“Building Official from a West Metro Suburb: Note to Stonewood”
A building official from a west metro suburb recently sent us this note as he neared his last day on the job, heading into retirement:
“Sven – It’s been great working with you. You are one of the best builders I have ever worked with. I’ve seen a lot of guys take over the family business and run it into the ground, you on the other hand have sent your business into the stratosphere. I don’t know how you can stay so hands on and keep track of it all! Good luck in the future.” ~ Building Official
Thank you for the kind words. Stonewood LLC will continue to reach for the stratosphere!
Over 25 Million Monthly Unique Users Rated Top-Rated Home Building,
Remodeling and Design Professionals in the United States and Around the World
WAYZATA, MNJanuary 19, 2015 – Stonewood LLC. of Minnesotahas been awarded “Best Of Houzz” for Design by Houzz, the leading platform for home remodeling and design. The40-year old custom home building companywas chosen by the more than 25 million monthly unique users that comprise the Houzz community from among more than 500,000 active home building, remodeling and design industry professionals.
The Best Of Houzz award is given in two categories: Design and Customer Satisfaction. Design award winners’ work was the most popular among the more than 25 million monthly users on Houzz, known as “Houzzers.” Customer Satisfaction honors are determined by a variety of factors, including the number and quality of client reviews a professional received in 2014. Winners will receive a “Best Of Houzz 2015” badge on their profiles, helping Houzz users around the world who discover and love a professional’s work to learn even more about that business’ popularity and satisfaction rating among their peers in the Houzz community.
“Houzz provides homeowners with a 360 degree view of home building, remodeling and design industry professionals, empowering them to engage the right people and products for their project,” said Liza Hausman, vice president of industry marketing for Houzz. “We’re delighted to recognizeStonewood LLC. among our “Best Of” professionals as judged by our community of homeowners and design enthusiasts who are actively remodeling and decorating their homes.”
Stonewood is a 40 year old family-run business – a boutique builder – building only 10 – 15 upper bracket homes each year. Their team of professional project managers has vast experience in the industry and is trained to build according to the highest standards for custom building defined by Stonewood.
Houzz is the leading platform for home remodeling and design, providing people with everything they need to improve their homes from start to finish – online or from a mobile device. From decorating a room to building a custom home, Houzz connects millions of homeowners, home design enthusiasts and home improvement professionals across the country and around the world. With the largest residential design database in the world and a vibrant community powered by social tools, Houzz is the easiest way for people to find inspiration, get advice, buy products and hire the professionals they need to help turn their ideas into reality. Headquartered in Palo Alto, CA, Houzz also has international offices in London, Berlin and Sydney.
A Wayzata homebuilder developed software to make construction easier and create a better experience for clients.
As a fourth-generation homebuilder, Sven Gustafson knows he’s not just selling houses. His customers expect far more than that.
“All builders build a pretty nice house,” he said. “As much as they’re buying a new house, they’re buying a really nice experience.”
From start to finish, builders juggle thousands of moving parts and a mind-boggling array of expectations, but there’s no industrywide standard for managing that process.
For decades, Gustafson’s company, Stonewood LLC of Wayzata, has relied on a combination of tools, including spreadsheets and computer programs, but all of them fell short. “We’ve always had cobbled together systems,” he said.
Many of the software programs he was using didn’t pass muster, he said, because they didn’t allow everyone involved in the process to access or input information, and to communicate with one another.
“They were more frustrating than they were useful in that they didn’t actually enable our employees to do their job,” he said. “And they provided limited information to the client.”
Gustafson, a former accounting software developer, knew there had to be a better way.
About three years ago, he commissioned a software developer to build a Web-based tool that’s able to manage the entire process of construction management, from keeping track of budgets to updating the construction schedule to an inventory of materials.
“It’s a connection point for everyone involved in the process,” he said. “It cuts down on the verbal communication.”
The software, called BuildTools, remains a work in progress that gets updated almost daily as users discover new ways of making it more useful or efficient. For Gustafson, it’s also become a thriving business.
Although selling the technology to other builders was never part of the plan, Gustafson’s competitors caught wind of what he was doing and wanted the program themselves.
“It’s a heck of a tool,” said Jon Schoenheider, owner of Regency Builders in Milwaukee.
His company has gone paperless because of the software, Schoenheider said. His buyers always know how much money they’re spending and they can easily access information about every aspect of the house, including the paint color they picked for every wall.
“Instead of going into the basement to look at the paint can, it’s now in the cloud,” he said, referring to a computer network. “Customers love it because if seven to eight years from now they need to repaint, they can go to the initial source — they have all the contacts right there.”
