Elite Design Group, under the leadership of owner JJ Barja, is a humble group, more inclined to have their heads down creating the most beautiful homes Charlotte has to offer than to be shouting their accomplishments.
For that reason alone, it’s possible you have yet to hear of Elite Design Group… but we can almost guarantee you’ve noticed their work. It’s hard not to be in awe when you drive past a house designed by the talent at EDG.
Since their inception in 2003, the company has consistently designed some the most stunning pieces of architecture in the area. With their guiding principle to help clients “live in art” in mind, stepping into one of their finished products feels quite a bit like walking into a masterpiece.
Barja, a no-nonsense, drawing-obsessed architectural designer, received no formal drawing or design training. I’d consider JJ Barja “self-taught,” but he quickly eschews the notion, instead crediting every one of his mentors. Those mentors are composed of an impressive lineup of designers, builders, and clients he has worked with throughout the years. He insists every project brings a new lesson and expertise he can apply to future works.
Barja started his career at a local Charlotte design firm before taking the plunge and striking out on his own. He broke away from the traditional business model from the start and focused on hiring a crew not as his employees but rather as “teammates” for him and for the company. JJ, less interested in being a boss than he was (and is) interested in being able to focus on his work, felt that this model created an aligned atmosphere within the company where everyone could focus foremost on forming client relationships and cultivating a love for designing.
“I like to stay fluid with it,” JJ tells us. “I like the beauty in differences.”
With an office located in Mint Hill, the Elite Design Group team builds all over the region, although their focus has been in the Lake Norman area. Trends come and go, Barja says, and as for right now, he observes that “most people don’t want formality, rather they want more casual houses and want every room to have a purpose and not just be for show. But there is still a love for classic architecture with some modern touches.”
Elite Design Group tackles an array of genres, from English Tudors to Modern Mediterraneans to a unique Modern Prairie-style estate perched on the shores of Lake Norman.
Today, Elite Design Group tackles an array of genres, from English Tudors to Modern Mediterraneans to a unique Modern Prairie-style estate perched on the shores of Lake Norman. Their biggest (literally) project to date came in the form of a collaboration with builder Ted Thompson and designer Scott Carpenter, where the trio managed to pull together a sweeping 30,000 square foot mansion for NASCAR driver Denny Hamlin in Cornelius. The huge mid-century modern marvel boasts everything from a full-sized indoor basketball court, a bowling alley, to a sleek slate tiled pool area with lakeside views.
That’s everything Barja wanted: An intimate experience between designer and client, to open the doors to one’s dream home.
When it comes to process, right from the start, Barja brings a sketch pad with him and starts designing a home with the client in the first minutes of the face-to-face initial consultation. That’s everything Barja wanted: An intimate experience between designer and client, to open the doors to one’s dream home.
“It’s a collaborative effort between me and the clients,” JJ says. “They might not be able to draw, but I’ve realized that they’re the ones with the vision. I’ll bring the sketch pad and we’ll start sketching out a house in the first minute… That’s the only way I know how to do it.”