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Designing a House

Alright y’all, it’s finally time to dig into the plans for the new house! YAY! So this post is going to be a bit of back story on the house, and in the next few posts I’ll share our inspiration pics and floor plan. And bear with me because it’s kinda all over the place (I’m trying to keep it somewhat short and sweet).

Here we go….

We designed our new house from scratch. As in, here is a blank piece of paper….draw your dream home. Sounds awesome right? It is. Also, it’s extremely hard.

Adam and I have always wanted to build a custom home, and I have had a general floor plan in mind for basically a decade…so I figured getting it out of my head and onto paper would be relatively easy. That, however, was not true. I went through so many (like a whole book) of graph paper before I had something that even relatively worked. We had originally started out wanting a barn home, something that was pretty much a big square, kinda like these (well, the first three)…

Barn homes

But it just didn’t work for the floor plan I wanted. It was too wide, nothing had enough windows, and each rooms dimension effected the others too much. It just wasn’t working. When it was all said and done we ended up with more of  “T” shaped house, and it works great. I wish I would have saved all our changes along the way, but all I have is this picture….

designing a house yourself

For months Adam and I carried around tape measures, measuring all the rooms and houses we came in contact with. We probably measured our own home a thousand times. I taped off walls and furniture on our current floors, trying to get an idea of exactly how much space we needed and how it would flow. And right when we thought we had it all figured out, we would measure something else and make a few more changes. So, as you can imagine, the house turned out bigger than originally planned….it kinda just crept up on us, one change at a time. The main (and really only) floor is 2,400 square feet, and the loft above the kitchen and dining room (there’s nothing up there, it’s basically a sky basement) is 500 square feet. So 2,900 square feet total. Saying it out loud sounds kinda ridiculous right now (our current house is 1650 square feet), but I know it will suit our growing family nicely. Babies only get bigger, after all.

We have some very good friends, Darin and Jody (our table building buddies), that bought land shortly before we did. One day the four of us were sitting around talking about our future homes (probably sometime around last Thanksgiving) we realized something…we wanted basically the exact same thing, we have the same taste, and each want to do a lot of work ourselves to save money. So we did the only thing that made sense….we decided to just build the same house. The four of  us designed it together, are using the same custom builder, and are going to help each other with all the DIY projects along the way. We both plan to have the builder build the “shell” of the home – finish the outside, get up sheet rock and texture, rough in plumbing and electrical…and that’s about it. We plan to do all the cabinets, flooring, fixtures, trim, painting, all that fun stuff. It should be interesting, especially considering that between our two families we have seven small kids.

Anyway, back to designing the house…

First I went to town on my graph paper, trying my best to figure out the basics, and Adam saved me many times when my brain was just about fried. After it was laid out fairly well on graph paper Adam put what we had into an architectural computer program. At some point we finally figured out how to view a 3D model from the outside….and it looked terrible. We’re not architects, that’s for sure. So after many meetings/brainstorming sessions with our friends we eventually hammered out something that looked good and was laid out well.  

Then (since none of us have any idea what we’re doing) we took those plans to an architect and had her make actual blueprints. She was great, and came up with all sorts of ideas (like where to put the stairs, something none of use were able to figure out) and put up with us making a ton of changes for weeks….months maybe. In the end our two houses turned out slightly different, but I’d say they are about 95%  the same. Also, Darin and Jody are building first and have already started the foundation.

friends form boards

I think it’s safe to say that I have never been more excited to have friends building a house. We visit their property and watch the progress just like it was our own….cause it kinda is.

Although, my younger brother (remember him?) is building a house at the same time as well, his foundation was just poured last week.

Eric's foundation

And best of all, he and his fiancé are building in the same neighborhood we are. That’s right, it’s basically Everybody Loves Raymond over here. Adam likes to try and freak them out by constantly saying how convenient it’s going to be to have babysitters living so close. He’s totally kidding, of course….kinda….

So far, even though we haven’t broken ground yet, I can tell that remodeling a house and creating one from scratch are extremely different. When remodeling you can see what you’re doing as you go, and making decisions is fairly easy because you can visualize it in the space. Also, there are lots of restrictions…you can’t just go around moving all the walls and whatnot. It is what it is, to a certain extent. But there are no rules when designing one from scratch, the possibilities are endless. It’s like going to a restaurant and being given one of those huge six page menus and taking half an hour to choose your meal. Sometimes it’s easier to get a paper menu with only four options. Not that I want a paper menu or anything, but trying to pick finishes for a house that doesn’t exist is difficult. Difficult and really, really fun.

