Usually this time of the year, I’m getting ready for the annual Lakeland Builders Association Parade of Homes.  People start calling me for information. We typically will have a home or two in the event. However, this year – we will not have a home in the LBA Parade of Homes, which I know will come as a surprise to many.

In the 29 year history of Lakeland Builders Association Parade of Homes, there has been 50 Thelen Total Construction Parade homes. No other LBA member builder has come close to that number of homes.

2005’s Parade Home was an eclectic rustic log cabin

Of course, we could not have done it without the cooperation of those 50 homeowners. For giving us the opportunity to showcase our work, we are immensely grateful.

Some of those years have been particularly memorable. In 1998, we featured five homes. Which was a daunting task to have ready in time for the Parade.  I think the paint was barely dry on Marilyn Thelen’s Parade home when the doors opened at 11 am!

2002, we featured a spectacular home on Black Point Drive in  Lake Geneva.  An 11,000 square foot mansion that took close to two years to build, and the dedicated craftsmanship of many tradespeople. Almost 2,400 people came to see it during the four day event – amazing, since people waited patiently to be shuttled from the Reek School location about a mile away. And took an hour long guided tour to see the entire home. (Good news! You can see it again if you want to arrange a private showing, as it is on the market for $10,790,000 through Shorewest Realtors.)

2002 Black Point Lane Parade Home

We’ve been very proud to show the many unique styles of custom homes we design and built: From the very elaborately designed grand homes, to the remarkably detailed, smaller scale lake cottages.  Over the years we have shown English Tudor, Prairie Style, Craftsman, Modern and Contemporary, French Country, Rustic log, Traditional Farmhouse, Modern Farmhouse, a combination of more than one architectural style, and often one of our very popular Lake Cottage style home, on a number of beautiful lakes in Walworth County.

Some visitors love to come and see what we have done this year; others are there to find a builder, and possibly become our next client. A number of visitors are people we built homes for in the past. Our Parade Homes do feel like an actual “open house” event when you see familiar faces and friends each year. That part will be missed by all of us.

Our objective in having a home (or homes) in the LBA Parade of Homes was to be known as one of the area’s best builders of fine custom homes. A “whatever your heart desires” kind of home. After 50 Parade homes in 29 years, in a myriad of architectural styles, I think the mission is accomplished!

Classic Modern best describes this 2016 Parade Home

So while we won’t have a home in this year’s 2018 Parade, we are very happy to support Lakeland Builders Association and the Parade of Homes by being their Gold Sponsor of the 2018 Event. It is a great opportunity for the public to see beautiful homes built by LBA Builder members. I know I’ll be among the many people attending the Parade. It’ll be nice to be a visitor for a change!

For more information about the 2018 Parade of Homes, please visit the LBA website  or the LBA Facebook page.



There is no question that the vision of a new home fires up the imagination. Who hasn’t dreamt of a home with beautiful architectural design,  enough space for favorite activities, desired features, colors and style. It is a big reason enough for people to consider building a new home over an buying an existing one.

The advantages actually go way beyond the obvious: A new home offers many hidden performance benefits.  Some of these benefits come as a result of saving energy costs. Thick walls, closed cell foam insulation, air sealing, triple pane windows, and new heating and cooling equipment make homes very energy efficient, and save you money on your monthly utility bills. But they go way beyond that:

Comfort. Closed cell foam insulation, along with careful sealing of the building shell, and the HVAC ductwork minimizes drafts, and helps keep temperatures even throughout the home. The home can be further optimized with low-e, energy efficient windows. These windows can be ordered with a coating that protects furnishings from UV light. Window options include shades and blinds between the glass, and screens that roll up and down.

Health. Those comfort-enhancing, air-sealing details also keep pollen and dust out of the home. High performance windows resist condensation that can lead to mold growth. Today’s HVAC equipment is optimal at removing unwanted humidity, and other pollutants, while bringing in fresh, filtered air from outdoors. Sealed combustion heating equipment keep your family safe by keeping carbon monoxide out of indoor air.

Quiet. Double or triple pane windows, doors with good weather-stripping, and the sealing and insulation already mentioned, make a new home much better at blocking noise than an older one. (Great if you don’t want to hear the neighbor’s late night patio party or jet skis on the lake disturbing your peaceful morning!) Inside – if you have a home theater room, or a loud bunch of teenagers in your lower level space, sound-dampening soundboard between floors and by the bathroom and bedroom walls will create spaces that are a quiet oasis in your home.

Latest Technology.  You can opt for alarm systems, speaker systems, internet wiring, and lighting control functions to be built right in, saving you future holes in the walls.

