Southern Living’s Design Summit And Conference

Southern Living’s Design Summit And Conference


Greg:    Jason, good to see you.

Jason:    Greg, it’s always a pleasure to have you back.

Greg:    It sounds like you’re the one who’s actually back. I was following Instagram over the past, I guess week or two weeks ago, and it looks like you’ve been traveling a little bit. You want to tell us where you’ve been?

Jason:    Yeah, we just got back. We’re down in Birmingham. Some of the team from Artisan went down to Birmingham for our annual Southern Living, it was a design summit. There’s about a 100 builders throughout the Southeast that are hand selected by Southern Living to represent the brand that Southern Living has. We get exclusive looks into their plans and all their great design ideas and design library and we just enjoyed the association with Southern Living. It’s a chance for us all…

Greg:    Can I ask you to stop? I want you to brag on yourself a little bit. You said there are about a 100 builders in the south, this region that are invited. Do you have any idea how many builders there are in the south in this region?

Jason:    Oh my gosh…

Greg:    How exclusive a club is this?

Jason:    It’s a very exclusive club. I mean, they come and they bring the top brass from Southern Living and they come to Louisville. They interview you. They talk to your home owners. They talk to your bankers and they want to make sure that they are attaching their brand to, I guess a work course of a builder.

Greg:    Okay, I just want to make sure that all the listeners knew this is the real deal. I mean, this is not something that’s just handed out to builders willy-nilly.

Jason:    Yeah, we’re the exclusive Southern Living custom builder here in Norton Commons. We’ve been chosen to represent the brand. It’s hard to believe, I’ve been associated with Southern Living now for ten years.

Greg:    That is hard, wow, okay, it goes quickly?

Jason:    It does. It does. As part of Southern Living’s on-going… they used to just be a magazine but they’ve really expanded. They have inspired communities and inspired hotels and they have different collections and now they have … We’re a custom builder network. They also have a designer network that they’ve started a few years ago that’s associated with Southern Living as well as Coastal Living. All those designers were part of the conference or the design summit that we just had.

Greg:    Okay. I think I saw a picture, looks like you’re on stage and then another picture you’re going out to see homes. What all is involved? I mean, this sounds like or look like quite a conference.

Southern Living Design Summit social media panel

Jason:    Yeah, it’s a work trip and we work for three solid days. I’m actually on the Board of Directors of the Southern Living Custom Builder programs. We got down a day early and met with the board which includes some higher ups with Southern Living. Because it’s the 50th anniversary of Southern Living this year, that’s why we had the conference in Birmingham which is the headquarters of Southern Living. We toured what will be the 2016 Southern Living Idea House that will open up in June. We actually got a sneak peek behind the scenes, so to speak, tour of that.

Actually met the architect. His name was Bill Ingram, he’s out of Birmingham, and he gave us a room by room tour of the house which is it’s not a huge house. It’s 3,500 square feet but quintessential Southern Living wrap around porch on both sides. One of the interesting things this house had was 11 foot ceilings on the first floor. It had some nine foot tall doors and windows and all these cool windows all around the house that you could actually lift the windows up tall enough to walk out through the window on to the porch.

Greg:    Wow, that’s very cool.

Jason:    They had doors as well but it was just something cool.

Greg:    We talked about the Idea House before I think in an earlier episode, this is where they are trying to do the best of the best in each facet of a home, is that correct?

Jason:    Yeah. It’s a chance for Southern Living to pick what they think, or really set the trends of design as well as house plans and typically they have one interior designer that does the whole house, but because this was the 50th anniversary, they did five different interior designers and each one gets a main room or couple rooms and they are each going to … Again the 50 years of Southern Living they are each representing a decade of the 50’s, the 50 years of Southern Living and take a spin on their interpretation of that style. How they can take older styles and make them current. It’s really going to be a unique house this year.

Greg:    When is that going to be finished? You got to see it early.

Jason:    Yeah, I’ll probably make a trip back down. It opens in June and they actually will have it open for six months. It will be open through the end of the year, couple days a week. You can go and tour it. It’s in a town called Mt. Laurel which is like a traditional neighborhood like Norton Commons so there’s some shops in there and houses are close together. It’s a really walk-able community.

Greg:    You mean after it is finished it will be open? As they’re building it it will be open for people to walk through?

Jason:    Yeah, you have to wait till it is finished. Usually they lock it down and don’t want anybody through it. Really don’t want anybody taking pictures of it but we broke those rules this year. Actually, I posted a few pictures on Instagram of the house and maybe a picture of the garage. I think with social media nowadays it’s tough to keep projects like that under-wraps for a very long time.

Greg:    There’s probably also some benefit to getting some word of mouth with some publicity going on social media for these projects, right? To get the word out.

Jason:    Absolutely. I thought it was cool. I’ve been a big Instagram and social media guy for a while and I always take pictures. I know we have a great following with our social media but sometimes you never know who’s watching when you post all those pictures. I took what I thought was a pretty cool shot of the Idea House and Southern Living actually commented and took my picture and shared it across their social media platform. I thought that was pretty neat.

Greg:    You did not get reprimanded though?

Jason:    I did not. I did not.

Greg:    Okay.

Jason:    I think they were pretty impressed.

Greg:    That proves your point though that social media, it’s more than arrived. Maybe a few years ago it arrived, it’s actually a cool tool to use to publicize some of these projects.

Jason:    Yeah, absolutely. One of the other, as being part of the board and I was actually invited to … We had a panel discussion on social media and how it can benefit a builder. There are a couple of people on the panel. We had some well-known interior designers. We had the social media, I guess director for Southern Living up there. We had a fellow interior designer as part of the designer network. We all sat on the panel, we had about an hour long discussion in front of the group. There’s probably 3 or 400 people there and they ask questions. We talked about our experiences with social media and really what the buyers like to see and what our followers like to see.

