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Leaving a Legacy: Chicago Builder Julie Jordan Laux
The quaint village of Hinsdale received a gift when Julie Jordan Laux and her business partner, Nathan Cursio, opened their building company, J. Jordan Homes, LLC, in 2006. With a National Register Historic District downtown, this western Chicago suburb is known for beautiful tree-lined streets that showcase a mix of high-style American architecture, many of which are renovations or rebuilds blended in with original properties. The culmination is a creative melding of traditional structures reflecting the contemporary lifestyle of the village’s upper class.
The community can thank Ms. Jordan and her team for contributing to this charming and oftentimes award-winning landscape. Taking on anything from new construction to renovations — and everything in between — Julie combines her innate design abilities with and her down-to-earth personality to forge meaningful relationships with her clients. It’s this perfect combo that leads to the spectacular timeless and classic homes within her own neighborhood and beyond.
Join us as we learn more about Julie’s background, her design process, and why she both talks the talk and walks the walk when it comes to Carlisle wide plank floors.
Julie Jordan Laux, J. Jordan Homes, LLC
C: Good afternoon, Julie. Thanks for taking time to share your story with us. You’ve been in business for more than a decade, starting after you renovated your own home. Most people are relieved when such a substantial project like that is completed; but not you. You actually made it a career?
JJ: Good afternoon. Thank you for having me. Yes, we’ve been in business for over ten years. However, when my husband Doug and I settled in Hinsdale in 1993, I was an accountant. First we built a home, and enjoyed that very much. About 10 years and four kids later, we fell in love with an old farmhouse that we decided to renovate. It was then that I discovered how much I enjoyed the design process.
C: Such a break from accounting!
JJ: I know. When I was an accountant, the completion of my work brought great satisfaction to a job well done, however all I had to look at was a stack of papers. With design, I found joy in being able to stand in a space that I helped create and think, “Wow, I did this. Someone is going to LIVE here, and maybe even raise a family here.”
C: Your portfolio has a modern-rustic feel. Is this reminiscent of your personal taste and your farmhouse renovation?
JJ: Yes and no. We still live in the farmhouse, but I have to say, my taste has evolved since then. Right now, I am really drawn toward simplicity, clean lines, and natural materials. I love the look of glass, but in ways that bring a lot of light into a space to keep everything feeling warm.
Thirteen years ago, we actually put a traditional wide plank Carlisle floor in our house because we wanted a historic look but also the feeling of a warm, happy home. And I’ve got to tell you, we love living on them. To keep up with my evolving style, we recently had them sanded and refinished with an oil base, and the result is absolutely dreamy!
C: What a great little nugget of information; you were first a client. We are thrilled that you are experiencing the luxury of our wide planks in a new way. It speaks to the value of investing in a product that will stand the test of time. Do you share this with your clients?
JJ: Absolutely. I love specifying a Carlisle floor. My clients will come to me with a collection of images and ideas, which we translate into a vision unique to them. In many cases, a Carlisle floor is the ideal way to express our ideas because we have unlimited access to customize the product. When we go to the showroom, I enjoy every minute of taking them through the process and explaining why other companies can’t achieve the same kind of look. They are amazed when I tell them that, “it all starts with the tree.”
Right now, we happen to be waiting on custom samples for an entire house on 400 East 8th street. We’ve decided on 8” wide solid hickory, and will probably end up specifying a wire-brushed finish. It’s going to be gorgeous!
C: Hickory is stunning. We’ll have to check back in with you to see what it looks like when you’re finished. You have an impeccable team of contractors and craftsmen; are any of them original to your renovation?
JJ: We do, and I feel very fortunate. Nathan is my project manager and has been with me since the beginning. We focus on construction only, and work with exceptionally talented architects and designers to bring our visions to life.
C: The first step of your process is planning, which includes “project definition.” What do you love most about these “brainstorming meetings,” and how essential are they in the success of your work?
JJ: For me, one of the greatest satisfactions I have in my work is helping people define their personal style. They may come to me with a complete collection of ideas or, on the other side of the spectrum, one picture of what they think they want. But then, once we really start talking and spending time together, it’s not uncommon for them to discover that they may be attracted to certain aspects of a design, but the reality is that they deserve a look to call their own.
And in the ideal scenario, I am involved from the beginning, before a home or lot has even been purchased. This means spending an afternoon walking through homes on the market. Today, I had a client walk me through three homes that they liked, and it was worthwhile, because we were able to narrow down what their wants and needs were. It’s during times like these that we really get to know each other, and I am able to establish the level of trust needed to dive into the design phase.
C: We are infatuated with the level of craftsmanship and attention to detail within your homes, particularly your 424 South Washington project, which sits on a beautiful lot just south of downtown. You transformed an 1880’s original into a 6,000-square-foot contemporary rustic home that pushes the design envelope in every way.
JJ: Thank you. The opportunity to work on a project like this was incredible. It was a spec home, but the budget allowed for us to bring together the best of the best, and it shows. Every vendor, every contractor, the entire team was able to execute their talents in a way that left us with a one-of-a-kind masterpiece — much more luxe than a typical spec home.
C: The front façade with barn doors leading to the front porch – fantastic! We wish we could take an entire tour. Was it on the market long?
JJ: The first person that walked through purchased it.
C: As we browse the gallery on your website, we can’t help but gush over the beauty of the materials you specify in your work; from expansive windows, historic and contemporary architectural details, and the use of wood and steel. What are some of your go-to materials to create a timeless look?
JJ: I am a huge fan of anything in its natural state. Stone. Wood. Brick. If you can use any of these materials without altering the color or finish, you will have something that will stand the test of time in the market. Showcasing materials in their natural state brings more appreciation for it, and consumers never tire of it. I’m also a huge fan of reclaimed materials of all types.
C: We couldn’t agree more. When it comes to Carlisle, do you have a favorite wood floor?
JJ: I love everything about a walnut floor; from the rich, natural chocolate color it embodies, to the beauty of the complex pattern of its grain. And having the option to customize every aspect of it, especially the width and texture, makes a Carlisle floor the perfect foundation to create a welcoming space.
C: We have a hunch that if we could interview your friends, neighbors, and business partners, they would tell us that you are making a difference in the landscape and lifestyle of your community. When people look back on J. Jordan Homes, LLC, what is the legacy you want them to remember?
JJ: A legacy. Well, someone is raising their family in the original home that we built. Besides some minor updates, it is standing the test of time. And they love that home as much as we did. If every home we design is loved like that over the years, then I would consider it a job well-done.
C: Beautiful. Julie, the town of Hinsdale is surely filled with more artistry and love because of your exquisite transformations. And you are certainly right; that is something that a stack of papers can’t leave behind. Cheers to all happy future foundations built by J. Jordan Homes, LLC.
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