For someone who started out in the design/build business first by remodeling baths, and then setting up serious shop during the recession of 2008, business for Zane Williams has actually evolved into something lucrative.
“We slugged it out and in 2016 we started getting a break,” the founder of Z Properties in Winter Park, Fla. says. “It took a while.”
Now he’s building between eight to 10 homes annually, with 10 more in the design phase, at about $3.5 to $4 million each. “That’s our sweet spot,” he says. “There are some outliers too, with $6.5 million for lot and double that for the build.”
The current building environment is not without its challenges, however. Cost escalation means everything’s more expensive today – up about 40 percent in just 12 months. “Florida is competitive, with a lot of construction, and the labor pool is stretched,” he says. “And it takes a lot more energy to build than it did a year ago.”
Still, he persists, building on lots the client owns already, or scouting sites for them. “We start off with lot procurement, or they have it already,” he says. “We know our clients budget beforehand, and we take it all the way through interiors – we’re a one-stop shop.”
The typical lot is lakefront or an interior site with an existing oak as its focal point.
“We design around trees or topography,” he says. “Infill lots are very urban, and clients will walk to the downtown district.”
And he’ll use landscape to close in the lot, and cocoon the clients within it. “I create environments where you’re not looking out at the neighbors tile roof or wall,” he says. “I’ll bring in 14-foot landscaping to shear everybody else away.”
He designs for neighborhoods, not subdivisions, and prefers smaller homes rather than McMansions with monster-sized rooms or master suites the size of football fields. For a lot of things we’re doing, I’ll spend on window and door packages and scale the house with furniture at the beginning, before we lock down floor plans and elevations,” he says. I don’t do a lot of two story rooms – we scale with our furniture.”
His material palette changes with the architectural style he’s working in at the moment, but he sticks to modern glazing and fenestration, with clean glass. And he wants authenticity. “I want the materials to be real coral stone not cultured stones – with no fake materials,” he says.
And by the time he’s finished one home, his tastes have changed to something different. “I’m not settled on one thing – I’m inspired by different things,” he says. “It doesn’t stay consistent.”
The one element that does remain consistent, though, is a commitment to high-end quality.
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