Designing a house from start to finish is hard. Really hard. I’m not going to say it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done, because I’ve been married almost 30 years and raised three children, but it’s certainly up there. I’m a design obsessed person, so I’ve spent my life thinking about what I like and don’t like. You’d think after 50+ years I would have a clear idea of what my house should look like. The problem is, as a design lover, there are so many styles I love that it’s really hard to choose. For every little decision, it’s making a choice among many, perhaps infinite, great options.
This isn’t the first house I’ve built, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. It’s funny, when you’re building a house everyone you work with expects you to say, “this will be my final house! They’ll have do drag my cold, dead body out of this house!” But I know myself too well. I love building houses, and the temptation to “get it right this time” is always too great to ignore. After about 7 years I get the urge to do it again. Doesn’t mean I won’t miss that house greatly, but I feel the need to create again.
My previous experiences with home building have been in what I’d call “developments.” A builder buys up a bunch of lots in a new neighborhood and gives you a few floor plans to choose from. You have some options available to personalize the house, but the choices are very limited, and mostly the houses in the neighborhood end up looking pretty much alike. I did that twice — three times, if you count a townhouse where we really had almost no choices available to us. That was our first house. We were 25, only married a year, and I was pregnant with our first child. Crazy that we thought we were capable of buying a new house, let alone making even minimal choices about it. I remember that we fought tooth and nail with the builder for him to throw in actual banisters/railings on the stairs. The standard was drywall with a handrail attached. Everything was so cheap in that house. But we lived happily there for 5 years, had a second child, and did a lot of growing up ourselves.
Throughout the next two home builds we were given more choices about specific details, and I learned more about my personal style. What I actually learned is that it’s a moving target. It changes quite a bit over time, and things that I at one time thought I hated, I often end up liking when I can put my own spin on them. So, I no longer rule anything out.
With this new house, we are building on our own land and using an architect to design our house from scratch, with almost no restrictions on it’s appearance. No builder floor plans and no neighborhood guidelines to follow. Pretty much anything’s possible. As anyone who’s been around a while knows, too many choices is almost as hard as not enough choices. Of course, we’re still constricted by a budget and have to pick and choose where to put our money. If we splurge in one place, then we have to cut costs somewhere else. For example, we began the process wanting a white brick exterior. But we soon realized that if we spent money on that we would have quite a bit less in the budget for the interior. So we’re going with white siding instead. There will be a million examples of this give and take to come.
The look I’m going for in this house is what I would call “Collected Eclectic” with a European influence. Mostly white walls, white oak floors which I’m hoping will have a limed finish, and lots of interesting antiques mixed with a few modern pieces. The outside is going to be a very traditional Georgian shape with white siding, white shutters, a white brick foundation, and bluestone porches/walkways. More on all that to come.
Next post: the exterior, and diving into the floor plan.