Meet Dan Swigart and Joe Kroll of Mastercraft Homes

Since we are getting ready to break ground (yay!), it's time to talk about my builders, Dan Swigart and Joe Kroll of Mastercraft Homes ( I can't imagine feeling better about working with two people! I first met Joe and Dan back in the day when Clay & Cotton helped decorate several of their homes for Homearamas through the years. When I visited the 2011 Norton Commons Homearama, and ran into Joe in one of their Mastercraft homes, something clicked. I knew it was time to build a Clay & Cotton at Norton Commons. Plus, Joe is from Wisconsin. First, let me give a little background. Part of what made the idea click was the architecture at Norton Commons. That Homearama drove that idea solidly home. The classic, traditional, balanced architecture throughout Norton Commons was illustrated perfectly by the 2011 Homearama, and drew me in. Combine that architecture with the clean, livable new construction, and in my mind, it's perfect. Architecture has always been very important to me. As a child growing up in Milwaukee, I drew elevations and floor plans of imaginary homes for my stuffed animals and me to live in. These childhood plans were based on the surrounding architecture of the old neighborhood where we lived. After seeing the possibilities at Norton Commons, I thought that just maybe I could design a home in real life for my real family and dogs.

Another driving force in taking the plunge was seeing several other live/works at Norton Commons. I had been stalking them since the beginning, loving what I saw, visualizing a neat package of shop and home. When I saw the Limestone Builders live/work that was part of the Homearama (where Cherry House set up shop temporarily during the Homearama), also directly across the street from the now Clay & Cotton lot, I kept saying to myself "this is it, this IS IT..." as I walked through. I noticed that the lot directly across the street was for sale.

Back to the 2011 Homearama: I walked through both of the Mastercraft Homes, and right there in the living room was Joe Kroll, greeting people as they did the tour. We sat down in the living room for an hour, during the show that hot summer day, and we hatched a plan. He was able to talk about general design and financial aspects that day, and in an hour, I knew what I was going to do. I never interviewed another builder.

The next day, I called the sales office and put my money down on the lots on the corner of Hobblebush and Meeting Street. I also put my house in the Highlands up for sale. I felt that peaceful, settled in entrepreneurial feeling, that knowing that I had found the perfect location and someone who would help execute the idea.

Soon after securing the lots, Joe Kroll and Dan Swigart, David Tomes, Mike Watkins (the town architect), and I met. I described the style I wanted (Italianate, brick, big shop windows, open floor plan and urban loft for the living space, let the design be simple so that the shop merchandise shines, oh and great appliances), and I honestly don't remember how this happened, but two weeks later, I had in front of me the most beautiful building plans I had ever seen. Mike Watkins took a special interest in the project because of the visibility of the lot, as if the building would be a kind of welcome symbol for Norton Commons. Everyone involved was supportive and had a "can do" approach.

Of course, I had never done this before, much less imagined that I COULD do it, and I had tons of questions about the process, the timing, the building itself, the financing, etc. Everyone took a kind of ownership in answering my questions, patiently yet enthusiastically guiding me and offering support. I told them I am not a wealthy person who could own multiple buildings. They helped me keep the cost down, waited for me to sell my dear old house, suggested financing contacts, generally offering their knowledge and experience to help in any way. It was so easy!

So, why Mastercraft Homes and Joe and Dan? They are a synergistic combination of personalities - Joe is the accountant/builder and Dan is the "you gotta live in this" design-oriented guy. Together they have created some amazing spaces for people; you walk through any of the homes in their portfolio, and you see style, function, and beautiful design elements tailor-made for the client. Joe's spreadsheets and calm, straightforward demeanor keep me grounded, and Dan's experience in how people actually use space provide a combination of left and right brain sensibility and creativity that are vital to their success. As we finalized the building plans, Dan's no-nonsense approach and ability to listen to me struck a balance between beauty and function that quickly drove the plans to the final stage.

So, here we go! My dream of building a shop and home will begin shortly as we stake the lot, break ground, pour the foundation, and begin the framing. I say "we" because it's truly a team effort.