We talked about building our dream house for a long time. We literally drew hundreds of pictures on napkins and graph paper but we also took steps to follow through with our big idea. We collected pictures and took trips and literally studied hundreds of house plans. It took several years of planning, saving, and executing but we are excited about what we built and we would like to share the experience.
We were both interested in various styles of architecture but the authentic mediterranean style was one we liked the best. We wanted a house in an area with lots of sunny weather so we originally purchased 16 acres of land in a gated equestrian community in New Smyrna Beach, Florida. We ended up selling that land, then we looked at Austin, Texas, but we eventually settled on Nashville, Tennessee. In Nashville, we found a great older house that triangulated between the historic Belle Meade Plantation, (our house actually sits on the original plantation) Cheekwood Botanical Gardens, and Percy Warner Park. We purchased this older house and rented it out for several years while we prepared for building the new house.
We had lots of drawings on graph paper which we honed to a final product. Then eventually we sat down with a designer and put the plans into Autocad. We went through multiple revolutions of these design drawings and this took about 3 months as we would make changes, wait and review to see if they stuck. Once these plans were complete, we looked for custom home builders. After interviewing four builders, we selected one to build the house and we also found a local bank that had construction loans and arranged for the builder’s loan. Finding the builder and getting the loan lined up actually took about 12 weeks.
- Decide on Location
- Buy Land or Old House
- Rent Old House
- Research Styles/Designs
- Draw Raw plans
- Draw Design Plans
- Find Builders
- Get Loan
Before starting demolition, we wanted to repurpose anything from the old house (including landscaping plants we moved), so it would not end up in the land fill. We contacted the local Habitat for Humanity and gave them 21 vinyl windows (they were only three years old), a large stone mantle, a refrigerator, a stove/oven, garbage disposal and several kitchen cabinets. Then we sold all the interior wood doors to a architectural salvage store called Preservation Station. We also removed all the old crystal door knobs and a gorgeous Dorothy Draper chandelier. Then the demolition crew tore off the exterior brick and made a huge pile of brick debris in the backyard. This huge pile of broken bricks would later be utilized as filler for the inside the three porches (front, side, back) of the new house (big savings in not hauling it to the dump too!)
The actual demolition of the old house took about 2 days to fully remove all the remaining debris. We created a standard builder project plan in Microsoft Project to show all the building steps and stages as well as many Excel spreadsheets to track the financials of every transaction. Since we used some unusual materials (mortar rub over brick) the full build took longer than most construction projects. Our start date was Jan 17th, 2012 (when demolition began) and our actual move-in occupancy date was October 17, 2013, basically 10 months. (One of the builders we interviewed said he could build it in 4 months – which just did not sound feasible).
In the following pages we go through the stages of construction and describe issues and a few memorable lessons. Hopefully, this website will provide you with the information you need to decide if you want to take a shot at building your own dream house.