Article by Michelle Heslop. Photos by Stephanie Hull.
Tell us about your journey from labourer to owner/operator of MDRN Built. I’ve been in construction most of my life. I got my first labourer job when I was 19 years old and worked in construction to put myself through university. When I was studying Environmental Design at UBC in the School of Architecture, I was fortunate enough to work for and mentor with one of Vancouver’s best contractors at Powers Construction. One of our first jobs was the renovation of the retail store, Livingspace, a high-end modern furniture store. Eventually my labourer job turned into a position working at Livingspace, where I learned a lot about modern design and high-end European furniture. Working in some of Vancouver’s more purely modern homes, I was instantly fascinated by the quality of light, the simplicity of form and the precision of modern design.
After Livingspace, I returned to Powers Construction to build exclusively for architecture firms in Vancouver. It was this time at Powers Construction that set the tone for the projects I work on today at MDRN Built. I get a lot of satisfaction from working on both the design of a structure and the physical act of building it.
What is the appetite for MDRN Built’s design/build service in Victoria? The appetite for modern homes in Victoria is definitely growing. My clients’ needs and tastes are evolving from strictly West Coast modern to a more purist modern aesthetic. The construction process can be pretty overwhelming and complicated, so people have been enthusiastic about our one-stop design/build service. The idea of streamlining the communication, services and the overall process with less stakeholders is appealing to people.
What would you consider to be the most important qualities to look for in a design/build company? It may not be the expected answer, but the number one quality of your designer or builder should be passion. The right people for the job will be passionate and make the client feel even more excited about their project. Building modern certainly requires an expertise that is unique and specific to that form. If you have passion, dedication and commitment will follow. So my advice to people is that if you’re looking to do something really unique and special with your home, you need to find someone that’s equally as passionate about your project as you are.
You have a couple of great slogans: “death before cookie cutter,” “all detail; no devil” and “MDRN everything.” How do mantras inform your business and your work? At the centre of my business ethos is ensuring that it feels like a reflection of my personality and that I stay true to myself in my business practices. Slogans have been a fun way to creatively communicate our business ideals. I want people to know, including our staff, that we offer something a little bit different. Of course, we’re honest and have integrity, but I don’t think that’s a marketing strategy. I want our approach to be a little more fun and interesting in a marketplace that’s not known for being creative with branding.
I like the idea of setting ourselves apart and having a little bit of swagger, bringing a bit of braggadocio. I’m really drawn to the competitive spirit of hip-hop music and like to transfer a bit of this attitude to my work. Not with a condescending tone, but an assertion that we are proud of what we do. I want to emphasize our strengths and our points of difference in a fun and interesting way because our industry can be predictable at times. Having a unique approach is who we are, and it’s 2017; I don’t have to follow every single rule.
Builders tend to spend a lot of time in their vehicles. What do you think about most when you’re getting from A to B? Mostly I think about my business, my projects or a specific construction detail I’m mulling over. If I’m working on a design, then I’m processing design solutions. No matter where I am, I’m always thinking about the future, how I want my business to evolve and how to be there for my staff. I think about ways I can use technology to make my communication more efficient and to consider ideas of how to build community and stronger connections with other design/build businesses. Basically I’m always thinking about growth, both personal and in business.