Choices…

There once was a time when a new home was constructed utilizing materials that were found on or near the site it was being built upon, and was somewhat limited by the level of skilled labor available.  This didn’t leave much room for variation in products or imposing one’s aesthetic on the design. Technology progressed, as it usually tends to do, and new homes at one point could be ordered from a catalog, with the materials being delivered to you by your friendly train conductor.  Although, I’m sure the Amazon business model hadn’t been adopted yet, so shipping was most likely not free. This advancement was one of the milestones that opened the door for varying products, styles and features to enter into the equation.

Fast forward to today… All that the world has to offer in terms of products that can be used to construct one’s home is only limited by how muc

h someone is willing to pay to get it to the job site.  And, new products are either being found or invented all the time. The utilitarian or financial value that any of these products found today adds to one’s home is up for debate, but the personal satisfaction of being able to put your own thumbprint on your home, with products that make you feel proud of and comfortable living in what is most likely the most expensive thing you own, is arguably priceless. So,

with all that is available, why is it that you see the same hardwood floors, faucets, and other components being offered at most new home communities? For anyone that went to college, I imagine that was covered

in freshman economics 101.

But, despite the fact that it may not be the most efficient or cost effective business practice, I have too much pride for what we do to allow Doll Homes to build anything where profit determines all decisions. We are fortunate enough to be one of the few remaining industries that produces a tangible thing, so why would we reduce ourselves to building the same widget using the same products over and over? Afterall, these new homes will be around for generations. Not to mention, giving customers the opportunity to make unique selections sets us apart in the industry, while offering the satisfaction to our customer that they have made their new home truly their own.

So, you want to talk about live edge mantels made from old walnut trees that fell in our area, or sinks carved from stone? Let’s discuss countertops that are made from semi-precious stone, and that light up from an LED panel underneath. You want to put brick on your floor instead of hardwood? Or, let’s talk about hardwood floors that are reclaimed locally and made from   

 old barns or fences.

 

You are only limited by your imagination, and a few building codes, and we won’t even have to make a trip to the train station.

-Will

PS. All the pictures are actual photos of unique products that customers selected to be used their homes. How cool is that? 

It was a hot day, but we were ready!  With the Anita’s Frozen Cotton Candy truck at the ready, we gathered at 751 Quincy Street in downtown Herndon, VA to celebrate the coming of our newest project Station House.  The community had the chance to get a first look at our newly designed Summerston and Sutton models, learn about the Station House project, and take advantage of some great Grand Opening specials.

Station House Launch Party June 2018

There was a local DJ helping us to ‘beat’ the heat, so to speak.  We also had an array of gift baskets from surrounding local businesses up to raffle for anyone who stopped by.  We had baskets from great shops like Weird Brothers Coffee, Elden Street Tea Shop, Meg Donnelly, LMT, Ch’i Body Works, Crooked Run Brewery, Senor Ramon’s Tacos, and even some cash prizes!  Jimmy’s Old Town Tavern provided a delicious chili bar for us to enjoy under the tent.

It was a fun afternoon of learning about the new homes, customization options, speaking to the real estate agent, and touring the property.  We were delighted to have community members, current DOLL Home owners, and perspective buys all come out to celebrate the day with us.  Building in communities like Herndon is what makes it all worthwhile.  We are excited for our newest project and can’t wait for all the people we will be fortunate enough to meet along the way.

It’s the little things…

Recently a lot of time is being spent becoming intimately familiar with the details included in the site plans and construction drawings related to our new housing project called Station House, in Herndon, Virginia.   This is not always the most spiritually fulfilling task and can be quite tedious at times. It got me thinking about a quote from an unknown source that I’ve had taped to my desk for the better part of 12 years.  It reads,

“There once was a time when a land developer could simply be a shrewd entrepreneur. Now it is necessary to be a mystic, an engineer, an architect, a soil scientist, a tax accountant, a land use attorney, and a politician. A wide range of technical skills must be acquired and effectively applied to be successful in today’s market.”  

Now you only need to add to that erosion, structural, energy efficiency, electrical, plumbing and carpentry proficiencies that are required to build a home on your developed land and you are ready to embark on your wildly successful homebuilding career! The fact is, like most professions, it is easy to become overwhelmed by the details, especially those that you aren’t proficient in.  In homebuilding, all of those details matter. Because, afterall, those details are intended to create a tangible, very large, expensive thing that someone is going to be living in for many years. And the consequences could be significant, whether costly or even dangerous, if overlooked.

For instance, your architectural specifications may assume a certain size concrete footing and wall strength for your foundation utilizing very technical and complicated equations that far exceed the understanding of even the most mathematically inclined. Nevertheless, you are confident in the abilities of your architect and structural engineer, and now only have to call a concrete company to come and pour the foundation once the whole is dug.  Right? Not so fast… If your geotechnical report, that is generated by a soil scientist and independent of your architectural plans, says the soils where you intend to place your house don’t drain fast enough, then pouring that foundation as planned may result in the basement walls collapsing in on themselves over time.

