Blue Heron Design Build owner Tyler Jones recalls when the firm opened its first office 15 years ago.
“It might have been 500 square feet,” Jones said of the space. “It was one room with a small conference room. Nothing fancy for sure.”
He and the firm’s two other founders, Tommy Isola and Michael Murphy, along with Jones’ father, Stephen, began Blue Heron with a shared vision: Start an integrated privately owned company designing and building a style of architecture they deemed “Vegas Modern.”
Isola and Murphy have since left the company.
“Architecture that is appropriate to Las Vegas,” Jones said about their concept of Vegas Modern. “Something that is meaningful.”
Over the last 15 years, the company survived the Great Recession, expanded operations several times and grown into a renowned company other firms want to emulate for innovative design and its integrated design/build business model.
The business model offers clients a seamless approach to custom homebuilding. Its inclusive services include architecture, design, general contracting, landscape, pool construction and furnishings.
“I grew up listening to the struggles between architects and builders,” Jones said. “We worked hard to create a true design-build organization and let the design side drive it.”
Remaining relevant in an ever-changing industry, Jones believes, requires Blue Heron to remain vigilant, approaching each project with a fresh perspective, continuously pushing the envelope while staying true to the Vegas Modern philosophies of indoor/outdoor relationships, sustainable design and energy-efficiency.
“I think we really are changing the game,” Jones said. “And I think we’re doing that in a significant, meaningful way.
“In the past, we were concerned we were pushing things too far,” Jones said. “As we’ve grown, we’ve seen the response from the market place. The more we push the boundaries, the more we offer truly innovative architecture, the better the response.”
Blue Heron’s newest game-changer is emulated in its Vegas Modern 001 (VM001). The new 14,100-square-foot, three-level show home at 685 Dragon Peak Drive inside the prestigious Macdonald Highlands Dragons Reserve.
“This is a new experience you haven’t seen before, I promise you that,” Jones said. “It will unfold in different layers and speak to you in a way that is very intentional.”
Currently under construction, the home is expected to be completed early next year. It is anticipated to be listed for more than $20 million.
Showcasing stunning views of the Strip and surrounding mountains, the exquisite property features three bedrooms including a main-floor master suite with private outdoor experience and a secondary sky master suite. Other features include a formal dining room centered between a private garden, a three-level powder room, Sky Lounge entertainment level with theatrical effects and sunken exterior living spaces surrounded by two waterfalls.
Besides a unique design experience, VM001 offers cutting-edge technology and energy-efficiency utilizing a brand-new energy-management system.
Partnering with the East Coast firm Racepoint Energy, Blue Heron installed a system that works in tandem with Savant home technology. One of the unique aspects is that it optimizes the creation and storing of energy through passive and active solar strategies. Excess power is not lost, rather it is stored in an expansive battery storage system.
“This is a game-changer,” Jones said. “It’s constantly understanding your energy usage patterns in the home.”
“Everything we do in our show home is meant to be a new offering for our clients,” Jones added. “This show home is a way for us to discuss the Vegas Modern philosophy and showcase it to the general public, as well as to architects and designers.”
VM001 is the first of several show homes Jones hopes to build in the area.
Besides VM001, Blue Heron has designed, built and sold out seven distinct area communities. It has six new active selling neighborhoods featuring the signature Vegas Modern style. Dragon Rock in MacDonald Highlands is the newest addition with an estimated 40 elevated lots available ranging from one-third to 1 acre.
The community features homes ranging from 3,500 square feet to 10,000 square feet and starting at $1.5 million. Currently, phase one of eight homes sites is available for sale.
“It’s a really amazing location,” Jones said. “MacDonald Highland has a dragon rock formation and every lot is looking up at the dragon and out to the valley.”
Dragon Rock introduces the Vision Collection, featuring 32 of Blue Heron’s best floor plans.
“It’s brand new this year,” Jones said of the collection. “We’re able to build these homes anywhere in town.”
Jones devised the Vision Collection to ease the complicated nature of custom homebuilding. It provides clients a shorter, more-defined time frame with a fixed lower price. According to Jones, the collection can provide up to 25 percent savings on fees depending on selections.
“We don’t have to go through the process of designing something and estimating it,” Jones said. “We’ve already built these plans, so we already know what they cost and we can let the client know right off the bat what it looks like.”
Vantage, on the North Shore of Lake Las Vegas, broke ground earlier this year offering 37 home sites, 12 of which have sold. Three distinct flexible floor plans are available including a 2,800-square-foot, single-story or a two-story home that measures 3,800 square feet or 4,800 square feet.
The 4,800-square-foot, two-story model is planned to be completed by the end of the year.
“This is another step forward for the company,” Jones said at the Vantage groundbreaking event. “And this is a great location.”
Lots range from 7,800 square feet to 13,000 square feet, within the 15-acre property tiered to take advantage of the surrounding landscape.
“Each one of these homes will be designed to take advantage of the view,” said Cody Winterton, executive vice president of Raintree Investing Corp., which manages Lake Las Vegas. “It’s exactly what Blue Heron is known for.”
The Bluffs, located in Southern Highlands, is almost sold out with seven home sites available. Its unique location offers 39 homes sites featuring Mediterranean modern-styled homes.
“It’s the first time we had to do that,” Jones said about the distinct style. “Southern Highlands has pretty strict Mediterranean design guidelines, so the exterior has a Mediterranean flavor. Inside the home, it’s very much a true Vegas Modern design.”
Obsidian in Henderson features 34 homesites, of which 11 are sold and Equinox in MacDonald Highlands has three of the seven custom lots sold.
Midtown Modern is a unique limited offering of four modern custom estates in a private gated community near downtown Las Vegas and the Arts District.
Though most known for building custom homes, Jones has several communities offering semi-custom plans.
“It’s probably 60/40,” Jones said, “60 percent of our work is custom and 40 percent is semi-custom.”
Recently, Blue Heron took part of the 2019 AIA National Conference, hosting approximately 150 architects from around the country. Attendees toured several Blue Heron communities to see the company’s latest design, technology and business innovation.
“I think a lot of architects really appreciate what we are doing and understand that we do really have a novel approach to design/build,” Jones said. “I think that’s what has allowed us to do the really innovative work that we’ve done so far.”
Since its first office, the company has moved approximately six times and grown to 120 employees. Recently, the company grew out of its 11,000-square-foot location. Blue Heron is designing its new 16,000-square-foot location and expects to move in October.
In the future, Jones hopes to make high-quality design accessible to a larger market building homes at a lower price point.
“It’s a goal of mine,” Jones said. “It’ll just be a matter of time that we put together the right opportunity to something more affordable out there.”
Blue Heron communities
• Dragon Rock in MacDonald Highlands — show home, 685 Dragon Peak Court. Prices start at $1.5 million.
• Equinox in MacDonald Highlands offers seven custom lots. Pricing starts at $3 million.
• Vantage on the north shore of Lake Las Vegas. Prices start at $800,000.
• The Bluffs in Southern Highlands is at 11172 San Terrazo Place. Prices start at $1.5 million.
• Obsidian in Henderson is surrounded by three prominent master plans; Roma Hills, MacDonald Highlands and Ascaya. Prices start at $1.7 million.
• Midtown Modern, 805 Campbell Drive offers four custom half-acre lots. Pricing starts at $1.7 million.