Gardner Group aims to help people build their dream homes
It’s a logical question: How do an Australian who first came to America as an F-18 fighter weapons instructor at the famed Topgun aviation program and his wife, a British school teacher, end up in Park City, devoting their lives to helping people build their dream homes?
The answer, it turns out, is simple. As Murray Gardner tells it, he was in love the moment he first laid eyes on Park City in 1985. He bought a condo the second day he was in town. When he met his wife, Felicity Gardner, in Hong Kong, he spent the next several years trying to figure out how they could live in Park City full time and still earn a living.
"Park City, Utah, is the epicenter of the known universe," he said in a serious tone, but flashing a wry smile.
He and Felicity finally came here for good in 2005. They set out to build the home they had always wanted — one they thought they would spend the rest of their lives in. But then a funny thing happened along the way.
"Partway through that process, we discovered that were having a good time, enjoying it," Murray said. "Friends who were building at the same time were having a nightmare time of it. When we sat down and analyzed what we were doing differently, the answer was Felicity was applying a lot of creative effort and I was applying a lot of organizational effort, helping out the general contractor."
They sold the home instead of living in it. Now several years later, Murray and Felicity have carved a successful business out of their passion for overseeing home builds. Their business, Gardner Group, creates high-end homes in Park City for people who want to take the stress out of building their own homes. Murray oversees the general contractors and architects, while Felicity tackles the interior design.
Together, they ensure customers walk away with the homes of their dreams.
"We serve people who want to build their own home in Park City but perhaps don’t have the time, the experience or the confidence to oversee it themselves," Murray said. "We’re a one-stop shop. We’re not builders at all. We have a general contractor we work with and an architect and design professionals, but we sit at the tip of that pyramid, making sure it goes the way the client wants it to."
Gardner Group gets in on the process early, helping customers pick out plots of land to ensure they will have beautiful views when the homes are completed. Murray And Felicity take it from there, focusing their efforts on ensuring projects stay on time, on budget and that the homeowners get exactly what they want.
But, they said, they get a lot of help along the way from those who actually build the home.
"We’ve gathered a team of experts and craftspeople," Felicity said. "The finished product is as good as the people working with you. So that helps us enormously. We have a great respect for each other."
For Felicity, the joy is in the creativity. Gardner Group typically only takes on one or two projects at a time, so she has plenty of time to scour the market for the perfect furnishings and accessories.
"You just have a block of land, and then you just create something from nothing," she said. "I just love it. I love going to the market and sourcing the best materials possible — sofas that are comfortable, tables that are functional. I just love every part of it."
Murray echoed those sentiments, saying he gets immense gratification from completing a project.
"I get emotional sometimes thinking that we have started with just a lump of dirt and turned it into a house," he said. "There are so many people involved in that process, and we’re the two that basically coordinate it all. Without blowing our own trumpet, we’re probably more responsible than anyone else for what that ends up looking like. Lots of people contribute, don’t get me wrong, but it’s our leadership and vision and creativity that do that. That’s really satisfying."
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Another ski season is in the books, and much to the relief of the restaurant industry, the outlook, like the weather, is looking sunny.