Less Maintenance. Professional builders use proven products with long (even lifetime!) warranties, and use highly skilled and experienced tradespeople.Exterior materials, such as siding and decking materials made from composites will not rot, are highly resistant to insect damage and will need no future painting / staining. (Or not for a very long time.)

Universal Design Features. An open floor plan not only makes entertaining easier, it makes getting around easier for the mobility impaired. Wide hallways and doorways look great, and are  functional for all. A great feature to plan for is stacking closets on the1st floor, 2nd floor and lower level. The electrical and HVAC systems can be designed around this space during construction so that if an elevator is needed at some point, it is easily installable.

Your new home with all of today’s innovations facilitates your enjoyment and appreciation of life. It is life changing to have everything in your home just the way you want it. For many people – it’s what they always dreamed of coming home to, and we are happy to make their dreams come true!








A question we get a lot from potential clients is “What is the cost-per-square-foot of your homes? We understand the question is really, “How much will my house cost?”

And the answer is: “It depends.”

Professional custom home builders rely on proven management systems to finish a home on time and on budget. Creating an accurate budget is as much craft as a science. No responsible builder will quote a per-square-foot price without more information, because doing so would risk misleading the client. That is because a custom home is not a product. Instead it is the physical realization of a particular client’s dream home on a specific site. Each person’s dream home is unique; so the only way to estimate the cost is to ask some follow-up questions.

First we need to clarify what the client means by square foot cost of the home. Does it include the garage, unfinished lower level, or other unfinished space – such as a over the garage bonus room? Does it include costs for lot clearing, driveway, utilities, well and septic, and permits?

Once the assumptions and variable costs have been clarified – what kind of home are they dreaming of? Is the floor plan simple or complex? Is it a traditional style with intricate interior mouldings and built-ins, or a modern structure with lots of glass and minimal trim?

Then we need to define the level of desired finishes. A professional custom home builder can help refine the expectations, starting with questions about exterior materials, windows, plumbing, flooring, cabinetry preferences and special features of the home.

After sorting through all of the above, we may be able to reference plans and photos for similar homes built in the past. We can often provide a ballpark estimate of what it would cost to built that home with their specifications on their site.

However, it is not something you can do over the phone. The client needs to spend some time with us before we can offer a realistic idea of what they can get for their budget. Regardless of whether they ultimately decide to build with us, this is time wisely spent.

Wouldn’t you want the hardest-working room in your house to allow you to perform tasks with ease as you get older? A kitchen with Universal Design features can be your body’s best friend (at any age).


According to the National Association of Home Builders, a pantry was the kitchen feature most desired by new home buyers.  Kitchen pantry possibilities range from a closet, a nook to a dedicated room.  A couple of interesting trends in pantry design:

  • Wanting more daylight in the kitchen prompts a shift in storage design. Delivering more daylight means less available wall space and that has translated to an increased interest in walk-in room pantry space.
  • A really large pantry can serve as a secondary kitchen; also known as a “messy kitchen” , or a back kitchen – complete with cooktop, dishwasher, sink, prep space, floor to ceiling storage for canned goods, serving platters, oversize pots and pans, and space for caterers to set up. With open kitchens adjacent to living areas, a back kitchen provides a place to keep kitchen chaos out of sight when company comes.

Convenience, accessibility,  and “at a glance” visibility are the key attributes of a great pantry.  A walk-in pantry doesn’t need to be fancy since it’s behind closed doors.  However, even if it’s only simple shelving, it’s a good idea to include a countertop for a landing zone. It’ll make it easier to stock items, provide extra place for food prep, and space for a blender, a stand mixer and a coffee maker.  You can add as needed wall cabinets with pull-outs and built-ins. Other features can include pullout baskets for root vegetables, narrow cubbies for large platters, and nooks for cookware. The pantry should be large enough to hold a week’s worth of groceries and close enough to the food prep area. Organization and the right location are more important than size alone though.

Other pantry design ideas to keep in mind are: Pantry Tip

  • Which way will the door open? A door that opens inward can work, but it may make an already small space smaller. When space is at a premium, the best options are a pocket, folding or a sliding “barn door.”
  • Ideal lighting illuminates every shelf evenly, so be sure to install quality LED lighting. A skylight is a great idea if the home design allows. And make sure the light switch is in a spot by the pantry door.

Whether your pantry is  built-in cabinetry, a butler’s, a walk-in, or a combination – storage is never in short supply, and your kitchen layout is optimized for maximum efficiency.