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When the economy began ticking upward in 2017, Michigan custom home builders wondered what the new normal would be. The state’s housing market boomed from the late 1990s until its near collapse with the Great Recession in 2006. Since then, there have been clear but irregular signs of recovery. In early 2018, the Home Builders Association of Michigan predicted that thec state would issue over 16,000 permits for new single-family homes. And although that number is lower than historical levels, it’s offered sufficient momentum to home builders eager to finally break new ground.
On the flip side are the 15 well-established custom builders on this list who did not have to sweat things out. Their businesses flourished, even if some had to reexamine their business models. Each builder here performed at — or well above — market levels, without compromising their standards. The ranking is based on company lifespan, industry achievement, professional credentials, and aesthetics. The #1 spot goes to a builder whose consistently flawless work has set a new bar.
15) Fireside Home Construction
7150 Donovan Road, Dexter, MI 48130
Bob Burnside is the Indiana native who started this residential contractor in Southeast Michigan in 1996. Home building was a second career; Burnside had already served in executive positions with Sears Roebuck and General Motors for 25 years. Although Fireside Home Construction is headquartered in Dexter, Burnside has traveled up to 200 miles to serve clients. He builds in 27 communities, including Whitmore Lake, Manchester, Freedom, Livingston, and Howell.
Within two years of opening this firm, Burnside was recognized as one of the top three custom builders nationwide by Custom Home magazine. The next year, he won Best of Show and Best Interior for participating in the Genesee County Parade of Homes. National recognition came soon after, when Burnside became the first Michigan builder to receive Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum Certification — the highest LEED rating given by the US Green Building Council (USGBC) — and the 12th such builder in North America. Burnside has won five awards from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). He is most proud of his firm’s Michigan Energy Star Award for demonstrating statewide leadership in energy-efficient building. Among his other awards are five from the NAHB.
14) Meadowlark Design + Build
| 3250 W. Liberty Road, Ann Arbor, MI 48103
When Doug Selby and Kirk Brandon quit their respective careers in cancer research and accounting to found a custom woodworking company, little did they know 25 years later, they’d be one of the foremost green custom home builders in the country. Today Meadowlark employees about 50 full-time staff members – architects, interior designers, cabinet makers, project managers, and teams of talented carpenters.
Meadowlark has more LEED platinum custom home certifications than any other builder east of the Rocky Mountains and a cabinet full of awards, for everything from custom home projects to industry honors to recognition for environmental stewardship. Meadowlark continues to push the boundaries of what is possible with custom homes. Aside from the outstanding finish details and custom cabinetry that is a part of all their homes, the company also continues to break new ground in the future of housing – energy-positive, smarter homes that tread lightly on the land.
13) M.J. Whelan Construction
620 North Milford Road, Milford, MI 48381
When Matthew and Lisa Whelan opened this Milford-based construction company in 1990, they worked out of one cramped office. But as the business blossomed, the Whelans had to add more office space and even another floor. They have hired at least 10 more employees to help them serve customers throughout two of Michigan’s wealthiest counties: Oakland and Livingston. The firm specializes in French Country, rustic modern, cozy cottages, and contemporary homes, whether lakefront or in the wooded suburbs.
The 26 awards M.J. Whelan Construction has received in the past decade include seven for Best Custom Builder by the Huron Valley People’s Choice Awards. The team has also won at least nine Detroit Home Design Awards in seven categories. For a new home build in Brighton, the Whelans gave an Old World European feel to a 5,500-square-foot, brick-and-stone estate. They erected matching pillars at the front entrance. Inside, Brazilian cherry wood lines the floors of an elegant foyer. A custom fireplace stands 18 feet tall and is the focal point of a cozy great room.
12) Heartland Builders
2900 E. Beltline NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49525
This Grand Rapids residential contractor says that it builds “smart homes for thoughtful people.” Heartland Builders specializes in green building and universal design. It was founded in 1997 by Rich Kogelschatz, who runs it today. Kogelschatz built his first Energy Star home in 2000. Since then, he’s put up dozens more in the West Michigan communities of Lakeview, Luca, Westmoor, Capital, and Brookfield.
