For some, building a dream home is a once in-a-lifetime opportunity. But for the lucky few, they may get to build two or three.
Ask Harris Custom Builders’s president Evan Harris, a builder with a storied career spanning 50 years in the industry—boasting a client list where he has built multiple homes for a number of families.
“We started our business in Chicago, moved to Schaumburg, and then to Barrington. We’ve been designing and building homes in the 36-square-miles of Barrington for 40 years,” Harris says. “We build homes of all sizes, from 3,500-square-feet to 15,000-square-feet. All of our design work is done in house. We have the ability to adapt to what our clients want and where the market is.”
Sheila, a long-time client of Harris’s, who built her family’s first home when they moved to the area 20 years ago, turned to Harris again when she and her husband were ready to downsize. “We waited until our youngest graduated from high school to build our new home in Inverness, less than a mile from the Inverness Golf Club where we love to play,” she says.
Sheila and her husband found a lot in a subdivision near the golf course that they immediately knew was the one. “We took down a house to build ours. And Evan’s attention to how the house was placed on the lot was just one of the reasons we love working with him,” she says.
The homeowners were able to take advantage of the lot’s grading and build a home with a light-filled English basement. “Evan helped us think through everything from the beginning—the location of the house on the lot, where the driveway would go, and how we could make this house look as if it had been part of this community forever,” Sheila explains. “Some from the neighborhood have said we put a lovely addition on this home. But when we tell them we completely rebuilt the house, they’re so surprised.”
“Trying to blend a new home into an existing community is as important as giving a client all that they’re looking for,” Harris says.
One of the items highest on Sheila’s new-home wish list was a screened-in porch, but what she ended up with was a four-season sunroom with a fireplace and heated floors. “When we were designing this room, I thought I knew what I wanted. But Evan made sure that we built it right. And we absolutely did,” she says. “My husband loves to come out here and turn on the fire, have the dog curl up, and read a book. In the summer, I turn off the AC and close the door between this room and the main house and let the warm breezes come in off the pool. It’s so lovely.”
According to Harris, a big part of this room’s success was to make it look like a porch. “The beamed ceilings with the bead board went a long way to create that feeling,” he says.
The feeling of a room is important to Harris, as he points out the 12-foot-ceilings in the family room. “For 10 to 12 years, we built rooms with volume ceilings. But now we’re designing rooms with 12-foot-ceilings and it makes even large homes like this one feel cozy. A family room is one you come into in the evenings and you want to be comfortable. The lower ceiling makes this happen,” he says. “We love to entertain,” adds Sheila. “We’ve noticed the lower ceilings control the level of noise and echo. Even with the hardwood floors, this is a quiet home.”
Harris even suggested sound-proofing the family’s library. “Sheila wanted her piano in here,” Harris says. “In many homes, you might find the piano in a foyer or even on the second floor—places that easily disturb others while you’re playing. But when she’s in here, she can test out new music and no one else in the house will ever know. And when her husband is making business calls across the world at hours when others are sleeping—no one is bothered.”
Harris Custom Builders’s experience shows its strength again in the layout of the kitchen. “Kitchens need to be practical, in addition to being beautiful,” Harris offers. “So we often walk out the number of steps from the sink to the stovetop, or the island to the refrigerator. That’s why we split this large island in half so that Sheila wasn’t having to walk all away around it every time she needed something from her refrigerator.”
Harris has worked with many of the same contractors and tradesmen over the course of his career, now working with some of the children whose fathers started in the business with him. “We’re a small family company with four staff—we’re more about production than management.
Management doesn’t put doors on or put drywall up. Our focus is building really great homes.”
Harris Custom Builders is located at 1531 S. Grove Avenue, #105, in Barrington, 847-382-2210, harriscustombuilders.com.