Designing our first house – ground up

April 24th, 2013

(final detail)

We have FINALLY finalized the floor plan and design of our new home. Thats a quick and easy sentence, but the process has been anything but quick and easy. It’s been a crazy road – I think my first sketch was the last week in January – and here we are the last week in April! Of course a lot happened between then and now like moving 2 states over, finishing up some killer deadlines, and of course taking care of 2 very little ones.

(Original exterior rough sketch)

Designing a house – especially your first house – is painstaking. We’ve labored over every door, wall, ceiling, and closet at least half a dozen times. And those are the simple things. The kitchen, bathrooms, fireplaces, stairs etc. were more like 2 dozen times each. Once we were pretty happy with the inside we turned to the outside. We had a vision and designed the outside. We *liked* it… a lot… but not enough (kind of like being engaged to a really nice guy, but knowing deep down that he’s just not the right one for you). This house is a heart and soul and probably the only house project of this magnitude that we’ll ever take on. So we revised, and revised, until late one night – after a stroke of design genius – we felt it was just right. During this process we played around with 3 or more design styles, inventing and reinventing ourselves our taste, our style, our environment. What did we want this house to say about us? What did this house want to say about itself?

(brainstorming sketch to change exterior to farm-house inspired elevation)

Forgive me for a moment as I wax poetic – I often am asked about my design process – so here is a little insight: As a designer, I believe in a very organic process. I try not to over think the process, instead I just let my designs be what they want to be. I don’t force or coerce my designs based on my initial vision – doing so would result in designs that are limited to my personal vision and my perceptions of my design ability. I use my initial vision as a jumping off point, not an end goal. Now if you’re not a designer or possible a new designer you may not know what I’m talking about, but trust me, if there is one bit of advice I can give about the design process it would be to not force anything – just let it flow and morph into what it wants to be. Because what it wants to be – if you let it spread it’s wings and fly – will most likely be greater than anything you could even imagine. And so that is what we did. We started out with a “transitional craftsman” and ended up with “contemporary farmhouse”. But what we really did is end up with something synergistic and amazing that we would have never designed if we didn’t let the design process take on a life of it’s own.

(3D of the new exterior taking shape)

If you are undertaking a home design or renovation, I think the first point of business is to know what you want. In our case we wanted a single-story home that had a simple, unique design, in a family friendly neighborhood. I wanted the living areas to flow well and I wanted my kids rooms close to mine for while they are still young, and a place for them to be further away when they are older (livable basement). I wanted a main floor guest room for our aging parents, and lots of comfortable and flexible work spaces since we spend so much time working in our home. We wanted the home to look unique, but not be so different that it couldn’t mesh in a standard suburban neighborhood. Most importantly, we wanted to incorporate as much detail work into the interior and exterior as we possibly could, which is why we labored so much over even the smallest of design choices. We had to make a lot of compromises along the way to stay in budget, but we tried to stay focused on the items that were most important to us.

Once you have the spaces nailed down, go over every room, wall, nook, cranny and imagine how you want to live, use, and decorate those spaces. Look at a million photos and blogs to get ideas. The more time you have for this process the better – we had very little time, so we did our best to pick one or two special things about each room/space and make sure that our floor plan included a way to make this happen. For instance – windows over the master bathtub, several niche’s that will have shelving, rooms framed specifically for beds to slide into nooks, use of reclaimed lumbar, beams etc. Don’t forget to imagine ways to incorporate special lighting, unique cabinetry, built-in shelving, and accent tile.

We have FINALLY finalized the floor plan and design of our new home… that includes all of the above. We didn’t want to break ground not being able to visualize the house from ground up. We’re hoping that thinking through the entire house from top to bottom helps the build process go quickly and as smoothly as possible – and perhaps on/under budget. One tool that we used for visualization was Google’s Sketch Up. It’s an easy-to-learn 3D program and the entry level version is free. We were able to Sketch-up the entire floorplan and exterior and solve problems and personalize the floor plan during the planning phase instead of the building phase. Now if that doesn’t save us time and money, I don’t know what will. So learning how to use a great program like that should definitely pay off.

(3D detail of the family room/kitchen using Sketch Up)

Reading through this – the process sounds like so much work. But for us, it has been nothing but fun. We try to get our work done a little faster and our kids in bed a little earlier and then we just savor the few hours before bed – to talk and dream and imagine up all the beauty and function that we want our future home to be.

(final sketch for Neighborhood Architectural Design Committee approval)

