Tashara Cronshaw and her fiancé, Kevin, had been searching for the perfect spot to build their dream home. “We wanted a piece of property that was not in a traditional neighborhood,” she says. “We’re both outdoorsy people, and we really wanted a place that was in nature.”
After several years of looking off and on, they found that perfect site in east Manatee County. A little more than an acre, it was bordered by a preserve and small lake, providing a picturesque buffer from neighboring homes.
“I literally got goosebumps,” says Tashara. “I looked at Kevin and said, ‘This is our future home.’ It was such an exciting experience to find this spot in nature that was so gorgeous.”
Once they had their property, Tashara and Kevin knew just where to turn for the next step. As vice president of human resources for Neal Communities, Tashara was already familiar with Neal Signature Homes’ “On Your Lot” program, through which clients can build a home tailored to their tastes and preferences on a piece of land they’ve hand-picked. She knew that the Neal Signature team would advise them every step of the way during their first experience building a luxury, semi-custom home.
“The team held our hands throughout the whole journey,” she says. “We had never built a home before, and we had so many people come together and guide us through the whole process. It was definitely an outstanding experience.”
Thinking Big in the Kitchen
The couple toured various models to find the best floor plan for their home. Tashara loves to cook and entertain, so a kitchen that was both beautiful and highly functional was a major must-have.
“I love to be creative in the kitchen,” she says. “I love to cook homemade soups and stews and things like that. I just like to play and have fun.”
They fell in love with the Fenwick floor plan, because it had both a spacious kitchen and café area plus a dining room where Tashara and Kevin could gather with family and friends for more formal meals. “A lot of floor plans today don’t offer that,” she says. “I loved the Fenwick because it gave us the opportunity to still have a formal family dinner table, plus an open floor plan that was wonderful for cooking and entertaining.”
The Fenwick was almost perfect. But Tashara wanted to make a few tweaks—and the Neal Signature team was happy to oblige. “One of the things I loved about building with Neal Signature Homes was the customization aspect, being able to have your wishes and dreams and vision come true,” she says.
While the Fenwick floor plan included a kitchen island, Tashara had seen an even bigger island at another model and had her heart set on something like that. “It was massive, and I loved it,” she says. “But it was far bigger than the one specified in the Fenwick floor plan. So we called the Neal Signature team and talked to them about the prospect of putting in a massive island in my kitchen. Of course, they made it happen.”
The team also relocated air-conditioning handlers to create a walk-in pantry with shelving and a countertop that helps Tashara whip up dishes with ease. Every time she walks into the kitchen and sees those custom touches, it brings her joy.
“It’s a chef’s dream to have all this space,” she says. “It was exciting to have the ability to make these changes that were important to us in our home.”
Bringing the Outside In
The kitchen wasn’t the only element that Tashara and Kevin customized to create a home that was truly personalized just for them. Neal Signature Homes angled the house during the permit planning process to maximize views of the lake. The team also redesigned the back of the home to incorporate three 10-foot, disappearing-wall sliders for easy access to the couple’s relaxing lanai and Waterscapes pool and unobstructed views of the lush preserve area.
“That basically made the whole back of the house glass, so we could see the preserve and see nature,” says Tashara. “It is just breathtaking. The pine trees and the maturity of the property were so important to us. When they laid out the floor plan and added that, it was like the icing on the cake.”
Kevin didn’t want a traditional Mediterranean Revival look for the exterior of the home. Adjustments were made to the elevation to give the home a British West Indies architectural style.
“They really customized the exterior to suit what was important to Kevin,” says Tashara. “When I come home, I sometimes stop in the driveway and literally sit there and admire the house. The attention to detail is so amazing.”
Experiencing the Neal Difference
At every point in the process, there was a Neal team member to guide the couple and make the experience as easy and enjoyable as possible. Ben Renner, area construction manager for Neal Signature Homes, helped them from start to finish.
“I knew he was very passionate about the building industry, and that was very important to me,” says Tashara. “We never felt alone or that we didn’t have the expertise, thanks to him. You could even feel his smile through the phone when he had updates for us.”
Making all the design selections for a semi-custom home can feel like a nerve-wracking task. “As a first-time home builder, it was kind of overwhelming to know we were going to be making every selection in this home,” says Tashara. “We were scared about making bad choices.”
Marcela Serio, their Design Studio consultant, put those fears to rest. She helped them envision their new home and make choices they’d be happy with for a long time.
“We had such confidence in Marcela during our appointment,” says Tashara. “She offered her professional advice and years of experience to help us make decisions. She learned about us and what was important to us to help bring it all together into this one beautiful package.”
The couple settled into their new luxury home in June 2020, and they appreciate how much thought and effort Neal put into their experience. Throughout the process, they never felt rushed to make a decision, demonstrating how Neal emphasizes the importance of the end result to their homebuyers.
“I have no complaints, because everything is exactly the way that we envisioned it,” says Tashara. “It’s such an exciting thing to have accomplished something like this and to be able to create this dream home.”
Now her whole family gathers around the island as she cooks, admires the views from the expansive lanai, and spends weekends playing in the pool. “It’s such a beautiful place for our family to come together and enjoy,” she says.
She and Kevin get to spend every day living in a home they created situated in the kind of natural setting they love. “We get to sit outside on this beautiful lanai and hear the waterfall from the pool, and it’s just this very relaxing experience,” she says. “We have these big, beautiful sliders, and it’s like nature comes inside. We get to enjoy watching the deer and gopher tortoises and the fox that runs through our yard. It’s literally a dream come true.”