John Waller built his first home in 1993, and from then on, he says, he was a homebuilder.
Waller Design Group has, since then, helped build and design upscale homes in eastern Jefferson and Oldham counties but not without obstacles. In 2008, when the Great Recession hit, the company was wiped out, and John found himself having to start over again. “Coming out of the recession, no one had the money to build new homes,” John says. So, he turned to renovations, reinventing and refocusing the company. “It made a huge difference,” he says. “I thought I would never be in this industry again...I love what I do. It was a lot of hard work, especially rebuilding.”
Now, Waller Design Group is a full-service firm, which provides turn-key construction and interior design services. The company steps in from conception to finish and can “handle everything,” according to John. In 2016, the company participated in Homearama, when they designed, built, and decorated the featured home. Four years ago, the company debuted its cabinet company with three lines of custom and semi-custom designed cabinets. “It was something I was really proud of,” says John.
Sixty to 70 percent of the work Waller Design Group does is renovation work and the rest is new construction--they can really do it all. The team is unique to Louisville in that they love to work with designers, but if the client is looking for direction, John can also assist. Some projects can cause “construction fatigue,” so pre-planning is a must before ever starting the construction process. “We like to have everything in place and decisions made before starting,” John says. Oftentimes, clients are excited to pull the trigger and get the project going without a concrete plan. “HGTV gives an unrealistic expectation,” John says about the timeline and budget of construction.
There are certain aspects of the process clients sometimes don’t take into consideration, including appliance shopping and building times. Especially during the pandemic, there have been challenges in the construction world like material and appliance shortages. “It’s a strange time,” says John. “It’s really important to dial down and get specifics of the project in place. It’s all about timing and having realistic expectations on both sides.” Variables always come up as obstacles when working with remodeling work, so when working with subcontractors, John says it’s important that they “tell me what I need to hear, not what I want to hear.”
Speaking of surprises, John emphasizes the flat-fees Waller charges to clients. “There’s always a surprise, something that comes up that’s unaccounted for behind the walls,” he says. “By not charging a cost plus basis, if we do uncover a problem, the client is just paying to fix the problem.” The company uses the same team of subcontractors on every kitchen, master bath, room addition, basement and new construction project. “That continuity assures the client gets the same quality every time,” he says.
John’s favorite part of his job might be new construction. “It’s always held a soft spot for me,” he says. “When we get out to the lot, there’s nothing there, so we design the house to fit the lot. It’s a unique approach. I just love the creative process.” If it’s an existing project, sometimes clients can’t change it to fit their vision, but a new home will have a blank slate. “You can create whatever you can imagine,” he says.
John continues to see is a clean, but not overly modern, design in the “heart of the home,” also known as the kitchen. Now, fancy trim work has transitioned to a linear and clean design, as well as lighting has changed from traditional round recessed lights to square recessed. As far as room additions go, the team is incorporating both kitchen and family room for “one big, open room,” says John. Gray is also here to stay, from paint to cabinets, but soft blues are coming back in. “People want to feel relaxed,” he says. “They want a calming sensation with everything going on in the world.” Granite is out, and quartz is in, with marble coming back in a leathered look. Traveling abroad, John has seen a lot of Bespoke designs, thinking it could be expensive, but really, he says, it doesn’t have to be. “Quality is in the details,” he says.
To summarize Waller Design Group’s design philosophy is “barefoot elegance,” meaning there’s a focal point as you walk in and it travels to an adjoining room and pulls you through the next space and rest of the home. “It’s a very interesting and great way to design,” he says. “You’re as comfortable on a weekday all comfy, as you are on Friday and Saturday entertaining where it feels elegant. It’s a transition from comfy to elegance.”For more information on Waller Design Group, go to facebook.com/JPWallerDesignGroupLLC/.