An artist observes the world around him or her and paints a vision.

In a similar fashion, Tom Pilla looks at a piece of land and envisions the layout for an individual home or a subdivision.

Pilla, a well-known, New Milford self-employed businessman who has also served the town in numerous capacities (see story on commercial property and the community), has been in the building trade for more than four decades.

He opened his business, San-P Homes, right out of college after moving to New Milford from New York in the early 1970s.

"I enjoy the building industry... it's creating (and) I love creating the home," Tom said.

He has built "many hundreds" of homes and numerous commercial structures (see sidebar).

Today, Pilla's son, Steven Pilla, is an officer in the company.

"I remember at 10, Steve was carrying a 2 x 10 concrete plank," Tom Pilla fondly recalls, emphasizing how his family has "a strong understanding of the industry," starting at an early age.

The father and son complement each other, as Tom's "love is benchmarking the house" (figuring out where the house sits on the site) and site planning while Steven's love is field work and design.

"It takes a lot to put a home together, especially a custom home," Tom Pilla said (see story on the art of creating).

San-P Homes builds spec and custom homes, ranging in size from 1,800 to 2,800 square feet, although some may be larger, and additions. The company also owns several rental properties.

"Tom's interested in the details of a home and the quality of a home," said Jane Gregory, a Realtor with Century 21 Scalzo Realty in Danbury who has represented Tom with various firms over the years. "For him, they go hand in hand."

"He's always been excellent to deal with and the quality of his homes is first rate," the Realtor related. "He's extremely good for the housing stock in New Milford."

Jose and Amy Llerena, of New Milford, recently purchased a home from San-P Homes. While looking at an existing home on the market, the couple met Steve Pilla and, after talking to him, decided to purchase a home that was in the early stages of construction, giving them ample time to customize it to their needs.

"Our experience (with San-P Homes) was great," Jose said. "Steve really bent over backwards to make us happy getting us what we wanted."

"He has good people working for him, and he puts a lot of thought into how houses are laid out," he said.

When it comes to homes, if a customer is interested in a custom home, he or she can review existing plans and make modifications to meet particular needs.

Tom Pilla said many customers know what features they want in a custom house because they didn't have those features -- energy efficiency, a full basement, a flat yard, etc -- in their prior home(s).

Residents Mary and Kevin Esposito have bought three homes from Tom Pilla, citing the "quality, consistency, workmanship and craftsmanship" as the reasons they returned as repeat customers.

"His building surpasses all the others," Mary said.

Tom Pilla emphasized how in recent years the demographics of the town has changed, as evident by the recent closing of the Family Birthing Center at New Milford Hospital and the decline in student population in the school system.

"The town is aging and the population is shrinking. The reason is jobs and affordability," he said. "I think demographically the town is changing because of affordability due to the cost of living."

As a result, he said "people are starting to look at smaller homes."

To keep up with the times, San-P's newer subdivisions consist of, "depending on location and lot size, (homes that) tend to be more modest" and in the 2,500-square-foot range, Tom Pilla said.

Gregory praised the builder's relationship with customers, noting Tom's strength in relating why certain things are necessary and need to be done when building a home.

"He's very community oriented," Gregory explained, "and he's concerned about the general appearance of New Milford and he wants what he does to show in a good light."

The Realtor said Tom Pilla "has produced some of the nicest homes -- the most gracious looking houses -- and he's done it with finesse.

"He's always put his heart and soul into it," she said.

Peggy Lark of Kent recently hired San-P Homes to make repairs and rebuild a home started 10 years ago but never completed due to "the incompetence of former builders," she said.

"I cannot say enough about Steven (Pilla) regarding his integrity and efforts on my concerns," Lark said.

"It was very courageous of Steven to take on my project given the state of the house after years of neglect from former builders," she said.

"He faced many problems that otherwise would not have been present or incurred had the house been constructed properly in the first place."

"Steven, however, pulled us out of a nightmarish quagmire," she summed up, "and we now have a beautiful 4,000-square-foot completed dream home."

For more information about San-P Homes, call 203-417-7657.