5 minute read

From Spec to Spectacular

A five-year collaboration with Heller Built results in a “forever home” for a Lexington family.

“I have a key to every house we’ve built in the last five years,” says Austin Heller of Heller Built. The remark isn’t made in a cavalier fashion; rather, Austin brings it up to underscore the earned and implied trust between builder and client, a relationship that can take years to cultivate and seconds to crumble. Positive affirmation of Heller Built’s obsession with excellence sits on a leafy street in Lexington’s Chevy Chase neighborhood. What started as a spec home has turned into a five-year relationship and multiple significant projects as the homeowners bring their vision of a “forever home” into focus.

Heller Built is a true family business, with Steve Heller working closely with his sons Austin and Max and his daughter Hollis HellerRigdon. “We’re a family that works for families,” said Hollis.

The architecture of the four-bedroom home is based on a 2015 Southern Living house plan of the year. Working with interior designer Mary Lou Yeary of Gallery Interiors, framing was complete and the finishes selected when the current owners purchased it, transforming the project from a spec to a custom build. Remarking that Yeary has “exceptional style,” the homeowners said they didn’t make many changes to her interior design plan. As a family with three teenage boys, the floorplan, which includes a first-floor primary suite and a trio of en suite bedrooms upstairs, is a perfect fit.

The first floor boasts a largely open floor plan. The homeowner says that the dining room, located immediately to the left of the entry, is her favorite space. “We don’t use it as much as I like, but when we do, it’s really special,” she added. Adorning the wall behind the dining table is a series of 18 pressed botanical prints from Uttermost. The majority of upholstered pieces and case goods, selected for being timeless and able to stand up to an active family, were purchased from Arhaus specifically for this home.

Adorning the wall behind the dining table is a series of 18 pressed botanical prints from Uttermost.

A gas fireplace with a stone hearth is the focal point of the living room. It is flanked on either side by a shiplap accent wall and freestanding bookcases. A large bank of windows looks out to an expansive covered terrace with a fireplace and a newly added pool and pool house. Overhead a box-beam ceiling adds visual interest, as does a trim package noticeable for its skillful execution that’s not too over-the-top.

A gas fireplace with a stone hearth is the focal point of the living room. Overhead a box-beam ceiling adds visual interest, as does a trim package noticeable for its skillful execution that’s not too over-the-top.

The kitchen is chockfull of clever attributes, from a pair of islands–one for prep and one with seating for three— to a walk-in pantry seamlessly integrated within a wall of cabinetry. The ebony finish found on one of the islands repeats on the substantial range hood. A small dining area, illuminated by a faux bois chandelier, is integrated into an alcove near the door to the terrace.

A walk-in pantry is clevelry concealed behind the double doors on the far right.

A sitting area for two near the kitchen boasts a doubleheight ceiling and a television mounted above a white upright piano. You’ll often find Bernini, the couple’s rescue dog named after the Italian architect credited with the design of St. Peter’s Piazza, looking out the window from his perch atop an ottoman positioned between the two wingback chairs.

Soaring ceilings also define the primary bedroom, where the color palette, much like the rest of the home, is muted and restful. Speaking to the couple’s ardor for Italy, a photograph from the Sistine Chapel is displayed on a wall above the soaking tub.

In keeping with the rest of the home, the color palette in the primary bathroom is muted and restful. 

After settling into the home and happy with Heller Built’s work, the couple enlisted the company’s services to transform the lower level, adding a wine cellar, television room, game room, and a kitchenette.

When searching for a theme to define the game room, the husband remarked that the acquisition of what he deems “the greatest pinball machine in the world,” an AC/DC themed game by Stern, determined it. A trio of large rock concert photographs in separate wall niches completes the look. The game room is bookended by a unique application of reclaimed wood at one end and stone at the other. The space can be closed off from the television room via a pair of custom-built barn doors. An illuminated stained glass window is the defining feature of the climate-controlled wine cellar.

The game room in the lower level took on a rock-and-roll theme after the homeowners purchased an AC/ DC pinball machine.

Most recently, the homeowners enlisted Heller Built to build a 40-foot pool with a sun ledge and integrated hot tub, a pool house linked by a breezeway to the garage, an outdoor shower, and devise a landscaping plan to ensure privacy and maximize available green space. Large-scale concrete tiles from Hartstone surround the pool. A large outdoor drop-down television is cleverly concealed in the breezeway ceiling and can rotate to provide the best viewing angle. When closed, it completely disappears into the tongue and groove ceiling. Designed to replicate architectural details of the main house but in miniature, the pool house boasts a loft accessed by a custom-built ladder.

A custom ladder in the pool house, which was designed by Gibson Taylor Thompson.
Dovetail Interior Design selected a whimsical wallpaper for the pool house bathroom.
Hartstone tiles surround the pool.

Austin remarked that unique and high-end custom homes like this are their specialty and that they approach their craft with scientific precision. “We have a no-holds-barred approach to pleasing our clients,” he explained. “If the homeowner isn’t happy about something, we’ll rip it out, no questions asked; it’s what sets us apart.” Austin added that their set of standards and intense attention to detail extends to things that you can’t see, like insulation and flashing, but that are equally important to the longevity of the overall project. “Particularly with a whole house remodel, it’s great being able to add to the story of a home,” he said.

The homeowner remarked that the Heller Built difference is what kept them returning to the company over the years for each new project. “They are meticulous to the Nth degree, and I trust them with all of my heart,” she said.