A House That Breathes

If you have been following my blog, you know we built a home this past summer.  The process was exciting, fun, fulfilling.  It came at just the right time.  I was coming out of a two year process of some real life changes.  The kind of life changes that come with living past the age of 40.  Coming to terms with who I was, no longer trying to do.  Coming to terms with a family relationship I couldn’t fix, that would never change.  Healing.  Healing the empty places I had allowed to grow trying to be for others, for society, for family.  Coming to terms with my spiritual self, understanding who God is in new ways, ways only made possible by the hurts, the struggles, the disappointments, the losses of this life.  Celebrating.  Celebrating surviving young motherhood.  Celebrating the young women my daughters are becoming.  Celebrating making it past 20 years with my best friend and husband.  Celebrating friendships, the authentic ones.  The friendships of women who bare their souls, are strong enough to cry, to admit weakness, to ask for help.  Celebrating being that friend to a few, the special ones.  Celebrating family, embracing family.  In the midst of it all I learned to breathe.

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It may sound trite, but it’s not an easy thing to do.  And yet, breath is the very sustenance of life.  We rush through life taking shallow breaths, breathing in quickly, exhaling too quickly.  We rush.  We find ourselves holding our breaths in an attempt to hold our anger, our sorrow, our excitement.  It requires yoga class or meditation therapy or a doctor to remind us to breathe-really breathe.

I have learned to breathe and as we set out to build I wanted to create a home that would breathe.  We purged.  Being an organizer, that wasn’t terribly difficult, but it still required thought, discipline and action.  I kept only what we loved and used.  I set out to paint the home in an array of neutrals-shades of white.  I set out for there to be open spaces, empty spaces.  Week before last I had my first “gathering” of those outside the family.  As the guests arrived, more than one commented on the house.  There were the usual compliments, but the greatest of them all were these words, “I love it.  I walk in and I take a deep breath and feel myself relaxing.  There is space.  There is calm.”  Not just once did I hear these words, but three times. Satisfaction.  The years of struggle.  The years of battling my “demons” within, were all worth it.  In those moments I knew I was living, living the life of abundance, peace, contentment.  I was breathing.  My home was breathing.

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Possibility is not in the stuff.  It is not in the structure of the home.  It is not in the activity.  It is not in doing.  Possibility is in the stillness, the knowing, the being.  My life is lived in shades of white.  My calendar is filled with white space.  Not by chance, but by choice, by discipline, by intention.  My walls are filled with white space.  Not by chance, but by choice.  My thoughts are focused on what is most important.  My eyes rest on art and pieces of furniture most important.  And in the in-between, in the shades of white, I can breathe.  I can sit and listen.  I can hear the still small voice of God speak clearly regarding who I need to be, who He is.  My home rests, it breathes.  It holds room for life, for guests to enter, to take a breath and rest.

I challenge you to create a home that breathes.  As you enter the holidays and think towards the year ahead, what can you eliminate?  What areas cause you stress?  What rushes you each day?  Find your shades of white, breathe and live.

A few of the rooms I used as inspiration:

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House Construction Almost Done, Home Construction Just Beginning

The journey to our new home continues.  While I have continued to use my trusty Home Building Binder and Expandable Folder, let me assure you not all has gone as planned.  Add to that our crazy moves (two to be exact), and well, it’s been all we expected and more!

My husband and I have built 5 personal homes, counting the current house under construction.  We love the process.  We get along during the process, which some would say is a testament to our marriage.  Of course, there are those who say we are crazy and I am sure there are those who would judge us for spending the money.  No comment.  We love the process.  We have learned from the process.  We look forward each time to the construction of the house, but even more to the construction of the home.

Paul and I share the gift of hospitality.  We truly believe our home is meant to be used to entertain, welcome, serve, heal and encourage others.  We love guests-so yes, if you are reading and want to come visit-COME ON!  We have sought to teach our girls to love home-to care for it using principles of biblical stewardship; to spend time in it; to entertain friends; to create in it…  We have not built extravagant houses.  I have yet to get my Viking Range in my dream kitchen.  The Moroccan tile bathroom got nixed.  The pantry turned out smaller than planned.  One closet was negatively impacted by a failure to realize the door needed to be off center.  There are moments of disappointment.  There are moments of frustration.  So why do we do it?  How do we survive it?  Simply focus on the home you want to build, not the construction of a house.  The house construction will go awry.  Subs will make mistakes.  Subs will be late.  Concrete, boards, sheet rock, duct work, etc… are simply the framework for the house.  Yes, it requires planning and attention to detail.  But if your focus is on the framework, you’ll end up one frustrated, disappointed, angry person.  However, if you focus your attention on the outcome-how you want to LIVE in the home, you’ll be able to let the little things be little things.  I can still prepare delicious meals without a Viking.  My kitchen can still be filled with light, laughter and love without a Viking Range.  The clothes will still fit in the not so perfect closet and it can lead to an opportunity to scavenger the area for a worn armoire to paint, adding some pizzazz and style to a daughter’s room.  As we walk through our imperfect construction, we talk about the events we want to host, we talk about where friends will sleep, we talk about pool parties and family holidays.  The joy of building comes in dreaming about all that will take place in our home.

We are nearing the end.  Three more weeks!  We are excited.  We are grateful.  We are ready to get back to normal-if such a thing exists.  But most of all, we are ready to share our home.  We are past the little mistakes.  We are past the frustration and disappointment.  We have our eye on the prize- a framework of a house turned into a home as we live, laugh, play in it.  We can’t wait to welcome family, friends and even strangers.  We are almost done with construction, but the journey to constructing our home has just begun!

 

5 Tips for Surviving Construction

1.  Plan, plan and then plan some more (see previous post)

2.  Communicate with your contractor daily-even if just a short text.

3.  Walk through your home with plans in hand every day.

4.  Expect mistakes and delays.

5.  Spend more time talking about how you will live in the home, than what you want it to look like.

A Well Planned Home

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.

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