The Cover Girl: She’s fancy, that one. Donned with indigenous, vibrant art set against white wash walls carried through to the white stucco exterior, Henkel is just too voluptuous to overlook. Outside, her raised pyramid roof, 30-foot round pool and oversized windows lend refinement to her curvy figure, while inside, features like her grand chandelier, gold etagere and speckle blue kitchen cabinetry denote her larger-than-life personality.”
That’s the description on the Z Properties website describing the home with a kitchen image that was chosen as Furniture, Lighting & Decor’s Cover Contest winner for 2023.
At Z Properties, founded in 2008 by Zane and Emily Williams, in Winter Park, FL, the business has as much personality as each named property the husband and wife team creates. The self-acclaimed “lovable (and completely unfiltered) couple” at the helm pride themselves on evocative design and quality throughout a project.
Focused primarily on new build construction, Zane handles the build side of a project while Emily is in charge of design, although collaboration is tantamount to Z Properties’ success. Incorporating the design into a project from the start is what sets this build/design team apart. “We care so much about the end project and how it comes together,” Emily says. “We don’t want to put something out there that we don’t love.”
In The Beginning
After working his way through a lot of not-so-wonderful bathroom renovations at the beginning of his building career, Zane says, he went out on his own with Z Properties in 2008. “I’ve always wanted to build houses,” he notes, adding that it took a while to get there, but projects got bigger and the company got its breaks along the way. “The more we started to build, the more we got into the design side of things. Typically, design comes after construction but we knew we needed to wrap the design and construction together. It is important to be on the same page, perfecting the house from start to finish.”
Zane always knew he wanted to be a home builder. The way some people are passionate about cars is how he felt about homes. And while his background was in business, not the trade side of things, he had a vision for what a space should look like, he says.
Before coming on board as the designer for Z Properties, Emily says she was career retail, and she also had her real estate license. She even owned — still does — a retail store where she sold home goods and gifts.
Design was always in her blood however — “I rearranged my bedroom all the time as a kid” — and when the couple bought their first property, an apartment unit in the Alabama Hotel, Emily added her design ethos to the construction project. “That was a glimmer of, ‘Wow, we can put this together,” she says. It was the jumping off point for what Z Properties delivers to its clients now. “Our clients now know us for the construction and the design,” she continues.
Projects for Z Properties, while mostly residential, also incorporate some commercial spaces, something Zane says is an enjoyable cross-over from time to time. As the company primarily focuses on building from the ground up, he continues that they’ll often have about a dozen active projects within a year, many that cross over and are at different stages at any given time. “We often build to clients coming to us before they even have the land to build on. We can guide them through the process and give advice and help them select the right lot,” Zane notes. “We know what lots work for different projects.”
Design-wise, while clients know a Z Properties project when they see one, Emily adds that each project is unique. “We strive to make them different. They might have a similar feel but clients want different things,” she says. As for her personal design style, Emily, whose design is intrinsic rather than learned, gravitates toward color. “Left to my own devices, layered and super colorful and rich are how I would describe my design style,” she says. “I like to mix pattern and texture. Nothing is off the table. I go for daring and fun and unexpected. I like to bring design to someone that they can’t see on their own.” Sometimes, that can simply incorporate moving existing furnishings around, she adds.
A Boost to the Business
As COVID took hold in 2020, the Williams were fortunate to be in Florida, where shutdowns didn’t really happen, and business boomed. “We went like wildfire with new starts and projects,” Zane says.
“We braced for ‘We’re never going to build anything again,” and it was the complete opposite,” adds Emily. “Everyone came out of the woodwork.”
While the business was there, supply chain delays and labor shortages made getting projects completed something of a challenge. That’s all coming back together now, says Zane, and business is still stronger than what it was prior to COVID.
Emily still has her retail business as well, as that gives her more flexibility for procuring products. She can pull from stock she has in the store and replenish when needed. That said, Emily sources for projects from a number of different venues. “Clients just want to see how we put it all together,” she says.
Recent challenges aside, The Williams love what they do and continue to deliver quality and design to their Florida clients. “I just find that the more you’re in it, the more you strive to do better,” says Zane. “I strive to do different things too.”
Emily adds that while it would be challenging to do complete builds in other markets, it would be fun to branch out on the architecture and design side. “Right now we keep it close so we can manage the business,” she says. “It would be fun to design for people who love our aesthetic without the construction element,” to grow the business.
Beyond the Cover Girl, where the kitchen made this January cover with its mix of materials, calming blue walls and wood chairs that warm up the space, when asked what might be a favorite project for the Williams would be The Lavish Lady, say Zane and Emily. “It’s the last house we did for ourselves,” notes Emily. “Dynamic, charming, smart and chic,” according to The Lavish Lady’s description on the Z Properties website, this property epitomizes Emily’s love of color, pattern and layering. As the Williams continue on the website, “she’s a good time.”
Emily and Zane Williams have successfully built their contsruction/design business from their respective passions for what they do, and the clients who hire them in central Florida and beyond are definitely the beneficiaries of their collective vision.