HOME BUILDING UPDATE / Q&A
Okay, before I even start, let me just warn you that this is going to be one VERY long post.? In true Emily fashion, though ??♀️ . Not only am I bad at keeping a ‘story short’, but I have had question after question about our home building experience & I have been gathering content to pull together a ‘mega post’ so that you all can get all answers in one place.
If you are new here OR just new to me, you may be lost – but basically we announced [in this post] that we are building a new home back in August of 2018. It was a huge shocker for my audience because we kept it under wraps for nearly 14 months!? It was not easy but with Luke [who is almost 2 now] and John & me both having very demanding/busy careers – it was just hard to find the right time to update honestly. Reading the initial announcement post is a good way to catch up on that background information though.
Anyway! I update my Instagram Stories [@emilyanngemma] a few times a week and try to save the updates under the NEW HOUSE tab on my highlight section. So if you want to follow along and get a behind the scenes or just see how the process is going – that is a good way to see it all on video!
#1. Overall, what has it been like building a custom home? This is a really good question & one I’ve had a lot of people ask just wanting to know the ups and downs and how it all works in general. It is a total rollercoaster. Its the first home we have ever built and it is totally custom- every inch. [Thus, when someone says “where are your doors form?” I don’t have a “link” because we had them custom made to fit the home!] Building a new home can be stressful whether custom or production/spec. With custom, the owner “is” in charge of every detail from the ground up. For example, you don’t go into it with 3 house plans to choose from, instead you meet with an architect several times and design the home from room to room. And additionally, the home owner is selecting every single little detail of the home on their own – as opposed to being given a a list of options. And YES, you can hire an interior designer to help you if you are going custom – but I’m pretty opinionated and like to do my own thing PLUS I know what I like already so I didn’t really have the need to go that route. All of that being said, it is a much harder to build custom – especially if you do it solo. BUT, it is possible. I have friends who have built custom homes recently and hand picked all details without the help of an interior designer. The downside is that it is VERY time consuming – I am talking 10-15 hours a week of research & just studying on top of having a full time career + being a mom. But would I take it back? No! It’s been a labor of love for me and SO much fun. I’ve learned so much [which is important to me] & I am loving the results and I love that it is literally MY creation. As a blogger, I’m a creative in general – so being able to do this has been challenging but so fun. ‼️One thing I recommend is doing lots of research before ever hiring a builder. I get asked often how to find a good builder and here are my tips. #1. Find out who the top 10 realtors in your city are – and ask them to list the top 5 builders. Likely, you will find that there are 2-3 who have better reputations than all of the others. #2. Use online records to research lawsuits and such. Just do a little digging and investigating. I had many friends building when I was building – all with different builders and we all had very difference circumstances. Your contractor is going to be a make or break type of deal really. If you are as busy as John and me – you will want a contractor who you can count on and who looks out for you. These types are rare unfortunately.
One of the things that I think I underestimated being challenging was hand picking every little detail in the home. I think people assume “oh, you can pick your paint color & floor plan & countertops & fireplace” – simple as that?! Oh my gosh, no way. You guys- the hardware in the home alone took me hours and hours. I went to the same hardware store 4 times. The hardware includes every single handle on every door to the home. Inside & out. And every pull & handle on every cabinet within the home! You don’t realize it until you are going room by room, but you end up spending a ton of money picking this type of thing. Not only that, but you are coordinating that with your plumbing fixtures & even little things like the toilet paper holder, the towel bar, & robe hook. And if you are like me and like the brass/matte gold look – you are in for a real treat! Every brand’s version of ‘matte gold’ or ‘brass’ is different. Whereas with chrome or stainless still- chrome is always the really shiny silver and stainless steels is just.. stainless steel, ya know?! With ‘gold’ – you may have a vintage gold or a brushed gold or a shiny gold or a yellow-y gold, ya know?! And I am picky? so I had specific metals for each room. For example, my closet has a very Parisian vibe – so I wanted a bronzed gold – with more antique types of detailing. And in other places within the home I wanted a brushed or matte gold. ANYWAY, this is honestly a huge challenge! Trying to coordinate all plumbing fixtures & appliances with the hardware and keep it all cohesive is SO super time consuming! BUT, I have learned so much and honestly it has been fun and hopefully my experience will help you all!
