The Alimond Show

Cathleen Gruver Lead Interior Designer of Gruver Cooley

February 20, 2024 Alimond Studio
The Alimond Show
Cathleen Gruver Lead Interior Designer of Gruver Cooley
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Ready to transform your views on the construction and design industry? We guarantee that our conversation with a fifth-generation contractor will do precisely that. She's not just a contractor, but also a skilled interior designer, and she's here to share her unique journey of blending her family's legacy with her passion for design. We talk about the challenges of being a woman in a male-dominated industry, but also highlight the importance of truly understanding clients and the advent of new technological trends. Plus, uncover the shifting paradigm towards a collaborative approach to the design-build process. 

Can early collaboration revamp how we approach design and construction? We believe so. Our deep-dive into the benefits of a well-rounded team right from the start of a project will make you reassess traditional methods. An architect, a contractor, and an interior designer on the same page from the get-go can prevent potential issues and even save money. But it's not just about the teamwork, the rapport between these professionals is equally vital. They essentially become an extended family. So, brace yourselves for some insightful advice on choosing your project family and the inside scoop on the future of design and build projects.

Speaker 1:

So tell me a little bit. I know you've been here done that already, but tell me a little bit about what you do and how you got started in it.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, so, okay, long story short, it's my family's 115 year old contracting company. It started with my great great grandfather, so I'm the fifth generation. I work with my dad and my mom and my sister came on a couple of years ago and we build custom homes. It used to be that we built like homes in the Washington DC area like Glover Park was one of the areas that they were in and then when my dad came on board when he was 21 years old, they kind of opened up to doing more custom work and it just kind of grew from there. So it's really cool, kind of getting to experience where that went to, where we've gone.

Speaker 2:

I got my master's in interior design in 2015. So after that happened, I kind of brought that service into Gruber Coolie and we offer those services in-house now, which is really great because it just kind of diversifies what we're doing and it's just a lot. We found a lot of people really like having kind of like a one-stop shop where they can come and everybody has really good communication and they don't have to go and figure out all the details. They can really rely on us to do that.

Speaker 1:

So, yeah, how have you, how have you processed all of that? Have you been involved in it like as a kid? Yes, so.

Speaker 2:

I like grew up in it. I have like this old photo of me like dressed up in our foyer like with a Gruber Coolie hat on and a construction set in my PJs, Like it was. It's just kind of been in me. My dad used to bring me to job sites all the time so I'm very comfortable with it, which I think helped me when I went to get my master's, because it wasn't as residentially based it was Miriamat University in the DC area and it was a little bit more commercial. So when we got to residential I was like, okay, I know what I'm doing, Like I'm comfortable with this, yeah, but obviously it's changed and you know, working with my dad, that's always kind of been an adjustment of.

Speaker 2:

At first it was like proving, like I know what I'm doing. And that's also the case because as a woman in the industry, specifically the construction side, not as much on the design side but like in the construction industry you have to really like prove yourself and you have to like you know, kind of earn a spot there. So I think that's been good and I think when my dad saw that he's kind of like laid off the leash a little bit like, okay, you got it Like, and recently I just started doing some rebranding for a group of Kool-Aid, so just trying to, like you know, keep us current. We've been around for 115 years, so I feel like you have to keep moving forward to kind of keep that momentum going.

Speaker 1:

What are some of the trends as a female coming into this construction world? What are some of the trends that or insights that you've seen that you're able to bring into the world that maybe some of your male counterparts aren't as?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I mean I don't know if it's a trend as much. I think it's well, two parts one a lot of the time the homeowner that we're working with is a female, and so it kind of gives them a level of comfort. Having somebody else that's there and that they know has their back and knows that they're doing it Makes them a little bit more comfortable, which helps them get, ultimately, what they want out of a house, because they're more comfortable expressing themselves. And then two, I also think sorry men, but I think females are a little bit better listeners, so I think that that's also important too, in that we're really hearing what our client wants and we're doing this for them and understanding that we're here to work with you. And I think that that's kind of like the biggest Thing working with our clients and being a female, yeah no, that's interesting.

Speaker 1:

You're probably not. Probably. You were probably yes right on yeah with the listening part. Yeah, especially. How do you see things shifting and changing in the next five, ten years within your industry?

