In 1971, David Prutting found himself an unemployed college dropout on Cape Cod, and his immediate job prospects were somewhat limited.
“On Cape Cod, you survived by either building, working in restaurants or fishing,” he recalled. “I did all three.”
But the appeal of the open waves and the dining rooms paled in comparison with the construction trade, and Prutting found steady work as a roofer with a local home builder. He quickly began to absorb other aspects of homebuilding.
“The carpenters would frame the house, put the roofing and siding on and install all the windows — doing all of the things we now consider piecework that we would outsource to specialists,” he said.
In 1975, Prutting married and moved to Houston, where he started his own home construction business. Four years later, he moved to New Canaan and, with his wife Deborah as co-owner, set up Prutting & Co., initially focusing on roofing and siding because, he said, it was “the easiest way to launch out as an entrepreneur.” Shortly after settling in New Canaan, he received a request that changed his career.
“One client asked if could I build a garage. So, I built a garage and things started to expand from there.”
Today, Prutting & Co. Custom Builders LLC is a highly regarded custom home builder whose work has received multiple awards from regional chapters of the American Institute of Architects, the Home Builders and Remodelers Association of Fairfield County and architecture and homebuilding trade magazines. The company, which relocated its headquarters to 75 Camp Ave. in Stamford in 2015, works with nationally prominent architecture firms, including Toshiko Mori Architect in New York City, KieranTimberlake in Philadelphia, Joeb Moore & Partners in Greenwich and Cutler Anderson Architects in Bainbridge Island, Washington.
“Every job is unique,” Prutting said. “As I tell these architects jokingly: ‘If you draw it upside down, we’ll build it upside down.’”
Working with a staff of 19 employees, including six architectural school graduates who serve in project management roles, Prutting’s team faces design challenges in incorporating glass, steel and concrete into a modern aesthetic that has little in common with traditional residential construction style. “It is a very different building approach, from framing through finishes,” he said. “When your walls are big, continuous uninterrupted surfaces, the work has to be right-on. To leave a bare wall looking correct, the finished work has to sing.”
Prutting has taken on projects as far away as the Pacific Northwest and Texas, but his ongoing projects are closer to home. “Over the last 10 years, the work shifted more to New York state,” he said. “Westchester County is probably 50 percent of our work, and we now have four projects in the upper Hudson Valley area, north of Poughkeepsie. We are also now doing work in Torrington, in western Massachusetts and, for the first time, in northern New Jersey. For the right projects and the right architects, we’ll go where we need to.”
Prutting noted that while many of his custom-building projects are becoming larger and more complex, the market for his niche business has tightened, leading his company to pursue more smaller remodeling projects on existing properties.
“The biggest and grandest projects may range from $3 million to $25 million,” he said. “We do renovations, repairs, additions — not all grandiose new homes. We’re always looking for business — we’re not snobs. If we can provide a service and make money, we’re interested. Some remodeling jobs are smaller projects, $5,000 to $150,000, or $1.5 million renovations or bigger. The billing that goes out of here could range from a thousand (dollars) to a million in any given week.”
Prutting said he wants to expand his business into commercial property projects, particularly museum and educational facilities that attract innovative architectural designs.
He is not bothered by the threat of new competition. His market niche is not welcoming to start-ups, he observed.
“No, it is like art dealers — you need to have credibility and a track record to show,” he said. “To attract the savvy and experienced architect, you’d have to show them a portfolio that proves you are capable of doing the demanding level of work they are looking for.”
Asked about his company’s crowning glories, Prutting deflected from citing specific projects and praised his staff’s ability to handle anything presented to them.
“I’m very proud of the talent I’ve assembled here,” he said. “I liken myself as a general manager to a championship-level team. Together as a team, we can accomplish more than as individuals. We have very skilled people, confident and talented. That’s number one, two and three in my accomplishments.”