Last night we had the fortune to be named a finalist in the 2017 Cleveland Choice Awards competition in the Custom Home of the Year/Best Outdoor Living Space category for a custom pool and poolhouse environment project we finished in 2016. In talking to some of my colleagues regarding this, I reflected that, while the competition is for builders and is sponsored by the HBA of Greater Cleveland, there really should be recognition that without customers that want us to perform to these high levels, and want our creativity and expertise to be used on their behalf above and beyond the norm, none of the projects submitted would exist. It is these customers- a select few from the hundreds, if not thousands, that hired an HBA member-that wanted a project unique in design, complexity, difficulty, beauty, and, yes, cost that inspired their builder to excellence. It is the existence of these people that we rely on to energize us, to keep us engaged in an industry that is at times trying and unrelenting in its frustrations. So, for every category winner, there is a family, grinning ear to ear, that THEY received a builder’s best efforts and work. That they requested expertise be brought to bear, that training be utilized, and, in exchange, they were willing to reward those efforts. So, while an award may recognize the beauty of an end result, it fails miserably to recognize the family for granting the initial inspiration to reach, and the permission to excel. And, while the winner of each category sent one person up to claim the plaque, each plaque represents an industry-wide wealth of people and knowledge, spanning the generations, that sweated their way through these challenging projects. People unsung in daily life, underestimated by their white collar peers, that exhibit rare expertise in using materials and their hands to craft unique, one-of-a-kind projects that will be cherished for generations both by the people that hired them, and, later, by people that have no knowledge of who these craftsmen even were.
The project we submitted was a very difficult, large scale reworking of about 4 acres of a 6 acre parcel. My team and I were challenged by our clients to create privacy where there was none, and to create a resort-style oasis where there was a windswept hillside. From the initial design to the final touch up and caulking by our staff we, over about 8 months worked through ground issues, weather, logistical issues and the overall complexity of the project to bring it to completion. It’s a guess, but I believe over 200 people worked on this project over the 8 month period. Each phase of the project was orchestrated to dovetail with the phase before and the phase after. For just one example, the well was completed just in time to turn on the irrigation system to water in the transplanted trees, which otherwise would have died. A symphony of dirt, mud, greenery, and carpentry, culminating in a sculptural plastering of the pool. Finally, after all that, filling the pool with water was acceptance that we had completed things, and another family was soon to be grinning about their finished project. Topping it off was a literal symphony of sound-as a concert quality system sent music all around the new environment-bringing smiles to all our faces.
These projects are rare. Not only because of the cost, but also because of the rarity of those people that want to hire great people to perform a great work of lasting art for their families. Too often I hear about how expensive something is, or we are, and that there is someone less expensive that gets hired. That’s ok. For many, ok is good enough. For a few, they want excellence, and, for them, we pour ourselves into these projects and brave the challenges of our challenging industry to produce that awesome finished project. For them, ok is just a starting point, and for us, that’s the green light. The signal, to get the bit between our teeth and to craft something that will be unique and wonderful for this rare family. And, much later, when we’re far past done, if we’re lucky, as a collective pat on the back, our industry will possibly recognize our effort and reward us, 1 night each year. Oh, by the way, yes, we won.