Or, let’s say your framers go ahead and frame all the windows and doors as they are shown on your plans. I mean, what could be wrong with going off the plan? Well, not all windows manufacturers adhere to standardized sizing. So unless your framers knew the exact dimension of the actual windows that are being ordered ahead of time, you may find yourself ordering a bunch of additional lumber and paying for additional labor to your now angry framers to cut out and re-frame window openings throughout the home.  Oh, and you get to watch as all the new lumber that was originally used gets cut out and thrown into a dumpster.

The fact is, there are so many details between concept and realization in building a home, I’ve realized that one lifetime is simply not enough to gain a full understanding of all the professions that are involved in making a house grow out of the ground.  Most of what you need to know to be good at it doesn’t come from a textbook, but rather is learned after many years on the job. However, knowing just enough or being willing to ask for help in deciphering differing professional opinions is mandatory to ensure a sound, quality home.  

So we as homebuilders endure reading all the technical jargon, reports, and instructions for each home before starting because the details matter, a lot.

-Will

Raymond Mohler and His Grand Champion

I guess it all started while spending summers with my grandparents at a young age, in a small farm town in Indiana. Summers in Indiana, in addition to being hot and predominantly surrounded by cows, and corn, lots of corn, came with a very big backyard pool, family, and construction.  You see, my grandfather was the town carpenter. I never was sure if this was an official title bestowed on him, but he built the town truck stop, the town bank, and numerous other buildings. And, after all, there wasn’t much room for many other carpenters in a town of about 2,500, so the title seemed fitting.   In addition to belly flops and potlucks with family all summer, I got to spend some time on construction sites, and even was given the opportunity to practice smashing my fingers with a hammer on occasion in an effort to learn how to “toenail” roof trusses.

Thus began my budding love affair with home building, land development and all things construction related.  And, between working my way through college at a restaurant, getting married, having 3 kids, a home, a dog, 4 chickens, and a grossly neglected garden and various other hobbies that I don’t have time for, I find myself on the other side with this one constant. Construction. This month will be my 23rd year with the same home building company that I started with right out of school.   And, as you can imagine, my duties have grown from holding open houses and looking for future home sites. I now am the managing partner at Lawrence Doll Homes. In addition to running a small business with my partner and mentor, Lawrence Doll, my duties range from land acquisition, house design, product selection, financing, land development and, occasionally, where to plant a tree.  

I love what I do.

But, as with most professions, certain aspects are more enjoyable than others.  I design all of the homes we build, truly making them custom homes. The ability to put years of experience into a plan, sometimes starting on a napkin, and seeing it ultimately rise out of the ground is rewarding on a spiritual level.  But, seeing someone move into that home, who appreciates the quality and thought that went into this one-of-a-kind, tangible product, that will be here for a lifetime, is also rewarding beyond any paycheck or accolade.

So this is the foundation for my being here.  And the basis of this blog is to try and show you why I love custom home building so much.  Sometimes it’s pure joy. Sometimes it sucks. But I’m living this life that I’ve built. And I Love it.

-Will

Welcome to DOLL Homes

BUILD – I design and BUILD houses for a living

LIVE – Homes made for people to LIVE in and not just serve as a roof over their head

LOVE – I LOVE what I do

We all are individually tasked with constructing the life we live and we all hope that what we construct is a life we love living. This task of constructing, however, is ongoing as long as we are still breathing. Like the home building process, sometimes things go wrong or don’t quite turn out how we anticipated. It is in that space that we learn to adapt and change and ultimately find both growth and strength. The strength of a home is in its foundation, the same is true for each of us here in Northern Virginia and around the world.

Although the primary focus of BUILDLIVELOVE is that of providing a glimpse of the world of constructing homes through the lens of a home builder, I guess this really could serve as a metaphor for life in general. We are constantly improving, experimenting, changing, redoing, all in the hopes of being able to look back one day with pride at what we’ve created. When we finally list a new home for sale that we’ve built, it most likely looks different than the initial drawings. Like life, we either decided to or were forced to make some changes along the way. It may have a different marble countertop, a larger shower, or hardwood floors, slightly different dimensions on the loft, or a guest bathroom where it was not initially planned. But, in the end, and also like life, those changes are what makes each house unique.

Now, that’s not to say the job of a custom home builder is all work and no play. On the contrary, most home builders I know work hard and play hard. So, from time to time, BUILDLIVELOVE might offer a glimpse of that too. For the most part, however, my goal here is to entertain you with tales of homes, design, construction trends, dirt, anything wood, and even heavy equipment. In the process, I hope to help feed your soul and possibly even provide inspiration for what you are currently constructing in your own life.

– Will