Fiercely passionate about modern architecture and a custom home builder and designer, Tracie J. Kelley, President and CEO of KellCo Custom Homes Inc., doesn’t follow trends — she sets them!


The Hallen Estate in Chenal Valley was one of the builder’s most exciting designs. Kelley’s biggest challenge? Herself! “I’m always eager to step it up and raise my own bar,” she says.


Chenal Valley in Little Rock is home to hundreds of pristine, high-end luxury homes, where character and sophistication abound. Known as a “master-planned-community,” residents in Chenal experience a self-contained environment where there’s plenty of opportunities for shopping, dining, work and play. 


As a builder, one of the most important decisions for Kelley is location –– where she will purchase property for any of her custom homes to come alive. Kelley says, “I don’t purchase just to build, and I don’t build just to sell. My passion for custom home building extends far beyond ordinary, and each home that I design reflects a distinct character that is often hard to find in today’s homes, and quite frankly, shouldn’t be.” 

Kelley proves bathrooms can be traditional while still pushing the envelope on style.

Having a unique vision, then putting that vision to work, takes great knowledge, a comprehensive and well-thought-out plan, many sleepless nights and, of course, hard work. “I love and appreciate the consistency and powerful aesthetics Chenal Valley offers its residents, and that’s exactly my plan in each home that I design and build,” she says. 


KellCo Custom Homes doesn’t hesitate when having the opportunity to design and build another breathtaking luxury home, especially in Chenal. “Chenal offers something different; it’s special all on its own, and that’s totally my drive,” Kelley says. 


That is where Hallen Estate came to life. It’s surrounded by unique amenities –– such as golf, a members-only club, walking trails and gated entries –– to mention a few.


“Hallen Estate is such an amazing home and on so many levels,” Kelley says. “I believe every home carries a testimony within, and Hallen Estate has something very powerful. I’ve been unbelievably blessed to have the opportunity to build this special home. I’m giving God all the glory.”


Aside from its immediate breathtaking aesthetics, what started out as a custom spec home, Hallen Estate was designed and built for great energy efficiency. It features insulated metal roofing (metal reflects energy from the sun up and away from the home, unlike asphalt shingles which absorb the energy and transmit heat down into the home) and a high-efficiency 18 S.E.E.R. (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) heating and cooling system provided by Energy Air, Inc. The higher the number, the more efficient the system will be, and more money the homeowner can save each month. 


The builder’s favorite part of the design is its massive, clean, “sleek and sassy” casement windows throughout the home. Produced by Pella Windows and Doors, the windows were custom-made for the home and make a stunning statement. “A home filled with light has much joy,” Kelley says. 

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The builder’s favorite part of the design is its massive, clean, “sleek and sassy” casement windows throughout the home.

Thermal white oak hardwood flooring is flanked throughout the home, which further defines its interior character, reflecting soft, yet bold impressions, immediately upon entry. And the interior LED lighting throughout the home, provided by Tech Electric, boasts its own attitude altogether. “Lighting styles in a home say a lot,” Kelley explains. 


KellCo Custom Homes provides high-end lighting to highlight special features and alter interior designs of a specific space. “Luxurious lighting throughout a home offers uniqueness and enhances architectural allure,” she adds. As featured, this 16-light chandelier Z-Lite 737 embraces a sleek boldness and doubles down on contemporary attitude. It features a linear silhouette fashioned with a sexy, matte-black finished steel, while infusing modernistic style and class. 


From exotic Quartzites and stone countertops within the home, to glass splashes, an iron-railed-lighted staircase and invigorating massaging shower systems, Kelley doesn’t back down when it comes to custom. “My homes are so spoiled!” she says. 


There are so many fun and unique features of the Hallen Estate home, it’s hard for Kelley to pick a favorite. “If I just had to choose,” she says, “it would undoubtedly be the family room. This is where my heart is.” The space is joined with a gourmet kitchen, overlooking a grand, linear fireplace stacked with granite stones and iron railings, and provides space for great family time, entertaining and a nice kick-back.

The kitchen is also one of Kelley’s favorite areas of the homes she designs. Showcased here, hickory cabinets are stained using a white-wash method, back wiped through different applications and dressed in black iron pulls. Hickory shows off a unique character, such as veins and knots, and that is what makes the wood product so grand. “It truly takes getting out of your comfort zone to make the unique happen,” Kelley says. She states that hickory-anything is expensive, and that it’s certainly worth it. She says to play around and test this application on such expensive material takes much grit. “Just go for it!” she adds. 


Kelley highlights mixes of modern masses and aesthetic intrigue and incorporates materials such as glass, steel, granite stones, metals, iron and wood to play together in exciting new ways for many of her custom builds. “I like to keep it stirred up!” Kelley says. “Who wants what everyone else has? Boring. Boring. Boring.”


