Meet the Husband-and-Wife Team Behind Wilcor Homes, Builder at SLR

This summer marks 12 years since Wilcor Homes built its first custom home at Spring Lake Ranch! What started as one custom design on 60 acres of land has grown into a beautiful community filled with homes and families.

Wilcor’s custom and spec homes feature natural elements like stone, timbers, and large view windows, and have been featured in Best Home, the Edmonton Journal, and Homes & Land.

Here, Sarah Corker and Rainbow Williams open up about their collaborative design process and how they help clients through the custom-build journey. Read on to find out who is the “dreamer,” who is the “realist” and what’s next for Wilcor Homes.

Congratulations on 12 years of Wilcor Homes! The real estate industry has had its share of ups and downs during that time, and yet Spring Lake Ranch has continued to grow. As a custom builder, what are some key things you’ve done to succeed in a challenging market?

Sarah: For us the main key has been building quality homes that showcase the kind of features people consistently love. We know that most homebuyers drawn to Spring Lake Ranch are looking for bungalows with features like the 3 car garage, finished basement, large windows, hardwood flooring, and custom cabinetry. 

We also continue to market ourselves in new and different ways. Social media is a component that has grown and changed so much in the last decade and we have prioritized growing and changing with it. The amount of people that have found us through Facebook and Instagram is amazing. Both are excellent platforms to tell our story and keep people looped in with what we are up to. 

Rainbow: We’ve stayed focused on what’s important to us. Quality construction, strong relationships with our clients, and building in limited quantities. We can’t control the market, but we can control what we do. Working with experienced contractors and staying current with building technologies and design, we attract clients that often become friends.

Can you tell us a bit about your process as a builder and designer? Do clients meet with both of you to design their homes? Who does what and how do you combine your ideas when it comes to design?

S: Initially clients usually meet with me to learn about the community, walk the lots and tour the homes. From there, Rainbow and I will sit down with them and discuss the building specifics of Wilcor Homes. We work on the home design together and have a lot of fun at this stage. We love talking plans, looking at elevations and trying new ideas. I then help people make their selections, from exterior colours and materials to interior finishings. 

I always say that I have the fun job and Rainbow has the challenging one in that I get to design and choose all the elements and he has to execute them and make it all a reality. Perhaps I am the dreamer and he is the realist!

R: We have a consistent process that each client is lead through. Typically, this starts with a meeting on site in one of our homes, either finished or under construction. 

Meeting the clients together reinforces our teamwork and allows them to see how we work together.  As our clients are different, so are we. Sarah prefers a visual, tactile perspective with materials and plans, whereas I am far more conceptual. These different styles compliment each other, like we do, and allows for a strong connection.

The homes you build feature a lot of natural materials like wood and stone, as well as oversized windows that bring in a lot of light. These elements will seemingly never go out of style! But what about design trends? What’s been inspiring you in the design world recently that you’ve showcased in your homes?

S: I love design and working with the newest trends while also building “forever homes”. It’s an evolving industry with new looks, materials and finishing techniques coming into play all the time. 

In my opinion, the more neutral the backdrop (paint and flooring) the more the home can grow and change with trends. A person can easily change a light fixture or cabinet pull to evolve with the times but to re-paint an entire home is a lot of work and expense. 

Currently, I am loving all the whites (both walls and cabinets) that are still on the scene but then pairing it with a hit of wood, metal or contrasting black. Tile is also an area that is really fun with more elaborate installation (herringbone, chevron, stacked and staggered techniques) and different shapes such as octagon, large format or super small format. A person can add texture and dimension without going crazy with colours. 

R: Sarah tends to drive our “trendy” aspects in the homes. We stay current by working with industry leaders for lighting, plumbing and flooring as well as drawing inspiration from design publications. For me the installation of practical and functional products with new technology is exciting. LED lighting, smart wiring, solar power and innovative kitchen concepts are a few areas I really enjoy exploring. Lastly, everyone likes a good shower, so using large or small format tiles and high quality plumbing fixtures all contained with 10mm glass makes a master ensuite that much better.

A lot of people dream of building a custom home, but feel overwhelmed by all the decisions involved. How do you help guide the process? 

