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The 10 most important things I learned building a house

The 10 most important things I learned building a house_edited-1
Alright friends.  Let’s talk building!  Most of you know that after a couple of years of looking at houses in our area my husband and I finally took the plunge and decided to build a custom home. I have always loved home design and decorating and had a good idea of what I wanted for our future house, but other than that we had zero experience with building.  We spent six months designing our home with an architect, months waiting with our plans in the city (this process is long in San Diego!) and then a little over a year building.  The whole process was two years total and wow – we learned a lot!  After sharing our before and after pictures of our new home I’m finally going to share the ten most important things I learned building a house.  While most of these tips are centered around building a custom home because that’s the route we went, they can also be applied if you are building a semi-custom home or remodeling your existing home.  So find a comfy place to sit and grab a snack!  This is a long one friends.  :)

1) Know what you are getting into.  I don’t want to scare you if you’ve decided to build.  In fact, for the most part I really enjoyed our building process.  That being said, there are a lot of things you need to consider before you take on building a house.  The first one being the massive time commitment building is.  If you are building a custom home like we did it is easily at least a part time job (some weeks full time!).  We knew it would be time consuming, but had no idea just how time consuming.  The early stages of designing the home weren’t quite as busy, but once the house was framed and construction was moving, it got crazy quickly.  If you are in a situation where you are already overwhelmed with work and kids and life commitments, it might not be the best time to build.  You’ll want to spend a lot of time at the house making sure things are getting done correctly so factor that into your decision.  This was the most difficult part for us!  Which leads me to my next warning.  Building is hard on a marriage.  Money flies when you are building so there is financial stress.  If you are like most people you’ve worked incredibly hard and saved money for years to be able to build a home (15 years for us!).  Stressing about finances always causes strain on a marriage and costs always end up being higher than you think they will be when you build.  It can also be stressful when you don’t agree on design decisions.  That wasn’t an issue for us because my husband didn’t care what the house looked like so I had free reign on all things design, but if you both care and have strong opinions that will be a challenge.  For us the most difficult part was that we were both just so overwhelmed and exhausted from how much work it was that we sometimes took it out on each other.  Months after we moved in and things had settled down I remember my husband and I joking about how we had decided we liked each other again. ;)  Like I said before, I’m not telling you these things to scare you.  I just think knowing what you are getting into and possibly talking to your significant other about how you will deal with these issues when they come up is a good thing!

2)  Hire the right people.  I really can’t stress this enough.  Especially if like us, you have no previous experience building.  This is the single most important decision you will make because you will be working so closely with your builder/architect throughout the process and your overall building experience is largely determined by your relationship with them. Do your homework before you make your decision.  Interview and meet with lots of builders and ask for referrals.  It’s also smart to ask for names and numbers of the last three people they worked for to get an accurate view of how people felt about their building experience with that builder.  Look for clues that tell you what they will be like to work with.  One builder we interviewed took a long time to get back to me every time I reached out to him with questions.  He didn’t get the job.  One of the main reasons we hired the builder we did was because every time I’d send him a text or e-mail he would respond so quickly with helpful information.  I could tell he was organized and on top of things.  Also look for someone you connect with.  Like I said, you will be working closely with these people and are trusting them to help with one of the biggest financial commitments of your life.  One architect we spoke to seemed great on paper, but I could tell from his personality I would have a hard time connecting with him.  We just clicked with the architect we hired.  I could tell he understood my vision for the house and would work hard to make that happen.  We are still great friends to this day and I bring him banana bread muffins every fall.  :)  Take your time making the decision about who to hire and do your homework!  
3)  Consider hiring a designer.  Whether you are remodeling your existing home or building a custom home like we did don’t rule out hiring a designer.  If I had it to do over again this is the one thing I would do differently.  My husband suggested hiring a designer in the beginning of our building process but I didn’t want to because I knew what I wanted for the house.  Why spend money on a designer when I could do it myself?  Well.  While I may have known the look, style and feel I was going for, I had no idea how many decisions I would have to make on a daily basis that I knew nothing about.  Designers speak the language of building.  (There is a building language that will be so foreign to you!)  Your builder can help with a lot of decisions, but he isn’t looking at things from a design perspective.  He’s thinking about logistics, not how a decision will affect the style of your home.  A lot of designers charge hourly so if you’re worried about the expense you can just use them when needed.  Plus if you hire the right designer, he/she can actually end up saving you money because they know how to cut costs to help you get the look you want, keep your project moving, and keep you from making costly building mistakes.  Half way through the process I was so overwhelmed that we hired a designer.  He was a friend from my hometown and while he was a huge help with some things, he wasn’t local so he couldn’t be on site with me.  I ended up making most decisions myself and winging it a lot of the time!  Things worked out because so many nights I was up until 2:00 in the morning researching, but I would have saved a lot of overall time and stress if I would have just hired a local designer in the beginning.  This is a great post I read not long after we finished building on why you should hire a designer and I was nodding my head to every point made!  My advice is if you’re going to spend the money to build or remodel, do it right and hire a designer.

