A Builder’s Perspective: Choosing a Community to Build a Custom Home

The Lake at Normandy Estates in Plano.

The Lake at Normandy Estates in Plano.

When researching communities in which to build high-end speculative “spec” luxury homes, there are several factors that are important in order to meet my criterion for building in a development. These requirements can also be helpful for prospective buyers and it shows how a builder evaluates neighborhoods and communities. Some of these particulars are:

  1.  “Location Location Location!” What major highways are close to the development? What is the proximity to both airports? Are there upscale shopping, grocery stores, entertainment, fine dining and retail nearby? How are the public schools rated? Are excellent private schools close-by?
  2. What are the lot sizes and will they need improvements? Also, what does the topography and geographical landscape look like? Does the property have hills, greenbelts, mature trees, creeks and ponds? I need sufficient space to build a luxury estate home and want the homes to be aesthetically coordinated with the environment and landscape. Also, knowledge of the soil is required to know how to engineer the foundation.
  3. What are the community amenities? Is there security or a gatehouse? Other amenities could include a park, an outdoor area or community gathering place,  clubhouse, work-out facility, trails, water features, walled perimeter and a swimming pool with spa for the long hot Texas summers.
  4. What are the demographics of the area and city? I look at the demographics of the surrounding area and city with an investor’s eye, not only as a homebuilder. What is the median age of the area? How safe is the neighborhood?  What is the level of crime? Is the quality of life good?  What are the nearby home values and median affluence level of the area?
  5. Who is the developer of the community and what is their history, experience, financial backing and reputation?

Along with other developments and locations like the Park Cities and Preston Hollow, I have researched and chosen to build in Normandy Estates in West Plano – a community of European-style Estate Homes and Villas just 3 minutes from the North Dallas Tollway. The location is excellent with 25 minutes to either airport (Love Field or DFW Airport) in Dallas. The area has fantastic retail shopping and upscale restaurants. The Willow Bend Mall and the Shops of Legacy are close by, with their boutiques, eateries as well as the fabulous retail area at Preston and Park, and premier shopping at Stonebriar Mall. For nature lovers, the community features a lake and a fishing dock, a wooded creek area, nature trails and Arbor Hills Nature Preserve is only minutes away. The Plano public schools boast one of the highest performances on college entrance exams in the United States. The Plano ISD is ranked “exemplary”. (Please see the below link to the 2016 report.)

Normandy Estates amenities include: a guard house, nature trails, a lake with fountain and dock along with several creeks and mature trees. At Normandy Estates there is also a fitness center as well as a pool with spa.

The city of Plano has an approximate population of 280,000 residents and has been designated as one of the best places to live in the Western United States by CNN Money magazine and also featured as the safest city in America by Forbes. Plano has grown considerably with West Plano (where Normandy Estates is located) being the most affluent area of the city. Recently, many national companies have chosen to make their headquarters in Plano including: Toyota North America, At Home (Garden Ridge), JP Morgan Chase Bank (Regional Headquarters), Capital One Finance and Liberty Mutual’s Regional Headquarters.  Also, several national companies have had large expansions like Nokia, KFC Global and Pizza Hut Global. Plano is a thriving and economically booming city with strong infrastructure.

Normandy Estates in Plano earns my approval for a community in which to build new luxury custom homes. Alford Homes has built and sold 5 custom estates and has 2 more under construction. More information on the homes can be found on the Alford Homes website or please call me directly at 972-429-1074 for more details. At Alford Homes, we are dedicated to providing the very best construction and quality craftsmanship for over thirty six years.

*2016 Plano Public School Rankings Report:

Click to download: 2016 Plano School Rankings

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Custom Mud Rooms for New Luxury Homes


Mud Rooms in New Luxury Homes

A mud room (or mudroom) can be an important feature in a home, especially a luxury custom home with pets and children. Even though our weather in the Dallas area is rarely “muddy” a mud room has many benefits.

Often located through a side door which children and pets are encouraged to use, or most often having a separate entrance from the outside, this room acts as a climate barrier between the outdoor temperature and your climate controlled indoor temperature–which is an important feature in green home building considerations. Mud rooms generally make good use of vertical space, since they are usually small. Wall hooks or pegs are a good option, especially where children are concerned, as they are handy for hanging up outerwear and book bags. Also, lockers with room for children’s school books, backpacks, coats and shoes are another option.  I like to provide shelves and plenty of cabinets to provide additional storage for items such as umbrella’s, coats, shoes, hats and gloves. A bench to sit on while removing shoes and boots is functional, and a mirror for a last-minute clothing checks is handy too. A mud room is also an ideal place for a pet washing and grooming station.