#2. “When is it going to be done?!” LOL? Let me just tell you, this question is one you just don’t ask a friend building a custom home. The past 2 years I’ve had 5 friends/family members being [custom] homes our size & double our size and I learned from them that you really never know when it will be done. There are TONS of variables- things you never dream of or think of… I won’t go into detail on our experience but man, I have 3 sub-contractors that I would warn everyone against using because they were SO unreliable! We started hunting for the right lot in June of 2017. We eventually found the lot and purchased it. And it took several months of “STUFF” to even get it going. Lots of monthly city meetings to get approval for different things. Now, this is not always the case – it just was for us because we wanted to live in certain location and we did not want a small lot. I’ve written about this before but John and I really value a good yard, LOL. Like, we’d rather have a smaller home so we can have a larger yard, ya know? A place for Fitz & Luke [& baby #2] to run & play and make memories is so important to us. Anyway, it took a good 6 months to finally be able to get going. SO, April 7 will be the ONE YEAR MARK [!!!]. I had a lot of people ask “what is the hold up?” and really and truly, for a custom home at this size – a year is pretty dang normal. In fact, I have had friends build homes that are comparable and go 14-15 months. Granted you are always told by builders at the beginning- “oh we can have it done in 8!” LOL, famous last words. I don’t by any means hold builders solely responsible for this because I’ve seen first hand how hard it can be to get sub-contractors to finish their jobs and I’ve also seen how the weather can totally mess everything up. For example, our pool house won’t be done when we close – and that is because by the time we started on it – we were getting rain – and you can pour concrete when it is raining 5 days a week! SO, the question is tricky. We thought we would be in by November 15, then December 1, then Christmas, then January 1.. and nope! At this point, I don’t really have a projected date – but I am just praying it is sooner rather than later.?? I feel like its a part time job for me because I have to go by daily and make lists – and call project managers being like “hey this is not right or this does not look good”. For example, 3 weeks ago I went by and the grout in our shower is supposed to be gold grout… well I was like “hey why does the grout look like dirt?!” and they were like “oh that is gold grout- like you wanted?!” and I showed John and he was like “okay, ya it does have a ‘dirt look” SO we had to have the grout scraped out and I had to choose a new color of grout. The same thing happened with the flooring as well. It doesn’t take but a day to scrape out the grout and re-grout but every day counts, ya know!?
#3. Are you willing to sell your floor plans? How did you come up with your floor plan? I have had so many people e-mail me asking if I would be willing to share our floor plans with my readers and after thinking it through with a variety of people we decided we’d better not. I totally wish I could and I hate that we can’t but when it comes down to it, we value privacy & security too much. Just having to babies makes you more protective. I love sharing information and details and inspiration but not at the cost of safety for our family. I actually had several people warn me about this and we decided it would be best to not share this publicly. In fact, I won’t be sharing the entire home online. I will totally share certain rooms but I don’t think I will ever share the entire home. I have actually had people write me asking why we don’t have guest bedrooms! [We do!] But I just don’t share the entire home! A lot of people have inquired about square footage and so forth and that kind of fits into the same category. I do understand that when you follow someone online via IG stories you thank you know all of the things they do, who they see, etc. but we are big on privacy and have chosen to only share one half of our home.
As for coming up with overall design and floor plan – that is actually kind of fun and exciting. I wrote about it in my big reveal post of course but I shared more on my IG stories & had a lot of people inquiring. SO, probably 2+ years ago, John and I had a conversation about garages.. of all things!? He said, I wish we had a four car garage. And I agreed. No, we do not have four cars! But we do have like 7? strollers? All of which take up space – and get used [part of my job]. We had an entire conversation about how cool it would be to have separate garages from each other. We ended up googling key words like “homes with four car garages” and ran onto a home in Florida that had two separate garages and was SO beautiful. We both saw it and was like “oh wow we love that!”. And that is kind of where it all began. When we met with the architect for the first time [I had work deadlines and missed the first half of the meeting] John told the guy about this and explained how we like symmetry and how I am particular about how I don’t want to see a garage from the front of the home. We also LOVE our current home – we are CRAZY over it. The layout is so good for us. So we shared what we really liked and what we didn’t like and we got a good idea of the general floor plan. And since I work from home we had a lot of things that we wanted in particular for that! The architect was incredible and checked out my blog and used what he saw on here to come up with how to get the best lighting and so forth. [I didn’t tell him what I did for work but John mentioned it and he was very thoughtful and did his research!] Anyway, browsing floor plans online or touring parade of homes in your city may be a good way to start looking for ideas and coming up with things you love and dislike!