S: We truly value all of the relationships we have developed over the years with our clients, with our suppliers and with our trades. Our focus on communication really assists our clients in staying well informed with the building process and allows them to come to us with questions and feedback along the way. We appreciate that custom building is a large undertaking for our clients so we do our best to ease the process. Part of this comes from our 12 years of experience in the industry and part of this comes from having built our own custom home so we totally understand what our clients are going through. 

Right from the beginning of financing and design, we guide our clients. We work with their lawyers and bankers to get everything in place. We then have a step-by-step process for them to make all of their home selections. Our suppliers are also a key part of this as they meet with our clients and assist them with choosing their products and educating them on the various options.

R: It starts from our first interaction with each client. We outline the process from start to finish, along with putting clear timelines on each decision. Then we work together with our suppliers and clients to ensure that we are staying on budget and on time. Lastly, we perform a review of all the material selections multiple times to ensure that the products are working together, and the clients are satisfied. Our extensive experience building custom homes help our clients feel confident as they navigate the selection process.

A big part of building custom at SLR is getting to choose your lot. How much does the lot size and views affect the kind of home that’s built on it? How do you optimize the property features? 

S: We call this Site-Specific Design and it’s a very important part of designing a home. We spend quite a bit of time on the vacant lot to determine the best views, optimal light exposure and maximum privacy. From here, we design the home to feature all of these aspects. Placement of windows is a big part of this as well as the decks. Each person is unique; some want to feature their deck to take in the hot, west sun, for example, while others prefer the morning light. 

R: During the master planning stage, we designed each lot at Spring Lake Ranch to have its own view channel. As we plan the home on the lot, we take this into consideration as well as conditions such as passive solar (specific window placements to take advantage of light and the sun) and location of trees for privacy, right down to the direction of the window openings for capturing cross breezes.   

Looking ahead, what projects are coming up at Wilcor Homes? How can people stay connected and learn about new homes for sale or building their own?h

S: The Birchview is nearing completion and it’s coming together beautifully. It’s a 3 bedroom bungalow for sale on one of the more private lots at SLR. From the back of the home, all you can see are trees. I am especially excited about the tile in this home — a combination of octagon and herringbone. Lots of whites with hits of black and gold. 

We are also working on a new custom build at Spring Lake Ranch, a build in the city and a new spec home. 

On September 14th, we are having a big community event with live music, a BBQ and the Remax hot air balloon! People interested in SLR should definitely mark their calendars and stay tuned for our fall building incentive. 

R: Each year we bring new designs to the community, and this year is no different. The Birchview combines a spacious master bedroom, larger en-suite with walk in shower, massive 3 car garage, 3 bedroom main floor, dual laundry location (for family living, or empty nesters), large fully developed daylight basement, and a new colour of James Hardie Siding. There are many special design features like unique tile, floating vanities, wall mounted faucets and a large walk-in pantry. It’s a fantastic home and we are very proud of it.  

This fall we’re planning to break ground on a new design similar to The Aspen, featuring new exterior elevations and same changes to the floor plan.  We never build the same house twice!

As always, we welcome all to sign up for the Newsletter and follow us on Facebook and Instagram, but most important come out and visit us!  Nothing does SLR more justice than a walk on the nature trails, taking in the lake or just sitting in a gazebo listening to the orchestra of birds who call SLR home throughout the year.

Thank you so much, Sarah and Rainbow!

Check out SLR Homes For Sale here and Lots For Sale here. Learn more about Wilcor Homes here.

SLR Designer Sarah Corker ~ On Vision, Inspiration, and What’s Next at Spring Lake Ranch

Can you describe your role at Spring Lake Ranch? What might you be doing on a given work day?

My role with SLR is tremendously varied from sales to marketing to design and everything in between. A typical day includes: Working with our clients and suppliers, so perhaps a meeting at Robinson’s Lighting and Bath to review a lighting package for a home. Receiving an enquiry sales call to set up a tour for one of our homes or lots. Working with my amazing marketing team to develop new content for social media, newsletters, and blogs. Being in touch with our client’s mortgage broker and lawyer to organize the financing for their home. Also, I walk through our builds regularly to see the progress, ensure the proper selections are being made, check paint colours and finishing details, and take photos. 