The mud room should ideally be constructed with easy-to-clean floors and materials that flow and transition from the indoors to the outdoors, keeping true to the architecture of the rest of the home. A mudroom can also be a great location for a laundry room, as well. Sweaty tennis outfits, riding attire and swimming pool towels can be washed and cleaned without ever entering any other part of the home.  It may also be utilized for extra storage space.

Mud rooms are just one custom amenity you can incorporate into your new dream Alford Home. If you are thinking about building a new luxury custom home, give me (Greg Alford) a call at 972-429-1074.  Alford Homes is a Dallas luxury custom homebuilding company for 36 years, building homes in the finest neighborhoods such as Highland Park, University Park, Preston Hollow and in Plano at Normandy Estates. You may also visit our website for more information. I look forward to talking with you about your vision for your new custom home!

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Master Bathroom, Master Closet Trends 2016

Watch this quick video about Master Bathroom and Master Closet Trends

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Attics are More Than Just for Storage. See New Ideas and Trends 2016.

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“White & Bright” Kitchen Trends 2016.

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Announcing Our New Luxury Home in Plano

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6804 Amaretto Court at Normandy Estates, West Plano

New Luxury Home in Plano at Normandy Estates.

Alford Homes, Dallas’ premier luxury custom home builder, is pleased to announce the construction of two spec luxury homes in West Plano at Normandy Estates. The upscale community of Normandy Estates is located in a prime location of Plano at 6485 Spring Creek Parkway near Midway and Tennyson Roads, close to fine dining and shopping, as well as in the highly acclaimed and award-winning Plano Independent School District. The headquarters of many major corporations are located just a few minutes away, including Pepsico, Dr Pepper Snapple Group, JC Pennies, Cinemark Theaters, Siemens PLM Software and many more. Toyota Motor Co. signed a lease last spring to kick off the Japanese automaker’s new campus in Plano, which will employ 4000 people.

One of the two luxury homes that Alford Homes is building is a French Country Style Estate, located at 6804 Amaretto Court in Normandy Estates. At about 6,051 square feet, it is a distinguished two story home with four bedrooms, four and one half baths, a gourmet kitchen, and an F5 tornado/panic room. Special features of the home are hand-scraped white oak flooring, a downstairs media room, barrel ceilings and a computer niche upstairs.

The top-notch gourmet kitchen is a dream with commercial grade appliances, including double dishwashers and double islands, quartz counter tops, and a separate sub-zero commercial freezer. The en suite amenities include a secret jewelry storage area, his and her master closets with islands (hers with a mirror and vanity!), and a sitting area with freestanding barrel ceiling.

The backyard has a delightful outdoor living area with flagstone flooring, a fireplace and built-in grill. A three car garage is attached to the house. The surrounding landscape in Normandy Estates is 75 acres of slightly rolling terrain with beautiful views of mature trees, creeks and a lake. The lake has a fountain and fishing pier, and there are walking trails for your enjoyment. The other houses in Normandy Estates are European in style and are either villas or estates homes.

The listing price for this stunning upscale home is 1,650,000. Greg Alford of Alford Homes has been building luxury custom homes for over 34 years and has been voted D Home Magazine’s Best Builder from 2005 through 2014. Call Alford Homes today at 972-429-1074 and visit their website for more information.

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Your New Luxury Custom Home: Many Options for Library Wall Treatments

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An Alford Homes library with dark wood wall treatment.

As a luxury custom home builder, I love the richness and character in different types of woods. When designing your custom library together, we can discuss different types of wood, stains and finishes. Would you want a more traditional dark wood façade for the library, or a lighter wood for a more casual or modern atmosphere? Whatever wood type and stain shade you choose, you want the wood and its texture and fine details to make people want to run their hands across the surface.

If a homeowner would like a lighter library, we would make use of blond woods, like white oak, pearwood, and clear pine, along with paler stains. Sometimes this lighter wood is more appealing to a woman or family for their library, and also a good choice for very modern luxury custom homes.