4)  Think about cabinet and furniture placement early on in the design phase.  Whether you buy existing plans or create your own, it’s important to think about how the furniture layout will work.  Where will your couch and chairs go?  Beds?  Is there really enough room to fit the furniture you want?
Think about how you will live in the space.  We measured our kitchen nook several times and ended up making it a bit bigger at the last minute because we were taking into account how much room we would need to be able to slide out chairs and still walk around them comfortably.
When our architect designed our kitchen we had an idea of where the fridge and stove would be, but other than that it was just the drawing of an empty box.  We sat down with our cabinet guy months later to design the kitchen and once I saw how the cabinets were laid out I was wishing I could have pushed a wall over further so the cabinets on the sides of my range were symmetrical.  We had already started framing at that point so it was too late to move walls.  Obviously not a big deal and it all worked out, but if I would have thought about cabinet design/layout earlier during the design phase I could have made adjustments I couldn’t make because I had waited too long.  This is also where hiring a designer is so smart!  A designer will go over those things with you from the beginning so you can adjust your floor plan accordingly.  Early on BEFORE you begin building, plan your cabinet and furniture layout.  You will be happy you did!

5)  Plan, plan and plan some more.  I can’t stress to you enough how much easier things will go if you have a good idea of what you want in your home before you start building.  Once things start moving it is a whirlwind of decisions being thrown at you daily.  Time is money when you are building a house and it is extremely stressful to have to slow things down because you just can’t decide what tile you want in the kids’ bathroom.  Pick out as much as you can before you start!  While we were working on our plans we were also researching appliances, flooring, counter tops, backsplashes, light fixtures etc.  I had a good idea of how I wanted each space to come together early on so when my builder would e-mail me and say “in a two weeks we need the tile for your master bathroom” I could say ok and order it and be ready.  (Of course I had also spent months saving magazine clippings and on-line pictures of things I loved as well.)  I learned how to be decisive quickly (a difficult thing for me!) because you just don’t have time not to be when you are building a house.  Try to have as many details in place as possible before you start building.  

6)  Things look worse before they look better.  It’s important to remember that things always look worse before they get better.  You can see a lot of evidence of this in my previous before and after posts.  This is an obvious statement, but a lot of times I would be so worried about how something looked and if I would have just waited a few weeks I would have saved a lot of stress because everything looks better when it’s completed.
I remember once the drywall went up in this hallway I panicked that it was going to be too dark.  It was so much darker with drywall than it was framed.  I just knew I had messed it up and ruined everything! ;)
stained hand rail
By the time the house was closer to being finished I could tell that all of the windows around it gave the hallway plenty of light.  I shouldn’t have lost sleep over that one!
When the square was cut and our oval window was put in our family room I was sure it was too small.  I stressed about that for weeks!  It felt way too little in that great big room.  My builder kept telling me to wait and that it would be fine.
I was too inexperienced with building to take into account the space our built-ins would take up and how once all the finished details were in place (molding, paint, ceiling treatment) the window would look in porportion.  You are seeing a lot of “befores” during a build.  Try to not panic and assume the worst during the process and wait until you see the “after.”  A lot of things have a way of working out just fine.  If you see the after and still hate it, then you can panic. ;)

