Last week, we focused on some design ideas inside the house. This week, we're moving up and out.
I was fortunate enough to design and build my house (with a contractor) with a pretty blank slate. Aside from budgetary concerns, which of course there were, I had the flexibility to move walls around, raise or lower window heights and configure the bathroom (100 different times).
The experience of walking around the flooring deck once it had been added to the foundation was great. I then started measuring, laying down dividers, trying to imagine being in the "space", and then measuring some more. It was awesome.
Today, let's talk about a few of the lessons I learned along the way and maybe you'll be able to use some of these when you start laying out your new home.
Design for the buyers. If you've been reading this column for a while you have heard me waffle on this topic countless times. For what it's worth, and unlike the waffling of essentially every single horrible politician in history, my waffling is based on the intent of the homeowner (and now I just want some waffles).
If you are building this home to sell (like I did) it is imperative that you keep the future buyers at the forefront of your decision making. If you are building it for your "forever" home, you can ignore me.
One of the primary mistakes I made (and regretted most days) was making the area above the living room a cathedral ceiling. For whatever reason, I had my heart set on a cathedral ceiling (with knotty pine wood) and stuck to my guns throughout the building process.
I did love it. It was beautiful and (although a bear to sand and stain) the exposed beams running across the room were almost exactly what I envisioned. Practically, however, it was a poor decision. It was simply terrible for heat disbursement throughout the home (it all went up to the master bedroom).
Secondly, it was just a poor use of space. Upstairs was a lovely, large master bedroom with a walk-in closet. The other half of the floor was a small alcove space where I put my desk. That whole half of the upstairs could have been (at least) another bedroom if not two small ones. Considering resale and usage as a ski home, it was shortsighted and it won't happen again. To reiterate: Keep the future buyers in mind if you're going to sell.
During construction, I had the immense (cannot be overstated) fortune of befriending Ed, my electrician. I would make the trip to the home supply store in Littleton and load up on outlets, wires and whatever else he added to my shopping list.
Then he and I would work together pulling the wires and getting everything setup for outlets, fixtures and appliances. He never once sent me a bill. I just kept him fueled with Dunkin. One of the best parts about this process was his encouragement to add extra outlets throughout the home.
If you have ever lived in an older home (most of us have) you have struggled with needing power at some location in the house and ending up with extension cords strewn about. We added outlets wherever we could think of as well as light switches over by the bed and lights inside each of the closets (one of the best ideas ever). If you are heading down this road yourself, do yourself (and your future buyers) a favor and add extra outlets. You won't be sorry.
Speaking of convenience (and lighted closets) don't scrimp on closet/storage space. Since this was your basic cape with a finished second floor, we had that crawl space on either side of the upstairs. Rather than let that go to waste, I had the builder throw in doors on both sides for access.
"Anywhere you can carve out space for storage (and not waste that vacant area) is very smart during construction," said Badger Realty agent Bernadette Donohue. "Simply having a spot for holiday decorations or even lawn furniture is priceless as your home starts to fill up with other stuff."
The last thing I will mention today is flexibility. And while I do stretches and yoga every morning, that's not what I'm referring to. Flexibility with, well, just about everything during construction will help this whole process go easier for you.
I had to be flexible with the builder's timelines, the design of the windows on the gable end (that faces Franconia Ridge), the location of the garage door, the position of the home itself and a myriad of other items that cropped up during construction.
Keep an open mind and let go of that timeline rigidity that you use during your "normal" life. Construction has a million variables and a million things that can and will arise to throw off your plan and timeline. Try and go with the flow to maintain your sanity.
Building a new home is one of the more satisfying and challenging things I have done in my life. I had a boat-load of time during the design and planning stage which helped me sort things out and prepare for when the hammer first hit the nail. Have fun with the design and keep in mind your enjoyment of the home as well as the future buyers. You won't get everything right the first time, but it will be fun trying! Happy hammering.