The classic and traditional library with its dark wall treatment and hardwood floors is handed down to us from England, and has a luxurious and cozy feel. The wood choices can be solid wood, from a variety of trees – from red or white oak, to cherry, walnut, maple and reclaimed wood, etc. Exotic woods are coveted by luxury custom home owners for their beauty. They are usually woods from trees in tropical areas of the world, and are valued for their variety of hues, patterns, and designs. These trees also grow tall with fewer branches, and therefore fewer defects and knots. Crotch mahogany from Africa has flame-like patterns. Beeswing eucalyptus from Australia has a pattern that looks like an enlarged bee’s wing.  Some African cherry have grains called “plum pudding”! Wenge is a dark wood from central Africa, used as an alternative to ebony. You will also need to decide the color of the stain and also the finish of the façade. Will you want an oil finish or rubbed wax finish? The types of wood, stains and finishes will give you different selections and options to make the library your own.

Additionally, you will want to decide what style of wall treatment you want. Do you prefer flat and smooth, beadboarding , wainscoting, a combination, or something completely different? Another custom option is a rolling library ladder on curved tracks to go around 90 degree curves. It is convenient if you have double-stacked shelving and high bookshelves.

Let’s make your new custom library distinctive and your own work of art. I have 34 years of experience building luxury custom homes and I’m Certified Green Professional and a Green Built Texas Builder. Alford Homes builds luxury custom homes in upscale Dallas neighborhoods such as University Park, Highland Park, Preston Hollow and Plano. We are currently building two luxury “speculative” homes in Normandy Estates in West Plano.  Please visit my website and call me directly at  972-429-1074 to discuss your plans and homebuilding needs.

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Which Fireplace Mantels Are Right for Your Luxury Custom Home?

An Alford Homes fireplace surround and mantel.

An Alford Homes fireplace surround and mantel.

The fireplace is usually the focal point of almost any room in a luxury custom home. Due to this, it is important to take great care with the design aspects and materials you want to use for your fireplace mantel.

Wood mantels: There are a wide variety of ways wood can be used for fireplace mantels. The mantel can be traditional, with a smooth surface, in a conservative style, either painted or stained. A reclaimed rough-hewn wood beam as a mantel piece is especially sought-after, and will remain a classic. Wood can also be carved either ornately or simply, or with a custom design of your own choosing – a great place to display your family’s coat-of-arms, as well. A half-log or even a beautiful piece of large driftwood can be used to alluring affect with complementary décor. Part of a tree from your property or a treasured family property is distinctive and holds a lot of sentimental value.

Stone and brick mantels: Stone and brick mantels are another classic choice. Bricks can be new, of varying colors, or old and used with lots of character. Stone can be either used for effects such as formal, rustic or in between. Imagine the wow factor of a mantel made of a large, beautiful slice of polished agate, with its amazing bands, swirl patterns and dramatic colors. For a more formal and classic look, nothing beats an intricately veined piece of marble. A slice of rough river rock or sandstone looks great with a more informal and cozy room. Black slate can impart a clean and sleek look.

Cast stone mantels: Cast stone mantels are another option. They can be spare, or custom designed and ornamented – even stained and textured.

Metal mantels. Metal is a wonderful material to use in minimalist ultra-modern homes. It can also be used in traditional homes, if the finish of the metal isn’t too smooth or polished.

Salvaged and antique mantels. Treasures from the past, antique mantels can be absolutely stunning in a new luxury custom home. They can be purchased from individuals or dealers in the US and abroad. Depending on the age and original geographical location, they can be strikingly ornate or of a simple Quaker-like simplicity. Take a look at this Pinterest board for some ideas.

Most people use their mantels to display family heirlooms, treasured pieces or art objects. Your mantel can be either the width of your fireplace surround or much longer, extending on either side of the fireplace quite a distance. This extended length can also be used in a dramatic asymmetrical fashion. If you go for an off-center mantel, your fireplace itself or a large piece of art will have to balance it out. There is also the option of having no mantel at all, or two or three mantels cantilevered one above the other. Of course, combinations of two or more of the above material options makes for a unique and delightful mantel. An example of this would b a combination of wood and stone.

The possibilities of fireplace mantel designs in your luxury custom home are almost limitless. It depends on your lifestyle, your taste, the particular room, and the rest of your décor. Call me at 972-429-1074 to discuss your options and ideas. Together we can build the home you’ve always dreamed of. I am one of only 623 professional builders nationwide to attain a Graduate Master Builder certification, and I am also a Certified Graduate Builder with the HBA of Greater Dallas. Please take a look at my website for further details on my qualifications. I look forward to hearing from you!

