Design firm and construction company join forces
by Heidi Riley
Thornehouse Design Owners Shelby and Nathan Thorne work in collaboration with Brett O’Halloran and wife Emily, Owners of Shoreline Construction, to design and build new houses and renovation projects.
Shoreline Construction has been in business for five years. Located in Cornwall, the company works on projects Island-wide.
There are eight employees, all Carpenters and Carpenter/Labourers who work full-time year-round.
Brett started his career selling cars and alternated between sales and “swinging a hammer” a few times. He began working for his father-in-law, who owns Greenleaf Construction Ltd., and then started his own company. He began with small renovations and now is doing quite a few new builds.
“Starting your own company is a big risk, but it couldn’t have happened at a better time,” says Brett. “I opened the business during COVID-19, and I was afraid it was not going to work. But actually, it got really busy, and it still is. There were so many restrictions, including not being able to do inside work and having to wear masks, but we pushed through it.”
Brett says there is a huge demand for more residential construction contractors. “Most are booking two or three years into the future.”
Changing careers from healthcare to home design
Shelby Thorne works with Shoreline Construction to build homes. “We offer a streamlined service,” says Shelby. “I provide the design project management, and then full execution is done by Shoreline Construction. We believe that working in tandem will create a better experience for homeowners.”
Shelby is a Registered Nurse. “When I was deciding between a career in nursing and a career in design 17 years ago, PEI was not crying for designers, but of course there was a big demand for nurses, as there still is.
“I was unwilling to move to a bigger city for my education, so I went into nursing for the job security. There are aspects of the job I will forever love, but it was not my first passion.”
She graduated from the Nursing program at UPEI, and 11 years later, when she was pregnant with her third child, she decided it was time for a career change.
“I have no formal training in design – it is something that is inside of me. I went into business with a lot of caution and trepidation. I had a great career working in the operating room for several years, but I just had this design itch that needed to be scratched. I had nothing to lose.
“I stepped down from the operating room and worked part-time as an RN in the pre-surgery area. I took on one design client, which turned into more. Now, three and a half years later, I am doing this full-time, and my husband Nathan has joined me full-time. It has been a blast.”
Nathan is a Red Seal Heavy Duty Mechanic. “He can do anything,” says Shelby. “The designs come from me, and Nathan helps Shoreline Construction implement those designs. Together, we manage the design project.
“Working for yourself is a huge undertaking. I always considered entrepreneurs to be super brave, and believed it was safer to work for someone else. But I am absolutely thrilled – no regrets. I thought that making a career change would be too risky, but life is too short to not do something you love.”
Shelby says there was a steep learning curve as she learned to use computerized design software to be able to communicate with vendors, develop floor plans, and create 3-D renderings of her interior house designs.
Connecting with Shoreline Construction
Brett O’Halloran, owner of Shoreline Construction, contacted Shelby in September 2022. “He has a real passion to build custom homes, but he recognized that he needed an in-house designer,” says Shelby. “Our working relationship is better than I could have imagined, and we are a great team.
“I offer customers a selection of interior finishes, right down to the art on the walls and the pillows on the sofa. When my schedule allows, I also do the styling, which is the assembly and positioning of interior items in the house.”
Hiring needs for Shoreline Construction and Thornehouse Design
“We are always looking to hire more skilled Labourers and experienced Carpenters, but they are hard to find,” says Brett. “Hiring people with their Red Seal would be ideal, but we are happy to take on people who are willing to learn.”
“As Shoreline Construction takes on more projects, we will need more skilled Labourers and Tradespeople who can frame a house, pour foundations, install roofs, and bring a design concept to full fruition,” says Shelby.
“I don’t know a single construction company on PEI that could not use at least six more workers. If you have knowledge of the construction industry, we need you. You don’t necessarily need your Red Seal or formal training.
“Thornehouse Design is continuing to expand, and in the future, we would love to hire an Interior Stylist or a Junior Designer. We would need someone who is teachable but also willing to challenge me to grow and reassess what I’m doing.
“The person I hire also has to be a people person. We are going into people’s homes, and they are asking us to spend thousands of dollars of their money. There needs to be a level of respect for our clients’ time and their home and their budget.
“The person also has to be in keeping with our brand and design style. We are building a certain aesthetic, and we want to continue to draw clients who are looking to achieve what we design.”
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