Subcontractors benefit, as well. Instead of driving to his office at the end of every day to review construction drawings, contractors can view them online. Buyers are also able to see exactly what’s happening on the job site without visiting so that they can accurately plan their move.
Clients can access the software via the Web or on free apps for smartphones and tablets.
Like Gustafson, Schoenheider says that BuildTools has given his company a competitive advantage over homebuilders who don’t offer such a system.
“Most homebuilders are still pretty old school, and most custom builders are ma-and-pa shops that don’t want to invest in this,” he said. “So it’s a differentiator for me.”
BuildTools now has hundreds of users in 23 countries and eight employees in Costa Rica who are constantly updating the software and offering support to its users.
While the company has grown considerably, Gustafson is still focused on homebuilding and has hired someone to manage the software business.
“It’s a really attractive diversion because it’s fun and I enjoy it,” he said. “But I have to be intentional about not getting too involved.”
This fall, the Parade of Homes will not only feature a beautiful Stonewood project, the house that has been selected has earned the title of the “Dream Home”. Nestled in the heart of Edina, this home exudes calm in a resort-like setting. A Japanese style spa bath, large screened porch with a stone fire-place, fire pit, and open air kitchen, exercise room overlooking an attached sport court and sunken media pit are few of the many wonderful amenities of this spectacular design. We’re looking forward to show off this home and share the published article with all of our followers.
An Olympic-caliber rower, former professional boxer, award-winning chili cook, and cat trainer are among home building’s young superstars to be named 40 Under 40 winners for 2013 by the editors of Professional Builder magazine. The 40 professionals featured in the following pages represent the next generation of leadership and innovation in home building, and they’re all under the age of 40. We proudly present our 40 Under 40 class for 2013.
Cozy. Lake. Cottage. This is one of those homes that, upon walking through the front door, you’ll feel right at home. Great views of Lake Minnewashta in a home that was designed from a “no more than we need” perspective. Smaller in scale, but refined and well appointed. Custom built for a family that is approaching the “empty nest”. The basement bedrooms allow room for the kids to return for the summer, and later return with the grandchildren. All the detail you’d expect in a Stonewood home, on a smaller scale.
Highway 7 to Dogwood Avenue; south to Shore Drive; left to model on the right.
Annual Survey and Analysis of 11 Million Monthly Users
Reveals Top-Rated U.S. Professionals
Minneapolis MN — January X, 2013 – Stonewood has been awarded “Best Of Houzz” 2013 by Houzz, the leading online platform for residential remodeling and design. The (insert descriptive statement about your company here. Example, “The 30-year old interior design firm.”) was chosen by the more than 11 million monthly users that comprise the Houzz community.
The Houzz “Best Of Houzz” award for 2013 is given in two categories: Customer Satisfaction and Design. Customer Satisfaction award winners are based on homeowner members who rated their experience working with remodeling professionals in 12 categories ranging from architects, and interior designers to contractors and other residential remodeling professionals. Design award winners’ work was the most popular among the community of 11 million monthly users, also known as “Houzzers,” who saved more than 124 million professional images of home interiors and exteriors to their personal ideabooks via the Houzz site, iPad/iPhone app and Android app.
“Houzz provides homeowners with an in-depth, 360-degree view of building, remodeling and design professionals through images of their work, reviews and an opportunity to interact with them directly in the Houzz community,” said Liza Hausman, vice president of community. “We’re delighted to recognizeStonewood among our “Best Of” professionals for design and exceptional customer service as judged by our community of homeowners and design enthusiasts who are actively remodeling and decorating their homes.”
With Houzz, homeowners can identify not only the top-rated professionals likeStonewood, but also those whose work matches their own aspirations for their home. Homeowners can also evaluate professionals by contacting them directly on the Houzz platform, asking questions about their work and evaluating their responses to questions from others in the Houzz community.
As Stonewood continues its fourth-generation legacy as a premier builder in the Minneapolis market, owner Sven Gustafson has shown why he is a leading custom builder in the city by adding new talented employees to his team.
“We believe we have the best team in the area,” he says. “They are fantastic and our talent level is at an all-time high.” Stonewood’s recent personnel additions include a new purchasing manager who had been a homebuilder and is adept at design and construction. In June a staff architect joined and instantly increased the firm’s efficiency in its design processes and protocol.
“We have made major enhancements in the implementation of technology in our design process,” says Gustafson. “The extended use of advanced three-dimensional technology has enhanced our creative abilities.” Joining the recent personnel additions is a new project manager that has previously worked in Europe on high-end projects as well as the Colorado and Montana markets.