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Tips from Your Luxury Custom Home Builder: The Best Bathroom Lighting for Your Master Bath


An Alford Homes master bath with sconce lights mounted on the mirrors at eye level.

An Alford Homes master bath with sconce lights mounted on the mirrors at eye level.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

Bathrooms are utilitarian, but are also a place to relax and unwind; therefore, when considering the lighting fixtures for the master bath in your luxury custom home, keep the dual role of bathroom lighting in mind.

Light vs. Dark Bathrooms. White or light-colored walls and ceilings reflect light, and dark colors absorb light. In a light-colored room, the light will bounce, and so diffuse ceiling lights are very effective, as they reflect light from area to area. Mirrors will intensify this effect. Indirect lighting also works well in pale baths, such as hidden lights behind a floating mirror. In a pale bathroom, you won’t need as much lighting as in a dark bath. Dark-colored walls and ceilings will absorb light, so light will only stay where it is directed. In a dark bath, vanity mirrors should have lighting fixtures that stand out from the mirror, as lighting behind a floating mirror won’t reflect in a dark colored bathroom.

Mirror lighting. Although we are all accustomed to lights above our bathroom mirrors, this may not be the best option. Lighting from above can cast unfavorable shadows, especially at the make-up or shaving mirror. Sconces add a pretty touch at your mirror, but should be installed at eye level to be most effective. Most sconces take 60 watts at most. The best lighting is 75 to 100 watts, so keep this in mind. Lighting all the way around your mirror, or light fixtures that are vertical and linear are ideal, and will provide even illumination to your face without casting shadows.

Ambient and Decorative lighting. Ambient lighting can add drama and mood to your master bath, and can even be used as a decorative touch. Floor lighting is flattering, which is why it is used to good effect on television! Warmly lit alcoves are pretty, and a unique pendant light in a corner will provide illumination by chasing away shadows and provide interest. Small up-lights can dramatically highlight a beautiful tub. Dimmer switches and motion activated lights are very useful, as well.

I hope this information is useful for planning the lighting in your luxury custom home master bath. If you are ready to build your dream home, give me a call at 972-429-1074 and visit my website. I have 34 years of experience building luxury custom homes. I am a Certified Green Professional and a Green Built Texas Builder. I build luxury custom homes in upscale Dallas neighborhoods, and am currently building two luxury homes in Normandy Estates in West Plano.

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Choosing the Best Front Door for Your Luxury Custom Home

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A pretty springtime doorway. Photo by Briget Murphy.

When it comes to making a fabulous first impression at your luxury custom home, a major component to consider is your front door. No matter what style of home Alford Homes builds for you, the front door sets the mood and expectations for you and your guests on approach and entry.

There are a number of elements to contemplate when designing your front door and nearby exterior space.

1. Material. Your front door will be battered by the elements, so whatever material you choose should be strong, tough and weather resistant.

2. Design. Will your door be smooth or have panels or other decorative details? Do you want a window transom or side panels? Would you like windows set into your front door, or a simple solid door? No answer is right and no answer is wrong – it all depends on the style of your house and our own personal taste. 3. Color. Do you want a door color that blends with the exterior of your house, or a bold color that makes a statement or evokes a mood?

3. Color. Do you want a door color that blends with the exterior of your house, or a bold color that makes a statement or evokes a mood?

4. Framing. Your door can be framed with stone, brick, wood, stucco or a combination. It can be simple framing or form a pattern – either simple or elaborate. Don’t let the framing overwhelm your door, though. Remember – framing your door is like framing a piece of art.

5. Hardware. Choose your hardware with care. Aside from givens like your door handle, knob or door lever, you may also choose to have a mail slot, and a door knocker installed on your door.

6. Balance: People find symmetry pleasing, so create balance around your front door with flower pots, urns, statuary, outdoor seating, columns and plantings.

Alford Homes has over 34 years of experience building luxury custom homes in the Dallas area, and together we can design a beautiful and unique front entrance for your dream home, that takes into consideration your personality and tastes. Alford Homes has been voted D Home Magazine’s – Best Builder 2005 – 2014. Call me today at 972-429-1074 and visit my website. I look forward to hearing from you!


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