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  1. Gah! So excited for you! Building our own house is the dream for us. When you first posted about paying off your mortgage and mentioned Dave Ramsay I immediately got his book and we’ve been trying to follow his advice since. We’re a long way off paying off our house but we’re in a hell of a better position than we would have been if I hadn’t read your post (we only bought last October and we would have definitely spent a lot more than we have) so thank you so much!
    Can’t wait to see the layout! :)

    1. You have no idea how happy this comment made me! I’m so glad my post lead you to Dave and to being in a better financial position. I love it! It’s hard work to budget and live under your means, but so worth it. Building this new house is a little scary for us, we’ve been without a mortgage for a few years now and it’s simply amazing. Now we’re jumping back into having one and it makes me a little uncomfortable. Hoping to pay this one off quickly as well!

      1. I’m sure you guys will have this one paid off in no time too, and then you’ll be in the house of your dreams with no mortgage for the rest of your lives, imagine what you can do then?! I’m so happy for you guys :)
        And yes, I’m finding budgeting and denying ourselves tough cos we haven’t been used to it, but at the moment I’m off work with our kids and yet when I say “we’re broke” at the end of the month what I mean is “we’ve run out of this months allowances and we’re not touching our savings” whereas to a lot of our friends it means “I literally have no money and I’m in a lot of debt to boot”, so all in all it’s so worth it!

  2. I couldn’t do it. Way way too many decisions! My brain would explode. Wonderful
    that you have partners in this! Sounds like it makes it a little bit easier :)

    1. It really does make it easier! Having some one who cares as much as you do to bounce ideas off is great. Right now they (Adam and Darin) are out picking up 100 year old giant beams to use in our houses.

  3. The new house plan sounds awesome!! How exciting. That’s super fab that you have your friends doing things with you. More heads to think about things and way more fun!!

    We’ve been on the Dave Ramsey plan since I read that post of yours, too. We’re well on our way with baby step 2, with less than 10,000 left in debt. So thank you again and again for that!!

  4. Wow, that home is absolutely beautiful. I love the design you guys made because it is so rustic yet very elegant. I would like to design a home one day too, but I didn’t really know how to get started. Your post inspired me!

  5. Hi I am just curious about the building just the structure? My husband leaves the Army in December and we are headed to Austin area and plan on buying an old house to fix up DIY as we are able to, but you have intrigued me to look at land and build by just having them do the structure only. I have a plumber brother in law and my husband did HVAC and my brother is an electrician, the structure is all I need. Would you mind sharing a little on costs? I dont mean to pry, but curious and trying to decide if buying land is an option for us instead

    1. I’d be glad to share what I’ve learned so far! The trick to building a structure only and finishing it yourselves is finding a builder that is okay with it. A lot of builders (and banks) won’t be. You would be doing more work than we are though, we are paying people to do the HVAC, plumbing, electrical, etc. The only things we are doing ourselves is the interior finish work…doors, trim, cabinets, flooring, plumbing and electrical fixtures (were having them stubbed out), painting, stuff like that. Also, you have to have A LOT of money up front to build your own home…more than we anticipated. Our quote for building the structure only (and the barn) is about $220K, and we are hoping to finish it out for about 30K (totally guessing on that, but I think it sounds reasonable). We had one builder price it finished and the quote was about 400K, (crazy!), so there is definitely some money to be saved doing it yourself. I do think buying and renovating would be easier, if your not set on building your own home. Also, with a construction loan you have to have the house “livable” within a year and close out the construction loan or bad things happen, so you kinda have to book it (which is freaking me out a little).

  6. On October 3, thirty high scoohl students from Mount Si’s Key Club visited the homes of two elderly folks in North Bend. Armed with gloves, garden tools, and determination ..they set out to offer assistance to these homeowners where the labor had simply become too big an obstacle. The students split and stacked firewood, trimmed overgrown bushes and hedges, brought garden beds back to objects of beauty, raked leaves, and filled an enormous trailer with discarded and rotting lumber that was taken to the dump. The best part of this endeavor was the smiles and hugs given by the homeowners to these high scoohl Key Clubbers. That so many showed up at their homes to Pay it Forward was overwhelming and one of the most heart-warming experiences I have seen. Way to go Mount Si Key Club!

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