How did you get started in homebuilding?
As a business student at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul trying to decide what he wanted to do with his life, Tony Sonnen took a career survey that showed his main interests were in the building and construction industries.
“It really wasn’t a surprise. On Saturdays, I’d stay home to watch This Old House and Home Time. There was no HGTV at that time,” says Sonnen. Having decided to take the survey results to heart, Sonnen applied for a job as a weekend model home host for Gonyea Homes. The owners of the firm, Dave Gonyea and Tim Carlson, were in their late 20s and early 30s at the time, running the fledgling business out of a garage. “As we worked together, it became evident that I was very strong on the people side of the business—operations, sales, and marketing—and Dave’s and Tim’s strengths were in construction and project management,” says Sonnen. “I eventually bought in as an equal partner, and we added a fourth partner, our former CFO, now COO, Tyler Wenkus, and it ended up being an ideal partnership.”
Not only have Gonyea Homes’ partners grown the business together, but they have also grown their skillsets together. Based in Golden Valley, the team built its first million-dollar home in 2005.
“We didn’t plan to specialize in high-end, custom-built artisan homes, but we were always pushing our abilities,” says Sonnen. “And people would be thrilled with the outcome.”
Soon clients or friends of clients were coming to Gonyea asking the firm to build bigger, more detailed homes with even higher-end finishes. Today the firm employs over 40 people, including four full-time interior designers and four full-time architectural designers. The large in-house design team sets Gonyea apart from many of its competitors.
Offering the very best in custom home design, outstanding craftsmanship, and high-quality service for over 30 years, our core values have stood the test of time as we have built our reputation on bringing our clients’ visions of home to life with outstanding home designs.
What inspires and influences your work?
Our work is inspired and influenced by our passionate designers and our clients. Our design team lives design. We are always on the lookout for new and fresh ideas and inspirations. Our hobbies are design-related. We go on vacation and look for design-related activities, whether it is touring model homes or looking at the local architecture for inspiration.
How would you describe your team’s approach to a new project?
Our design team is well versed in a wide variety of architectural styles and design finishes. They collaborate together and share their talent to bring our clients’ unique visions of home to life, with personalized architectural plans and interior finishes that reflect each client’s vision and lifestyle. Our designers and builders help our clients get what they want, within their budget, while keeping the process coordinated and coherent.
What sets your company apart?
Our clients choose us because we have an experienced team of professionals with an outstanding history of creating extraordinary homes and delivering outstanding customer service. Emphasis on our client’s vision is what makes a Gonyea custom home stand out from the rest. The diversity in our home designs has continued to reach new heights. We have never believed in the ordinary. Our goal is to make each of our homes uniquely extraordinary.
What are the most important elements of a successful build team?
Good listeners. From the first meeting to the final move in, as experienced professionals, we listen to what our clients want and respond appropriately to get the best possible results.
How do you bring a client’s vision to life?
We take a blank canvas, add their vision, and then create a masterpiece our clients can be proud of from start to finish. We listen and use photography to help make sure we are understanding what our clients want and what inspires them. Pictures say a thousand words and in our electronic era, this is the best and most effective way of guiding our clients toward their vision of their unique home.
What are some of your favorite trends and styles in new construction?
Casual and comfortable, yet still awe-inspiring. Gone are the days where room counts and ceiling heights were seen as the key factors to impressive custom homes. Today, we see clients who are seeking customized details that reflect comfortable, inviting, and casual living. Jaw-dropping, personalized designs and finishes built for the way people want to live are what is impressive today.
What makes you proud to be a builder?
I am so proud of our entire team, the quality homes we build, and the life stories which will unfold uniquely for each of our clients in their new homes. Our team cares deeply about our clients and the homes we are building.
How do you define an Artisan home?
A home from small to big, but with details and finishes that are unique to the client in every room.
Photography by Meghan Doll