Custom Builder Online - Q + A: The Luxury Of Time
How did you enter the residential construction industry?
Mark: I come from a family of fishermen, grew up on fishing boats, and we did commercial fishing and then charter fishing in the summer. Working with your family in a small business is sort of like working on a farm; you have to learn how to work with your hands.
When I went to college, I had to pay my way through school. To do that, I did small renovation projects for people, like finishing a bonus room or sanding and finishing hardwood floors, or painting walls, or whatever came up.
Then, when I graduated from college, I got a job selling building materials. I met with builders around town and realized, “I can do this.” That was back in 2000. And so my wife and I bought a lot and built our own house.
It wasn’t something we could afford to pay other people to do everything on, and so I did a lot of the work myself.
And then my brother and I got creative and made undersea scenes for the balconies out of a stainless steel rod, bending it into the shape of whales and dolphins. And there were multiple other things around the house we did that were also aesthetically interesting and different. Two of my friends came through the house and said, “Hey, we think you’re creative. You’ve done a great job here. And we’d love for you to build our house.”
Mark Batson, owner of Tongue & Groove Design + Build, in Wilmington, N.C., grew up on a fishing boat, and those ties to coastal North Carolina continue to inform his work and decision-making as a builder. Named National Custom Home Builder of the Year 2020 by the National Association of Home Builders, he credits his leadership philosophy, which hinges on humility and gratitude, as the reason for that success. Batson spoke with Custom Builder about the award and how an integrated design/build process suits his luxury clientele.
You design and build high-end custom homes for your clients. What does the term “luxury home” mean to you?
Mark: You know, we build these beautiful structures, but they’re just things. They’re simply possessions. The whole objective is [to enable] families to spend more time together. That’s all it’s about.
You construct homes near or in flood zones. Can you tell us more about the role resilient construction plays in your process?
Mark: Everything we do is pretty much waterfront. And any kind of structure that’s waterfront is subject to the same conditions as a ship at sea: wind, rain, salt spray, sun. I grew up on boats, so I lived that. And so I think about houses like I do a boat: How is this thing going to function in a storm? How’s it going to function day to day?
And then, from a practical standpoint, not only is it storm-resistant, but when you’re thinking about living in the house and for it to be convenient, what would be the best case scenario? I always think I want to be able to scrub it down and hose it off just like I would a boat. So the materials we use are the same ones you’d find on a boat. It’s real simple, but it’s really durable.
When I’m designing a house, especially on the water, I incorporate a lot of nautical details: porthole windows, curves, mahogany, and teak, things like that. We came up with a term—Yacht Modern—to describe some of these modern designs, and I had it trademarked.
What do you think puts you ahead of other builders and ultimately makes you deserving of the title Custom Home Builder of the Year?
Mark:The most important thing for anybody to be at the top of their trade is to acknowledge the people around you. The team-building I’ve done, and the accumulation of our knowledge together and our drive together, is the true reason for our success.
You come up with a vision, but that’s just the beginning. It’s everyone else in the background that [actually] makes it happen. It’s an honor to be the face of it. It really is.