7)  You’ll make mistakes.  While some things do work out, just know that there are going to be a lot of mistakes made.  There just are!  There is no way to build a perfect house with everything going smoothly during the building process.  Building a house involves a lot of people and a lot of changing and moving parts.  Know that you aren’t going to get everything exactly how you want it.  Some things will be a miss and you’ll have to just move on.  That being said, other things will unexpectedly turn out a lot better than planned!  Some of my favorite details in my house are things that weren’t even planned in the beginning.
My girls bathroom ceiling is just one example.  It was supposed to just be a flat ceiling and when my builder saw the slant on it from our roof line he immediately assured me he’d fix it.  I decided to leave the slant and add some planks and it gave the room so much personality!
A happy mistake.  There are lots of them when you build!  And all of those mistakes that didn’t turn out happy that I was SO stressed and sad about while we were building?  We’ve lived in our new house two years now and I hardly remember them anymore!  Building is so all consuming that while you are involved in the process you feel like that sink sprayer that is off centered is the most important, awful thing ever and it will haunt you every day for the rest of your life!  Remember to keep it all in perspective.  Once you are removed from the building process, living in the house and moving on with life, it’s all just a drop in the bucket.  :)

8)  Communicate everything and don’t assume anything.  While there is no way to avoid mistakes, you can minimize them by being specific and making it very clear what your expectations are.  SO many mistakes happen simply because of miscommunication.  I learned quickly that the more specific I could be describing how I wanted something to look (show or even draw a picture if needed) the smoother things would go.  Many mistakes were made because I “assumed” someone understood what I wanted.  Don’t assume.  Explain it and show a picture and go over it again and then make sure you are at the new house often to catch mistakes early on so they can be fixed without too much time or money wasted.  Good communication is key when building or remodeling!

9) Be kind to everyone involved in your building process.  Framers, cement crew, drywall installers, electricians, painters, carpenters, etc. – we got to know them.  We made them feel welcome and appreciated.  You all know I made my banana bread muffins to share with the crew often.  :)
This is such an obvious thing, but the reason I mention it is because I was surprised by the reaction so many of our construction workers had.  I heard time and time again how much they appreciated the kindness.  I remember the guy who installed our siding saying “most of the time when we work on a job we don’t even talk to the home owners.. they just tell the contractor if we’ve made a mistake.  With you guys we feel like part of the family.”  That made me feel so good!  I’ll never forget it.  You will work with these people closely and the better your relationship with them is, the smoother everything will go.  Many times when mistakes did happen our crew was so quick to fix things, work overtime and accommodate any needs we had.  I think a large part of this was simply because they liked us and appreciated our kindness.  Obviously we weren’t kind for that reason, but it did make our building process much smoother.  Like I’ve said before, building can be stressful and it’s important to keep your cool and remember that the people working on your house are doing their best too.  Show them the kindness and appreciation they deserve.
Something I wrote from one of my past posts during the build:  OK.  I know I keep saying how much I love hanging out with everyone working on the house and how amazing everyone has been but I have to say it one more time.  My siding guys are THE BEST.  So friendly.  And hilarious!  I knew the second I met them we were going to get along famously.  They are so happy and funny.  They sing.  And tell stories.  And we ponder and discuss life’s mysteries.  And then I ohh and ahh at their work.  And offer to bring them food.  But they never let me.  Because they are so nice and hard working.  And funny.  Did I mention they are so funny!?  They really are.    
My little buddy with our carpenter.  You can see we became fast friends with most of the people who worked on our house.
k and c
I framed these two pictures and gave them to our carpenter on his last day.  He is now a close family friend and is actually swinging by my house tomorrow to hang something large in my office for me.  Aside from making our building process go smoother, being kind to everyone involved also made the entire process much more fun!  And gave us a few life long friends in the process.  Always a good thing.  :)