Speaker 2:

Oh man, well, you know, with technology it's always evolving, it's. And it's funny because I would say my clients are like 50 50. Some people like want to really lean in and like embrace the technology and Some people are like I don't want that within 50 feet of my house, you know. So it's interesting, kind of like finding ways to incorporate that, especially because you know certain things aren't going to be choices. You know, I'm sure at some point they're gonna bring in induction ranges, which is it's would be replacing a gas range when it uses like magnets to cook, so you're not having like the fumes that gas creates. So it's just understanding that knowledge to kind of help the clients into the future.

Speaker 2:

I go to trade shows. Every couple years there's a kitchen and bath industry show that I go to and that kind of helps me stay current with those trends that are happening. But I'm seeing a lot more focus on having like designers in house of builders, so more of that like one-stop shop. We haven't a lot of, I'd say, design build but because we don't have an architect, we're not technically design build. But I think clients just like having that team approach and that's our focus moving forward into the future is that we really we want to create a team, because you end up working with clients for like a few years, you know, like for a cuss, a truly custom home, your between architect roles that could be like a year, year and a half to get that done, plus building it, so you could be three years at the end of the project. So you're spending a lot of time with them.

Speaker 1:

No way that. Why don't you guys have the architect on the team?

Speaker 2:

You know, we've just found that it can limit our clientele that are coming in, so it's like because certain architects can have certain styles that they may be more prone to. So I think that that's kind of we didn't want to feel limited and we have a lot of great architects we work with too, so we don't want to like have to choose that and as an interior designer, I wouldn't say I have a particular style, that, like I do. For me, the most important thing is listening to the clients and doing what they want and producing that.

Speaker 1:

So yeah, yeah, I was like yeah, I was like, well, wait a second, it would be easy for them just to add in an architect. But you're right that architects gonna have a specific style and look that they probably go after.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and we also have, like right now, we're building this amazing project. I mean it's really cool. It's a secondary home and Loudoun County area and the architects from New York and we wouldn't. It's like super contemporary, it's built into the ground, it has like a grass roof on the top and it's yeah, 20 foot glass windows in the living room, second home, so it's like on their main property.

Speaker 2:

No, it's a second, just a secondary home, so their primary residence is in another location. Yeah, and it's just so cool because this architects, not even from this area, so like their perspective is totally different, and had we had one particular architect working with us, we wouldn't have had that opportunity. Yeah, so it's kind of cool and you get to meet lots of people from different places and yeah, I love that, Mm-hmm.

Speaker 1:

I can't wait to see it. You guys documenting the journey, oh yeah okay. Yes, yes, it's very cool, very fun. Now, in terms of, in terms of overall like Changes. How do you feel like northern Virginia compares to the rest of the United States?

Speaker 2:

What we're, what you hope to see more of. You know what's interesting is. So I'm part of this interior design group called the National Kitchen and Bath Association I formed in 2016. I got their 30 under 30 award and I formed like a networking group from that, and so one of my best friends in it he's a designer in Canada and I found that all the trends go Canada West Coast, east Coast so it's kind of interesting to keep those relationships, to kind of see what trends are heading our way, like if a client comes in like I really want to do a Navy Island or something I'm like that's going to be out in like you know a year or something, like I already see it happening. People are doing more stained woods, it's. It's kind of nice to have that perspective of just kind of like what's happening, what's shifting. You know, and I think a lot of people also say, things follow fashion as well. So keeping an eye on that kind of thing.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, that's nice that you saw that trend, so you can see it's nice.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, it is Like they'll kind of solve some of the problems. You know, it's really just nice to have other people that are my age in the industry, because with the new stuff happening, it kind of gives you a place that you can talk to people and see, okay, has somebody like gone through this problem before? How have you solved it? Like, what are you doing? You know it's it's kind of cool to have that Outside of business. Who are you? I am a mom. I have a four year old and a two year old, both boys who are just Boy mom at that time yes, very much so they're very energetic, Never a dull moment. A wife I have a younger sister, Again, close, very close family. I live like right behind my parents and my sister lives four minutes away. So we're like, yeah, we're really tight knit and yeah, so what are we doing on the weekends?

