Living the Lake Life

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The Next Step – Let’s Build a House


The Budget Meeting


The meeting with our builder went better than I expected. It was a long meeting with lots of discussion about possibilities for reducing costs. It was obvious that he had given a lot of thought to what could be done to stay in our budget. You can read about our budget concerns here. I expected to have to give up many of my “must haves” in order to bring down our costs. However, it was much less painful than I imagined and with a few changes the cost will be more manageable. We’ll still have lots of windows, the pantry is still in the design, hubby will have a workshop and I finally get a big porch. Some of the items that will help reduce the cost were an easy decision. We decided on an open floor plan, a gas fireplace, a gravel drive for the RV and few if any custom built-ins. On the other hand some items are still negotiable depending on the budget as we beginning building. There may not be a sink in the laundry room, the ceilings in the bedrooms may be 9ft instead of 10ft, and we’ll have to work on the landscaping over time. For the most part the compromises are few and easy to accept.

The Next Step

And now, we’re moving on to the next step. Which simply means that the architect is working on our elevation plan. I was a little confused by the term, “elevation plan”; so of course I had to do a little research. Evidently, the house design we’ve been working on is actually called a floor plan. A floor plan is a view of a building drawn as if you were looking at it from the ceiling. This next drawing will be an elevation drawing, which is the view that you would see in real life as you stood on the floor or ground and looked at the wall. Our elevation drawing will include the exterior and interior views. This is exciting because this is where we’ll finalize the outside appearance of our new home and see the placement of interior fixtures. I believe once we see and approve the elevation drawings that this will become much more real to us.  As important as I know the planning stage is to the success of building the home we want; I am ready to see actual physical work happening on our lot.

Still Planning

This waiting phase hasn’t stopped my brain from spinning. HGTV hasn’t taken me up on my idea for the new show; so I guess we’re on our own. Most days, I complete a little research about designing and building a home. I follow several blogs about building and decorating. I follow designers, builders and decorators on Pinterest. I have several Pinterest boards devoted to our home to be. I think my favorite board is “Beachy Decorations” because I’m so excited about decorating our new home.  Houzz is also a great place to find inspiration and guidance. I’ve started narrowing the content in my idea books by moving photos/ideas that make the cut to idea books that start with FAV- (i.e. Fav color). I also have an idea book titled “In My Dreams”. It has all those photos and ideas that I’d consider if we had an unlimited budget.

Thoughts on Furniture and Decorating

Moving into a new home provides a great opportunity to consider our decorating style. It may seem rather predictable; but our decorating style will be beachy or coastal. It just seems the right style since we’re building close to a lake. I haven’t decided how beachy I want to go; but I know that it will be completely different from what we have now. Luckily, most of our furniture will transition to a beachy cottage scheme. We’ll be able to keep most of our furniture which is great because either it has sentimental value or we like it. I plan to replace our brown leather sofa and a green double chair. I hope to find something in blue or grey for our family room furniture. I’d really like a sectional; but hubby may not agree. Our family room tables will work if lightened with paint or glaze.

Grey_4_Piece_Modular_Sectional_Sofa_24302Grey Sectional

Our master bedroom furniture , the guest room bed and my grandmother’s dining table will move with us. I’ll also take my multitude of bookcases even though I may find that I don’t need all of them once we get settled. (I’m desperately trying to weed my book collection; but it’s a hard chore for a librarian.) We will need new furniture for our grandsons’ room. We want them to have a space in our home that they feel is always there for them. A space that we will design just for them (and that will grow with them through the years). Because there are three boys, we’ve decided on a bunk house look with two sets of bunks on one wall. The bunks should really be custom-built to fit in the room. Hopefully, we can find some bunks that will fit with a little modification.


Color is important to me; so I’ve already decided on a general color scheme.Better Homes and Gardens Online has a fun color personality quiz. My color personality came out beachy (surprised?)

Screen Shot 2014-07-26 at 12_Fotor




These sea glass colors are a great start; but I also want to add some blues and greys. Purple has been my favorite color since I was a teen; so there will be a few touches of purple in most rooms.


surf hues --

Some may think I’m thinking about color way too soon; but I feel color is extremely important. We’ve allwatched decorating shows that start with an inspiration piece for the colors. However, I often choose the colors according to how I want the room to feel (calming, energizing etc.) and then find objects that work in the room. (Our master bedroom is the exception — see below.)