10)  Listen to professionals but know when to trust your gut.  There will be so many things during your building process that you don’t know and understand and that’s when it’s time to listen to the people you trust.  Your architect, contractor and (if you’ve hired one) your designer.  That being said, I think it is SO important to know when to trust your gut.  That little voice inside of you who knows what you really want but might be afraid to say it because you’re intimidated, unsure or so overwhelmed with everything going on around you.  I remember one of the cabinet guys we considered working with didn’t think I should put farmhouse sinks in my kitchen.  He tried so hard to convince me that they weren’t a smart idea.  He said they don’t drain as well and scratch easily.
Farmhouse sinks were one of the things I was most excited to put in my new house!  I had dreamed about owning one for years.  I knew myself well enough to know that even though they might not drain as well and could possibly get scratched it was worth it to me to have that look in my kitchen!  So glad I trusted my gut on that one.  My farmhouse sinks make me happy every single day.  :)  There were lots of times people had an opinion about something and it wasn’t what I felt like was right.  Remember that at the end of the day it is YOU who will be waking up in this house each day.  YOU who will actually live with all of the decisions made.  All of the people helping will move on to other houses.  If your gut is telling you to go this way instead of that.. trust it!  You’ll be happy with your decision in the end.  Even if everyone else thinks you’re crazy.  :)
My last bit of advice in this already too long post is to try to enjoy the process as much as possible!  While there will be mistakes made and stressful days, there will also be days of complete joy and excitement while you are building your house.  It is an amazing thing to see your vision come to life right in front of your eyes.  Remember how fortunate you are to have the opportunity to create this future home for you and your family and enjoy the little things during the process that make you happy.  There will be lots of them.


**You can see pictures of our now finished home in my HOUSE TOUR or recent pictures of my house decorated for fall here.  If you’re new here, you can also sign up to receive e-mails below so you don’t miss a post.  Thanks for reading friends! xo

xoxo, Erin
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117 thoughts on “The 10 most important things I learned building a house

  1. Great advice, Erin! No wonder you were able to build a fabulous home. And to have good relationships with the house builders- amen to that! Have a great day ahead :)

  2. A very good writing Erin! Although I live in an other country, I think all things you wrote is relevant no matter where you live.
    We haven’t build a house, just remodeling, but we did build a summerhouse. It can also be stressful, actually double stressful -specially for your marriage – when you have your mother-in-law involved too! TG I knew what I wanted and trusted on my gut and kept my mind on most issues, but you can believe, its not perfect, just almost :/
    When we renovated our home I agree with you about #8-9. That’s VERY important! That’s the way you can ‘trust’ that work is done perfectly. And its Your home they (‘guys’) are dealing with. I did also bake for the guys and they showed and told to me and my kids how to fix things etc. And they did listen to me and my wishes….They came friends to us and I did learn a lot of renovating from them!

    #2 We bought this house when we moved to this city (‘cos hb’s work) and didn’t know anything around here. Well…it was hard/risky to find perfect guys. Had to ask many ppl about their experiences about builders, plumbers, electrians etc. and yes, some of them didn’t get the job. We just couldn’t trust them…the first feeling when you see someone, You know?!

    Well..we done our renovating project years ago and I would be ready for new project. :) There is SO MANY things I would do differently!

    I’m so happy that You two made it through together and what an amazing home you have! And what an amazing job You have done! Enjoy <3

    Happy Halloween week!

    L, satu

    1. What a fun comment Satu! Thank you! Loved hearing about your experience. Sounds like you can relate to everything I said! :) I’m so happy you trusted your gut and got what you wanted. I’m sure after we’ve been in this house for years and years there will be a lot of things I’ll want to change to. Styles and family needs are constantly evolving aren’t they!? Thanks again for your sweet words and take care!

  3. Wow! Great advice, Erin! I’m sure you helped many people today and also future home builders. I know that building a home isn’t in my future, but some things you talk about can apply to many instances. Especially…be kind. That’s a biggie that will help in any situation. Um, with your funny, singing siding guys… you didn’t mention that they are tall, too! :) Great pictures of your buddy with your new family friend. Sweet that you framed the photos! Thank you for sharing what you learned. Your home reflects all the hard work and kindness that went into building it. Have a wonderful week. :)

    1. Thanks Jeanne! SO true and I was thinking that as I wrote this post – being kind to others is always a good thing. Funny that for some that is such a hard concept. ;) Enjoy your week too cutie! xo

  4. Thank you so much for this fantastic series. I have just started a custom build home myself – foundation going in next week! (Eeeek)! But this has helped me understand what’s coming up and what to expect. Thanks so much for the details of his new adventure we are about to take.

