A good number of Elegant Homes’ clients are business owners who not only have it build their homes, but also their offices.
It has been almost 30 years since Ranny McKee was in a dirt bike accident that left him paralyzed from the neck down — or so his doctors thought. Unwilling to accept that fate, McKee persevered through what could have been the end of life as he knew it to fulfill his lifelong dream of becoming a custom homebuilder.
Today, McKee walks every square foot of the multimillion-dollar custom homes his company, Elegant Homes, builds in Las Vegas. “Before the accident, when I was working for a production company, I would look up in the hills at the big custom homes and thought, ‘I’m going to be up there one day building houses on the hill,’” McKee remembers. “Then I had this accident and was being told I’d never move from the neck down. I was 25 at the time and remember thinking my life was over.”
Becoming a custom homebuilder was a dream of McKee’s since he was a child. Growing up, he always wanted to be the best at whatever he did and have the nicest things. There was no YouTube or Instagram at the time to see how the other half lived and he didn’t grow up in a custom home, so McKee is not sure where that need came from, but his determination to achieve more may very well be what saved his life.
“I was just born wanting to be the best and have the best, so at 16 I wanted a job that would pay me enough to have a nice car,” McKee remembers. “Construction was really the only job someone at that age could make more money than working at a fast-food place.”
McKee learned how to perform every phase of construction through on-the-job training. He worked for one company where quality meant nothing to the owner and for another builder where nothing but perfection was accepted. “I saw the difference between the two and thought, ‘I could do this and do it right,’” he remembers. “I’ve always wanted to make people happy and always believed one day I would build houses and do it right so everyone would be happy and the quality would be so good.”
At 17 years of age, McKee received his contractor’s license from the state of Arizona and started his own company. McKee focused on remodels, which soon led to him building his first home.
When the economy in Arizona crashed, he moved to Las Vegas where the economy was still booming and went to work for a production homebuilder. His work ethic and dedication to quality put him on the fast-track and McKee became the production builder’s vice president of construction.
McKee’s life was going as planned until Jan. 13, 1991, when he and some friends were practicing racing dirt bikes on a track near Silver Bowl Park in Las Vegas. It was a routine jump that he had cleared thousands of times before, but something went horribly wrong this time.
“I came up short and when I hit it, it threw me over the handlebars and I went face-first into a berm,” McKee remembers. “I wasn’t in the right gear for the jump, but I was already committed. I knew I was in trouble.”
McKee suffered a broken neck, wrist and back. The crash knocked him out, but when he came to, he noticed an arm lying next to him. “I knew it was mine because of the jersey and glove, but it no longer seemed to be attached to my body,” he remembers.
McKee then bit the hand that was over his face and realized he couldn’t feel anything. Because he had friends who had been paralyzed from racing dirt bikes, that’s how he knew he couldn’t move anything from the neck down.
Lying in Wait
Doctors told McKee every day in the hospital that he would never move again. “Being told that by all the doctors was unbelievable,” he says.
However, giving up was never an option for McKee. Every day he would try to move his toes and although it was exhausting, he never lost hope. When he tried to move his fingers or toes, McKee says it felt like he was wiggling them, but in reality, they weren’t moving.
Then one day he did it — his toes moved on his right foot. His doctors explained he would get small movements, but never more than that. When he could bend his arm at the elbow, he was met with the same discouraging response.
McKee’s family asked whether he would be able to move his hands again and the doctors said it took so much to make a hand work and that his would never work again. “That was devastating because I did so much work with my hands,” he says. “That was really hard.”
After being in the ICU for months, McKee says he was moved to the basement of the hospital with other quadriplegics where he was told he would not receive physical therapy. He was told to read books with his family and learn how to live as a quadriplegic. A month-and-a-half later, he transferred from the hospital in Las Vegas to one in California where he started receiving physical therapy.
“Insurance only pays for so much time, so after an hour of therapy they let me stay in the gym,” McKee remembers. “I wasn’t able to walk, but I could sit on a bike. My family would tape my feet to the pedals and I would ride for an hour. We did that all week. I worked and worked.”
McKee gradually worked his way up to stand up from his wheelchair. He took two steps before falling, but was determined to take more steps every day. Eventually he was able to get around and kicked the wheelchair, walker and cane before walking on his own again.
Although it’s not easy for McKee to get around today and he still walks with a limp, he has built one of the most successful custom homebuilding businesses in Las Vegas and owes it all to his self-discipline and perseverance. Two years after his accident, McKee founded Elegant Homes.
“I’ve always been a good person and a caring person who would never take advantage of anyone,” McKee says. “After I left my house that day, I was paralyzed that fast, but I got a second chance to walk again. That’s why I care so much about my clients and that they have to be happy.”
Building Up in the Hills
Today, Elegant Homes builds extravagant, multimillion-dollar custom homes for celebrities, athletes and successful business men and women. If you are like Las Vegas businessman Mark Lindsey and want an elevator for your car that brings it up to the master bedroom — McKee will make it happen.
“There is always that fear of whether I am going to be able to handle some of the over-the-top requests, but there has never been anything I can’t do,” McKee says. “To this day it’s very hard to get around, but I’m in and out of the houses daily. My clients are in awe, always telling me what an inspiration I am.”
Elegant Homes delivered a fully custom 30,000-square-foot home in Seven Hills for Lindsey that features a $500,000, 16-seat home theater, a climbing wall, a two-story foyer water-wall and the car elevator. “The clients I build for are successful people, but everyone has a budget,” McKee says. “Mark was an exception. He came to me wanting a house that would stand out above all others in Las Vegas. It was a lot of fun working on a project where the sky was the limit. And our team was able to go all out.”
McKee’s list of clients includes former UNLV men’s basketball coach Lon Kruger and former NFL players Steven Jackson and Brian Kelly. In addition to Lindsey, a good number of his clients are business owners who not only have McKee build their homes, but also their offices.
“Commercial builds are getting kind of cool now,” McKee notes. “A lot of the stuff in their houses they want it in their offices, so it’s exciting.”
Although Elegant Homes is expanding into commercial construction, McKee’s heart will always be in custom homebuilding. “In the custom market, so much of it is about your reputation,” he says. “I like being in my houses and it keeps me moving. I love what I do.”