Kelley says that growing up, she remembers her grandmother saying, “Take it outside!” Now, that’s exactly what she does when designing her custom homes. Hallen Estate demands attention, and for an obvious reasons. The exterior of the home is shanked with true granite stones, while seamlessly surrounded by cypress and black iron. The large, black-trimmed windows draw attention to the amazing, multifunctional flex room, while gazes are focused on the exquisite glass chandelier below the 30-foot custom ceiling. 


“I decided to take this room to the next level,” Kelley says. “With so many folks working from home today, who wants to feel trapped inside?” 

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Looking out from the back patio of the estate, which boasts a whole new standard of outdoor relaxation.

Featuring open spaces, entertaining patios, flex rooms, outdoor kitchens and in-ground pools, Kelley’s designs are invigorating and fun at the start of any design. “Let’s go!” she says. “Exceptional designs have no boundaries. KellCo has a focus on design for the needs of each family while providing a unique modern, transitional and traditional aesthetic to those who “dare to be different.”


While building a new home is exciting, there are several important decisions that should be considered and made well ahead of any build project. “Do your homework,” Kelley advises. “Hiring the right builder is crucial,”as each builder has something different to offer, from design and quality to craftsmanship and knowledge. Know how to separate the so-so from the superb. Check to see how the builder engages within their job sites. Is there a builder absence? Of course, with permission from the builder, take a tour of the builders’ homes, if possible, including while under construction. Find a builder who can guide you with stability and leadership –– particularly in today’s market –– and look for a builder whose emotions don’t fluctuate like the price of lumber.”


With this said, it’s equally important that the builder do their homework. Kelley says, “While I’ve learned I can’t be all things to all people, I have gained much wisdom and insight in knowing that not all are meant to build together.”


Common Questions Kelley Hears in the Homebuilding Industry


• What is the cost to build per square foot?


“This is a great question,” Kelley says. “It depends. 40% of the final cost of a client’s custom home is outside of the builder’s control and is determined by the level of the buyer’s desired finished product.” 


Kelley strongly states, “Don’t try to build a home that is more than you can afford. Be honest and upfront with the builder about your budget. Otherwise, it will always add unnecessary stress to the build process.”


“Realizing that ‘little changes’ make big impacts is important,” she says. “CH-CH-CHANGES in a custom home building process are inevitable. Be gracious and remember when designed by KellCo, [your] home is a one-of-a-kind custom home that has never been built before; therefore, budgets and floorplans are likely to be tweaked on-site. From paper to site, things often change.”


• Can we use “our guy?” 


Kelley states that while a lower quote may seem appealing, you’ll pay for it in other ways. You’ll often hear Kelley say, “Our success stems from the dedication and hard work of the builder and the quality of our subcontractors and suppliers. Using your builder’s resources keeps all points of accountability with the builder.”  


Open, frequent and respectful communication throughout a build process is key. A client-builder relationship isn’t unlike one between spouses. “It’s like a marriage should be,” Kelley says.” “Make a plan with your builder of how and when you will communicate, so it doesn’t become a barrage of texts, emails and phone calls that can’t be effectively fielded.”


When building a custom home, mistakes are inevitable. Just because your builder has decades of experience doesn’t mean they will be flawless. “There will always be challenges to occur. It’s the nature of the beast,” Kelley says. “Ultimately, you will hire a builder for good reason, mostly, and hopefully, based on trust. Trust your builder to live up to your initial expectations while keeping it real!” 


“A great builder will do everything possible to keep calm through the chaos,” she adds. “It’s important that clients trust they hired the right builder and trust in our ability to execute even through the chaos. The most important factor when building a home is trust. Sometimes it’s best to stay out of the kitchen until the final product is ready!” she jokes.


Kelley enjoys working closely with every client throughout the build process. “As a general contractor, we witness and face numerous and unprecedented changes within the industry, especially over the past couple of years,” she says. “To say they can be challenging is merely an understatement.” 


Despite the previous demand in supplies, sky-high lumber and labor prices, Kelley says it’s all worth it in the end. “We must be realistic and understand the process of building a custom home will always include bumps along the way,” she says. “Be nice to your builder and trust their advice, as they are the experts. If you’re looking for a smoother process, buy a SPEC home at paint-phase!” 


Kelley says she is in the design phase of several custom homes, which are soon to break ground. “I get excited with each and every home as if it were my very first!” she says. Kelley’s upcoming custom homes will be in Chenal Valley and surrounding areas of Little Rock, Sherwood, North Little Rock, Conway and Greers Ferry.