The mother-daughter relationship behind one of Atlanta’s top homebuilders, Arlene Dean Homes 

With an extensive portfolio to demonstrate a range in scope and style, Arlene Dean Homes is a quality custom home builder operating in Decatur, Georgia, and surrounding Atlanta neighborhoods. Its completed homes typically represent a blend of contemporary prairie, farmhouse, and mid-century design, but its team also complete renovations with quality craftsmanship to honor the building’s original architecture.  

Prairie style home in woodlandFounded by Arlene Dean in 1999, the business is now headed up by her daughter, Leslie Desan Petosa, with the mother-daughter team working together to deliver excellent service alongside beautiful homes. Having grown up in a homebuilding environment, Leslie has followed in her mother’s footsteps with an eye for detail and a hands-on, proactive approach to client relationships. 

“The business was born from the completion of a small renovation project, and my mother, Arlene, grew operations from there,” Leslie opens. “Through renovations in the historic neighborhood of Oakhurst, she gained a strong reputation in the local area and expanded into building custom homes. However, she built a custom home in Miami, Florida, several years before in 1978, which was our family home and the first property I can remember living in.  

“Today, I’m lucky enough to raise a family in a home built by the company, continuing the legacy of our company by providing my children with similar experiences to mine. Homebuilding was a natural journey for me, but I officially joined the business in 2014 to spend time alongside my mother learning the business and the wider industry before taking the reins.”  

Innovative design solutions 

Turning to operations, Leslie explains: “We’re primarily custom home builders, but we complete the occasional spec home too. Our geographic footprint is centered around the city of Decatur, but extends to Candler Park, Grant Park, Virginia Highlands, Kirkwood, East Lake, and Brookhaven. Most of our designs come from the customer, so we work directly with the client, architect, and design team, to carefully consider every aspect of the design and ensure it is tailored to the unique requirements and preferences of each customer.  

“In terms of design trends, we see certain phases. A few years ago, for instance, everyone wanted prairie style, then there was a modern farmhouse era, and now customers are leaning towards ultra-modern designs. My own house is a great example of how styles can work together, as it’s modern in design but has some softer touches to allow for family living.  

“We’re also currently working on a large, modern design home that seamlessly blends contemporary style with traditional features. Located on a challenging lot, we’ve had to find innovative methods and materials to achieve results. The owners are also very tech savvy, so the property must be completed to a high standard from the foundations to final additions.  Modern white bathroom

“There are a lot of design decisions to be made throughout the homebuilding process, and customers can often be overwhelmed with the amount of choice. To overcome what I call design fatigue, we work closely with designers to chunk decisions into time periods and allow them to review all their selections in one place. This approach reduces what can be quite stressful questions, like when I’m pushing for a decision on finishing touches like the desired color of hinges! 

“The crucial part of being a homebuilder where every home is completely different is to be open to new techniques and products, as well as learn from previous projects,” Leslie reflects. “We never build the same house twice, so there are always new considerations, new materials, and new customer demands to fulfil. The construction industry is constantly evolving, and the addition of new processes broadens our ability to problem solve and create innovative designs.”  

Superior quality and service 

Almost every company has been hit with the damaging consequences of the global Covid-19 pandemic, and while Arlene Dean Homes is no exception, the company was able to shift priorities to cater to increased renovation demand. “It’s very desirable to live inside the perimeter in Atlanta, and we’ve seen increased demand over the last ten years,” Leslie explains. “People’s preferences have changed; they no longer want to commute, and they want immediate access to amenities within the environment of a tight-knit community. This relationship between supply and demand means there’s not only less land available, but the prices have vastly increased, which raises the overall cost of the end-product.  

“The pandemic brought further complexities to this dynamic, but a dramatic increase in demand for renovations meant our activity remained stable. During the pandemic, people had much more time to look around their house and notice things they wanted to change, areas they wanted to expand, or simply to make decisions about ideas they had been contemplating for a while.  

“We experienced particular demand for flexible spaces, for example, especially with many people working from home during the pandemic. Having flexible spaces is a creative way to maximize a small area or manage a multi-use space without extending its physical footprint.” 

As our conversation draws to a close, talk turns to the future. “I’m currently looking at a couple of land deals as we strive to extend our footprint and double the size of the business,” Leslie concludes. “With demand for higher density living inside the Atlanta perimeter, there’s potential for us to build a range of properties like duplexes, which would provide opportunities for first-time buyers in the area. Who knows what the future holds in this market, but overall, we will maintain superior quality and service as we continue to build beautiful homes for our clients.”