    1. I’m glad this was helpful Jess! Congrats on your house – so exciting! I especially loved the framing stage. SO cool to finally be able to walk through the rooms of your house! Wishing you all the best with what’s to come! xo

  5. AWESOME post, Erin!!! Such great information. I remember reading every post on your building your beautiful home and what an adventure it was! You did an amazing job. Remodeling and building are such big endeavors even for people who have experienced it before, and this post will help so many people! xo


    1. Thank you Sandra! I’m sure you really can relate to so much of what I said. It’s a crazy process but also so rewarding! And yes! Decorating and putting your own stamp on the place after the dust settles is the very best part. :) Good luck finishing everything up! xo

  7. Great Advice!!! We built our dream house a few years ago and I could have benefitted from a post like this! Question: Where did you get your Enjoy the Little Things sign? I just love it!


  8. What a wonderful post!! We just purchased our 20 acres, and are going to build within a few years. The biggest thing I want to do is NOT stress! I will certainly be reading this, over and over again! Your home is so gorgeous and I hope that you are truly enjoying it. It is stunning and could be in a magazine. Thank you again for sharing your insight!

    1. Thank you so much Jenn! You are so sweet to say that about my house. We are definitely enjoying it. We worked and saved for it for so long.. it feels nice to finally have it finished! Excited for you! 20 acres! I can’t imagine! I’m assuming you aren’t in California. ;) Best of luck with all of your planning! Great things to look forward to. :) xo

  9. I looove love this post! We are in the process of building our new home and everything that you said here is on point! Esp. the communication part you cannot just assume, having a good relationship to the people working on your home and my fave!-Trusting your gut! Because at the end of the day, you are the one who’s going to be living and enjoying in your home. This is such a wonderful insight through all the crazy process of building a new home. Amazing advice!!! I’m sooo glad I found you on instagram! ❤️

    1. Oh yea! Your comment made me so happy! I’m thrilled you enjoyed my advice. Congrats on your new home! So exciting. Wishing you the best of luck finishing it all up. I’m so glad you found me on IG too! :) Thanks again! xo

  10. Will you ever post approximate dimensions of any of your rooms? Such as a the office / play room etc. I also believe your play room is on your second floor. How do you like that?

    1. Hi Angela! I’m sure I will at some point! We love the playroom upstairs and designed the house that way because our kids’ rooms are upstairs. So most toys are upstairs and when friends come over they all play upstairs. And the downstairs stays a bit cleaner and calmer. ;) xo

  11. Love this! This was so helpful! We are building now…all the things you pointed out…are spot on!! I lay in bed at night stressing!! Check us out on instgram…I’m to lazy to have a blog.? Inluvwthdesign thanks again for sharing!! Ps…your pool design has really inspired our pool design.

    1. Thanks Molly! Hang in there! All that stress really will go away someday and you will enjoy your new home so much. Excited to check it out! xo

  12. We did not build but we did several remodels on our home. We added a much needed family room and a two- story addition off the back. I so agree with hiring a architect and designer. We decided to “wing it” a few times and a few decisions were wrong. It certainly was a full time job having all the crews at my house for five months. We had wonderful builders and I am so happy for that. You really get a bug though to keep continuing the process. It’s like some kind of building high. Sometimes I think we should have moved to another property because we were worried we wouldn’t get our money out. Be sure to keep that as consideration when doing any remodel. Thanks for your article. I really enjoyed seeing all your before and afters. Maggie

    1. I know what you mean Maggie! Sometimes we talk about doing it again – remembering all the fun parts of building. You do feel a bit of a building high and I’m now fascinated watching other houses come together. Such a cool process. But then I remember how much work it is – and that you can’t ever step away and take a break during the process – and I think I’ll wait a LONG time before doing it again. :) Thanks for your fun comment! xo

  13. Great post and I agree with all of your points. We’ve done two custom builds and were the general contractor for both (and even done some of the hands-on work on both of them). So I know exactly what you mean when you talk about amount of work and stress! We’ve been in our house 8 years now and I finally repainted and decorated the laundry room last month because I could simply not make one more decision all those years ago and it was painted a boring beige. But overall the blood, sweat, and tears (and yes there really were all three) were all worth it! :)

    1. Oh my word Jennifer.. blood, sweat and tears for sure! You get it! I can’t imagine being our own general contractor. You are my idol! My parents did that years ago when I was young and I remember feeling unusual tension in our house during the build. It really can be so much stress. But worth it in the end! I am finally working on my master bedroom which I didn’t even put a light fixture in! Same as you.. I just couldn’t make ONE more decision. :) Thanks for your fun comment!