We’re going with grey cabinets in the kitchen. I think grey is a good neutral that blends well with many colors. I’m not sure if we’ll go with the light or dark grey. (Clicking on an image will take you to a larger image or the idea book.)

I want a backspace that is both grey and white. We want a stone countertop that is low maintenance (man made is fine if natural doesn’t fit the budget.)

The guest bath will be shades of aqua. Here’s an example of a wonderful aqua tile that I really love.

My concern is that the color will become old in a few years. (Our first home was built in the 1950s and had awkward pink tile in the kitchen and bath. Could aqua be that color in a few years?) I might use the aqua color tile as a decorative trim.

The guest room colors will be similar to this photo. I love the surfboard; but I know it is completely out of the budget. Maybe I can DIY some type of art work instead. David Bromstad, where are you when I need you? He could easily come up with the perfect artwork.

The master bath will be various shades of grey with either purple or navy.

It will depend on what color we choose for the master bedroom. The inspiration for the color in the master is a wonderful painting of a lighthouse and the ocean. Looking at this painting makes me feel calm and peaceful which is the feeling I want in our master. I’m still looking for the perfect bedding before deciding on the colors.

Look for more specifics about our decorating, colors and the elevation drawing in my next posts.

Click on these links to read my other Let’s Build a House posts.

Living in my Dreams

And the Waiting Begins

The Dream Continues: Researching, Planning and Waiting

Champagne Taste on a Beer Budget


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Champagne Taste on a Beer Budget

or A CEO’s Taste on a Teacher’s Budget … Let’s build a House

I’m Starting to Blush

This is kind of an embarrassing post. So, why write it? Truthfully, I’m writing this potentially embarrassing post because I believe others may find themselves in the same situation. Now. that I have your attention and you’re imaging all sorts of embarrassing things a former school librarian might have to share; I’ll confess. We can’t afford the house we want to build. I’ve excitedly shared with my friends and family our plans to build and now I need to confess that we have that age-old problem of champagne taste on a beer budget.

Can We Really Build a House on a Teacher’s Budget?

The second home design plan was almost perfect except that the projected cost was much more than we expected. No big deal – except it is – maybe as much as $40,000 of a big deal. This is the projected cost without consideration to the any changes or problems we may encounter. So now, we are looking at ways to reduce expenses without reducing the quality of our dream home. You can read about the first design plan here.

We have a budget that we need to stick with. We know that. It’s just the process of getting there that is the problem. We aren’t planning on a large home (at least by Texas standards). We’re looking at a typical 3 bedroom, 2 bath home (the beer budget kind). The second plan is only about 250 square feet more than what we have in our home now. We immediately thought to reduce the size of the design plan. Of course, I also began researching ways to reduce building costs (The librarian in me can’t help it.). I soon learned that just reducing the size of a home doesn’t reduce the building cost as much as you might think? An article on the Zillow website by Robert Taylor explains that not all rooms cost the same to build. “It’s obvious that a kitchen, with appliances, cabinets, countertops, plumbing, fixtures, tile flooring and other expensive finishes will cost more “per square foot” to build than a bedroom, which doesn’t have much more finish than carpeting and paint.” That makes sense if you think about it. I also learned that in some cases reducing the size of the home you are building may actually increase the per square foot cost. Evidently, it takes a considerable reduction in size to really make a difference. He goes on to point out that “Finishes and fixtures (flooring, cabinets, countertops, trim, etc.) represent about 30 to 40 percent of the cost of a house”. You should check out his blog “Sense of Place”. You’ll find lots of good information about building and remodeling available.

Square Foot Cost is an Illusion

I’m a little overwhelmed now that I realize that the square foot cost of a house is relative. I realize that I am sharing my total building ignorance with you; but as I’ve stated before I never dreamed I’d really be building a new house. If I had given it much thought before now, I might have realized that building a home is a personal journey just like going to college. Sure a 3-hour college class may cost around $1000; but the final cost will depend on the subject, books, fees and the actual college you attend. You can’t compare costs equally of one student to another. It’s the same with building a home. The final cost will be personal to you and your family. The final cost depends not just on the size and the finishes; but also how you personalize your home.