#4. What style is your home? How did you come up with the details? ETC. So, I am very particular as I’ve mentioned before.. I am a girl who knows what she likes. And I typically don’t like what is super trendy. Okay, wait, I do like trendy – but as far as building a home goes – I didn’t want to do what everyone else does. For example, certain paint colors are hot hot hot – but then phase out so quickly. I like white. I like a lot of white because its simple and I can change my color scheme anytime I want – without having to undergo a huge paint job. I love the modern vibe and I enjoy the farmhouse vibe – but I wanted something different. Something more classic and traditional. I have traveled a lot over the years for work and I LOVE Paris. We announced our pregnancy with Luke in Paris because it is so special to me. Paris has a specific vibe – its not French Country but just French Traditional? And it never gets old. Like the Lourve has herringbone floors and many of the old beautiful apartments [and new] in Paris have matte gold and vintage gold detailing with lots of panelling on the walls. The herringbone floors are timeless and beautiful as is the beautiful paneling & gold fixtures. In the US – people think “oh that is trendy” but it actually is not. In fact, I found my builder over 2 years ago because he uses some of these little details in many of his homes and has for years. John studied abroad in college so he knows exactly what I like and he likes it too so he and I didn’t have a hard time with design or having different opinions. Additionally, I consider my taste to be more eclectic. I knew I wanted to mix patterns and styles and have something different – that stood out and was unexpected. So many of the bathrooms have different styles of tiling – but overall with a classic black and white theme. All of the brass fixtures are different – and in the kitchen you will even see a lot of stainless steel mixed in with matte golds. Again, I am a mom and we are family oriented and career oriented so the home is also practical! I will explain more of that under a different question!
As far as coming up with details, years of traveling and snapping photos on my iPhone in other countries is where I gathered the overall style. However, when it comes time to actually selecting a pattern of tile or something you are limited. I would go to the tile store and browse the options and ask opinions and get information on how it holds up and will it turn colors, etc. and select like that. I think if I were not a mom / entrepreneur I would probably have spent more time researching and shopping around though. But I really and truly just went to local stores and looked at my options and gave my ideas and what I was going for and came to final decisions like that. It takes a village, that is for sure! I think it is important to ask around and research!
#5. Favorite room in the home? Well!! I bet you can guess- my closet! You guys – as someone who works weekends and holiday and FROM HOME – it is so nice to know I will have a place designated as my ‘office’. When my family comes for holidays or on weekends, I get overwhelmed because I have to work still but it’s hard because I actually work best from my kitchen or dining room in my current home. Those two rooms are usually where my family is hanging out so it is distracting. And my office in my current home has the weakest WIFI and cell service so it takes longer to get anything done. SO, I am thrilled to be able to have a closet – next to my master bathroom – that will also have a second story where I will be able to work AND get ready all in one place. My vanity area will be in the downstairs of my closet and the upstairs will be handbag storage and my workspace. It will also connect to the nursery so I can easily check in on baby girl!
John is excited about this too because right now when I work – I am in and out of all of a million rooms. Our dining room is currently a PR room. If you are new – I get PR in the mail weekly- which I LOVE! I write a ton of beauty content so I love getting new makeup and skincare lines but it can be time and space consuming. Right now our dining room is our PR room since we don’t have a great place for everything to go. I unbox the packages and organize it every couple of weeks. I am constantly trying new products to review so it can get messy having random beauty products, clothing, jewelry, etc. all around your home. Now that I will have my closet and my office combined – I will able to organize and store things os much better. It’s hard to explain or describe but once we move in I will share a lot of how I’m streamlining it.
