Custom – “… made or done to order or, sometimes, made extra fine …”
Those 10 words from a Webster’s dictionary define what custom-built homes are about –and hint at the fact that none are alike.
“Our main goal is to build what the customer wants,” says Neil Rogers of Bob Webb Group. And those wants vary widely. “I’ve never built two homes the same,” says Tom Brown, Webb’s project manager.
Lori M. Steiner, president of Borror Properties and Truberry Custom Homes, says, “The biggest intangible we offer is that with Truberry, you truly get a home that is designed exactly to your family’s individual needs.”
Over the years, both Webb and Truberry have helped customers custom design their homes using model homes and various basic floor plans as the starting point for the final product. “We customize the plans to meet the buyer’s desires (and) may not end up anywhere near where we started,” says Brown. Steiner suggests that Truberry generally uses plans customers have drawn by the company’s architect.
Some advantages of custom building are evident in the variety of options available to the individual homeowner. Others are visible when looking over multiple homes put together by one builder.
An Array of Options
Buyers all want their own flair. “The main focus is the kitchen,” says Brown. “That’s where they start.”
Among the more popular features for those seeking a unique appearance are decorative chimney-style range hoods, often in copper – eye-catchers that create an ambience while serving the important purpose of ventilation, usually of high-end ranges.
It goes without saying that cabinetry is significant, and options for it are myriad. Glass doors in some cabinets and occasionally stained glass inserts are often blended with well-sculpted wood fronts. Anyone who has visited a granite warehouse knows of the multitude of outstandingly beautiful choices from which to choose for counter and island tops, ranging from solid black to slabs that are mostly red and most of the color combinations between.
Webb provides custom woodwork for shelves and cabinets in studies and offices or along great room walls to “enclose” the fireplace with an attractive architectural feature, each essentially unique.
Owners often want niches, sometimes lighted, in hall, stair, landing or high great room walls to display artifacts or artwork.
An entryway may feature a high ceiling, nice lighting such as a large and artistic chandelier, or an exquisite staircase. Once, Webb built an upscale home from a customer’s set of architect-drawn plans that plotted numerous unique features. Among the foremost of these was an iron-framed staircase with marble steps, fabricated in Colombia then imported and re-assembled in the home. That same house includes a safe room accessible through a hidden door someplace in the house and a safe embedded in concrete as part of the chimney.
Steiner echoes the custom-build aspects of Truberry homes.
“We have built a driving range and a basketball court into basements … dog washes, lifts for classic cars, pizza ovens, hidden doors,” she says. Occasionally, there’s a call for a meditation room or a prayer room.
She mentions an intriguing feature in one home: a breakfast nook in the master suite for enjoying coffee, juice and toast.
Creations occasionally come from owners. One custom-planned much of a Truberry-built home and filled it with his own unique ideas and innovations, ranging from inside and deck-lighting to a moveable island in the lower-level recreation/entertainment area. One standout feature was multi-colored weather-aged sheets of steel used to create the built-in wall that housed a television set and to decorate a short wall nearby.
To answer owners’ wishes, “We have built houses with three-story walls, atriums and elevators,” Steiner says.
Available to All
While not necessarily unique to all custom homes, both builders point out hidden construction features that enhance the quality of their products. Brown mentions roof water management with flaps that kick water away from the roof, larger-than-required attic ventilation and finger-joint wood studs, which are two pieces spliced by “fingers” to eliminate warping.
Steiner points out upgraded insulation sheeting that tightly controls heat loss, a newly developed drainage system for foundation walls and steel floor joists that use less metal but cover longer spans and reduce or eliminate basement support columns. Webb’s Rogers says the company routinely adds foam in normal voids to boost the insulation factor.
The builders seek to meet a family’s immediate needs but have to advise looking at the future as well, Brown says. An expanded mudroom or a staging area for kids may or may not be used as much as parents want. Those rooms might be as simple as hooks for hanging clothes and a shelf for storage.
At the other end are such spaces with separate “lockers” with shelves above and a storage unit under a seat. Some have an array of charging units placed for various electronic devices. Some rooms may be designed for a specific purpose needed now. For example, “A nursery may not be a nursery someday,” Brown says, so optional uses such as conversion to a child’s bedroom should be considered.
Some owners opt to install large, multi-head showers with seating rather than a tub in the master suite, whether it be for bathing, sitting in warm water or enjoying a whirlpool. The builder’s choice is to include a tub as a better resale feature, Brown says.
Both builders stress quality. “We spend more up front so we don’t have to come back and fix it,” Rogers says, referring to all Webb houses in general.
And there’s the matter of “location, location, location.” While a water feature such as a pond might be a potential hazard for young children, it likely won’t be if they’re watched and when they’re older, Brown notes. Truberry offers lots from its inventory, Steiner says, and “We can even find the perfect location so that the house faces a particular direction.”
That decision fits someplace into the puzzle of custom-building a home.
Duane St. Clair is a contributing editor. Feedback welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.