Lights, camera, construction: Artist finds calling crafting dream homes

Paul Eyers
By Paul Eyers
6 Min Read

When it comes to creating art, making sure your work stands out is arguably the most important aspect of the job. 

It’s also a philosophy Shani Naleshni has been acutely aware of long before entering the property development industry just a few years ago. 

The builder, developer and designer has taken standing out from the crowd to new heights as part of her refreshingly unique approach to building dream homes. 

The 31-year-old is the Founder and CEO of one of Australia’s leading luxury home construction companies, “The Home Establishment”, taking vacant blocks of land and transforming them into some of Australia’s best boutique high-end residences from start to finish. 

Art is at the heart of it

A striking contrast to your typical tradie boss, Shani’s passion for art, design and fashion formed the foundation behind the petite Sydneysider success. 

She says those childhood dreams of making art have fueled her success in the New South Wales luxury home market. 

Initially going to university to study film and philosophy with a dream to make movies, it was her study-side job working alongside her brother at a property development firm that made her swap the camera for the concrete. 

She quickly developed a love for property construction, begging her builder dad to take her under his wing and teach her everything he knew. 

 Shani told Build-it she still has a passion for storytelling but now does so through the homes she builds instead. 

“I’ve always been fascinated by how stories can be told, not just through words or film but through the spaces we live in,” she said. 

“For me, it’s all about balance and finding that sweet spot where form meets function and where every element in a space tells a part of the story.”

“I believe that every home should be as unique as the people who live there, a reflection of their stories, their dreams.” 

Shani’s ambition to bring art into home construction has seen her go from future film-maker to Australia’s Jack -or Jill- of all trades, as she spends most of the week on the tools bringing her construction creativity to life. 

The firm no longer signs client jobs. Instead, it finds, funds, designs, and builds homes independently to sell on the private market, maintaining exclusive creative control from start to finish. 

Personalisation creates scarcity

She says this personalised approach to building and a heavy focus on unique design aspects was the secret behind her building brand’s growing demand. 

“Everything we do is very, very custom; if you build something different, it’s pretty hard to replicate, and you dont have issues of oversupply,” she explained to Build-it. 

“If you have something rare and valuable, it will remain like that instead of stagnating in value.” 

“At the moment, we are working in the Hunter Valley. We are six sites on one street, and they are all so completely different in terms of design, floor plan, construction and even the small details.” 

“I am inspired by the work, and I am really lucky I found something I love doing. I want to create houses that people want to keep for a very long time and even hand down through the family.”

The team recently constructed this Hunter Valley based home.
Some of The Home Establishment’s most recent constructions

Industry losing out on top talent

Shani’s success is evidence of the value female perspectives and diverse skill sets can have in an industry where such attributes are rare. 

Just 2 per cent of all Aussie tradies are women, and females make up just 10 per cent of all construction industry workers. 

Earlier this month, Master Builders released a new policy platform last week to coincide with International Women’s Day in a bid to ignite meaningful discussion and change on what is described as a “critical issue.”

The Breaking Ground: Women in Building and Construction manifesto puts forward several proposals to boost lacklustre female participation and retention numbers holding the industry back.

And as one of the industry’s most successful lady tradies Shani says she understands exactly why women aren’t sticking around long enough to reap the rewards. 

“It all comes from being seen differently by some simply because you’re a woman,” she said.  

Shani says being a woman on site means she has experienced her fair share of rude comments and harassing behaviour from colleagues, but sometimes even from customers. 

“When I say no to someone, such as a client, I can get a lot of pushback,” she said

“But it was a lot easier working under my dad – he’s a big guy, and when he’d say no, the client would just agree.” 

“That’s one of the most obvious ways I’ve noticed women get treated differently.”

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Paul Eyers has worked as a journalist for a range of media publishers including News Corp and Network Ten. He has also worked outside of Australia, including time spent with ABS-CBN in the Philippines. Stepping away from the media, Paul spent five years sharpening his tools in construction - building his skill set and expertise within the trade industry. His diverse experiences and unique journey have equipped him with an insider view of Australia’s construction game to dig deep into the big stories.

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