“We are always looking for people to expand our capabilities and bring in new processes,” says Gustafson. “They bring fresh eyes to what we are as well as personality and experience, those are things you cannot teach. We are not arrogant enough to think we cannot make improvements; we have a real team approach to what we are doing.” In recent years Stonewood’s marketing strategy has increased demand and sales by making proactive efforts to communicate the firm’s process with prospective clients. The combination of earned reputation, new talent and transparency in marketing has led Stonewood to avoid the cyclical ups and downs experienced by many Minneapolis builders during the recession.
“We have remained steady with our business because we do not chase trends,” says Gustafson. “We do not build a lot of spec homes; we build custom homes so our clients are trying to avoid trends. Our clients want to build a home that is not easily identified by a certain era in 20 years. It is fun because we end up doing more historical renovation projects instead of running after the latest architectural style or trend.”
The Minneapolis residential real estate market has not faced the valleys and peaks that many of the markets south of the Twin Cities have faced, however in a sign of the times Stonewood has seen an increased amount of projects centering around empty nesters downsizing to custom homes in the 5,000-square-foot range, from a previous residence that usually was double in size.
“We are doing a wide variety of projects for empty nesters,” says Gustafson. “Even though they are the same demographic, they all have different needs, and often their design is based on their personal interests and hobbies.”
With such a wide variety of client needs, Stonewood’s stellar reputation allows them access to Minneapolis’ highest quality of contractors and suppliers, along with stable material prices. One project with a historical angle Gustafson is excited about is the renovation of a Tudor-style home. The challenge of the project allows Stonewood to use its resources and use history to set its own trends in design. “It is fun to have to figure out how to create things that were hand-carved 150 years ago,” says Gustafson. For future projects, it is important for Gustafson that Stonewood continues to take on projects that are fun for him and his team.
“For the next year we just want to find fun projects that are as interesting as the projects we have done the last couple of years,” says Gustafson. “We want to continue to work for interesting people and do our 12 custom homes every year. Any more than that and we lose the personal touch that our clients love about us.”
Professional Remodeler’s Forty Under 40 Class of 2012
The 40 young AEC professionals featured represent the Class of 2012 in Professional Remodeler’s “40 Under 40” competition.
By By Tim Gregorski, Editor in Chief and Jeff Zagoudis, Associate Editor
September 26, 2012
The 40 young AEC professionals featured represent the Class of 2012 in Professional Remodeler’s “40 Under 40” competition.
They were chosen to join the 40 previous recipients of this honor, dating back to last year. They are diverse in their professional and personal interests, as well as in their service to professional societies and charitable organizations such as Habitat for Humanity.
Professional Remodeler is proud to present the industry’s next generation of leaders.
First-Ever Survey & Analysis of More than 1.2 Million Members Reveals Top-Rated Professionals and Current Design Trends from Across the Country
Minneapolis, MN — March 19, 2012 – Stonewood has been awarded “Best Of Remodeling” 2012 by Houzz, the leading online platform for residential remodeling and design. The (insert descriptive statement about your company here. Example, “The 30-year old interior design firm.”) was chosen by the more than 1.2 million registered members of the Houzz community.
The Houzz “Best Of Remodeling” award for 2012 is given in two categories: Customer Satisfaction and Design. Customer Satisfaction award winners are based on homeowner members who rated their experience working with remodeling professionals in 12 categories ranging from architects, and interior designers to contractors and other residential remodeling professionals. Design award winners’ work was the most popular among the 1.2 million members, also known as “Houzzers,” who saved more than 16.5 million professional images to their personal ideabooks via the Houzz site and iPad/iPhone app.
“With 3.5 million monthly unique users and 80 million monthly page views, Houzz has rapidly become the largest community of active remodelers, providing homeowners and design enthusiasts with first-hand advice from Houzzers who have been through the renovating and decorating process,” said Liza Hausman, vice president of marketing for Houzz. “This is a real stamp of approval for [Insert award winner name] from the Houzz community and we’re thrilled to welcome them to this elite group of ‘Best Of’ winners.”
With Houzz, homeowners can identify not only the top-rated professionals like [Insert award winner name], but also those whose work visually aligns with their own design goals. Homeowners can also evaluate professionals by contacting them directly on the Houzz platform, asking questions about their work and evaluating their responses to questions from others in the Houzz community.
Houzz (www.houzz.com) is the leading online platform for home remodeling, providing inspiration, information, advice and support for homeowners and home improvement professionals through its website and mobile applications. Houzz features the largest residential design database in the world, articles written by design experts, product recommendations, a vibrant community powered by social tools, and information on more than 1.2 million remodeling and design professionals worldwide who can help turn ideas into reality. @houzz_inc
In discovering the array of custom homes that North America has to offer, Luxury Home Quarterly takes its readers into residences large and small, showcasing the people, projects, designs, and products that make up the custom-home industry.