When we decided to build, everyone warned me how stressful it was going to be! I was prepared for the worst. My husband and I sat down and had the talk... each of us agreed we would not let the other one go over board. We did not need "all the things". We would stick together, be a team, and it would bring us together, not pull us apart.
Blah, blah, blah, best of intentions, etc.! Well some of these goals we made good on (we were definitely a team!) and most we could have done better (ahem... budget), but when all was said and done, both of us said we would do it again! Should we ever move again (NO), we would build. It was that great of an experience!
Building from the ground up is FUN you guys! At the end you are living inside a building that was once just a vague idea swimming around in your own imagination. Crazy! You may only do this once in your life, so enjoy it!
If you are starting out with a builder, or maybe you are simply considering all your options, here are the 5 things I would want to know before diving in! Or before you dab on your foundation!
1. A VISION is everything. This is so crucial to keeping you sane. Don't start without a clear idea of what each room will look like- not just the fun stuff, like the exterior and the kitchen- plan how you will style each room, what will the big picture look like in the bathrooms, every bedroom... picture it in your head. Where will you put your existing furniture? What will the vibe be in that room? What sort of finishes? What kind of paint color for the walls? You can nail down the actual specifics later, but have a good idea for the look and feel of every single room in your mind and a plan ahead of time.
Hire a designer if it is in the budget at all; this can be the way to go if you are not someone who is good at making lot of decisions. It was something we spoke about for a bit. But I have my own strong opinions and am so design obsessed, I was ready to dig in and make those choices myself!
You will be bombarded with thousands of choices everywhere you turn. Prepare yourself by doing research for inspiration ahead of time. For instance, you won't know exactly which tile you want before you begin visiting actual tile shops, but you want to come armed with pictures you like and ideas. I knew in the boys bathroom I was doing all white and blacks, and so I knew going in I wanted the floor to have a dark tile. I knew for the girls' bath I wanted to use a light colored flooring, laid out in a zig zag. I didn't know which one. But it was easier to pick out what I wanted when I was faced with thousands of tile choices in the shop, because I had those ideas and inspiration already. When building, one decision affects the next, and it's quickly too late to go back for a redo.
Inspiration is so easy! I am going to tell you exactly what I did to get all of my ideas. First, get on Pinterest and make a board for every room in your new house! Follow some designers who have your same style. You will want the big ones- that ones that gut homes and do total renovations. My 3 personal favorites were Studio McGee, Becky Owens, and Amber Interiors. I pinned away at all of their rooms that I thought I could take some bits and pieces from. Towards the end, I tried to find one photo for each room in my home that inspired me the most, and I would consult that picture often. Was I keeping with the same feel of that room?
Next, download the Houzz app and create a profile so you can also save pictures there; there are so many experienced people from all backgrounds who will answer your questions or have asked the exact question you are wondering about. Plus there are pictures galore! I was obsessed with Houzz- it was what convinced us we needed to bring our kitchen cabinets all the way up to the ceiling instead of stopping a foot under. So many threads and so many opinions on that topic.
Lastly, follow some custom home builders on instagram for inspiration- a lot of big builders love to post kitchen and bathrooms and fun tiles! Of course you will also want to follow your same favorite interior designers on instagram too. Pin your heart out until you can see it all in your mind.
So by the time we got to planning our bathroom on our 3rd floor, I was out of ideas! It's our 5th bathroom in the house and the one I knew would get the least amount of use. It was strictly existing for resale purposes, or for any guests who might stay up there. Because of that, I didn't prioritize it. I picked out this fun tile floor, but I just couldn't nail down how I wanted the rest of the space to look. I'll spare you the details, but after we moved in I felt like it was all over the place. I ended up switching out the aged brass handles for acrylic, and replacing the mirror- which was backordered by that time and at Christmas our guests had no mirror in their bath. Extra annoyances I could have lived without!