Speaker 1:

Is it like chasing cash? Oh my gosh.

Speaker 2:

It is 100% chasing kids. Sometimes there'll be like a winery or a brewery, that kind of thing, but we were really blessed to get to build basically our dream home. We've made it our model home for clients, just in the sense that we have a place that we can bring people into. That shows some of what we're able to do. What are you guys? What are you living in? We're in Percival, Percival okay, yeah, yeah.

Speaker 2:

So we have eight about eight and a half acres there and we have a. This is actually exciting news. We have a farmer that brings cows onto the pasture so we can write it off for tax purposes and one of the cows had a baby yesterday so we found the baby this morning. It was very exciting. But I'm like this is, you know, rural life, but we love, we just love it. You know, I grew up in Arlington so it was very different kind of living, you know, and you kind of get used to it and love it. But yeah, that's exciting.

Speaker 1:

Okay, so I didn't realize that you guys had you were living in the model home. Yes, how do you take care of that home? Then, if you know, people could come and visit with two kids under the gauge of five.

Speaker 2:

Okay, so one our all our clients are super high-end, so our homes that we're building are like three to eight million dollar homes, so they're not just like popping in and out.

Speaker 1:

We're like scheduling out, so I have a little bit more notice.

Speaker 2:

But two also, best tip I have for like anybody is that has young children is just having baskets with lids, because I can literally just Scoop it all up, throw it in, put the lid on and you would yeah, yeah, pretty baskets and yes, but I did have one a new mom friend I made. She came over and she's like it's so nice. It's refreshing to see that, like you're an interior designer but like you have kids stuff like in your house, and I'm like, yeah, because kids live here. You know, like you know, ultimately it has to function and like you know, I I want my kids to have a great experience too, so we can, we can cohabitate.

Speaker 1:

Design and children.

Speaker 2:

Yes, maybe it's not the most aesthetic all the time, but it does. We get the job done in baskets.

Speaker 1:

That's actually really good to um. I'm gonna say I just use my drawers.

Speaker 2:

Yes, anytime you have like contain it. I'm like just don't open it, yeah.

Speaker 1:

Exactly. Okay. So and then, in terms of like, where do you see yourself ten years out? Because, let's see, your youngest will be 12?

Speaker 2:

you should, oh my gosh yeah.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, that's crazy to think about, teen. What will you be?

Speaker 2:

You know, I'm just so passionate about my career. I really I'm actually in the process of we're kind of changing some of our systems, like. So we're really trying to establish like really good systems, because I want to grow our team. How many, how big are you? Now? I have one, one other designer that works underneath me, and then I also my sisters are a professional organizer in our company too. So I would love to probably grow. I don't want to put a number on it because I know it'll. You know it's like you have to do what feels right. But having our team grow, I don't know what involvement it is. I also act as a chairperson for our buying group. It's like a builders buying group. That's local. So doing something more with that too would be great. But, yeah, really hard focus on that. I just feel like I don't know. I feel like I'm meant to kind of create something bigger. So I'm kind of excited to see where it goes. I'm like energized by it. I love that, yeah, and you're like passionate. I'm very passionate, I can tell.

Speaker 1:

It's a like little twinkle. And then, in terms, just to wrap things up, is there anything specific, a certain message or certain thought or even rant that you have that you'd like to share with people?

Speaker 2:

You know, I'd say I guess if you're talking into your design and construction, it's never too early to bring somebody into the process. I think the earlier the better, because we can help you address maybe some of the problems that you might run into later. And Again, creating that team at the very beginning of your architect, your contractor, your interior designer is like the biggest thing you can do and will ultimately save you the most money in the long run. So I think that would be my best suggestion Bring them in early.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, yeah, I'm creating, even if you're not a hundred percent sure on all the specifics.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, yeah. Just make sure you're working with people that you really jive with. You know like getting a, because that's ultimately what matters. You know you want to. You're gonna be working with them for three years, so you got it. You're gonna. You know they become family, so that's important.

Speaker 1:

Look at who you want to adopt into the family exactly. Well, thank you so much for being on our show and for sharing so many tips with the listeners.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, of course. Thanks for having me.

Generational Family Contracting and Design Trends
Early Collaboration in Design and Construction