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VOL. 126 | NO. 65 | Monday, April 4, 2011

Kilboy Focused on ‘Transforming’ Properties with Praxis

By Allison Buckley

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Originally from Chicago, Jim Kilboy discovered an appreciation for architecture at an early age.

Jim Kilboy of Praxis Custom Builders works on a bookcase and mantel made out of 100-year-old cypress wood at a home remodel in Horseshoe Lake, Ark.

(Photo: Lance Murphey)

Inspired by his boyhood idol, famed Chicago architect Frank Lloyd Wright, Kilboy in 2008 created Praxis Custom Builders.

Praxis, a word that means to apply a professional skill, began as a company whose specialty was staining concrete.

When homeowners and apartment proprietors discovered stained concrete as a way to deliver a professional, eco-friendly and stylish unit, Kilboy became extremely successful and eventually began to incorporate design into his work.

Today, Praxis is a full-service builder and design company, offering clients a complete transformation, from executing the plan and designing the blueprints to decorating the finished product.

And although that attention to detail is what keeps Praxis on a busy schedule, Kilboy said it’s the customer communication that keeps his company thriving.

“The thing that I think wins us over is the communication with the customers,” he said. “I’ve been on both ends of it in the business and if a project fails, nine times out of 10, it’s lack of communication. We’re pretty good at establishing relationships with our customers on the front end.

“Communication is, bar none, the most important.”

Although Praxis, based in nearby Horseshoe Lake, Ark., with many clients in the Memphis area, works primarily with residential homes, it has also transformed many multifamily homes, including The Venue Apartments (formerly University Towers) on Central Avenue in Midtown.

In 2008, Praxis was hired to stain the floors of The Venue. This alternative to carpet would not only save the management at The Venue time and money, but would provide stylish, rarely seen flooring throughout the apartment building. The process also keeps carpet out of the landfill.

After finishing The Venue’s floors, Praxis was contracted to transform the entire building, including the landscape, pool/spa area and signage. Praxis hired artisan subcontractors for the property’s transformation, then studied the building’s original 1959 architecture, talked to neighbors and even enlisted help from the Memphis Historical Society.

After much homework, Kilboy and his team rid The Venue of its outdated look and brought back the building to its original glory but with modern comforts.

It was a two-year undertaking that Kilboy said proved the company’s motto, “Praxis makes Perfect,” as the Apartment Association of Greater Memphis presented The Venue with “The Diamond Achievement Award for Renovation of the Year.”

The project also took place just as the economy started to decline.

“(The recession) has affected everybody,” Kilboy said. “I’m not going to say it hasn’t affected us. That would be an outright lie. Although I’ve only been technically under the name Praxis for three years, I’ve been working in Memphis since 1995 and I haven’t gone without work. I think our work kind of speaks for itself. I really don’t have to sell my product if somebody’s seen my product.”

Word of mouth and the fact that Praxis does not take on any new construction is what has kept Kilboy’s company flourishing over the past few years. And according to Kilboy, who prefers the word “transformation” over “renovation,” those who can’t afford to move because of financial stress have been enlisting the help of contractors.

“We’ll go into your house and we’ll transform it,” Kilboy said. “We will take this living environment which is tired and dated and we’ll transform it into something that’s inviting.”

One of Praxis’ most recent projects features a house on Horseshoe Lake. Praxis is creating an all-natural environment for the homeowner, complete with a mantel made from a 100-year-old cedar tree and natural bamboo floors.

Kilboy’s fascination with Frank Lloyd Wright can also be seen in the house: mixes of woods, stones, metals and water features create a trendy look while also encompassing Kilboy’s passion for feng shui.

“(My favorite architecture) – it’s all in Memphis, actually,” he said. “I love the bungalows of Midtown. I love the modern late ’50s, early ’60s modern homes. Memphis has some great architecture. That may be one of the reasons why I’ve stayed here.”

And although Praxis’ work can be found in cities all over the U.S., Memphis is where Kilboy plans to expand his business. Whether it is a residential, commercial or multifamily project, the architecture will be celebrated and preserved.

“It makes me sick to see an old building (being) torn down that could be fixed up and have some new life breathed into it,” Kilboy said. “Walking into places that people walk out of and say, ‘Nothing can be done with it,’ – I can walk in and see exactly what needs to be done.”

And to Kilboy, being able to take a building and transform it into something age appropriate and beautiful is what makes his job so rewarding.

“Everyday, I get to see exactly what I did,” he said. “I am able to step back and say, ‘Hey, you know, God gave me the power to do this,’ and I think that’s the most rewarding. When the reveal actually takes place … that’s like winning the lottery right there.”

PROPERTY SALES 97 418 8,253
MORTGAGES 112 508 9,293
BUILDING PERMITS 194 1,059 18,126
BANKRUPTCIES 46 208 5,367