By Hollie Deese
Photography by Nick McGuinn, Garett Buell and Paige Rumore
Nashville has changed just a little bit since Seth Argo moved here from Memphis in 2003. He was in commercial development for 12 years before he made the switch to residential, a shift that has helped him appreciate all the moving pieces and personal touches that go into building a home. It is less decision by a committee that might not ever use the finished space, and more decisions from the hearts of the people who will actually live in it.
“The structure of it is the same, but the technicalities in high-end residential, definitely there’s a lot more details,” he says. “And in commercial, Walgreens never sends you a handwritten note telling you that you’ve done a great job. But when it’s something personal like someone’s home that they live in, and they’re creating memories there, they’re appreciative.”
Nothing makes Argo’s day more than hearing from clients how much they love the houses he has built, especially when they appreciate the custom details that are so important to him; they elevate a build or renovation — including molding, cabinetry, artisan siding, copper accent roofing and pervious paver driveways.
“A lot of it is just the trim details and getting them done right, and making sure it comes together the way they want it,” he says. “Trends are always changing. It used to be a 10-year trend cycle. Now it’s about half that. Things come in really, really hard, then stick around for maybe four or five years. Take shiplap. I feel like it’s peaking right now at this moment in time. In a couple years, no one will be doing it.”
He attributes the quicker trend cycle to the sheer amount of information out there, from Pinterest to publications and magazines that ensure that home and décor styles are constantly being reinvented. One not-so-great side effect is what Argo calls HGTV Syndrome, where people think they can gut and renovate a house for $45,000. In a weekend.
“What they don’t know is that there’s 45 different sponsors that have all bought advertising, and they’re funding the whole thing,” he says. “It’s the lights of Hollywood, and it’s not reality. That’s where I think things get a little tricky because people tend to have a somewhat of a warped sense of what true, quality craftsmanship really costs. It’s pay now or pay later. Either you do it right in the first place or you have to pay that money later to come back and fix it when it was not done right.”
Known for helping Nashville’s neighborhoods reach their fullest potential, Argo sees real estate investment, the sourcing and development of infill residential projects, and land development consulting as enormous opportunities to serve the community and individual homeowners.
One recent project is a cluster development in Green Hills called Battery Square that he loved because of its logistical challenges, making the homes fit together while making the development feel right. Another is a smaller, jewel-box home in Belle Meade with all authentic materials.
“There’s not a fake material in the whole house,” he says. “It’s all natural stones and natural woods. It’s going to be really special. Though there’s never one that’s boring, I can tell you that.”
To get the perfect end result, Argo says, it is important for homeowners to stay engaged throughout the whole process.
“This is a very intimate relationship,” Argo says. “Building a house like this is a huge investment for anyone. At some points we’re going to be your financial planner, at some points we’re going to be your marriage counselor. The best builds are the ones where we can really get into their brain very, very early in the process and understand what’s important, where the budget needs to fall, and how we get there.”
And the best compliment of all? When a client refers him to a family member. Then he knows he has delivered exactly what they wanted.
“When somebody you’ve built a house for calls you up and is like, ‘Yeah, my mom and dad are moving here. They want to find a lot and build a house.’ That’s when you know you’re doing a good job. They’re not just going to hand their mom off to anybody,” he says.
2002 Richard Jones Road, Nashville