I like the wild factor,” says Tarrick Love over a seafood burger at Batter’d & Fried, “and I don’t know how you describe that in architecture.”
     The 39-year-old homebuilder and designer owns two construction companies in Nashville. The first, Dream Build Nashville, caters exclusively to those who also like that “wild factor,” servicing clients who don’t mind spending a little more to have art in their home. Working closely with Dee Bynum of Bynum Residential Design, they pair on projects that start at $650,000 and go up from there.
     But Hart-Love is Love’s answer to the common house. Bynum is an amazing architect, “but he doesn’t necessarily have a grasp on budget,” Love says. “For me, I’ve got to have a brand that can focus on this client that is budget-friendly.”
     Love blends the artistic with the functional, mirroring his background. A 1997 graduate of the University of Tennessee with a degree in mechanical engineering, he worked in auto engine design for years before a trip to France with his wife ignited a passion for building design. Wandering around thousand-year-old architecture, Love says he found himself taking vacation photos not of his wife, but of buildings.
     He’s a big fan of contemporary modern, “but not the hardcore concrete, steel, and hard, hard lines.” Love mixes the modern and the traditional, with dashes of prairie and French country. “There’s not necessarily a word for it yet,” he says, “but in my mind, it’s carving out my own path in building.”
     Does he think of himself as an artist?
     “I do,” Love says, and then adds after a moment of reflection, “I do—to an extent. I’m more of a technical artist. When I do sit down with my designers and architects, I can transform space. I’ve got vision enough to give them ideas on how to make space better.”
     It’s this combination of art and efficiency that’s made Love a well-known name in the Nashville builder’ community. To date, four of his finished projects have been in East Nashville; two more are in the works.
     Life has been predictable for Love— until recently.
     One night Love and his wife were watching “Family Feud,” and she decided to start researching how to get on the show. During her research, she came across another reality show. It was originally called “Renovation Nation,” and the producers were looking for architects, designers, and builders for a battle royal. She suggested Love try out.
     Well, maybe, he said. Let me think about it.
     Shameless self-promotion isn’t his style, but as Love did his research, he thought, “Why not? I can compete with these guys.” That was the appeal: Love is competitive. “Oh, man, yeah. To the fullest,” he says. “I just want to be the best at anything I do. It’s a rough life.” Love went through a series of interviews and casting calls—in addition to submitting samples of his work—for the opportunity to compete.
     “I wouldn’t say I’m a star by any means,” he says, laughing. Nevertheless, Love got the job, and spent September to January filming 10 episodes for the first season. The show, since renamed “American Dream Builders,” debuts March 23 at 7 p.m. Central on NBC. “Who wouldn’t want to look nationally?” asks Love. “You want to grow. It’s an opportunity to show what I can do.”
     The show’s format is simple: two teams of five designers compete, with a sixth man on each as the builder. Love was the builder, and it was his technical expertise and leadership that was crucial for his group. But he was also pushed beyond his experiences in Nashville. “When I sat down with those guys, man, I realized just how much I did not know,” he says. “I thought of design as, ‘This is the structure I want, to transform it into something that the customer wants.’ But when I got there I found that that was only a portion.”
     There were the nuts and bolts of what he’d done: stripping structures down to the studs, knocking down walls. Then the rapid rehabbing of a 2500-square-foot home was done— all in one week. But Love says it went much further than just new drywall and a fresh coat of paint. It went from furnishing the home all the way down to minutiae like choosing certain colors of bottles in the refrigerator. Upon completion, the celebrity judge and hosts, including former Tennessee Titan Eddie George, performed a walk-through.
     Love says the pressure was intense. His team of delicate designers would periodically break down in hysterics when materials wouldn’t arrive. “Let’s face it,” he says, “they’re artistic. It’s, ‘My way is the best way.’ But you have to find a portion of each that makes them feel like, ‘Hey, he’s really listening to what I want.’”
     But there’s a bigger message Love says he represents. His grandmother, with her eighth-grade education, instilled in him a drive in life that’s propelled him from success to success, from UT to Nashville, and now to the national stage. “I want to show some of the people that I grew up around and kids that are out there watching that there’re other avenues of approach besides sports or music.
     “To me, you have to be self-driven to be successful,” he says. “No one is going to push you when you become an adult.”

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