Kogelschatz is a past president of the Home Builders Association of Michigan (HBAM) and the Home Builders Association of Greater Grand Rapids (HBAGGR). The company is a GuildQuality Member and belongs to the NAHB, HBAGGR, and Green Built Michigan. Its awards include Builder of the Year from the HBAGGR and Best Green Built Home from the Greater Grand Rapids Spring Parade of Homes. It has also received four HBAGGR Awards for Best Exterior Design. The firm has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau (BBB). For his contributions to the inner city, Kogelschatz received an award from the Fair Housing Center of West Michigan. He has served on the board of directors for Home Repair Services, a non-profit that works to improve living conditions in Kent County.
11) Windmill Homes
31333 West Thirteen Mile Road, Farmington Hills, MI 48334
Principal Stuart Michaelson’s home building experience dates back to 1971. After two years at the Detroit Institute of Technology, he spent 5 years in the plumbers union apprentice program. Stuart owned a plumbing company before he founded Stewart Homes in 1983 where he began putting up luxury custom homes with Principal Sami Harb, an engineer and real estate developer. When local homebuilder George Mager joined the group several years later, the name was changed to Windmill Homes.
Since then, these Michigan custom home builders have garnered numerous awards for craftsmanship and community service. The honors include several Blue Ribbon Awards for home design. In 2013, the firm was honored with a Bronze Award for supporting work of the Arab American Association of Engineers and Architects. In 2015, Michaelson was inducted into the Home Builders Association of Southeastern Michigan (HBASM) Hall of Fame. Michaelson has served on the HBASM Board of Directors since 1995 and was president in 2004. In 2002, Windmill Homes was named Developer of the Year. In 2004, Michaelson was honored with the HBASM President’s Award. The firm’s upscale designs appear throughout Auburn Hills, Birmingham, Lake Orion, Sylvan Lake, and Troy.
10) Mayberry Homes
1650 Kendale Boulevard, East Lansing, MI 48823
Karen J. Schroeder and her husband, Robert, were the only employees of Mayberry Homes when they opened the East Lansing, MI, company in 2002. Robert came from a long line of carpenters. Karen had experience in marketing and home sales. Sixteen years later, they were ranked by the NAHB as one of the top 200 builders in the country. The firm, now with 34 employees, builds about 200 homes per year throughout Bath, DeWitt, East Lansing, Edgemont Park, and Grand Rapids. It also belongs to 11 prestigious home builders organizations, including the NAHB and the Michigan Association of Home Builders (MAHB).
The firm specializes in Energy Star two- to four-bedroom, single-family homes and luxury estates. Prices range between $200k and $600k, which was the Schroeders’ target market when they opened the business. Although Michigan’s homebuilding market was hit hard during the 2008 recession, the team behind Mayberry Homes changed its product to meet consumer demand. The strategy paid off, and the company continued to grow. In 2018, Mayberry Homes was named Business of the Year at the Greater Lansing Entrepreneurial Awards.
9) Dave Dusendang Custom Homes
3265 Walker Avenue, Grand Rapids, MI 49544
Dave and Karen Dusendang are the husband-and-wife force behind this team of custom home contractors based in Grand Rapids, MI. Dave supplies the construction know-how and Katherine manages the interior design. Together, they have created one of the city’s fastest growing home builder companies. The team, which also includes two project managers, builds throughout West Michigan, with a special focus on Beachwood, Bella Vista, and Applewood. Their high-end projects have fetched up to $2M.
The NAHB, the HBAGGR, and Green Built Michigan are some of the firm’s professional affiliations. It has won over 25 awards, including from Parade of Homes in categories for Best Floor Plan, Best Interior Elements, Best Curb Appeal, and Best Kitchen. Some of the projects have been featured in Cosmopolitan Home Grand Rapids magazine. In 2016, one of the firm’s contributions to the Parade of Homes event was a three-story traditional build in Lakeview that boasted 18-foot ceilings and a catwalk with grand arches. Special features were two full-size kitchens with hidden pantries, a theater, a playroom tucked under the stars, and intricate custom trim throughout.