  14. I found your blog through Rhoda of Atlanta at Southern Hospitality. I have greatly enjoyed your writings on all of your topics! We have purchased our dream lot in the cove my husband has wanted to live in since he was teen. Your ideas will be a great help. Thank you for taking the time to put it all down and share your experience. My husband and I love your home! We are thrilled to begin…. but first our current home has to sell. Two months this week on the market and no offers yet. It is hard to wait! Our boys are ready to live on the water!

    Thanks again…I love reading your posts – on fashion, décor and all!

    1. Hi Rebecca! Such a fun comment. Thank you! I’m so happy you found me and are enjoying the blog. :) Oh my word – living on the water sounds wonderful! Too much fun. What an exciting adventure for your family! I’m sure your house will sell and you will be in the middle of building chaos before you know it. :) You’ll have to send me a few pictures along the way! I’d love to see your new home come together. Thanks again! So nice to “meet” you. :) xo

  15. You are so right. Lots of good tips in there. We had a house built many years ago so I know just how fast the decisions come. One other suggestion, if money is an issue, is to think about what items that you can add now that would be too expensive to try to add later. For example, you want to put in the windows now instead of trying to add windows later, that type of thing. We did a lot of that. Probably less of an issue for people with a larger budget but we knew what we wanted to spend. One of our best decisions was building on a pond. We paid a premium for a pond lot since you can never go wrong with a lot on the water. Another thing that you didn’t mention that would be helpful is that I think most people could benefit from a designer simply in terms of continuity. I really want to know that the bathroom and the kitchen and everything is all part of the same house. Sometimes people start mixing up cabinet, flooring and hardware choices and pretty soon it looks more like a jumbled mess. Designers can also help with outlets. Sometimes when you have a living room, you might want an outlet in the floor or in a bookshelf or somewhere it’s convenient so that you don’t have cords running all over. That is when it’s nice to have a professional involved. I am big on aesthetics and that’s where designers really shine.

    I felt pretty confident overall when we built our house but there were two issues that we needed some help and got some great help from the builder / designer. My son was only 3 at the time and was disabled so I wanted as few steps as possible since he was in a wheelchair. There was one step up to the front porch and I didn’t want this to look like a handicapped accessible house. Instead, the builder suggested raising
    the foundation up 8 inches and in doing so this allowed the sidewalk to go right up to the porch with no step and you can’t even tell. To this day there isn’t anyone who could tell that there was any modification made at all ; the only step is into the house.
    ( I actually just posted a picture of the front of the house on Facebook the other day and you can see the house does not look any different.) We also did simple things like three foot wide doorways to accommodate any future needs. The house looks great and you’d have no idea that it was really accessible too.

    A second area I needed help with was that I needed a place to change him off the family room since I knew he might be in diapers for a while since I couldn’t stand or sit up. We talked about many things but in the end they ended up building us a really nice closet/room off of the family room where I could put a small toddler bed in there for changing him plus I had place for all of his toys. I ended up putting all of his clothes there since it was more convenient to just change him and dress in there as well. It became a great place to store all of the toys so I didn’t have toys in the family room and the room would actually benefit anyone with kids. I actually put in a 6 paneled pocket door to make it easier as well. I recently went back to the house since we sold it many years ago and it is now being used as an office. It was a fun experience making all the changes and I really enjoyed the process. I ended up redrawing the floor plans for a couple of rooms and the builder ended up selling a ton of my changes to other families. We were actually on the front page of our big city newspaper with all of the changes we did to our home. Fun times for sure. P.S.I really like the way the ceiling in your bathroom looks with the changes you made. It turned out great. You would never know that was a mistake.