Pantry Inspiration and Plans – Canyon View Project House

April 8th, 2013
Okay things have gotten real over here with our new house. We’re going to break ground in a few weeks and until then we’re RUSHING to get the house designed so that everything is to our exacting specifications before we even start. We had to compromise on a lot of rooms/things in the house, but one thing that we both wanted was a large pantry.
I’ve been collecting pantry ideas and am so thrilled to be able to design my very own pantry. Here is some of my awesome inspiration:
Who doesn’t want a hidden entry into a pantry:
And this pantry design was the first inspiration that I had to create a butler’s type pantry with a countertop for appliances etc.
What an awesome place for your microwave! And more open shelving – love it!
Fun barn doors leading to a very open pantry really does make it like a second kitchen.
And if you’re looking for a more elegant butler’s style pantry. I love the idea of wallpaper or patterned tile. Or possibly planked wood.
And why not do it in a fabulous color??
Baskets, shelves, cabinets and coffee!
Might as well throw in a ladder!
This one is just perfection! I think mine will look closest to this room – though I think the color will be a more bluer version of this green – so a desaturated aqua/teal.
Aren’t those all mouth-watering pantries??? I get giddy just thinking about having something similar in my house. The space that we saved for a pantry is about 16’x8′ and is right off the kitchen area so that it can be used as a second kitchen. We’ll have a sink, dishwasher, fridge, and microwave in there. I’m also including a “mom’s desk” or “command central” for all the bills, mail, homework, tasks etc. The pantry also opens into the hallway right next to the garage, so it’s a good central exit/entrance.
I’ve put together my preliminary elevation ideas (using Adobe Illustrator), I’m sure these will change a bit before the final product. Check em out:
Sink View:
You can see the profile of the shelves on the right, And then there will be a small apron sink (24″), and a single dishwasher drawer to the left. I’m so beyond excited to have a window in the pantry.
Fridge View:
A few things to note on this side – The door from the kitchen will be a pocket door – so no swing issues. I’m thinking a cute little cup cabinet next to the sink – I had an inspiration photo of this but can’t find it. Left of the door is a built-in microwave (counter height), and plate dowels above the microwave. A row of glass-door cabinets above all of that for serving ware storage. We’ll also have a full-sized fridge in here, and next to that a big metal or chalkboard message board. (the wall here is flush with the fridge because of a coat closet that is in the hallway.
Desk View:
This is where my big open shelves come into play. So excited about those (I just adore open shelving). I’ll have some pull-out baskets for onions & potatoes, and then my awesome command central with lots of mail slots, and a pin board for chores etc. We’ll also have a charging station for phones and electronics here, and a printer.
I thew in a little color just to play around with some of the ideas floating in my head. I saw this awesome black/navy hutch, and thought the color was perfect for my desk area:
And the rest of the cabinets I was thinking a desaturated blue/green color and a wood or butcher block countertop. Here’s my illustration with some color dropped in:
So that’s our pantry plan for now. I would have to say that this is the room I’m most excited about in the whole house. I can’t wait for it to be done just so I can dance around in it! ¬†What do you think? What would you put in a butler’s pantry if you were designing it?

House Update – Weekly Wrap-up

April 3rd, 2013

Whew! Where to start…. So last thing I posted was our house for sale on the day we put it up for sale. And the last 5 weeks has been a blur! We got 9 offers in 2 days and only 24 hours to respond. So within the first 24 hours we accepted the first (and best) offer put on the house. We were then thrown into packing, finding a place to live, packing, deciding what we wanted to do with our future, packing, trying to tell Ollie what was going to be happening in his little world, and more packing. Not to mention working, minor repairs on the house, a few trips to good will, and planning our own going away party.

Now 5 weeks later we are *almost* settled into a rental house in Alpine Utah while we work on our plans to build our new house (can’t wait to share!) not too far from our rental. I haven’t even had a moment to wrap my brain around anything too far in the future — I’ve just been living a week (or day) at a time hoping that everything works out. But now that we’re pretty much settled there are so many decisions to make and so many things to do in the next few months. So I really am going to make an effort to blog as much as possible because 1. there is tons to blog about and 2. I would love to have a very concise record of this whole process. Also if you want to follow along, I know I’ll be updating my Instagram and Facebook even more often than my blog – so follow me there for more “in the minute” updates on our house design + build.

Ollie – He’s growing up so stinking fast! He’s so big – 99% for height at his 2 year doctor visit. He talks so much – new words everyday and communicates so well (after a few months of tantrums over not being able to communicate). He loves to read books, play with his trains, entertain his baby brother, and most of all play outside. He is so social and adores his friends and family.

Leo – He just turned 5 months old – which is my favorite baby age. Old enough to interact – young enough to not be able to move. He’s such a happy smiley baby. Loves any attention he can get and loves being in his jumperoo. He’s been sleeping great and in his very own room now – which means momma is sleeping great too!

2 kiddos – Having two is not TOO bad. I think the first 3 months were definitely the worst, but we’ve all adjusted and life has gotten much easier in the past month especially. I’m mostly in charge of Leo and Mr. Project is mostly in charge of Ollie. We always say that leo is work, but not trouble, and ollie is trouble but not work. So pick your poison I guess! I love watching the two of them interact though, and I can’t wait until they start to play together.

Rental House – We’re nearly all unpacked – but have most of our possessions in storage – so thats not a huge feat. Our rental house is nice and new, and big – though not as big as our last house so we have our “office” in the foyer space. Luckily there is a big storage room so that Leo can have his own room. Ollie is now sleeping in a big boy bed and doing GREAT- mostly due to the fact that he can’t open doors yet.

New House – We’ve pretty much finalized the floor plan, just working on some design details. We are meeting with our contractor on Thursday and hope to nail down the budget etc. I’ve been working on room elevations, and Mr. Project has been doing a massive 3D model on sketch-up so that we can see every surface of the house before we even break ground. Its tons of work, but it’s so much fun to work creatively on such a huge project. Here’s a snapshot of the laundry room elevation. Did I mention that we are excited?