Tad Breaux : Designer+Builder

ABOUT US | TAD BREAUX

“I was raised by a perfectionist architect father who upon arriving in a room would survey the ceiling, lighting, joints, molding, ceiling lines, floor lines, doors, so on and on,” Tad Breaux of Tad Breaux Design+Build, LLC says in response to a question I asked about how he got into the construction and designing business.

Tad spent years visiting properties with his father noticing details.

Tad continued, “I would say ‘Dad, what are you looking at?’ and his response was that he was looking at the quality or lack thereof of the construction by looking at the details.”

“Soon I was looking at such things and I did not even know what the hell I was looking at,” he said with a laugh. But as the laughter turned to a smile, you could tell that those were special moments of a father passing to his son an education and passion for design and the details. Oh the details. We will get more to that in a minute.

Tad Breaux caught the construction bug early in high school. Being the son of an architect with many ongoing projects meant that his Tad could always find work on one of the construction sites. Tad loved every minute of it. He became a carpenter’s helper, a painter, and whatever other helper he could become to learn what constituted quality construction.

Eventually, Tad stepped out on his own as a painting contractor. He did well but felt that he needed to also learn the business side of things. He eventually went to college and received a BA at Nichols State University and began working on an MBA at the University of New Orleans. While studying for his MBA, Tad started working as a property manager for a talented and eclectic team who had a vision of developing the New Orleans warehouse district into living space.

Tad worked with Harry Lambert and Carey Bond in the 1980’s as they transformed the New Orleans warehouse district into spectacular living spaces such as Julia Place, Gallery Row and the Rotunda Lofts. Tad worked on development side of the warehouse renewal – in the controller’s office and later leasing offices from 1987-1992.

“What they did in the transformation of the warehouse district was spectacular. And it was a great education for me,” Tad explained. He continued “I eventually ended up in the property management side of the business because as the company would buy a warehouse, convert it to apartments and the build out was completed, we essentially turned into leasing company in which I helped manage.” “It was a great experience and taught me how to take something that looked like nothing and transform it into a comfortable, innovative and beautiful living space,” he added.

Eventually and as the Warehouse District wound down, Tad and John Lambert started their own construction company called Lambreaux Limited. Their first part of business was to acquire an existing company called Perfect Surface – which was essentially a specialty contracting company. Perfect Surface refinished bathroom or kitchen surfaces at a fraction of the cost of total renovations.

“Those really were the happiest days of my life in what I do,” Tad reflected. “I mean to say that you would go into someone’s home and take a bathroom that was just awful and in one day, you would do your thing which resulted in a gorgeous, refinished tub or shower. You received immediate feedback of satisfaction from the customer and they wrote you a check.” “It was great. We did well.”

So well in fact that Lambreaux bought out their biggest competitor to become the largest refinisher in the South. They bought a company called Tubco that specialized in refinishing antique, club footed tubs (no shortage of those in New Orleans). And they went on to buy a counter top fabricating company and a bathtub liner company. Then in 1999, they sold it all.

Tad and John maintained their partnership and decided to build homes. John got a contractor’s license and they began building spec homes – and took on some commercial work. Lambreaux developed a reputation for the quality in their construction and their attention to details. Eventually, John wanted to do something else and moved to Utah and bought a bagel shop.

Tad, now even more passionate about construction, received his contractor’s license and general contractor’s license and started to build new homes on his own.

Tad, without giving any names, recounts how he would visit someone’s new home and after hearing the price they paid, would wonder to himself how construction, not to his standards, could command such prices.

Tad started renovating homes and buying “tear downs” in Lakeview. He rebuilt the homes into star “show pieces”. Tad’s first spec home was on General Haig. The home had an immense amount of detailed work and design in its construction. A real estate agent friend learned of the house, saw it and immediately recommended it to a client. The home sold before it was finished.

Tad has a passion for contemporary and modern period architecture. He loves cleans lines and the “less is more” approach. “Though pulling off ‘less is more’ in design and construction is a lot harder than it looks,” he admits. That is why he loves mid-century modern architecture – which is the period architecture of the early sixties to the mid-seventies. “That style of clean design and beautiful graceful lines extended to furniture, appliances – you name it,” Tad offers.

But Tad was smart in the way he designed and renovated or built his houses. He built them as blank canvases for his eventual owners. If the buyers had modern furnishings and décor, the home accommodated the furnishings beautifully. If the new owners had more traditional furnishings and décor, the house adapted. A well designed space always adapts to the owners. Tad Breaux was gaining the reputation of not only a quality builder but that of a spectacular designer. Tad is most proud of the fact that he has made several friends along the way who are terrific designers and artisans in specific areas such as granite, tile, flooring and fire places. Like a conductor that nevers takes credit for the abilities of his first chair musicians, Tad is quick to share credit when showing work that he has completed.

When I ask why Tad’s houses always sold so quickly, Tad explained “All I had to do was make my houses better than everyone else’s mediocre work.” After selling the house on General Haig, Tad bought a piece of blighted property. He tore it down and built a 4300 sq ft house in its place. He sold that quickly too. Tad admits that he was always fortunate to have great clients who followed his work and would buy the properties as they were developed.