    1. Sounds like you knew what you were doing Sue! That is awesome you were able to accommodate your son without the house looking like you had! Lots of great tips for other people in similar situations. Thanks so much for sharing! xo

  16. Thanks so much for this awesome post! My husband and I are in the early stages of hiring an architect and builder. We are excited, but very intimidated about this crazy home building process we are about to venture into. I’m sharing this post with my husband tonight so thanks again for the great advice!! And gorgeous home!! :)

    1. Thank you Erica! So glad you liked it! Congrats on your new adventure! It will be a crazy, fun wild ride for sure. :) I hope these tips help! xo

  17. Perfect list Erin!! Such good advice! The furniture placement and kitchen design struck such a chord! :-) Maybe it’s good we didn’t know anything? Can you imagine going through the process with what we know now?! Both good and bad! Hahahahaha!! xoxo

  18. Oh, I just love this post, Erin! Long or not! Ours isn’t a custom but a semi-custom so it wasn’t as time consuming as yours. Yet, I would love to have had the resource and time to do a custom but then I’d have to quit work so I can focus on that :-). We still had to make decisions on ours like the layout of our kitchen cabinets and I’m so glad we knew what we wanted already before going into it. My husband and I also have the same style so there wasn’t any conflict in that area either. That being said, now that we’ve lived in our home we realize there could have been 1 or 2 things we should have thought through before we signed off on those blueprints. Instead of a door for our master bath and a door for our walk-in closet which is inside the bathroom, we should have had them do a pocket door for both. Now we’re just stuck with the door for the master bath and took down the door for the walk-in closet. Live and learn.

    1. Thank you Debbie! I know.. there are always things you realize after you’ve moved in that you could have changed. Live and learn for sure! But I’m convinced that no one could ever build a house that feels 100% perfect. I think if we built again we’d fix some mistakes and make others. :) Happy weekend cutie! xo

  19. I forgot to ask if he was right about the farm sink, that it scratches easily and it drains poorly. They do look great though!

    1. We haven’t scratched one yet! He said belts could scratch them but we don’t wear belts much so it hasn’t been an issue. They drain great.. it’s just harder to get all the food in the drain because there is no angle. The sink is totally flat and square inside so you always have to use a sprayer. SO not a big deal in my book. :) xo

  20. Erin — thank you so much for this post. We are in the permitting process right now and should be building our custom home by the end of the year! I think I am going to hire a designer as I have been slightly overwhelmed with the process. Right now I am in the process of picking out lighting. I was worried lighting colors (metals) needed to match hardware, but I don’t think you followed this rule. Any lighting suggestions?

    1. Thank you Lynora! I hope this post was helpful! I really don’t think there are too many rules with lighting anymore. I see mixed metals all the time. I tried to keep the metals the same or similar in each individual room (kitchen lights and cabinet pulls are all chrome, dining lights and pulls are all black, etc.) but I obviously mixed it up throughout the house. Honestly my suggestion is to just put what you love in each room! Find a look or style that you are drawn too (I have a lot of clear lights throughout) and go with that. A designer would be a huge help with this too if you’re overwhelmed! Best of luck with it all! xo

  21. Thank you for holding my hand and being my therapist through that awful summer remodel. This is so helpful Erin, and must have taken so much time to put together. It is EXCELLENT advice. Your gorgeous home is a testament to how much time and effort you put into the process and you are right-it takes a few months (or years?) and the stress fades and all the little things are forgotten as we get on with life. (I never ever want to do that again though?:)

    1. Oh my word Sarah.. happy to hold your hand since you’ve held mine so many times! I knew exactly what you were going through. CRAZY stuff. I certainly don’t think either of us will be doing it again any time soon. ;) Happy Halloween to you and your cute crew! E-mailing you this weekend. :) xo

  22. Hi Erin!

    My husband and I are in the process of designing a new home for ourselves. I absolutely love everything about yours!! Would you happen to know the dimensions of your nook? We keep going back and forth about what is the appropriate size for one, and yours looks like exactly what we need.

    Thanks so much!

  23. Love This!! Your home is gorgeous!! We also live in San Diego And are just starting to talk to and meet with builders. Can i please get the names and contact info for the architect/builder you used? Your home has a lot of the same styles that I would like and I would love to talk to the people who helpedyou build your home :)

    Thank you So much!! I absolutely love your Blog!