8) Arteva Homes
445 S. Livernois Road, Rochester Hills, MI 48307
Founder Arthur Szliter had been president and owner of H.J. Oldenkamp, a leading Michigan supplier of building products, for 30 years. In 1991, he sold his share of the company to specialize in residential home construction. Soon after, Szliter and his son, Brian, joined with Vito Terracciano to form Arteva Homes. Terracciano, who is CEO, was a licensed Michigan builder for over three decades. He has been featured in DBusiness and Hour Detroit for custom homes he built throughout Michigan and Florida. Brian Szliter received an MBA in Marketing and Finance from Wayne State University and held positions in supply chain logistics management.
Arteva Homes serves clients in Birmingham, Oakland Township, Rochester, Shelby Township, and Washington. The firm’s awards include several for Best Model Home from Parade of Homes and five Star Diamond Awards from The American Academy of Hospitality Sciences (AAHS). It has also received much local press coverage. In 2016, the firm participated in Homearama in Macomb County and was praised for a four-bedroom, three-bath traditional Colonial with an oversized recreation room, wet bar, and outdoor fountain.
7) Meiste Homes
11539 East Lakewood Boulevard, Holland, MI 49424
This custom home builder in Michigan got off to a slow start. When Brian Meiste opened the Holland-based firm in 1994, he did all the trim carpentry, roofing, framing, and siding by himself. Meiste had grown up working the land on his family’s farm and building tree houses in his spare time. Local homeowners began to notice Meiste’s fine carpentry skills when he built a model for the annual Parade of Homes in 1999. To his surprise, Meiste was awarded Best Floor Plan, Best Kitchen, and Best Interior Elements. Today, he builds homes that cost up to more than $1.5M. Meiste and his team work throughout Beechwood, Holland, Traverse City, South Haven, and Lake Michigan.
Meiste Homes is a member of the NAHB. In 2005, he was elected president of the Lakeshore Home Builders Association (LHBA). The firm has won 26 industry awards and receives much local media attention. A recent spread in Cosmopolitan Home Magazine praised the team’s Southern comfort style for a farmhouse the firm recently built. The home’s centerpiece is a gourmet kitchen with sleek white marble surfaces, a deep apron sink, and bronze fixtures.
6) Cottage Home
184 S. River Avenue, Holland, MI 49423
In the 1970s, Brian Bosgraaf, president of Cottage Home, was a partner in his family’s real estatement development firm. But in 1997, he sold his share of the family business and volunteered with a local non-profit to build homes for low-income families in Grand Rapids. By 2000, Bosgraaf was ready to turn his passion for home design into this solo venture. Today, Bosgraaf runs a staff of 18 employees, with 10 carpenters and an award-winning LEED architectural designer, Ryan Garone.
Bosgraaf’s team has thus far built more than 100 luxury homes, mainly along the state’s scenic shoreline. Thirty-two of those builds are LEED-certified homes. The firm also serves the areas of Douglas, Glenn, Holland, Macatawa, and South Haven. Since 2001, Cottage Home has received 75 industry awards, including 30 for LEED homes at Silver, Gold, and Platinum levels. A recent Lake Michigan project, which received a LEED Platinum Award, was fitted with smart design materials such as energy-efficient Pella windows. Special features included Caesarstone quartz and cabinets made by the firm’s in-house cabinetmaker. Most homes by Bosgraaf and team sell for over $1M.
5) Luxe Homes Design + Build (LUXE)
360 Hamilton Row, Birmingham, MI 48009
Two sets of married couples founded this firm. John and Donna VanBrouck had designed over 1,500 luxury homes and received more than 150 awards. Bryan and Rachel Leith ran a local luxury home building firm. The four pooled their talents into this flourishing, full-service design build operation. Since opening Luxe Homes Design + Build in downtown Birmingham, the team has collected over 90 awards for high-end transitional lake homes, trendy Tuscan villas, classic shingle homes, and French country manors. The homes are priced between $1M and $10M. All are built in Birmingham’s most affluent communities.
For a recently built English manor, the team installed rough-cut limestone along the exterior and continued the theme into an elaborate foyer. The winding staircase was accented by solid stone walls and walnut millwork to balance the stone’s roughness. On the main level entryway, antique oil paintings are framed in silverleaf next to a walnut center table. The LUXE team maintains a main office in Birmingham and a private in-home office for clients who desire privacy.