I asked Tad about his design philosophy for a home.

Tad explains “My goal is to open up kitchen and living spaces and position them to outdoor spaces to create an open flow of triangular living space.” “I want my homes or renovations to open up a home to be ‘gathering friendly’,” he adds. Then with a matter of fact tone states “Every party starts with everyone standing around the kitchen. Why wouldn’t you want that to be comfortable? Why wouldn’t you want that space to be open so that you could see everyone who eventually migrates to other spaces such as the living room or outdoors?”

I then ask Tad what are some of his signature design or building elements.

He responds that he likes to include elements in his homes such as curved walls, finished strategic holes in the walls and bull nose cornered sheet rock walls. Tad calls this organic contemporary where the design invites the outside in. For colors, Tad prefers earth tones and soft palettes. The colors in the house should reflect the natural elements used in design such as marble. This is where Tad reminds me that his design elements accommodate modern or traditional furnishings and décor. I note to myself that the signature elements are also rooted in fanatical attention to details.

Tad is proud that he has managed to be ahead of the curve in trends, design, colors and materials. Tad explains that his goal has always been to make contemporary in New Orleans acceptable. “It can coexist,” he says.

In his run up to Katrina, Tad had built 5 uniquely designed homes and remodeled at least 4 properties. Two a year was all that Tad wanted to concentrate on. Because of his attention to detail, Tad felt that he could not cookie cutter his style. Each home required its own solutions and required attention to the little things that made a home special. And nothing would stop Tad’s obsessing until he felt he could put his own stamp of approval on the home.

After Katrina, Tad was anxious to return to New Orleans and began rebuilding – anything. At the time, a newborn child required that Tad take care of his family and he could not return as quickly as he desired. After returning to New Orleans, the people that had purchased Tad’s homes only wanted him to rebuild their home. Tad spent his time when he returned to New Orleans overwhelmed with work from previous clients, friends and family.

After Katrina, properties became abundant and cheap. Tad bought several properties and began putting them back together to sell. These were flooded high-end homes in cherry locations that were only 3-7 years old. Tad labored to restore them to their former glory and beyond. Ever the attention to detail, Tad remediated the homes and meticulously put the homes back together as though his own family was someday going to be living there. Tad went above and beyond in remediation, becoming an expert in remediation, because he refused risking problems down the round. Others were not as concerned.

Tad managed to eek of a decent profit on each home, even though most returned to the city not knowing the future of the city, thereby depressing the value of homes in general.

Other contractors lost their companies from taking on too much work. Again, Tad’s attention to detail never allowed him get too far ahead of himself.

Nowadays, Tad does “design+build” for clients from New Orleans to Dallas to Boise. Tad earns most of his work through his reputation and referrals. He now prefers renovations that are not related to the storm. Tad has completed projects that range from restorations of uptown homes to kitchen and bath renovations in the suburbs of Metairie. Tad even has a client who has him is building a custom home, all new construction, with a budget of one million dollars.  And Tad will take the occasional commercial property work – if it interests him.

Four clients even called in Tad to fix in-progress projects where problems arose from colleagues whose attention to detail was not as stringent as Tad’s.

Tad has even worked with home inspection companies in the city. From his own experience of all construction phases – energy conservation, hvac, electrical, plumbing, roofing, dry wall, concrete – Tad knows what inspectors look for and can help clients or sellers address issues before a home is put up for sale.

“What’s in store for the future?” I ask Tad.

“Well,” he pauses, “no one is steering the ship (referring to the obvious lack of political leadership in New Orleans and the uncertainty that causes). What comes next is that no one knows.” Then after reflection, Tad adds the following observation “smaller, energy efficient and greener homes are the future.”

His father was innovative 25 years ago on green building technologies and techniques.

Tad continues “this will lead to smaller homes, that have cleaner lines and the same high end details – just in less space.” “The days of McMansions are over because there are no more jumbo loans. People will want homes that still have all of the bells and whistles, such as master suites, entertaining areas, kitchens, baths, fire places but just on a smaller scale.”

Tad eases back in his chair and laughs.

“You know. The general public has just now caught up with what my dad has been preaching, designing and doing for years. He was green before green was cool,” Tad says with epiphany wrapped in a smile.

Tad’s father kept telling his son for years to incorporate more energy conservation, green building materials, natural lighting, innovative air conditioning and heating into his projects. Tad never saw the benefit. Tad felt that in addition to his fanatical attention to detail, it was his nice kitchens, bathrooms and flat panel tvs that helped his homes stand out and sell quickly. Now that energy costs have become a major issue and the poor economy has affected our collective living standard for a generation, green is the only way to build.

Tad realizes what all sons come to realize. Dad was wise, ahead of his time and his advice was spot on.

And in those green homes of the future, on a smaller scale, Tad Breaux will still obsess over every little detail. Why? For the day when his father visits a completed project, Tad wants him to look up and notice the details.

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Tad Breaux lives in a beautifully restored mid-century modern home in Lakeview with his wife Lainie and two sons Benjamin and Zachary. Tad Breaux Design+Build, LLC is a licensed, insured contractor and can be reached 504.453.6872. References available upon request.