Women Who Build Together

Jul 28, 2020 | Career, Home Decor

On the welcoming front porch sit home builder (left) Tracee Dore and (right) homeowner Karen Miller. They sit on an old church pew that Karen refinished — stripping away nine layers of paint.

The relationship between homeowner and contractor is a delicate one. Like any tumultuous relationship, you enter it with such passion and soon can’t wait for it to be over — can’t wait for the person who once brought you such hope to finally just take their stuff and leave forever.

For Karen Miller, a data warehouse architect, what is her way to build a house, virtually stress free, and have your needs met throughout the process?

HIRE A WOMAN, SHE SAYS.

That is what Karen did when partnering with Tracee Dore of Tracee Dore Builders the second time around.

Fifteen years ago, Karen and her husband, Greg, built a home together near her husband’s business, Miller Transportation. They designed the home themselves and likened the experience to a nightmare. This time, the Millers wanted to be further east, closer to their son’s club soccer practice and Karen’s office, so they decided on a five-acre lot just over the Jefferson County line in Shelby County. More importantly, however, they wanted the building experience to be easy, so Greg decided to take a step back and let Karen make the decisions. Karen had a clear vision of what she wanted, and Greg could care less about the pattern in a countertop. After walking through one of Tracee’s homes, Karen knew she had met her match.

The homeowner liked soft, flowing, open and airy spaces, and wanted the land, and pool area outside to be the centerpiece.

The back porch offers a place out of the sun but close to the pool.

“A friend suggested I walk through one of Tracee’s builds,” Karen says. “Tracee has a classic, timeless style and a background in interior design, so she has an eye for all aspects of the build. When we met, it just felt comfortable.”

For months, Karen had been collecting ideas on Pinterest, Instagram, and Houzz — apps she says were integral to the homebuilding process but unavailable to her the first time around 15 years ago. She was attracted to grays and the warmth of a minimally decorated Coastal Craftsman aesthetic; she liked soft, flowing open and airy spaces, and wanted the land and pool area outside to be the centerpiece.

Above all, though, Karen wanted a house that could be lived in. With a son, two rescue dogs, and a love for entertaining, Karen wanted something that was both beautiful and functional.

“I’m not a fancy-schmancy type of girl,” Karen says. “I don’t want to have to worry about being too comfortable in my home.”

The homeowner is pleased with the gray-glaze finish that Tracee suggested from Barber Cabinet Company, as well as the size of the hood and lighting in the kitchen. “I never would have picked out a hood that size or lights that large, but they just tie everything together,” Homeowner Karen Miller says.

When Karen saw Tracee’s build, she knew they shared similar styles: classic, simple, big, and bold.

Tracee has been in the industry for 25 years, but was groomed for this job since birth. As a child, Tracee grew up cleaning and puttying nail holes for her father’s custom high-end construction company, David Bore Builders in Ohio. “I was my dad’s tomboy and always more interested in the business than my brothers,” Tracee explains. “I was the one fishing with my dad and working in the woodshop with him. I watched him put his heart and soul into building. He was a real problem-solver. He built with heart.”

Tracee took this philosophy with her to design school at the University of Kentucky, where she developed an expertise for drafting blueprints and design elements. Currently, Tracee works only through referrals, and is starring in a real-time construction building reality show Behind the Build. She believes what sets her apart is her ability to read between the lines to determine what her clients truly want. “People love that a woman is building their house because we are just more particular. I feel the design. It is less stressful for my clients because I can handle all aspects of the process: I handle plans, financing, and I help them pick out the materials, not just send them out to do that alone. I’m very honest and tend to become friends with my clients through the process.”

The screened in porch complete with a fireplace offers yet another living environment.

Tracee jokes that one of her former clients, a female pilot, was fond of saying, “Should I just stick to flying?” whenever Tracee would give her a questioning look about her not-so-ideal suggestions. “Typical builders aren’t so honest and detail oriented about the design. They just want to get it done and get out. I feel such an obligation. When a client like Karen, who is so grateful and such a soft soul, knows what she wants, we become a team. She lets me do my job and trusts me without micromanagement, and that makes me want to build the best house for the money. When a client trusts me, I don’t want to let them down.”

Karen agrees that it was nice to have a woman to field her questions over the course of the year-long process. The two sat down with Karen’s “nerd document,” which consisted of all of her ideas and requests, and Tracee drew up plans and listened to Karen’s desires and concerns and encouraged her to take risks on materials, cabinets, and lighting along the way.

Karen is pleased with the gray-glaze finish that Tracee suggested from Barber Cabinet Company, as well as the size of the hood and lighting in the kitchen. “I never would have picked out a hood that size or lights that large, but they just tie everything together,” Karen says. In addition, Tracee helped Karen with material selection so that she could achieve the big, bold look of marble without the high maintenance of that material. Instead, Tracee found a porcelain tile that mimicked the look without the hassle.

Overall, Karen couldn’t be happier with the outcome of her home and her enduring relationship with the builder. Turns out choosing a woman for the job made all the difference to Karen. Tracee’s ability to listen, her intuition, and the attention to detail saved the relationship between contractor and client.

After all, as Tracee notes,

“IT’S A YEAR-LONG RELATIONSHIP. I WANT MY CLIENT TO COME OUT OF THE BUILD FEELING JUST AS GOOD, IF NOT BETTER, THAN THEY FELT WHEN WE WENT IN THIS THING TOGETHER.”

P.S. Learn more about creating beautiful spaces.

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