Choosing Tennessee as a place to retire, after living in Florida, feels a bit like “reverse retirement,” say Sherry and Ed Binkley, whose last home—a self-described “industrial farmhouse where we raised our three kids”—was just east of Orlando. And, just as they did with that home, they’re collaborating on their new home outside of Nashville.
While the process of designing, building, and orchestrating a new home from across state lines is a veritable minefield of stress, it’s one the couple is uniquely equipped to navigate. Not only has the family made a move across state lines (and entire states) before, but both Sherry and Ed are veteran building professionals.
Meeting Young, and Moving
Columbia, Tenn., is where the home Sherry and Ed are calling “108 Fifth” is being built. It’s a historic neighborhood, which was a priority for the couple when choosing a location. With fewer than 40,000 people, the town isn’t too big, and it’s just an hour from Nashville, where the couple first met. “Actually, we met in college, at Nashville State Community College. We both studied architecture,” Sherry says.
Three months after a first date, the two decided to marry. “No babies involved, we just wanted to marry,” says Sherry. Ed adds, “When you know, you know.”
They would go on to have three children, moving to Arizona from Tennessee after the birth of their first. “He was 3 months old [at the time],” Ed says. “We hadn’t ever spent much time west of the Mississippi—it was a big adventure. We headed out there, not knowing what was going to happen. Thankfully, it worked out.”
Growing Family, Developing Skills
Arizona is where Ed continued his education as an architect, attending and graduating from Arizona State University, and it’s where Sherry began her career in residential construction, working for Continental Homes, a production builder of about 1,500 units a year.
For five years, the couple provided for their family as it grew from three to four, and continued working to develop their professional skills. They bought their first house—a production home built by Continental. “We ended up doing quite a few renovations to that one—tore a few things down,” Ed recalls.
Renovating their Phoenix home was the beginning of two trends that continue for the couple to this day: working together and transforming the spaces they live in. “Any place we’ve lived, we’ve done something to it—opened it up, had fun with it,” Ed says. The couple’s first ground-up custom home, called Whistling Winds, was built in Orlando in 2004. “That was a total experiment in materials and budget,” he says.
Body of Work
In 1991, after five years back in Nashville, three children, respectable resumes, and a fair bit more life experience, Sherry and Ed decided they wanted to be in a warmer climate, and once again packed up for another major move—this time south to Orlando, where Ed and Sherry spent eight years with The Evans Group. There, Ed served as vice president of architecture and Sherry provided architectural graphics for the firm.
In 1999, Ed and Sherry both joined BSB Design and helped open the firm's Orlando office, with Ed as a partner and Sherry wearing several hats including business administration, marketing, design, and graphics. In 2007, Sherry received her contractor's license and began taking on custom building and remodeling jobs, which also included affordable housing projects—a field of building that had long been important to the Binkley's and their occupant-focused approach to design.
It’s the same “responsive” approach that can be seen in their Whistling Winds home and 108 Fifth: homes designed for the activities and needs of the building’s specific inhabitants.
“The industrial farmhouse was a bit unplugged,” Ed admits, when discussing Whistling Winds. “We had exposed concrete, finished birch plywood floors, exposed interior and exterior block, exposed trusses and ductwork. To some, it may have seemed ‘unfinished,’ but for us it was an exercise in using off-the-shelf items in some unconventional ways, like using little drill grommets to hold a shelf and a cable together.”
In 2007, BSB participated in the National Association of Home Builders’ annual demonstration home, The New American Home (TNAH), for which Ed was the lead architect, and incorporated many of the same design principles he and Sherry had explored when creating Whistling Winds. “We would refer back to that house a lot during that process,” he says, for some of the finishes and some of the exposed materials. Sherry credits the project with influencing design in the area. “I think it sparked quite a few projects,” she says. “We saw some in Laureate Park, which used our concept of exposed concrete-block columns.” Ed adds, “I had a connection with developers at Laureate Park [in Orlando’s Lake Nona development], who were building a community and asked me to help with its design review board guidelines. A lot of those guidelines incorporated design elements first explored at Whistling Winds.”
Ed was also the design architect for the Spanish-influenced 2005 TNAH as well as for the most recent 2022 TNAH, a Transitional Coastal Style home located in Laureat Park. He and Sherry continue working together both formally and informally—as is evident with their latest project in Tennessee, for which Ed was the architect and Sherry the co-builder.
The couple’s 108 Fifth project has proven to be a particularly challenging one, starting at pre-construction. “It was difficult to find a general contractor that could understand our designs and finishes,” Ed explains. “I’d provide little sketches and drawings so they could see how everything went together, and they would go and do something totally different.”
Ed and Sherry ultimately found a contractor in Brandon Mitchell, a builder with Mitchell Builders Group that “gets it.” But it wasn’t the end of their challenges. Construction has suffered from material shortages and price increases, limited labor availability, a harsh winter, and a persisting global pandemic. Still, the couple doesn’t stress about the process.
“You know, when you’re in the thick of it, you realize there’s really nothing anybody can do,” Ed says. “Everybody’s doing their best.” Adds Sherry, “And the silver lining is, it keeps you really engaged.”
This story has been updated since it first ran in Custom Builder's 2022 Spring print issue. Edits were made to correct errors regarding Ed and Sherry Binkley's personal timelines and work history. Thank you for your understanding.