Reducing Expenses While Building a Custom Home

Several websites mentioned practicing patience and planning as much as possible before construction begins. Changes after construction starts can cost large amounts of additional money. Getting in a hurry and not planning can cost money in unexpected ways. Many builders now let you choose you finishes and fixtures before you begin building. That allows you to keep a tighter budget. Glenda Taylor, a residential contractor, indicates building a one story with a simple design and breaking ground during good weather will keep expenses down. There are an abundance of DIY websites and blogs that offer great advice about taking on some of the tasks of a new home yourself (painting, tiling back splashes, landscaping.) I’ve listed a few sites I found interesting at the end of this post.

Is That Really on Your Must Have List?

For now we are going to look at several methods to reduce our costs. The first will be to reduce the size. Even though the square foot we eliminate will be from the less expensive middle of the house — there will be some savings. Next, we are going to look at finishes such as trim, lighting and countertops. We are meeting with our builder next week to set up a plan. I envision the meeting to be something like an HGTV show similar to the Property Brothers or Love It or List It. You know the scenes where the homeowner must make decisions about bringing the wiring in the basement up to code even though it means that the master bathroom can’t be remodeled. Except our decisions will be that lots of windows means we can’t have a stone fireplace. Or a large walk-in pantry equals fewer cabinets in the laundry room. I can already hear the announcer’s voice (in my head of course). Someone at HGTV should take notice – this could be your next big hit. In the meantime, I guess it’s time for us to revisit our must have and wish lists.

Find A Builder You Can Trust

We are lucky because we have a builder who is willing to work with us. He’s been very patient and continues to answer my multitude of questions. He’s working on a plan to help us reduce the building cost. He wants to help us build our dream home and he understands that we have to stay within our budget. His company mostly builds large, wonderful homes that are way out of our price range. Luckily, for us he also builds homes for families with beer budgets like us.

We Aren’t Alone (Are We?)

I share this post with you because I believe that we aren’t the only ones to find ourselves in this spot. Through my research, I found lots of information about reducing expenses; so I believe that it’s a normal part of building for most people. I wonder how many people may actually give up and decide that it’s just not possible to build what they want in their budget. We’ve bought our lot with the gorgeous trees and we aren’t going to give up. I plan to share our story for those others who find themselves in the Champagne taste meets budget cut mode. I actually imagine that even those lucky individuals building million dollar homes have to make some compromises.

My husband and I have planned for this time in our lives (at least that’s what we thought). We retired early so that we could enjoy life without the stress of the workplace. I think of this time in life as our third stage together. The plan was to enjoy ourselves with our grandchildren and to live in the mountains and to travel a little. Except we aren’t going to live in the mountains — we’re going to live close to the Dallas Fort Worth Metroplex. That’s where our grandsons, son and daughter live and we want to be close to them. That was the first change in our plans — instead of living in the mountains we are going to live close to a lake surrounded by lots of trees. (There aren’t many lakes or trees in the part of Texas where we spent stages 1 & 2; so it’s a good compromise.) The second change in plans was deciding to build instead of purchasing an already lived in home. But we still want to travel and play at our hobbies, which means that we must stick to our budget.

Some of the gorgeous trees we are trying to incorporate into our house design.

Hopefully, we can find some good ways to reduce the expense of building. Look for part 2 of Champagne Taste on a Beer Budget to be posted soon. Please share any suggestions or ways that you reduced the expense of building your home.

Click on these links to read my other Let’s Build a House posts.

Living in a Dream

And the Waiting Begins

The Dream Continues: Researching, Planning and Waiting


Useful Blogs and Websites

Home guides

The Money ways

Sense of Place


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The Dream Continues:  Researching, Planning, and Waiting … Let’s Build a House

The Dream Continues

The dream of our new home continues while we wait on the second version of our home design plans. The first draft didn’t fulfill the vision we had for a light filled, open floor plan. Having never gone through the process of building a home, we really didn’t know what to expect. Evidently, it’s normal to go through several drafts before finalizing your house plans. Needless to say, I was disappointed because it meant at least another week in the process. I also realize that it’s much better and less expensive to make any changes at this point rather than later. Once we’ve finalized the plans; then we’ll decide on the placement of our house on the lot. We hope to save as many of the beautiful trees as possible.