At night, after my children go to sleep, I work on design and planning. This is when my creative juices flow and I like to dive into new floor plans, colour palettes and lighting inspiration and check in with the various design blogs I follow. This is also when my husband and business partner and I get a chance to talk about the “big picture”, plan our next builds, bounce ideas for events, and actively discuss our dreams.

SLR is known for its natural beauty and gorgeous homes. What’s it like seeing people discover it for the first time?

Often, people will walk into one of our homes and be in awe with the oversized windows, high ceilings and open concept of the heart of the home (kitchen, dining, great room). After lots of questions and the “getting to know you” conversation, there will be a pause and this is when people all of a sudden realize how quiet it is at Spring Lake Ranch. They take in the sounds of the birds in the summer or just the absolute silence in the winter. It’s magic!

The TAMARACK 4 Bdrm Bungalow For Sale – $629,900

The TAMARACK Kitchen

You and the SLR team started creating the community almost a decade ago. What’s the biggest lesson you have learned along the way in bringing this vision to life?

In the early stages of the project when Dad, Rainbow and I had a vision and 66 acres of wide open land, our mantra was UNWAVERING FAITH. Faith that others will find this natural gem on a lake, fall in love and want to call it home. That unique homes will be built. That a community will grow and flourish here.

I have learned that some people, like our earliest residents, can see things before they exist — I call them ‘visionaries’. The rest of us are more tactile, needing to touch, feel and walk through a house in order to understand how it can become a home to raise a family, to rejuvenate in, a home to love in. Now this community is a thriving, special place thanks to all the people who live here, who have chosen Spring Lake Ranch as their home and have seen our vision come to life.

                   Rainbow Williams, Sarah Corker, and Terry Williams

Let’s talk design. Wilcor Homes has always specialized in open floor plans, high ceilings, and natural elements like wood and stone. In what ways has this aesthetic shifted or evolved in the last decade? How do trends shape the way you approach a new build?

We moved here from the West coast, where you see many more two storey homes, whereas here we have the space with our half acre lots to do bungalows. Previously, in my mind bungalows were a home for retirees (my Gran had a charming one in Lloydminster!) but there has been a big shift in the design, making them more open in concept and appealing to all age demographics. We now specialize in bungalow designs and are building them for families of all ages and sizes.

The other big shift in our designs is seen in the more functional parts of the home — the mudroom and laundry room. Alberta mud is a real thing. After one full season here (and getting stuck in the mud many times) we learned the importance of making this space really functional. We now add extra square footage, a window if possible, and an oversized closet for the many jackets you need in this four season climate.

Another area of change has been in our exteriors. We love using Hardie Board siding as it requires no future maintenance, is a fire retardant, and is incredibly durable — important in this climate where a flash hail storm can occur.

We always love incorporating natural elements. Wood and stone give a home a solid, secure feeling of time-honoured design. We use real stone veneer in all of our applications both inside and outside the home and love to highlight the entrance with solid Douglas fir timbers. I would say this has become our trademark on the exterior of many of our homes.

The TAMARACK

The TIMBER HAVEN 3+ Bdrm For Sale – $849,900

You and the Wilcor Homes team have built several custom homes at SLR. There are obviously many design decisions that your clients need to make along the way. How do you help guide people through the process, while keeping true to their vision?

Building a home requires so many decisions as a family, with the building team, and with the product suppliers — all staying within an allocated budget determined by the bank. But mostly it requires vision, like the ability to see how the paint colour will work with the flooring and cabinets and then adding lights to fully showcase the work. 

We allow our clients the freedom to make selections for their home, as it’s our goal to make their vision a reality. We share our expertise throughout the process, meeting regularly to provide design and finishing options, review selections, and pull all the details together.

They say that every time you build, you learn something new. This is where our experience and expertise come in — we understand every aspect of creating a beautiful quality home. Building custom is not for everyone, so we also build Wilcor Homes to completion, using exceptional materials and finishings that are contemporary while still having that timeless appeal. People love this option — it’s essentially falling in love with a showhome and then moving in and making it your own!

The TAMARACK Great Room

What room tends to be the #1 priority for people in ‘getting it right’?

