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Updated: April 20, 2022

Housing boom and carbon-conscious methods spur new firm Juniper Design+Build

Courtesy / Juniper Design+Build This home, called Woods+Water, is a project the partners collaborated on, and is located on Peaks Island in Portland.

Based on Peaks Island and catering to an energy-conscious consumer, Juniper Design+Build was recently created out of the union of Thompson Johnson Woodworks and Rachel Conly Design, but stems from 15 years of collaboration.

The founders, Heather Thompson of TJW, Rachel Conly of Rachel Conly Design, and Mark Pollard, master builder at TJW, said their concept to start a design-build firm evolved over that time as their firms teamed up on dozens of projects along the Maine coast.  The three are now partners in the new firm.

"We knew if we joined forces, something really special would come of it. We all hold strong convictions about the importance of moving the building industry towards sustainability and of creating great employee culture," said co-founder and General Manager Heather Thompson.

The majority women-owned firm, which officially launched Jan. 1, is booked through early 2025 and has more work than it can handle, especially given the difficulty of finding workers to build and renovate, Thompson said.

Juniper Design+Build’s customers vary from younger people moving to the state to older people who are retiring and looking for a special home in Maine.

“Everyone has a common vision of amazing housing that are energy-efficient and beautifully designed to last,” Thompson said. “We build in whatever style a client wants, but we bring in excellence and light and design in a meaningful way.”

“People who come to us know the building is going to be expensive because we use best practices. We do everything to a higher level so the building will last. Customers are extremely happy and know that quality costs. Customers know they can trust us and know they will get a great building from a company that pays its workers well and provides benefits. We don’t get bargain hunters."

The partners had their formative meetings on Peaks during the peak of the pandemic, and have benefited from unexpected trends like the influx of pandemic refugees heading to Maine. 

“COVID didn’t influence our decision necessarily. It made it easier to move forward. If we were in a housing recession, it might have been a lot harder,” Thompson said. “Sometimes the stars align, and you just know it.”

What also aligned well was a growing recognition of their projects through word-of-mouth, an influx of business, and the ability to assemble a 15-employee team from people the partners trusted.

“For many years, we’ve talked about how we might be better together. We have similar mindsets and goals to build and renovate low energy buildings and carbon-conscious structures,” Thompson said.

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