Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Hope I Don't Forget Anything!

pdx craftsmanImage by dolanh via Flickr (Not our house, but ours will be Craftsman)
I spent many many hours Sunday afternoon going back through all of my computer files, images, paper materials, and old versions of the house plans, making tweaks of the current plan and making sure I don't forget anything that I wanted to be sure to include. All I have left, then, is to look at all of my Firefox bookmarks. Then I can finalize the floor plan, window size and placement, etc. It feels good to be in a position where I'm doing all of this, but there is a lot of pressure on me (put on by me) to make sure we get this right. I mean, this is going to be our house, for at least the next 20 years, if not longer. At least we hope. So if I create something that's got glaring annoying unfixable bits, that's bad. Chances are very good that there will be some parts that annoy us, that I didn't get right, but hopefully those are minor or fixable.

Once I'm done with my part of the plans, I'll go over them with Ed, make sure his bits are included, and then he'll work on drafting them up. Then we'll be able to go to builders, find three that we like, and ask for hard bids. Then, and only then, will we know if we can actually afford to build this thing. If we can't, my plan B is to leave the basement unfinished (but with interior walls, I hope), except for a full bathroom. Then we'll live up stairs and finish the downstairs as we have the money. This will be a vast improvement over what we live in now, for a few reasons, even though the square footage of the upstairs is about the same or a little less than what we're living in now. One, we'll have the entire downstairs to store things. Two, we'll have a real kitchen, with an actual oven, and a dishwasher! Three, we'll be paying a mortgage instead of rent.

So... On I go some more.
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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A Pattern Language

Have you ever read a book that was written in an odd way but just made complete sense to you? Like you knew it all along but couldn't put it into words? Your feelings and reactions had previously figured it out, but your brain hadn't translated it into words? Well, that's all fine and dandy when you are deciding what you like and what you don't like, but what if you have to create something you know you will like out of nothing?

When designing our house, I used The Not So Big House books quite a bit. Sarah Susanka referred to a book called A Pattern Language by Christopher Alexander, so I found that one at the library. Turns out that she used A Pattern Language on which to base almost all of her house ideas. I could see how her books came about. Her books are still very good to read, but to get down to the nitty gritty details of what makes a house a home, what makes it livable, comfortable, and welcoming, you really need to read A Pattern Language. Oh, and it would also help you design a city.

For those who don't know, A Pattern Language is about places. It starts big and gets smaller and smaller in scope as you go through the book. If you wanted to design a city, real or pretend, it would be really useful. If you want to design a neighborhood, again, very useful. A house, a room... It just gets smaller and smaller. About half of the book is applicable to house design, and it's been my biggest reference work for making sure the house will be a home. I highly recommend it to anyone, either for practical use, or just as an intellectual exercise.
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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

This is What I've Researched For

www.aadesignbuild.com, Film Critic's Home Offi...(I want lots of bookcases, but this isn't our house) Image by A&A Design Build Remodeling, Inc. via Flickr
After talking with a friend who drafts house plans for a living, we've decided that we're at a point where we need to finalize the house design and layout. The first step is up to me. Here's some background.

Ever since we bought our lot, I've been planning and designing our house. I've had so many incarnations of the thing, dozens in fact. So now that it's all going to actually move forward, I need to go back through all of those versions, all of my research and ideas, all of my notes and house books, and come up with The Final Version. This is easier said than done. I've learned so much over the years, and internalized so many details, that I've forgotten what stood out earlier as important. I hope to be able to figure this all out as quickly as possible, but I'm very busy in some other realms, too.

After I've finalized plans, making sure everything Ed wants is in there, too, then we can go on to the "real" drafting. I use a program called Punch! Professional Home Design which is, obviously, designed for this kind of thing. However it doesn't create, exactly, the kinds of files that builders need to build from. So it's great for some stuff, for getting ideas quickly set up and for thinking about what parts actually go into a house, but it will need to be turned into a set of .dwg files by either Ed or our friend. That will be step two. Then we can start shopping for builders.

We don't have a deadline for all of this, but we'd like to take advantage of the fact that builders need work right now and so their prices should be lower.
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Friday, April 09, 2010

And On We Go...

Note: Not our house at right. I wish. Ideally the house we build will look similar to this.

We eventually gave up on selling the house. We decided to rent it instead. Despite being listed in various places for sale, we had gotten a number of emails asking if we'd be willing to rent it out. So we knew there was a market. We (well, I) finally realized that if we rented it, we'd cover our mortgage, and I also learned that the bank would look at that as a wash in terms of loaning us money for a construction loan. So, we decided to try to rent it.

We had a LOT of interest. Lots of calls, we showed it to a number of people and families. While there was some continued interest, no one made the commitment. Until last month. We had one couple take a tour. I could tell that they were not only ready to move but that they were ready to move in to our place. They were very excited and clear, and sure enough, the next day they filled out a rental application. Fast forward to 9 days later and the place was officially theirs. So as of April 1 this year, our place was rented out!

Now we can focus on moving forward, for the first time in a looong time. I've been working on our house plans again. I'll post what I have soon, but it isn't easy. The program I use (Punch) doesn't have good options for exporting to things like .jpgs and such. So to post photos, I have to print out each floor separately (which isn't easy in itself), then scan them in. There has to be an easier way, but I haven't found it.

Anyway, Ed has a good friend who drafts houses for a living, so he might help us out there. Then we can interview some builders (again), and figure out if we can afford to build this thing! It's a great time to build, and the per square foot cost has gone way down. Let's hope it has gone down enough.
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Friday, January 01, 2010

A New (Year's) Hope

A cul-de-sac sign in Dublin, Ireland.Image via Wikipedia
Here we are, starting a new year. It is my new year's hope that our house will sell this year. I hope that once the holidays are far enough past that people start looking again. Our house is great, really! It's got a huge back yard! Tons of rooms! All the appliances! Quiet cul-de-sac location! C'mon, you know you want to buy our house. Then you could be helping to make our dream of building our own home come true. Since we can't build until we sell and all.

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Friday, November 06, 2009

Building a Dream

I started this blog a long time ago, to chronicle our house designing and building experience. I hadn't posted anything in over three years, and a lot has changed in that amount of time. We're still not close to being ready to build, having yet to sell our other house. And our house plans have changed quite a bit over time. So I'm starting this blog anew, and will share the rest of the design process, builder selection, and building itself.

I have grand dreams of a family kitchen, craft room, screened porch, great views. It should all work, though it may take longer than we think. However, because it's a bad time to sell a house, it's also a good time to build one. So if we can manage to sell, we might be able to build what we want. We'll see. Family-size houses, even with sweat equity, aren't cheap. But they do tend to be cheaper per square foot than smaller houses. Here we go!
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