If you want something done right, do it yourself.
Scott and Dani Lawrie, co-owner and the husband and wife team behind the Okotoks-based Creek Stone Fine Homes, have thrived on their own after plying their trade for large builders in the sometimes stifling industry with Scott owning a background in construction and Dani boasting a great eye for design.
“We made the choice to go out on our own,” Scott said. “And we figured if we were able to make a go of it during these difficult economic times we would be able to get ourselves alignment when things picked up or it got busy we would have the kinks ironed out.”
With the help of a strong trade-base and an unyielding commitment to craftsmanship and true boutique building, the team at Creek Stone have carved out their niche by doing it their way.
“There’s something really rewarding at the end of the day when you’re working for yourself,” Dani said. “Your heart and your soul goes into everything that you do, not to say that we don’t appreciate when we had jobs when we worked for others, but there’s a different passion that goes into it when it has your name behind it, you're standing behind your product.
“It’s a huge sense of pride to be able to do that. We relish in it, we work 24/7 and we’re happy to do it.”
Creek Stone Fine Homes, who specialize in home renovations and acreages, will hit its five-year anniversary as a business in January.
“We’ve had such a supportive team whether it be my wife supportive of myself or myself supportive of my wife,” Scott added. “Our trades have stood behind us, we owe so much to our trade base and it’s about a joint venture and vision for all. The big thing is building the rapport with clients and at the end of the day we hope there’s more that comes out of it than just a home. This is about an experience and about a lifestyle choice.”
Elma Street and the River District in downtown Okotoks have become a focal point for Creek Stone after falling in love with the charm of the historic area.
“Luckily, lots of our work is word of mouth and clients come to us because they’ve purchased these homes and they want to turn them into something new again, but that keeps the historical charm that Elma Street offers,” Dani said.
Scott said the area also fits their eclectic personalities and appreciation for history, true construction and the unique vibe that permeates Elma Street.
“It’s a very easy connection to that River District, which attracts a certain lifestyle of people,” he said. “And it’s not everybody, for sure, but you have to involve yourself with your clients and the home has to be an extension of who you are individually as well it has to fit into an older setting.
“I don’t want to say that every one of those homes is a historical landmark, but that street is a conversation piece so each one of those homes, the exterior elevation, the interior they need to be a social item and part of having guests over and entertaining and hosting.”
The mixed-use option on Elma Street where a number of established and new home businesses are located is also a point of emphasis for Creek Stone and one that is becoming increasingly desired from clients as one of the major impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Right now it couldn’t be more important,” Dani said. “With what’s going on with the economy tons of people are working from home, it’s an economical alternative for people to live and work in the same place.”
The combination of live, work and play in a home is now a major part of the equation in the building and renovation process. More and more people are looking for suitable dwellings for a work from home lifestyle.
“Before everybody woke up every morning, especially Okotoks being a bedroom community, turned their ignition on and wheeled into Calgary at 6 a.m.,” Scott said. “On the building side (COVID-19) has changed that and we have to look at many more facets and footprint and ensuring the home is becoming a place of work, to a degree for some people, so we need to look at using better quality materials.”
Despite all of the tremendous pros that have come out of working in the area, Scott said there have been some significant challenges with the growth of small business in the River District.
“We’re a small, ma and pa company with a vision. It may not be for everybody, but people see that vision and it’s drawing them to the River District,” Scott said. “It’s no different than some of the small businesses that have drawn more foot traffic in whether it be on Elizabeth or Elma. Over the last three years, Elma specifically has taken such a turn for the positive that it’s a place to be seen, people want to walk there with their children, it’s a place that people want to reside.”
Okotokian Karen Mercier was drawn to Elma and, after witnessing some of the renovations being done by Creek Stone, it was destined to be the place for her dream home to be renovated.
“The style of both of the homes, just from the outside the style of what they had done, for me it looked like it belonged on Elma Street,” she said. “I love the fact that they make sure what they’re building fits in with the charm and the integrity of Elma Street.”
For the approximately five-month renovation of Mercier’s home, she was taken aback by the personal touches and attention to detail she received from the Lawries after going over her wish list with Scott and Dani.
“I wanted a small home, I didn’t want anything big and likened it to what I wanted was my little jewelry box,” she said. “They took the time to get to know my personality and now that I’m in the home that I’m in that home is an extension of my personality. It’s exactly what I was looking for.”
Some of the custom features of the home include beams in the kitchen, a brick wall in the entryway, tastefully used shiplap on the walls and a remodelled mudroom-sunroom.
“For me, working with Scott and Dani it was the attention to detail that I wouldn’t necessarily have thought about,” Mercier said. “I have two skylights in the kitchen and before we actually decided where they were going to go (Scott) would go over there at different times during the day to see when the sun was going through the kitchen and where it would be the best to have the skylight.
“The little small things I wouldn’t have thought of, they thought of.”
That meticulousness has been recognized by industry peers.
Creek Stone earned acclaim for its first project on Elma, earning the 2020 BILD ALBERTA award for best home renovation under $500,000 as well as being a finalist in the best kitchen renovation under $100,000.
“For me, personally that’s been on my bucket list since I was 13 years old,” said Scott of the BILD award. “It seems a little bit cliché or corny, but to be recognized like that there’s some builders out there that go their whole career and whether they choose not to enter or build what they feel they want to build to make a dollar, obviously finances are important to the build industry, but it’s also been tarnished to a certain degree and we’re just trying to bring that old, authentic feel back.
“There are still true craftsmen left out there who still take pride in what we produce. It’s a nice accolade to have being such a young company and all it does for Dani and I and our children and everyone around us is it sets the standard and the bar higher that we want to continually grow and continue to do more eclectic and unique projects that make us think outside of the box.”
Both Scott and Dani, who at times have their two children aged 3 and 5 on the jobsite cleaning up and learning the value of hard work, have family backgrounds in construction and the trades, but nothing on the homebuilding side of the equation.
“Our company name is on that street,” Scott said. “We’ve already left three landmarks that will be there forever and Dani and I would love for our children to drive down that street when they’re 16, 14, 25 and be able to say this is a home that mom and dad worked on for this client or this is a home that (the kids) were able to work on – whether it be unloading boxes of lights or sweeping the floor, Elma Street has become such a personal connection for our family that we really hope to continually work in the River District and its revitalization.”