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Home & Garden

Love, Actually

Forget dinner and a movie. Emily and Tom Roberts built a Greenway Parks house during their courtship.
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Emily has been collecting these unique light bulbs since she was 8 years old. “I found a light bulb with tulips inside it at my grandparents’. It was from the Chicago World’s Fair,” she says. She set her collection on porcelain sockets for display.
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Love, Actually

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[inline_image id=”1″ align=”r” crop=”tall”]Building a house can be stressful on a marriage.


Now imagine building something from the ground up with a person while dating. This was the case for designer Emily Roberts and her then boyfriend, Tom Roberts. The year was 2012, and Tom received a call from More Design + Build’s Chad Dorsey about an empty lot in Greenway Parks that had become available. It wasn’t like the two had just gone on a first date—Emily says, “We pretty much knew where we were headed.” Still, the prospect of buying property made things pretty serious very quickly. “Tommy called me from New York and said he had 30 minutes to tell the guys if he wanted the lot or not. I drove by, and that’s how we got it.”


Spoiler alert: Emily and Tom are now married, living in that very location, and completing construction on a vacation home on Amelia Island, so this is a home-building story with the ultimate happy ending. Emily actually credits the experience for bringing about conversations that are pretty important when you’re deciding if you want to spend the rest of your life with

“Building a house is a great way to talk about how you want your everyday life to be together.” 

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Emily Roberts
someone. “Building a house is a great way to talk about how you want your everyday life to be together,” she says. “We talked about how we wanted a home to feel. We didn’t want a formal living room. We wanted a dining room that we used all the time. We didn’t have [our baby] Grace at the time, but Tom said, ‘We have to put a bathtub upstairs if we’re lucky enough to have a baby.’ So I knew he was thinking about that. He has two teenage boys, so we wanted to have a really fun space for them—a place that’s cool and comfortable and their friends can come over—but still have a house where we wouldn’t be kind of rolling around in a big, empty place when they’re gone.” 


From the start, Emily and Tom knew they wanted the house to be modern yet warm. “The design process was pretty quick,” says More Design + Build’s Kurt Bielawski. “They worked with Chad and came up with a neat plan for a house filled with glass and light. The whole idea was to take advantage of the greenbelt and the pretty views. There are a lot of great windows in the back, and we did some great walkout balconies on the second floor and off the media room. We wanted them to be able to appreciate the specialness of the property.”


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Inside, Emily went to work adding texture and interest. “Emily has an amazing taste level,” Kurt says. “She added a lot of special details.” She selected cool details like the German nickel countertops from Iron Age Studios and ingrain cut walnut floors from Woodwright in the entry, and Tom focused on his own must-haves. “We know where to divide and conquer,” Emily says. “He’s not going to try to pick out tile, but he’s big on landscaping and ceiling heights. He focused on the pool, the putting green, and appliances.”


The couple married in February of 2014, and they—along with the two boys and new baby—are very happy in their home. The kids play in the pool in warmer weather; Tom practices his putts in the front yard. The family will be adding a dog to the mix this month. And life in the neighborhood couldn’t be better. “It’s a family area. People really do walk around. There’s happy hour every day—people meet up at the park with babies, dogs, and wine,” she says. 


And while life with three kids, two careers, and a future dog may not always be easy, the house is proving to be. “It’s easy to entertain here,” Emily says. “It’s easy to clean. It’s sort of always ready for everything.”

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