A lot of you asked how I came up with the idea of a 2 story closet and honestly, it was a joke. The first time John and I talked about it I was joking and he was serious. Then we met with our builder and he was like ‘no do it!’ I felt like it was a little over the top or “boujee” LOL. But after thinking it through and realizing how much of my day is spent working and how practical it would be for us – especially as family it really became the best idea. As a blogger, it is common to build a home and have an in-home office/closet combo but I wanted to do something different that would stand out so we just went for it and I don’t have any regrets.. granted we have not moved in yet!?
#6. WHERE IS EVERYTHING FROM?!?!?
?. I basically get asked DAILY “hey where’s that light from?” and “what kind of tile is that?” “what countertop is that?” ETC. So I’m going to go room by room for the sake of trying to keep this semi organized. Keep in mind, I do not go and order tiles or marble online – so again I don’t have ‘links’. To be honest, its all very meeting based. I meet with a flooring company and we review what I like, we look at samples, etc and then I say “okay, I lke this and this.” And then it gets installed. I don’t write don’t write down brand names or styles really. Being pregnant with a 2 year old and a full time job while managing a custom home build is taxing and I don’t really care to know all brands anyway!
BUT FIRST, I am going to try to share LIGHT FIXTURES.
I’m making a widget where you can easily browse the light fixtures. I had no idea how insane picking out lighting would be – or how expensive. I had to go to lighting stores over and over — again trying to make the golds all match up and trying to make it all cohesive and make sure sizing worked. This was a huge task honestly! Even after having them installed I had to have some pulled down and moved and I even had one light fixture PAINTED because I didn’t like the shade of gold! Ya… fun stuff! ? I went through thousands of pages in catalogs of different brands to hand pick each light fixture so when people ask “what brand is that?” I typically don’t know. I went online and tried to hunt down as many as I could. Some are the exact light fixture and some are ‘dupes’. I actually had a lot of people requesting dupes since light fixtures can be super pricy. If you do not see a certain fixutre in the widget below – I will keep looking for it and add them in as I find them.
I had a lot of people ask about our gas lights up front. I ended up having to have the custom made. So, the popular brands for gas lanterns are Bevelo and Solara. I did a poll on my IG stories and you guys were SO helpful. Seriously. The kicker was that I had a certain look I was going for – I didn’t want a modern look or a cajun look – I wanted it to be more traditional and match the vibe of the other lanterns around the home SO we had to have someone design and sketch a light and then custom make it. It ended up taking like 8+ weeks to get them in but I will say it is worth it. Again, I love having something a bit different AND I love that they are cohesive with other lanterns. If you are new to gas – it basically means a constant flame is providing light. Of course, it looks so cool but it doesn’t provide a lot of light and they are pricy. So I did 2 gas lights – and then the rest look similar to the gas lights with their lantern shape [see them HERE] BUT they are much more cost effective and they are electric and provide more light. And seriously – huge thanks to all of you who advised me on gas lights. We have already had some crazy Oklahoma storms and wind and I’ve yet to see the flame be blown out or busted glass. I was very hesitant because of that – we live in the outskirts of tornado alley so I was nervous.
NEXT: PAINT COLORS
Paint is a huge huge deal. It is a make or break detail and it is also very expensive when it comes to the entire home. The kicker here is that what paint color looks good in one persons home may look entirely different in someone else’s home. Our home has a lot of natural light and that makes a big difference in what the paint colors look like. I knew I wanted mostly white but I wanted bright white – no cream. I did a poll on my stories and many people recommended the same 4 colors. I ended up finding one out of the four most popular that was PERFECT for our home. The walls and cabinets through out the entire home [except laundry room] are ‘Chantilly Lace’ by Benjamin Moore and the trim is ‘Pure White’ by Sherwin Williams. Our current home is mostly grey with white trim and I love it but I wanted to keep a clean, white look in the new home so that I can switch up decor or color schemes. As far as the cabinets in the laundry room – they are ‘Agreeable Gray’ by Sherwin Williams. Many of you recommend it – and I actually love the way it looks with the tile in the laundry room AND it looks SO good with gold hardware! My mom is obsessed with how the grey looks in combo with the gold – it is really a great combo if you don’t want to go with white.