Some of the gorgeous trees we are trying to blend into our house design.


My husband and I have discussed what we each want in our new home. I want an open, light filled home with lots of windows. He wants a home that requires little maintenance, is energy-efficient and looks good. We have an agreement that (for the most part) he concentrates on things that make the home work – electrical, heating, air, insulation etc. While I focus on the decorating and design – windows, colors, decorations, and the organizational/functional aspects of our home. Personally, I think I got the fun part.

Hubby pacing out the possible dimensions of our house.

There are so many things to consider when building a new home. It can almost become overwhelming. It would be very helpful if someone from HGTV would magically appear to guide us. (David Bromstad, where are you?) I don’t see that happening anytime soon; so I’ve been burning up the Internet everyday researching home designs and decorating options. Of course, I have several Pinterest boards dedicated to our new home. I started with a lake house board; but soon decided for organizational purposes to start boards for decorations and various rooms. You can find my Pinterest boards here. My plan is to pin everything I like and then narrow down the ideas to the few I like the most. In order to reduce frustration and wasted time, I’ve learned that you need to make sure to track back to the original website before pinning anything. This is one of the cool things I’ve pinned. I think every home could use at least one of these.



Rambler socket from gadget

I also have started several ideabooks on You can find my ideabooks here . Houzz ideabooks are convenient to use and allow you to save photos/pages from any website. It’s also possible to upload personal photos as you begin or complete a project. You can even order products straight from It’s hard to describe just how much information you can find on The “about page” provides this information:

Houzz is the leading platform for home remodeling and design, providing people with everything they need to improve theirhomes from start to finish – online or from a mobile device. From decorating a room to building a custom home, Houzz connects millions of homeowners, home design enthusiasts and home improvement professionals across the country and around the world. With the largest residential design database in the world and a vibrant community powered by social tools, Houzz is the easiest way for people to get the design inspiration, project advice, product information and professional reviews they need to help turn ideas into reality. (Check it out at Houzz.)

We want to incorporate a type of bunk room for our grandsons. This is one of my favorites so far.

If you check out my “boys’ room” ideabook, you can see that I’ve found many variations of the bunk room.

You might think that I’m still dreaming — that all of this isn’t really research. Yet, this is how I would research any project. I need to look at many different ideas in order to be able to figure out what I like and what I don’t like. I’m a very visual person; so this method really works for me. I also tend to see things in color and I’ve already started thinking about the color schemes that we might use in our new home. I think that I really want to go for a beachy cottage look; so this home will be much different from the home we are in now. (Does that mean we might need new furniture, too? I better start saving now.) I seem to be drawn towards blues, turquoise and green. watercolor blues

And Planning…

One of our biggest debates right now revolves around a fireplace. I want one and my hubby really doesn’t care if we have one or not. We decided that a corner gas fireplace might be a good compromise. I’m looking for the perfect corner fireplace — one that isn’t too big; but adds character to the room. My decorating style is rather eclectic; so we can go towards a more modern one if we choose.

The pantry is another item we’ve spent some time discussing. Just how big does a pantry need to be? I believe that a pantry could never be too big (especially since we will be located some distance from the grocery stores). My dear hubby says that he doesn’t want to waste our home’s square footage on a pantry that is too big. We’ve decide to wait to see what size pantry the architect puts in our second draft of plans.

And Waiting…

Truthfully, waiting is the biggest problem I have right now. I’m usually a patient person; but I’m ready for the next step.


 Our dogs check out their new home for the first time.

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And the Waiting Begins… Let’s Build a House

IMG_5572_Fotorf                                                                                                                        Our Future Home

Waiting Mode

The idea of building our next home still feels like a dream. Especially since we’re in that waiting mode — the one that’s so hard for some of us (me) because it requires patience. We’re waiting to close on our lot; we’re waiting to finalize the floor plan; we’re waiting for the next meeting with the builder…we’re waiting…

I really never expected to be given this opportunity. When my husband and I met, he was working as a carpenter for a homebuilder. Because of some of his experiences as a carpenter, he’s always been quick to say that he didn’t think that building a home would be worth the headaches involved. It’s true; there are so many things to think about. (Where are the Property Brothers when I need them?) Things I’ve never given much thought are now running through my head. Do I like windows with or without panes? Why are there so many ugly colors of brick? (No offense intended.) How big does the kitchen island really need to be? Which is better painted or stained cabinets? And on and on and on…

