About B&H Builders

Tom Bockenstedt and Celeste Holloway

Tom Bockenstedt and Celeste Holloway


Each year the Iowa City Press-Citizen invites it’s readers to choose the Best of the Area businesses.  The 2017 results are in and B&H Builders was chosen as the Best of Area in the Home Builders category.


Celeste Holloway remembers perfectly the day in 1991 when her carpenter husband, Tom Bockenstedt, came home from work and delivered an ambitious idea, with trademark enthusiasm. Tom said, “Let’s build a house. Let’s let the public decide if we’re ready to become general contractors,” Celeste recalls.

The husband and wife team built a spec home under a grueling schedule, wanting it ready for the Iowa City Parade of Homes that May. The diligence paid dividends. Tom and Celeste sold five homes from that one spec home. B & H Builders was born.

Since that spring more than two decades ago, B & H has become one of the area’s most esteemed home builders, with a portfolio of over 14 dozen homes. Their employees are all considered craftsmen–and like family.

In January of 2001 the company moved its headquarters from an office in the couple’s home, to a showcase 1,200 square foot office and 5,400-foot warehouse on Dolphin Drive. Then in 2013, the opportunity arose to build a new office and warehouse on Perch Drive incorporating many of the green building practices they utilize in the homes they build.

Tom and Celeste have parlayed their individual strengths into a winning formula. Tom is the experienced craftsman. When he was 24, with six years of experience as a carpenter for a Dyersville custom home builder, he traded his hammer for what he believed to be the next logical career step: a University of Iowa civil engineering degree.

But college taught him that logic and the heart aren’t always tandem forces. Tom, as it turned out, missed life among the sawdust.

“He didn’t want to sit at a desk. He realized he wasn’t an office person,” said Celeste, an Iowa City native who met Tom during his school days of revelation. She was the office administrator for an engineering firm at the time. They married, and became business partners.

Celeste is the office manager/organizer/in-house interior designer, the person who keeps each project scheduled, and guides clients through the myriad of selections.

“Our customers are always involved, but not overwhelmed,” said Celeste. “Ultimately, we always want the home building experience to be fun. It’s an enjoyable process.”

“If I could build a house with Tom and Celeste every year, just for the fun, I would do it,” said Dick Tucker, who with his wife Buffie, hired B & H to build their 4,500 square foot home in 1995.

In the seedling years, Celeste crunched numbers, while Tom built additions and worked home improvement jobs. They studied the housing market. They joined organizations. Tom has been Chair of the Parade of Homes and president of the Greater Iowa City Area Home Builders Association. They are members of the area’s Remodelors Council, Energy Efficient Building Association (EEBA) and the Concrete Foundations Association (CFA).