4) MacLeish Building
650 E. Big Beaver, Troy, MI 48083
The founder of MacLeish Building was just a child when his grandfather and father began to pass down a rich heritage of home building. Dan MacLeish’s grandfather was James Archibald MacLeish, who was known in north Michigan for the large barns he built. Dan’s father, Archie, was a prominent custom home contractor. In 1964, Dan and his father teamed up to open a small residential construction business. Today, that company is known for having put up hundreds of high-end residences throughout the greater metropolitan Detroit area.
MacLeish Building is still based in Troy and still run by Dan and his family. Presiding over the operation now is son Dan Jr., who received degrees in business from Taylor University and a state builder’s license. The firm has garnered an impressive list of industry honors, such as Builder of the Year by the Building Industry Association (BIA) and being inducted into the BIA Hall of Fame. It has also received the Parade of Homes Award of Excellence and the Troy Chamber of Commerce Beautification Award. The firm’s spectacular homes have been featured in the local and national press, including in Better Homes and Gardens.
3) Mac Custom Homes
3434 Veterans Drive, Traverse City, MI 49684
Michael A. Collings and his talented team build homes of distinction in Northern Michigan. Collings spent his childhood and early adult years working with local construction crews and apprenticing with framing contractors. He quickly learned the carpenter skills he needed to start a framing company. Eventually, he became a licensed general contractor and established this Traverse City-based construction company. The firm serves the areas of Lake Ann, Traverse City, Northport, Elk Rapids, and Glen Arbor.
Assisting Collings with Mac Custom Homes is Co-owner Joe Colegrove, who has over 25 years’ home building experience under his belt. Together, they have racked up an impressive list of awards, starting with the Distinguished Builder Award in 2007 from the Home Builders Association of the Grand Traverse Area (HBAGTA). The finely crafted homes this firm builds are frequently covered in local and trade magazines. Bay Life Magazine devoted an issue to two projects by Mac Custom Homes. The firm was a featured builder in the June 2010 Luxury Home Quarterly Magazine. In 2015, Michigan Blue did a five-page spread on the firm’s exquisitely designed estate, Chateau du Nord.
2) TK Design & Associates (TK Home Design)
26030 Pontiac Trail, South Lyon, MI 48178
TK Design & Associates is one of the few custom home builders in Michigan run by a licensed architect. Todd Hallett, AIA, CAPS, founded this firm in affluent Oakland County. At age 19, he apprenticed with Ron Mayotte, a prominent Michigan architect. Hallett then received a Bachelor of Architecture from Lawrence Technological University. He is a Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS) and a member of the MAHB, the NAHB, the American Institute of Architects (AIA), and the Building Industry Association of Southeastern Michigan (BIASM).
Hallett’s team includes seven licensed architectural designers. The firm builds in Brighton, Hamburg, Milford, Whitmore Lake, Livingston County, and Ann Arbor. Its projects are often featured in Detroit Home, Professional Builder, and Builder Magazine. TK Home Design has won over 40 top awards from Parade of Homes and the BIA. In 2008, Hallett was recognized at the International Builder Show as one of 30 professionals to significantly impact the American building industry. Aside from his building prowess, Hallett is a thought leader in the construction field. He has written quarterly columns for Woman’s Day magazine and weekly architecture design blogs for Professional Builder Magazine.
1) Mike Schaap Builders
12969 Greenly Street, Holland, MI 49424
Mike Schaap is known among builders in The Great Lakes State for erecting architectural masterpieces with price tags well into the millions. He’s just as famous for his uncompromising building standards and the oft-repeated phrase, “homebuilding the way it used to be.” For the past three decades, he has run a serious operation with a highly credentialed team of 55 supervisors, project managers, and craftsmen. His firm has its own custom wood studio and interior design department. Macatawa, Holland, Douglas, Kalamazoo, and Portage are some of the spots where he builds.
Mike Schaap Builders has been the subject of more than 20 cover stories in Detroit Home, Cosmopolitan Home Grand Rapids, Great Lakes Design, and Professional Builder Magazine. Schaap belongs to the NAHB Premier Builders Group and many other home building organizations. His lengthy list of awards includes 15 from Parade of Homes, eight from American Residential Design, 13 from Detroit Home Design, 14 from NAHB Best in American Living, three from the AIA Grand Valley chapter, and a 2017 Gold Award from Architectural Design.
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