Delaware Today Article - Bruce Mears Designer/Builder

Celebrating Thirty Years of Excellence
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Delaware Today Article

from Delaware Today magazine June 2004 page B33
The Personal Touch
Small custom building companies are riding the wave of the boom at the beach.
by Jeffrey Jackson
photographs by Kevin Fleming

Self-Taught DesignerBruce Mears gets his kicks out of the design process. His office conference room features a two-screen computer where he create homes while his customers participate in the process. His eyes light up when he talks about giving his customers exactly what they want, from beginning to end. His business card proclaims, "Who better to build your house than the man who designed it?" Mears is a Delmarva native. Born in Salisbury, Md., he moved to Bethany when he was 5. An Indian River High School grad, he started to learn CAD at Delaware Technical & Community College, but he became frustrated with the pace. He purchased the equipment and software and taught himself instead. To learn more about the actual building process, he created an apprenticeship program, working in several trades for three months each. Coupled with formal schooling, he learned enough about each phase of the job to fully understand it. It is essential for a designer to be able to combine the aesthetic with the practical, he says. Mears started his home-building business in 1983 and is now considered a top-end designer and builder. He abandoned architects' plans in 1990, and now, like Dieste, he only builds homes he designs. He is FEMA-certified for building in areas prone to flooding.Land development is his business plan for the future, but for now, he and his 16 employees build about 12 new homes a year, with at least one major remodeling job. He likes difficult builds with unique lots and design innovations. He no longer straps on the tools, but he supervises every job, particularly in the early phases, to ensure that his design concept works. His superintendents finish the jobs - only subcontracting mechanical and electrical portions. Mears has a hankering for the "good old days," and has discovered that many of his customers do, too. He likes to design "Coastal Classics," intended to retain the look and feel of the traditional beach cottage of the '50s while incorporating modern amenities. He considers the look his trademark - if you walk down the street and see a brand-new house that doesn't look like one, he says, it's likely to be a Bruce Mears home.