Many people including our realtor suggested the best way to begin this process is for both of us to make “must haves” and “no way” lists. My hubby wasn’t too keen on the idea because he likes to mull things over in his mind. Lists just aren’t part of his thinking mode. Eventually, after many discussions we started our lists. My list includes items that might be considered design related – lots of windows, a big pantry and a soaker tub in the master bath. Even though my husband said that he really didn’t have any must haves, it soon became apparent that he really has quiet a few. His list is more building related and includes the type of insulation, the size of the studs and where the utilities etc. will be placed.

My Must Haves

  • lots of windows
  • walk in pantry
  • fireplace
  • big porch
  • large closet in the master, but not in the bath
  • bench in master shower
  • soaker tub in master
  • deck/patio
  • interesting oven vent or decorative cabinet above stove
  • built-in microwave, but not above stove
  • lots of storage
  • semi open floor plan
  • entry or foyer

His Must Haves

  • Crown molding in family room, kitchen and dining
  • Porches
  • lots of electrical outlets
  • full sprinklers
  • high ceilings
  • place to park motorhome
  • area for dog run
  • driveway and garages on the side
  • workshop area
  • highly rated windows
  • 2 X 6 studs
  • High-Density Cellulose Insulation
  • corner fireplace

Our No Way List

  • two-story
  • outside doors in bedrooms (his)
  • extremely large master baths (we want to utilize space as much as possible)
  • white brick
  • high maintenance
  • skylights (his)
  • no formal dining (?)

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Living in my Dreams or Let’s Build a House

Phase Three

For the last several years, my husband and I have looked for our next home — our “phase three” home. (I’m borrowing “phase three” from the TV show Soul Man. Maybe I’ll write about those phases some other time.) We’ve looked at many areas within the Dallas/Fort Worth area; but we just couldn’t find an area that seemed to say, “You’re Home” to us. Part of the problem was that I had always thought we’d retire to a nice cabin in the mountains of New Mexico or Colorado. We often discussed the logistics and difficulties of living even further from our son and daughter. Then, our first grandson was born and we quickly knew that being further away from that wonderful little being wasn’t happening. This feeling only intensified as the next two baby boys entered our lives. Deep down though I still wanted our next home to reflect my dream of living in the mountains next to a stream or lake.

We’ve planned our lives (as much as possible) so we could retire early enough to enjoy this period of life together. We hope to have many, many years to enjoy our next home –a home that we want to have space for our family, grandsons and our hobbies. We decided to look on the outskirts of the metro area – maybe even close to a lake. One day on, I stumbled across a small privately owned lake close to DFW. On impulse, we drove out to look at the area and we both immediately felt we’d found the area for our next home.

Over the next few months, we began looking at the available homes. The first homes we looked at would have been perfect for a Property Brothers episode; however, we weren’t sure we could pull off such a remodel on our own. Since Drew and Jonathan weren’t likely to film in our area; we began looking at homes that were closer to move-in ready. There were several fabulous homes available; but they just didn’t fit our lives and/or our budget. The price point seemed to keep going up; yet we’d still have projects to complete on all the homes.

Let’s Build a House

Finally, my husband said that he thought it would be easier to just build. Inside, I was jumping up and down screaming “Yes, Yes, Yes!”. However after all our years together, I knew that over zealous enthusiasm could scare him away from the idea. I simply and quietly stated that I agreed that building might work.

Anyone, who knows me, knows I watch a lot of HGTV. I watch reruns of the reruns. Decorating and remodeling our home is one of my favorite pastimes. Luckily, I seem to have a knack for it; so it hasn’t created too many problems. For years, I dreamed about building our “Dream Home”; but really never expect to have the chance. Of course, my mind hasn’t slowed down since we made the decision. So many possibilities become available when you decide to build…

My husband is one of those people who needs to mull over decisions for a period of time (sometimes a long period of time); so I’m fairly sure my husband thought on this for many months before bringing up the idea. He’s contemplated over and over many of his concerns already. For once his decision process works for me because we’re proceeding onward toward building our next home. We have a contract on the lot we found and have met with the builder. I think we may be living in my dreams.