Message on the Wall

HISTORYMAKER Homes’ tricked-out office space has everything from conference rooms with remote control window shades to a coffeemaker that brews customized beverages. But the true heart of the company is found in simple words painted on the walls.

Photos by Rachel Paul Photography

Most employees at HISTORYMAKER Homes enter through the south side of the building, each day walking past words subtly etched into the concrete floor: “To honor God and enrich the lives of all our stakeholders as we delight customers one home at a time.”

That’s HISTORYMAKER’s purpose statement, written at both the employee entrance and reception lobby to serve as the company’s “foundation,” both literally and figuratively, says Laura Looney, executive assistant to the CEO.

The 68-year-old homebuilder’s company philosophies are a recurring theme throughout its two-story, 28,050-square-foot space, tucked away in the Grapevine Station office park just off State Highway 114 and Texan Trail. HISTORYMAKER, which serves both the Fort Worth-Dallas and Houston areas, moved its headquarters from North Richland Hills to Grapevine in January to accommodate growth. And yet, despite more projects and higher revenues (HISTORYMAKER reports revenues more than doubled from $90 million in 2014 to $200 million in 2016), CEO Nelson Mitchell says the company hopes employees don’t lose sight of the values it was built on in 1949 — hence the core values, Bible verses and inspirational sayings found on the walls throughout the building.

“We wanted the message, who we are, and the principles our company was built on to be a constant reminder to our employees, trade partners, and vendors,” Mitchell says. “That’s the reason for painting our core values on the wall. Who we are does not change, no matter the season nor the circumstances.”

Fort Worth-based architect Bennett Benner Partners handled much of the building’s design, marked by a modern, industrial aesthetic with pops of color and art throughout, along with recurring homages to the nearby Grapevine Vintage Railroad. Many of the art pieces come from Dallas-based Studio Art’s Desire (Freda Vaughan served as art and materials consultant, while Derek McLean was the contracted artist). Denton artist Cole Bridges painted company phrases and Bible verses on the walls.

Visitors entering through the main entrance on the north side of the office are greeted by a spacious entryway dominated by exposed brick, wood and concrete. A hallway from the visitor entrance leads to the company’s training room and cafe, separated by garage doors that can be opened to combine both spaces during company parties and events. HISTORYMAKER’s four core values are painted in vintage-style on the walls: Christ Centered; Focus and Listen to the Buyer; Consistent, Predictable, Efficient; and High Performance.

“It was important that the space be an encouragement to our employees,” Mitchell says. “One way we chose to do that is by painting scriptures on our walls. You never know what someone is bringing into their workday from home. We wanted the office to be an uplifting and inviting space.” Above a booth-like space in the café is Ecclesiastes 3:13, a verse appropriate for its setting: “That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in their labor — this is the gift of God.”

A sliding barn door separates the cafe from the kitchen, marked by clean lines and a black, white and gray motif. The nearby breakroom features a Starbucks coffeemaker.

Bikes and helmets hang on a wall adjacent to the café and training room. Employees are welcome to use the bikes or helmets for quick excursions, like lunch on the nearby Main Street. Beside the bike rack is one nod to the railroad — a painted sign listing “outbound” destinations (that is, the names of the building’s conference and team rooms).

Team rooms are named after elements of the company’s history. The “ONM” Executive Conference Room, for example, refers to HISTORYMAKER’s founders, Olen N. Mitchell, Sr. and son Olen Jr. (Mitchell’s great grandson Nelson is the current CEO.) Another room, “Reveille,” refers to the family’s line of Texas A&M graduates, as well as the continued relationship with the school through scholarships, speaking engagements and recruitment.

An iPad beside each conference room allows employees to book the space at a certain time. Green means the space is available; red means the room is reserved for a meeting.

Each meeting space also takes on its own character. The Fastback Team Room draws inspiration from the yellow railroad crossing sign on the wall. Chairs sport a pop of bright yellow upholstery, while three wooden hexagons form a coffee table. The Pikeview has two maps, one of Fort Worth-Dallas and the other of Houston, with dry erase surfaces for writing (every conference and team room has at least one wall that acts as a whiteboard). The ONM Room features a conference table made from rail boxcar doors, again, paying homage to the railroad. The room offers ample natural light, but on the days when it’s a little extra sunny, the room can darken with the help of remote control window shades.

Along with conference rooms, the office also sports private phone rooms. A bulb above the doorway indicates whether or not the room is occupied — when the employee turns on the lights in the room, the bulb outside the room also turns on. And when the lights are turned off, the bulb does the same.

More art is found on the building’s second floor, where painted vintage signs on the walls depict brand taglines: “More Home, Less Money” for HISTORYMAKER Homes and “Designed for Style, Built for Life” for Rendition Homes. Another piece, an industrial stenciled design in faux distressed metal, displays the words “Measure Twice, Cut Once” — an old builder’s saying that refers to the importance of doing something right the first time. More inspiration is found near employee workspaces, where Psalm 127:1 — a verse appropriate for the company’s line of work — graces the wall: “Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain.” Also on the walls is a series of black-and-white photography taken by area sales manager Mark Barron.

An executive hallway, where the offices of the CEO and other high-level executives are located, boasts a small kitchen of its own, with a built-in Miele coffee machine that can create anything from a foamy latte to a cappuccino — custom-made, mind you, as users can create their own profile that stores a bank of their favorite drinks.
The workspaces themselves are open concept and offer some functional features like a meeting table with drawers underneath so employees can easily pull out files. Employee workspaces are spread both upstairs and downstairs.

The staircase connecting both floors is made of wood and metal. Hanging above is a 75-pound oversized plumb bob, a vertical reference line used in construction, used decoratively in the office.  

Outside, a 3,200-square-foot patio is dominated by a gray concrete and brick motif, with a dark metal pergola providing shade. There’s a grill, pizza oven, fire pit — everything one needs for a company cookout.

HISTORYMAKER is nearing one year in the building, which also features a showroom next door. Looney says employees have begun to settle in, decorating their desks and making use of the amenities. The new space, she says, just makes employees more excited to come to work. 

Work is a second home after all.

“We wanted it to be a place that felt like a second home because you spend so many hours of your day at your workplace,” Mitchell says. “We have a great ‘family’ culture here, so why not make it a place that is comfortable and fun for our employees.”