2. If your partner has an opinion on design, learn how you are going to be able to work together. What if your styles are vastly different? What if his style is say, modern, and you like rustic farmhouse? Well, those two styles CAN blend (I love a farmhouse table with modern chairs!) but you both are going to have a lot of negotiating to do. Learn how to compromise... a lot. Let him get the sleek vanity in the bathroom if you can get the chandelier you want over the table.
That being said: if you have different styles than your partner, regardless of what they may be, I would advise *not* going with anything too loud or too far in one direction- stick with understated choices since you are marrying two different styles!
plan for more storage than you think you'll need
3. I am so glad our architect pushed us to go with extra storage! At the time I thought it was unnecessary, but now I see the value! Seven months into our home and we still have all these empty drawers in the kitchen! One day we will have a house full of teenagers, and I am so grateful to have empty closets and drawers and storage benches waiting for us to grow.
If you don't have enough room for extra storage- what can you move around while you are designing the floor plan? We sized down our downstairs guest bath in place of a giant walk in pantry. SUCH a good decision! When we go to Costco, we fill that baby up! It works hard for us with a spice rack, our central vac + broom storage, and our family calendar! We don't miss the space in the bathroom whatsoever!
4. Once you start the process and you are picking things out for your home, if you are splurging on every idea that comes your way, long before you get to the landscaping there will be nothing left. So be discerning. My mindset was always 'after this purchase, there's nothing else extra I will want so I can stay in budget'. Wrong. There is always something and it is all so hard to turn down. Know that if you get the best countertops, put hardwoods everywhere, take the ceilings up higher all in the beginning, there will be other things later you will be forced to turn down. Even the carpet, which is one of the last things done in the house, had me debating if it was worth it to go over budget.
One thing I am very glad I spurged on was the one item I almost didn't do, because I didn't see the value in it. My husband and mom were both urging me to get a central vac. Spend a few thousand on a vacuum? Psh, no. But I am so glad they talked me into it! I am obsessed with our central vac. and it makes mom life so much easier. Pretty sure this qualifies me as a total boring adult, but it is actually fun to use! It is so light, it's glides over the floor like it's nothing. You just push it into the wall and go. I use it multiple times a day now simply because it is easy.
Find ways to splurge in a smaller ways to help stay in budget! For instance, I wanted our electrical outlets put into the baseboards instead of the drywall for a more seamless look. We cut costs by only doing this on the first floor. I have no regrets there! Another common idea that lots of people do is to create your kitchen island out of a luxury countertop, and keep the surrounding countertops in a less expensive material.
how much time? how much money?
5. Things will go awry. Miscommunications will take place. Hopefully, they won't be big ones and you can smooth out all the little hiccups. The two big questions when you don't like how something is turning out are how much time and how much money to make it better? Then you will have your answer.
After the plans were all laid out on paper for our home, I started thinking about how I really wanted the roof over our front porch to be metal. But I forgot to tell the builder (or anyone, for that matter). Not sure what I was thinking there.... 🤷🏽♀️ One day months later, I came to check on the house and as I stood in front watching men put up a shingle roof over our front porch, my mouth dropped open. I realized I forgot to communicate my change of roof to anyone! How could I be so stupid? I had forgotten all about it! I started CRYING you guys. I called my builder right away... and he sort of put me off, saying it was too late- we would have to redo this and that, and the metal hadn't been ordered and would take too long to come in, and basically we would have needed to plan for that weeks ago so that decision was off the table. I took his no for an answer and hung up the phone defeated. I went home and sulked on the couch. I obsessed over it all day. I started thinking the porch roof was going to always be a "thing" that would bug me about the house. (No.) I called my friend and whined to her. She said, "Well, it's not REALLY too late. How much time, and how much money to go back and change it?" I called the builder back. "I know the shingle roof is already mostly up over the porch," I said, "but how much time exactly, and how much money are we talking about to take it off?"
Turns out, not a lot of time at all and not so much money we couldn't make it happen. And I love my metal roof.
I hope this post is helpful for you! I am so incredibly grateful I was able to go through this process and I want to encourage others to be able to enjoy it the way we did! As always, feel free to reach out with any questions you may have.