Artftul Redesigns

David Bloomquist is a licensed general contractor in Georgia and South Carolina who has specialized in renovating or restoring historical residences since 1975. His Savannah projects have been recognized for excellence by the Historic Savannah Foundation, the Remodelers Council of the Home Builders Association, and Qualified Remodeler magazine, and his firm, Bloomquist Construction, Inc., has been ranked in that magazine’s top 500 companies list three years in a row. His clients demand a high level of painstaking detail and authentic execution in their homes, and Bloomquist is able to communicate with them regarding both artistic design and technical specifications thanks to his formal training in the fine arts and a broad, deep knowledge of vintage construction materials and techniques. Here, American Builders Quarterly speaks with him about how his background gives him an unusual perspective on home restoration.

David Bloomquist

At a Glance

Location
Savannah, GA

Founded
2001

Employees
11

Specialty
Historical restoration

Annual Sales
$2 million

Your career choice seems at odds with your educational background. How did you get here?
David Bloomquist: I studied visual arts and fine arts at Cleveland State University. Art has always held a natural attraction for me, and it was something I’d long wanted to pursue. My dad was an electrician, and I helped him run wires and did other simple tasks. I also worked in that field during college—renovations, painting, things like that. After graduation, my business partner and I scraped together a down payment on a 48-unit Victorian-style apartment building. We decided to restore it ourselves.

Sounds like a big undertaking.
DB: Oh, it was. We learned to sweat pipe, patch the roof, fix windows—remember, we had to operate with just rent money. We could not afford to call on anyone for help. We sold the building, and I moved to NYC, where I continued to work in the field but also studied interior design and architectural drawing at [the Fashion Institute of Technology]. It was a nice crossover of my interests—art and architecture and the building trades.

You started your own business in 2001. Describe your company today.
DB: Bloomquist Construction specializes in restoring and renovating historic homes throughout Georgia and South Carolina. We do about $2 million of business in an average year. [My background in art is] actually an important part of business, and it’s something that gives us a leg up on contractors that have more traditional backgrounds.

In what way?
DB: I can convert clients’ ideas about design and decor into reality—and can focus quickly on the right balance of elements in a room without struggling to understand why a particular layout or alignment is required.

What are some of the essentials in restoring historical homes?
DB: Approaches are often dictated by local historic-district boards, which have stringent requirements for authenticity—even for the thickness of metals. So we must have an eye for period design and must use the correct building techniques. We also need to know the right people to call on. For example, Metalcrafts, Inc. in Savannah does the majority of our roofing work. We know they’ll provide both high quality and historical accuracy.

Can you talk about a couple of your notable projects?
DB: The 4 West Taylor home, built in 1852, was a three-year, $2.5 million restoration. Two main parlors had hand-painted ceilings. After we cleaned away decades of soot, a conservator from Chicago analyzed and reinstated the missing paint. We also created many historically accurate plaster medallions; lowered the basement floor by 14 inches; took out the ground-floor corner of this masonry building and replaced it with full-height glass panels overlooking the pool; [and] installed a new elevator, a modern HVAC system, and whole-house automation. It was quite a challenge.

Any others?
DB: 10 East Taylor was a two-stage job. We were called in to add a home gym, a swimming pool, entertainment systems, things like that. But the client later noticed cracks emerging throughout the house. It happened that the mortise-tenon joinery surrounding a staircase was failing. We removed ceilings and flooring to expose all the joints, embedded steel beams, and added other support. Because of the wooden floor’s historic nature, we numbered each piece as we dismantled it to ensure proper reassembly. You don’t see jobs like that too often.

What’s keeping your business competitive and successful these days?
DB: My arts training was a solid foundation for what I do now. I’m more focused on understanding the quality of a project than on building a huge business. But it’s indirectly helped my business grow; architects and clients appreciate a builder who understands the need for good design as well as for proper execution. ABQ