Your dream house


Well-Known Member
There is so much I could write on this topic... It's kind of nice to have an opening to talk about design and philosophy, and I figure I owe it to the DF community after all the whining and moaning I've done over the building process. ;)

Why are we building custom? Well, for one thing, it's been a dream of mine since childhood. Starting about twelve years ago, there occurred a convergence of a couple of things that I had been trying to make happen for years, plus a couple of things that I never really dared hope would happen to me at all. The first thing was I met my wonderful wife and we got married in 1994. We both had pretty decent incomes, so the possibility of doing something grander than our previous three-bedroom suburban ranch existed. The second thing was that, starting in 1996, plats and lots in a sparsely developed mountainous area in town started to go on the market -- the land developer who had been holding on to much of the land for years decided to cash out, and put most of it up for auction. We didn't win anything at the auction, but a couple of years later we scored on a lot that a family had been holding onto since 1964 -- they were leaving town and decided there was no point in keep the land further.

Now, the significant thing about this is that there is another mountain area in another part of town that I've always liked. There is a style that developed here in the 1960s, a sort of elegant-casual, unashamedly modernist but not stark or industrial. And most of the best examples are in the mountain areas of town. There are neighborhoods where you can drive through and find very nice and architecturally interesting houses sited on lots which are for the most part in their natural state: ground cover, limestone or sandstone rocks, tall trees, lots of shade, perhaps a spring or a bit of running water (lots of that around here). To me it's so much more relaxing and comfortable than the excessively formal and pretentious "traditional" styles being built in a lot of subdivisions these days. Well, the older mountain neighborhood is fully developed and properties there are worth a pretty penny, so I had given up hope on ever being able to live there. But then this other undeveloped mountain area a few miles away opened up. Not only does it have the same feel, but at the time land was not at a premium. And its partially-developed state kind of reminds me of the older neighborhood as it existed when I was a child in the '60s.

So we got our lot. Great location, a bluff lot that overlooks the south end of town and the Tennessee River. The next goal was to build a house to complement the lot's assets. We engaged a local architect who, like us, is an admirer of Frank Lloyd Wright. We had already done our own basic floor plan, with the rooms that we wanted. There's an incredible amount of freedom in designing a floor plan to suit your own lifestyle. It's also an incredible opportunity to screw up, so you have to think your way through it. Our original floor plan had a living room off of the main entrance. One day we looked at each other and said "What do we need a formal living room for?" And out it went. But another thing we wanted was a room where we could practice dancing and exercise. Now, I think working out is astoundingly boring, and I can't stand to do it without something to occupy my mind in the meantime. So we put our exercise room in the back of the house, on the top floor, where it has an absolutely commanding view. (And with a niche to allow for installation of a Murphy bed, it can double as an additional bedroom in a pinch.)

There are other examples of rooms I could talk about. My DW wanted a real laundry room. We put it at the northeast corner of the house -- that side of the house won't get hot from afternoon sun. In the winter, it's the corner that is exposed to the northern winds, but the heat from the dryer will offset that. It's next to the kitchen, which is the location my DW wanted. My rec room is in the basement, where I can crank my music and not bother the whole house. The basement utility and storage was designed so that we wouldn't have to excavate a corner of the lot which the geologist suspected might be rock -- and he turned out to be correct. Saved us a bundle in potential excavating and blasting costs.

