Maybe great minds really do think alike.
“If you would’ve asked us a year ago, we would’ve said no, we were never planning on putting in a pool,” homebuilder Jim Schuff said one recent afternoon.
But wait, isn’t that a pool in the backyard?
“Literally, six months ago, I looked at (wife Robyn) and said, ‘I’m thinking about doing a pool.’ And she said, ‘That’s funny. I was thinking the same thing.’”
Blame — or credit — the neighbors: “Both of our neighbors have pools, and we house sit for them,” Robyn Schuff said.
So, yes, that is a pool in the backyard.
The pool project is really the only major work the Schuffs have done on their 9-year-old home in the Lake Ridge neighborhood in south Oklahoma City. And it fits their master plan to keep tabs on their children, Connor, 15, and Taylor, 11, by being the fun house where everyone gathers.
“We have great, great kids, and they have great friends. And it’s a lot of fun having friends over,” Jim Schuff said. Their home has also seen its share of church gatherings and Christmas celebrations, he said.
Family was their focus even before the Schuffs built their home, even before they built their first home in the Lake Ridge neighborhood, where they would go on evening walks and pass the desirable lot sitting mysteriously empty on a cul-de-sac.
Family was largely behind the leap Jim Schuff made from the funeral industry into homebuilding in the 1990s.
“We were wanting to have kids eventually, and one of the decisions was as much as I loved the funeral industry, it was 24 hours a day,” he said. “You literally could be sitting down with family at a function — back then it was pagers — and the pager would go off and you’d have to go make a death call. I didn’t want to do that if (Connor) was in a school play or something, and that was one thing that was good about this, was it’s a little more flexible as far as time.”
Friendships and crossed paths gave him an opportunity to take over Vesta Homes with Brian Fowler, founder Frank Longobardi’s son-in-law, when Longobardi decided to retire. The move also allowed Schuff to put his college architectural studies to work. Design is his favorite part of the job.
“My passion is out in the field building homes,” he said.
Once they moved into Lake Ridge, the Schuffs puzzled over the empty lot. It appeared to be an ideal spot, sitting on the cul-de-sac and backing up to Earlywine Park. Why hadn’t someone built on it?
“It was a great lot,” Jim Schuff recalled. “You could see through to the park.”
They finally tracked down the lot’s owner and made a pitch for it, but it was already tied up with another builder. A year and a half later, though, Jim Schuff encountered the owner at a lunch meeting. “After asking him every month for a year, ‘You ever going to build? You ever going to build?’ He finally said, ‘Hey, you want it? It’s yours,’” Schuff said.
The Schuffs plucked out and tweaked some of their favorite elements from Vesta’s designs in planning their 4,000-square-foot home, including a sweeping staircase in the entry, an enlarged breakfast area, large windows overlooking the park and a theater room upstairs.
The theater room, with its own kitchenette and bathroom, was a critical element.
“We wanted a large bonus room where we could all hang out,” Jim Schuff said. “It’s been a lot of fun because the kids have slumber parties, they have sleepovers, and they want to hang out and sleep in here.”
And the best part? “It’s over the combination of the kitchen and the garage, so we don’t even hear them,” Schuff said with a smile.
A playroom across the hall doubles as a classroom where daughter Taylor teaches her dolls, perhaps emulating her mother, who taught in Putnam City schools for years. “She’ll put my high heels on to teach,” Robyn Schuff said. “Maybe teachers today wear high heels to teach, but I never did.”
And a Bible verse incorporated into the mural on the playroom wall offers a pearl of wisdom to a busy family who may sometimes pass each other on their way to another activity: “Stop and consider God’s wonders.”
“I guess anybody who has kids in this day and age is busy,” Robyn Schuff said. “I guess we’re thankful we only have two.”
But the pool out back is almost finished, and Jim Schuff said he has a simple plan for what he’ll do next: “Relax.”
Editor’s Note: This is one of an occasional series of features about homebuilders and their own homes.