Greg:    What do buyers like to see? I’m curious because your Instagram account for years and years has been huge and so how do you know what to take pictures of, how do you know what to share? Does it just fit your personality well that what you like to share works out well on Instagram or had you sort of worked backwards and asked your clients what would you like to see and then you go that route.

Jason:    It’s a couple of things. I think when people love houses, it’s something that appeals to most people and I always, anytime, I’m walking through houses all day so that’s what I do. I’m always looking for interesting angles or interesting facets of the home construction process that I think my audience will take a liking to. Sometimes I just don’t want to see a finished product, they want to see the behind the scenes or what I’ve started doing lately is polling my audience as to, “Hey, do you like this paint color or that paint color or do you like this stair runner or that stair runner?” and really get them engaged and involved. You really get to know people that you’ll probably never ever meet in real life but you become friends on social media and you can bounce ideas off of to.

Greg:    Virtual friends.

Jason:    That’s right. Yeah, that way they can’t judge you too much, I’ll just judge you by your social media picture platform.

Greg:    That’s interesting that your social media presence had spread enough that you are asked to participate in this 50th anniversary summit, that you were on stage, right? There’s a picture on your Instagram of you talking about Instagram.

Jason:    Yeah, I always pretty blown away because a little builder from Louisville, Kentucky and you got well known designers that were on there that some of them have their own big blogs. We had a couple that were there that have their own TV shows, but then they’re picking my brain on, “How are you growing your following? What are you doing?”

Greg:    Right. Now, some of these guys, I think, again you mentioned earlier in a previous episode, some of the builders you sort of have a not a mentor group but a mastermind that’s something, a mastermind group. Some of those guys will be coming here, is that right? You say little old builder in Louisville, they’re going to come to see your product, right, and talk to you about what you do and how you set yourself apart.

Jason:    Yeah, as part of the hundred builders we have even a more select group, it’s called the Builder 10. Kind of the 10 more progressive builders that are really, I think setting trends through the south. We meet annually in person and then we also meet once a month over the phone and just share ideas and actually they have been intrigued about Norton Commons and the work we’re doing here in Louisville that they finally said, “Hey, we’re coming to Louisville.” In July, ten of my closest builder buddies are coming and I’m going to show them around and kind of show them what I do and the process I follow on how I build what we do.

Greg:    That’s pretty exciting, so does that happen to be around the time of Homearama?

Jason:    Coincidentally they’re going to come the last week of Homearama, we’ll tour the Homearama houses. There’s going to be 26 homes that’ll be furnished in Norton Commons, we’ll tour through those on a Sunday and then we’ll spend probably Monday brainstorming and then I’ll tour them through some houses and show them around.

Greg:    Have I mentioned that I can’t wait for Homearama? I’m really excited for this year. Some years are more exciting than others for me, I’m really excited about this year’s.

Jason:    To have 26 furnished houses in Homearama, it’s the biggest show that Louisville has ever had, I mean it could be one of the largest home shows ever. I’ve not heard of a home show having 26 houses in one location. I think they’ll sell a multi-day pass but, and the cool thing with Norton Commons is you can come, you can spend the day, you can go to the restaurants, you can shop and you can even, there’s a bed and breakfast. You can spend the night if you spend that long.

Greg:    I’m not sure I’m that dedicated but I’ll definitely be out here to see them all and then I’ll probably come back and … Maybe I am that dedicated, I’ll come back and check a couple out several times.

Jason:    Yeah, no, no doubt. Getting back to the conference a little bit, we did the Design Summit, the conference goes for then two additional days and we bring in … Southern Living has a lot of partners, Marvin Windows and Doors, James Hardie, two of the bigger sponsors, Lennox and Sherwin-Williams. They come in, they share, they’ve all got some new products, we’ll kind of implement some of those things and they get out have a little trade show, talk about that.

We have a couple of different speakers come in, we have another world renowned architect who came in and actually talked to us for about an hour, Bobby McAlpine, who has a firm that’s … They’re world wide renowned and they just do phenomenal work. He and his partner Susan just got up on stage and just kind of talked a little bit, some kind of little witty banter about what goes into the head of an architect and designer when they’re building. These guys are building homes that are just, I mean they are homes that you’d passed down from generation and generation and I actually get a lot of inspiration from his work.

Greg:    Wow, that sounds … Maybe I need to go look some of those pictures up and get an idea what you’re looking about but that sounds really inspiring.

Jason:    Bobby McAlpine has two books he’s written. I know they are readily available, you can get them on Amazon as well as they have them up at the local Barnes and Noble.

Greg:    Do you get all fired up and all excited when you go to a conference like this? Does it just really gets you re-energized?

Jason:    It really does. By talking to my peers and learning new ideas, I’m always anxious to get back home and implement some of the ideas that we’ve learned. A couple of the ideas and I don’t how we’re doing on time if want to check into some of these ideas or may be we have to carry forward next week and get into some more details… We’ve got some new processes I think we’re going to implement that I’ve been learning and hearing about for awhile and I’m really anxious to put those into work.

Greg:    We are running a little long so if you’d like to wrap up, we can come back next week and talk about the process that you just mentioned.

Jason:    Okay, no, that sounds wonderful. I look forward to having you back next week and we can hit on some processes and a couple of little tricks I learned at the meeting.

Greg:    Sounds great. Thank you

Jason:    Thanks, Greg.