Let me start by saying I am so incredibly grateful for the opportunity I have to build a home. I know it is not an opportunity just anyone gets, nor is it something everyone wants to do. But for those who have the opportunity or are fearful of the process, I want to share some tips I have learned over the past 20 years. My husband and I have built four personal homes and eleven investment homes, so I have learned a little about the process.
It all starts with a great builder, and like everything else in life, a great relationship. It is not an easy process, but it can be an incredibly creative and rewarding process. Everyone involved must communicate well-not only be clear in your desires and instruction, but repeat them often, and be completely open to input, criticism and compromise. Hmmmm- sort of like a good marriage! If those key elements are missing, the experience will be horrible and most likely the end result will NOT be what you desired, or it will be so tarnished by the time it is completed you won’t want it any more. Hmmmmm- a lot like a marriage. I guess that’s why they say, “Those who can build together can stay together.” Yep, that’s me and my man!
A good house plan is step one. Amazing sites to choose from. Get it finalized and then be happy with it. The best way to finalize plans is to utilize furniture templates (you can buy a stencil at an office supply store or download templates from various sites). Measure your furniture, find the corresponding template and then lay it out on the blueprint. This will help you adjust door locations, window locations and sizes, etc… Lesson 1: There is no perfect house, just lots of really good houses. Tweak your plan, have it drawn up and then live with it. I promise, there will be something you wish you had changed, but that is just life. You can sweat the small stuff or be happy. After all, a house is a house. A home is made with memories and personal touches.
Once you have your plan, keep it with you at ALL times. I promise, you will get a panicked call from a sub-contractor or the builder and need to make a quick decision or quick run to the building site. Just keep your plans with you and you’ll be prepared! In addition to plans, I have learned to keep a notebook with me. I have the builder’s contract list with everyone’s phone number, the builder’s quote (FYI-only use a builder who does a Cost-Plus fee, that’s the only true way to know exactly what your expenses are and control your expenses), each sub-contractor’s quote, furniture templates and extra paper.
Thirdly, I carry an expandable pocket folder. I have sections labeled for each room, a section for exterior, pen, tape measure, and all of my paint samples. Houzz and Pinterest are a girl’s best friend!!!!! Clip and pin to your hearts desire, but then print off images of specific items you want to replicate or build in to your design. Sub-contractors do not like looking at your iPad, smart phone etc… They want a hard copy to look at and/or even take with them. This pocket folder has a large pocket up front into which I can slide my binder. I can easily keep this with me at all times. It becomes my home building bible.
Finally, I love to make a small design board. I am no interior decorator/designer, but I love creating a small board to keep me inspired and focused. I purchase a small science board at a craft store and then begin to glue onto the board images of my favorite rooms, furniture pictures, swatches of fabric, paint chips etc… As you build you can easily get overwhelmed by all the books, magazines and sites you are looking through. You will also find you get lots of input from others. Looking at my board reminds me what I want my house to look like. It keeps me focused on the final product, overall “feel”, color scheme and design I am drawn to and love. Most of all, enjoy the journey. Don’t expect perfection. Don’t make it about you. Don’t get angry when deadlines aren’t met or someone makes a mistake. Remember it is a journey. Remember it is about building a structure in which you and your family will build a home. Remember it is about relationships.