Now I'll admit our house is large, around 5000 sq. ft. However, we've had several people comment that it doesn't look or feel like a huge house. And that was the intent. Our goal was to make the house large enough for us to live in, no larger, no smaller. Most of the rooms are a bit on the generous side, but we wanted the elbow room. Last week, we experimentally cooked a dinner in the kitchen to see how it flowed. It was such a pleasure compared to the kitchen in our last house! What we don't have is a gigantic "great room" that the whole houes opens up to. We wanted a house with some private corners. And from the outside, the house looks decently sized but not imposing -- a story-and-a-half Pararie style exterior that kind of follows the slope of the lot. (And the driveway isn't too steep!)
It's a flat (apartment) in a beutiful historic building -- dates back to the 17th century -- accessed via a grand staircase. It's been completely renovated inside so I have all the modern convenience and comfort I need. The large, high-ceilinged living room has a hardwood floor (you can dance salsa comfortably -- a bit tight for ballroom but I don't dance ballroom :p) and gigantic windows flooding the room with natural light. There's only one bedroom (good size, with two walk-in wardrobes), but there's a gallery level large enough to be divided into my office and a guest bedroom. And it's in a very convenient part of one of the most beutiful cities in the world. Just about everything I need is within walking distance. Including salsa clubs :lol:.
I think I like your apartment :) . I like historic and renovated buildings. It gives it character.


New Member
I just looked at a loft in a historic old building. It was originally a whiskey distillery built in 1900. It was used for various things over the years, and in 1993 was converted to lofts. It's good sized, has lots of character (arched warehouse windows, exposed brick, hardwood floors) but the living/dining area is kind of small. Lofts usually have one huge area, and then a smaller mezzanine. This one has a smaller open area, and then two nice-sized mezzanines. I must say, I think unless you have unlimited funds and patience, and build or renovate something from scratch, it's impossible to find the perfect place. I guess that's whey we call them "dream houses"!!!!


Well-Known Member
Custom built is starting to sound more appealing. lol.

You know. It's funny. The more I read this thread, the more I realize that my dream house will probably end up very much (on the outside, at least) like the colonial-style house I grew up in.

Gotta ponder that a bit. Hmm.

I know what you mean about the use of space, cornutt. The house I'm living in now is slightly over 4000 square feet and I regularly use about a third of it. The floor plan is nice -- very nice, but it really doesn't fit my life style at all. Formal living room and formal dining room? Why? Game room? Well ... maybe. Media room? Probably never, even if I could convince myself to spend the $30K. Not my style.

But, in Texas, right now, most of the not-custom built homes in the moderate to not-so-moderate price range fit the same basic description. As many square feet as you can fit into a house lot. lol.

Don't get me wrong. I love my house. :cool: :)

But, if I were blue-skies, no-limits dreaming, some things'd definitely be different.

The land I have near my parents, btw, is pine forest. I'd prefer something a little more hilly. But a colonial in the middle of the woods (but near-ish to civilization and not far from Mom and Dad ) wouldn't be half bad, IMO. :wink:


Well-Known Member
Custom built. I already know what I want.

Open-built house so utilities go through are easily accessible. (no nightmares like cornutt? wiggling through stuff!) Radiant floor heating as I love that whenever I experience it. House built so that it maximizes the topography with overhangs to protect for the summer heat, but small enough to get the winter sun. Must have porches. 3 bedroom, nicer kitchen than what I have as I didn't realize my stove exhaust was one of those fake filter exhaust and kick 'em out back in the house items (Maybe a future project...?). Environmentally concious building for sure. Dance space...Maybe a central courtyard instead of a great room? Enclosed so it can withstand the winter...


Well-Known Member
Retrofitting all of the plumbing pipes in a historic house (all the better for creepy, hidden passageways, and secret doors) would be one hell of a project. If you'd even be allowed to do it (historical registers and the like).
Retrofitting all of the plumbing pipes in a historic house (all the better for creepy, hidden passageways, and secret doors) would be one hell of a project. If you'd even be allowed to do it (historical registers and the like).
Then my big creepy mansion will have to be built from scratch.


Well-Known Member

I have that situation, too. The things I like best in a house -- character, nooks and crannies -- come with old houses. But I don't like old wiring, old plumbing, or drafts (sp?) So what's a girl to do? :?


Well-Known Member
Whew! I was envisioning something exotic and creepy. You've gotta admit that the word "yurt" isn't exactly suggestive of "tent." Not in English, at least. :lol:

Dance Ads