The kitchen. Hands down, this is the heart of the home, where it all happens. We gather here and share food, stories, love, laughter, tears, and conversation. I love to design a kitchen that fully functions with the different work zones incorporated (prepping, cooking, cleaning, conversing) while having stunning aesthetics: cabinets that will look great today as well as in 10+ years, a solid surface countertop, oversized island, and windows — as many and as big as possible. Lighting a kitchen properly is very important. I love island lights on a dimmer, separate pot lights (also on a dimmer), a light over the sink for late night dishes, and under cabinet lights for example. With this variety, you can really change the mood in the room, from being focused on function and being able to see every detail to toning it down and creating a more intimate experience.

The TIMBER HAVEN Kitchen

The TAMARACK Kitchen

When designing a home, what do you look to for ideas and inspiration? How do you make each new build feel fresh and exciting?

Often my inspiration for colour palettes can come from nature. I love to be active outside all year round and I also enjoy taking photos. In doing so, I capture the natural surroundings around me and draw upon the photos to see how all of the colours and textures work together.

White is a constant colour used in the world of design. Right now there is a big trend of white cabinets in the kitchen, lighter wall colours, and even white washed hardwood floors. When I go for a walk on a snowy day, I take in all the many colours of white and grey and then think about how to integrate these colours into our homes. I just completed a home using the Benjamin Moore colour Paper White which has a slight blue tone to it. My favourite trim colour, ironically, is called Snowfall White!

Overall I love a neutral palette with layers of texture where you can add accent colours depending on the time of year through soft finishings such as pillows, flowers, tea towels. ‘Pops of colour’. By keeping your background simple and neutral, you can play with different colours and have fun with them without fully committing to a purple room.

To stay current, I also follow a number of design blogs and have a daily does on Instagram where I get tons of visual inspiration. Desire to Inspire is a Canadian and Australian team that posts endless photos of stunning homes all around the world. In the real of Instagram, I love to follow @robinsonltgbath (our lighting and plumbing supplier) showcasing their products installed in gorgeous homes; @interiordesignmag for awe inspiring photos; @dominomag for really functional style and ideas; and @styleathome, a Canadian resource for fabulous decorating, design, and entertaining ideas. 

What is the most fulfilling part of your work?

It’s the moment when I get to walk our clients through their finished home. The look on their faces, the happy tears. The feeling of completion. The ‘thank you’ hugs.

I have learned something from every family we have worked with. Whether it’s been an improvement in the design (such as adding a pocket door instead of a door with a swing so you can increase the use of space), a new material selection (we recently installed shiplap in a house for the first time), or the integration of materials (stone, new hardwood flooring or mixed metal lights). I love all of of it, as the process pushes me to stay present and to be continually improving. Our relationships with our clients and trades allow us to feel proud about the quality homes we build. We have made some lifelong friends along the way and I feel truly blessed by this.

What is the highlight of SLR for you when it comes to the natural setting? What views or “nature” moments stand out?

Spring. After a long winter of snowballs, skating and bundled-up walks on the trails, hearing the Canadian geese and other birds returning home is one of my favourite sounds. Seeing the first buds on the trees and bulbs sprouting through the soil makes me do a happy dance! My kids plant handfuls of sunflower seeds in our gardens as we love watching the goldfinches they attract in the late summer days. Spring is also the start of lake activities that our whole family enjoys: fishing, paddle boarding, and canoeing.

What’s next at SLR? What projects are in the works?

This is a very exciting year, as we are releasing the final phase of the community which includes two quiet cul-de-sacs, Spruce Crescent and Juniper Lane, with lots backing onto the treed ravine. We have done the development of SLR in phases, and Phase 4 marks completion. In June, we will hold our spring 2017 Home and Lot Hop, at which people can tour Homes and Lots For Sale — including our new Phase 4 properties! We are also holding an Open House for the Tamarack Bungalow on Saturday, April 29th from 12-4 pm.

I get goosebumps thinking about driving through Spring Lake Ranch in 30 years from now, showing our grandchildren all the homes we built, tree we planted, and friends we made. It’s extremely gratifying to see that the unwavering faith we started out with has resulted in such a unique and beautiful community.

Thank you, Sarah!

*Interested in learning more about Spring Lake Ranch homes and properties? Contact Sarah Corker at 1.888.867.1055