Now Reading
Q&A with South Run Designs Lead Builder: Keri Thorpe Stephens

Q&A with South Run Designs Lead Builder: Keri Thorpe Stephens

Written by Lia Hobel | Photos by Gracie Savage

Crafting more than mere structures, Keri Thorpe Stephens, the lead builder for South Run Designs, finds a special allure in the process of custom home building. An 11th-generation native of Fauquier County, she particularly enjoys her job when farm estate homes and family legacy homes are on the project list. The Virginia licensed class A builder says each endeavor represents a distinctive path blending tradition, innovation, and personal flair to establish not just physical edifices, but havens designed to nurture lifetimes of memories. Stephens’ boundless enthusiasm is obvious in her meticulous attention to detail, evident in every beam positioned and each nail secured.

ML: How did you get started in the field? 

KS: Twenty-five years ago, I started my journey in the bustling world of home construction. Back then, I was passionate about crafting spaces that were not only functional but also beautiful. This passion led me to specialize in kitchen design — I started off with small local builders at the old Wilson Bros. lumber yard in Warrenton, and Creighton was one of my first clients! — where every cabinet and countertop told a story of style and utility.

Today, I stand proud as a custom home builder, turning visions into reality. Every project is a canvas, and every design a piece of art tailored to the dreams of my clients. Be it a Korean architecture-inspired contemporary, a yellow stucco French country home, a “barndominium” (very popular where there is a living space with a large barn feel), a craftsman cottage, or a 12,000-square-foot rustic estate, I embrace every new project! I prefer a challenge and feel I am building more than a home; it is a family’s lifelong memory! 

ML: What do you love most about your work?  

KS: What I cherish most about custom home building is the entire creative journey, from the first sketch to the final flourish. Working closely with a talented team of architects, we blend all the intricate design elements into a cohesive vision that truly reflects the aspirations of my clients. Don’t threaten me with a good time if you want a hammered copper hood, some wrought iron window boxes to plant lavender, or reclaimed wood flooring from an old silk mill. I live for these details! Even the nitty-gritty aspects of construction, like digging foundations and sequencing the framing, are deeply inspiring to me. Watching a house transform from lines on paper to a standing structure, and finally to a polished home with finishes … is profoundly fulfilling. 

ML: What is most challenging about the industry? 

KS: In the world of custom home building, our passion for crafting dream homes is met with some real challenges. Currently, we are navigating a trio of tough hurdles: the scarcity of available land, the ever-rising cost of materials, and climbing interest rates for construction loans.

Finding the perfect plot for a dream home is becoming increasingly difficult, pushing us to think creatively and strategically. I work closely with some families to assist with tedious family lot divisions, administrative cuts for farms so parents or family members can build locally and have land. Meanwhile, the rising cost of materials demands that we continuously adapt our approaches to ensure quality without compromising affordability. And, with interest rates on the rise, securing favorable construction loans is more crucial than ever.

ML: South Run is named after your legacy farm. Can you share more about the significance and its rich history?

My roots run deep here in Fauquier County, stretching back to the 1700s when my ancestors first settled this land. Our heritage goes back to the Mayflower when my 11thgreat-grandfather settled into Rappahannock County; his bride was one of the tobacco brides sent to Jamestown, even! The original farmhouse, with its robust hand-hewn log cabin center, still stands proudly on our property — a testament to the enduring legacy of our family. I gave a great deal of thought to the name of my business. I work exceptionally hard to build on the pride my family has had. My great-grandmother raised turkeys and sold them at the old Conde Post Office at the corner of Cabin Branch and Conde Road during the Great Depression, where I reside near my family farm. My property lines border the old property. 

Inspired by the resilience and spirit of our own family history, my mission is to help each client build a home that will become a cornerstone of their family’s legacy. I treasure our family stories in this area. I name my home plans after my grandchildren, and I have cousins in every direction in all the surrounding counties! 

As a descendant of the original settlers, I carry a profound respect and commitment to honor my ancestors through every home I build.

ML: In addition to new builds and remodels, can you share how historic preservation is part of your work?

KS: There’s a special kind of passion that fuels my work at South Run Designs, driven by clients who cherish our rural heritage as much as I do. Every old home and barn that comes under our care is more than a project; it’s a chapter of history waiting to be retold. My clients are visionaries, seeing the value in restoring and preserving these structures not just for their beauty, but for their ability to hold stories of the past while hosting new ones for centuries to come. As we work together, each beam secured and each nail driven is a step toward keeping our rural communities vibrant and deeply connected to their roots. 

With my current project on Cobbler Mountain, my client came to me with a dream to rebuild this circa 1904 farmhouse which others told him to tear down and build new. When he reached out to me, my heart skipped at the opportunity. While it will be very challenging, what a true labor of love it will be to resurrect this and see new life after all this time! This will be indeed a treasure, and I hope it inspires others to see through the broken windows and no plumbing of other potential renovations. 

I am very thankful to my entire construction team who is committed to this journey of renewal and preservation. I hope to participate in more chapters to be written in the homes we revive and the communities we cherish. ML

South Run Designs
(540) 351-4142

Published in the June 2024 issue of Middleburg Life.

Scroll To Top