I love looking at houses. Architecture gets me…old beautiful farm houses that have been restored, Victorian beauties with their intricate woodwork and huge staircases, modern glass cubes with sleek lines perched on a cliff, or skyscrapers with fascinating design stretching into the sky. Yup, I like to look at buildings.
Have you ever wondered what it would take to build your own home? I have. So when my brother-in-law, Dennis, decided to take on his dream of building his own home, I was excited to follow his progress. Now, when I say build his own house, I am not talking subcontracting out the work or organizing the build. I actually mean hammer, nail, saw, and concrete…built his own house. It was amazing to see the stacks of wood and piles of nails take shape and form. I love how much time and detail went into the design elements and finishing details.
Like most dreamers I know, Dennis didn’t keep the plan simple. No basic four walls and a roof for this guy. NOPE! He designed it with five different levels, vaulted ceilings, an open stair case, heated hard wood floors, a deck and separate covered porch. It is a beauty! It is not very hard to see that this guy is a DREAMER!
Let me give you some background: Dennis is married to my younger sister, April, and they have three super cute kiddos. Dennis, by profession, is a high school Spanish teacher and has done some flip houses. Did I also mention he grew up working for his father’s construction company and spent a lot of time building and remodeling homes with his dad and brother? So, he does have knowledge when it comes to construction.
Dennis and April kindly agreed to let me take some pictures and show you exactly what I am talking about.
Let the tour begin!
When you enter their lovely home, you step into a spacious entry landing. Your eye is drawn upward to the vaulted ceiling and beautiful pendent light.
From the landing, you step down a short flight of stairs to a dining and living area that extends into the kitchen making this level of the house feel large and open. Windows, skylights, and large french doors allow sunlight to pour into the space making it bright and cheerful.
If you continue down the next level you will find the kids room and a bathroom.
Down one more level you enter the large exposed basement with play area for the kids and a large family/media room.
I asked Dennis and April a few questions about what it takes to tackle such a big dream of building your own home.
Holly: What inspired you to want to build your own home?
Dennis: I had always built houses for other people and really wanted to build one for myself, so I decided to draw my own building plans. I drew them with graph paper and pencil and did the calculations. I actually started by building our barn and seeing the finished product was gratifying and it made me feel accomplished.
Holly: What is the hardest part of building your own home?
Dennis: The hardest part was time; figuring out how to balance spending time working on the house vs spending time with my family. There were times I had to sacrifice time with my family in order to get things done especially when the weather was ideal for completing a project.
April: We lived in a 18 x 36′ studio apartment above the barn with two toddlers while we finished the work on our house. That was part of the sacrifice we decided to make.
Holly: If someone else wanted to take on the goal of building their own house what advice would you give them?
Dennis: Even if you have experience in construction, know it will take longer than you think. Probably double your estimated time line.
April: Another thing is that you are constantly re-analyzing and criticizing the completed work, noticing the mistakes you made.
Holly: What is your favorite thing about your house?
Dennis: We wanted a small house and wanted to utilize every part of it, including the basement. I designed the house to fit in the landscape and constructed it so the southern sun could reach every part of the house. It reaches the basement through the southern windows, the main floor through the patio doors and the north side of the house through high windows. The only area not reached by the southern sun is the kids room which gets the western sun, the next best thing.
April: I like that we were able to use local materials and craftsman for the finishing details of our home. I think these are the most beautiful elements of our house and it makes me happy that we were able to support local businesses.
Dennis: We used a lot of local lumber and craftsman throughout the building process. The wood, exposed beams, and siding came from a local lumber mill. Our cabinets were locally made and metal railings were from a local welder. We even collected stone by hand from a local mountain. I like knowing that it is one of a kind and ethically, it feels good to have supported and used local businesses.
April: As far as my actual favorite spot in the house to sit and relax…that is the covered porch.
A big thanks to Dennis and April for being willing to share their accomplished dream with all of us! May you be inspired to live a breaking average life and go after the things YOU dream about!