COUNTERTOPS: Quartz || I highly recommend quartz- it is AMAZING. I flipped the kitchen and master bathroom in our current home and I did marble floors and countertops in one room and I do not love it. The quartz in our kitchen is insanely amazing and so much better! Marble turns colors, requires a lot of maintenance, etc. and these days – quartz is made to look identical to marble but theres NO maintenance. None. No scratches, no stains, no worrying about heat, no worrying about anything. Quartz is the ONLY way I would go. I almost did porcelain but it is so thin that I changed my mind. I found a quartz that was perfect- it looks like marble and doesn’t look like ‘fake marble’ – in fact, I prefer this style over the look of carerra. I did quartz in almost all countertops through out the home. And yes, quartz can be more expensive than marble now-a-days [depending on demand] but its worth it not to have to constantly worry about caring for marble. Our home is not done and these photos are a few weeks or months old so its dirty/messy/ and we are changing out the slab behind the oven because the shade is not right. [Again, I do not know the name brand or style of quartz!]
The oven is the ILVE Majestic. I love the La Cornue but again – I wanted something different. I didn’t want the same oven you see all over Pinterest and Instagram. BUT I love the La Cornue – seriously – if I didn’t photograph my home and work in this industry I would gone with that one!! It’s gorgeous. I just wanted to have something different. This one is made in Italy and I love the knobs and the look in general. We do have a wall oven and microwave stacked next to the fridge! [I don’t have any photos just yet!]
Again, I wanted something unexpected and different in my kitchen so I opted for a gold sink. John side-eyed me at first but then he saw it installed and was like “wow – that actually looks SO good!”. As far as faucets go, I had a lot of people asking why I didn’t match all of the metals since I did stainless.. and honestly, I like the look of everything mixed. It’s like David Yurman – its classic and these days, it is not as expected. The oven is mixed, the light fixtures are brushed gold, and the sink is matte gold, and the faucet is stainless. Not to mention, John HAD to have the Delta Touch2o – which is what we have in our current home and LOVE. You just touch it the get the water to run and we also did the cold water faucet in the Touch2o as well. I do love a beautiful faucet but we are kind of obessed with the the touch technology.
We did 2 pot fillers – one above the oven and the other is near the coffee bar – not pictured. I wanted a pot filler near my Keurig so that we can easily just refill the water reserve. Our pot fillers are HERE.
IRON RAILING: Custom made locally. We had to kind of come up with a design and get it sketched and tweak it. I really love black rod iron railing so I this was something I was excited about!
FLOORING: My closet is a tile & wood floor inlay. Basically I used large white tiles and put wood pieces around them and then had them stained.
ACRYLIC PULLS: I had to have this custom made because the cabinets in my closet are so huge and I didn’t want 5″ pulls so I had a company make 14″ pulls- you can find them HERE & HERE. [Their are small ones on the top cabinet.]
JOHNS CLOSET PULLDOWNS: I had a few asking about his closet – LOL. He ate that up! ?But he is sharing his closet with me – he said I can use the top row of pulldowns for winter clothing! 🙂 His pulldowns are HERE.
DOOR KNOBS: The door knobs and face plates on the door knobs are all EMTEK but I switched up the different handles and face plates as you can see in the photo.
SCONCES: My closet sconces are HERE. I don’t think this is the brand because mine were at a higher price point but these are a good dupe and look identical. Have yet to find the chandelier!! Working on it!
^The tile in the back fo our master shower. We still do not know brand names of tile. The tile everyone asks about is the one in the powder bath that is hand cut and took a YEAR! I’ve looked high and low for brand names and can’t find them! Still working on it.
^Small look at laundry room – agreeable gray cabinets and the same quartz countertops.
^Entry way. The floor is NOT marble – it is porecelain. We loveeeee it! The light fixtures is HERE.
^Lots of questions about stains… well that was tricky. We tried like a billion stain colors and they all change once they dry and are set. I didn’t want to go light – I feel like a lot of people are going light lately and it’s gorgeous but I wanted to do something different so I did a grey stain and it dried and is SO cool It’s very different. Not really grey at at all but not brown or too light either.