’s efficiency. It goes right along with the kind of work they do.

“Renovating a 70-year-old house is not an efficient process,” he says. “Being residential builders, we look for profits but not always efficiency.”