Joe Bush grew up in the eastern stretch of the metro, and that’s where he builds most of his custom homes today, after a time out in Chicago. When his dad’s job took the family there during Joe’s high school years, the kid landed part-time grunt work with a general contractor. “Excited about my efficiency, he offered to send me to architectural school if I’d continue to work for him,” Joe reports—which he did, for 13 years.
But the love of what he calls “nature land” lured him back to Minnesota in 1995, where, within three years, he was building the kind of elite homes he’d learned to master in Chicago: “I got that flavor, taste and style from them,” he recounts of the Parade of Homes model in 2000 that turned out to be the most expensive—at $2.6 million—ever offered on the tour.
It all started with a lady’s kitchen. At a party after the remodel she’d assigned to Joe, a gent collared him with, “OMG! Can I talk to you about a lot I just bought?” The outcome: that Parade home that made the front page of local papers and drew 3,000 visitors a day.
Its French Country style remains Joe’s favorite: “Traditional, Old World,” he calls his signature, featured in the custom designs for celebrity clients that run from Vikings players to top physicians and CEOs. To start the process, Joe sits down with the legendary napkin sketches and wish list; then he delves deep into clients’ lifestyles—hobbies, entertaining, collections, down to the very car they drive— to transform what he calls “their flavor” into a beautiful home.
“I start by drawing, the old-fashioned way. Then I add my touches: mantels, cabinets, columns: all me. I formulate 99 percent of the concept, and that’s what people like! Then, I’m onsite with weekly meetings, as architect-plus-builder, to make suggestions and adjust things without a lot of red tape. Clients like that, that I’m available; I’m the guy they’re getting.”
And what Joe himself loves, in return, starts with the design process. “It’s kind of funny: My happiest time is at the drawing board, with pencil and eraser shavings all over the page. Then, figuring out how to actually build it and within a reasonable price range. Finally, to see it actually lived in: to return for the warranty inspection and visit with them again.
What’s unique about Custom Homes by J. P. Bush, he says, “is that, as a civil engineer type, I develop the land and take their wish list to imagine their home the best way on the site. But the thing that gives me the most satisfaction is to stay small and keep control of it all.”
That’s exactly what keeps referrals coming his way, too.
Story by Carla Waldemar
Photography by Meghan Doll