  24. Your house is beautiful!! Is it possible to get your cabinet guy’s contact information. They did amazing work. Thank you in advance for the help.

    1. Thank you Jessica! My cabinet guys were actually from Utah and while the cabinets turned out nice, I wouldn’t recommend using someone from out of state. It got really tricky! E-mail me if you still want their info! xo

  25. Hi Erin, thanks so much for writing this post! My husband and I are in the process of building a custom brick colonial home in the suburbs of Chicago (currently it’s framed, plumbing going in). I totally agree with everything you said! We decided to get a designer last minute, and that has been the best decision we’ve made so far. SO helpful in this world of never ending choices. And yes, we have had to fight our builder on a few things that we know we wanted, but we are so happy with how our home is turning out!
    Another piece of advice I would give is to choose classic, timeless materials when building (cabinets, flooring, tile, etc) and to be more “trendy” with decor, which is easily changed. My goal is for my home to be as beautiful 20 years from now as it will be the day we move in.
    I’m still trying to figure out the “look” I’m going for inside, but your home is absolutely beautiful and has given me some great ideas so far! I also am using farm sinks in our kitchen and laundry room :) love that look.
    Do you know the exact color you used for the molding throughout your house? It’s beautiful!

    1. Thank you so much Julia! Our white molding is “Arothane White” by Frazee. (I think Frazee has now joined with Sherwin Williams.) I agree 100% with everything you said! SO important to chose classic, timeless materials. I bet your home is going to be absolutely beautiful! E-mail me a pic or two when it’s done! So much fun. I’m excited for you! :) xo

  26. Hi Erin,
    My wife and I love your home. We are going to build our dream home next year and I was hoping to get the name of your architect. Would you be willing to share that with me.

    1. Hi Sean! Thank you! Are you local in San Diego? If you are e-mail me and I’ll send you his contact info! I don’t think he does anything out of our area.

  27. Do you have the name and size of your front porch lanterns and sconces? They appear to be a weathered bronze color. Love them!

  28. Hi Erin! Thanks a mil for taking the time to post. I’m in Carlsbad and am building a new home in Vista. I have no idea what builder or designer to use. Would you kindly share their info please? It is so appreciated. I’m glad you and yours survived the adventure!

    1. Hi Pamella! My designer was from Utah and it wasn’t easy having him long distance so you’ll want to look around for someone local for that, but I’m happy to share my builder’s info. if you want to shoot me an e-mail. :) Congrats on your build! So exciting! xo

  29. I don’t think I have ever read such a huge post. I started from the first word and stopped at the end. Really, you have given the other side of building process. You have not only described the requirements, planning but also tackling with decisions, relationship with workers and communicating power. As I saw many other posts, people gave roughly the idea of design, physics calculations, measurements etc which is actually a MAJOR part of the contractor rather than home owners like us. And one best thing you quoted is that, “Afterall, we ourselves are the end users who are going to wake up, sleep and live in our own house. Not the others. So decisions with final approval are on us”. Thanks a lot for your building story. Really appreciated!! (Forgive me for my English, as I am an Indian ;P)

  30. Very helpful information! Your home is beautiful! Can I ask what type of hardwoods you have?? They’re beautiful! Thanks! Erin D.

  31. Thank you so much for your post! My husband and I are not custom building a home, but we are building a new home and it’s very helpful to read about your process and thoughts. Not only are your pictures wonderful, but the content is great! You have a new reader!

    1. Thank you Nicole! I’m so happy this post was helpful to you! Congrats on your new home! SO exciting. :) And so nice to “meet” you! xo

  32. Hi Erin,
    We are starting the process to build a new home and I am a bit overwhelmed looking for an architect. I want a custom home that isn’t intimidating if that makes sense. I don’t want people to fill uncomfortable when they enter because it is too fancy, your home is very inviting and I love the storage everywhere!!! I have four kids and I love when everything has a place. Would you mind sharing your architects contact information? Thank you, Kelly H.

    1. Hi Kelly! Do you live in San Diego? Shoot me an e-mail and let me know what area you live in! My architect only designs homes for my area, but I’m happy to send you his info. if you live near me! xo

  33. Excellent pics and blog. Do you have any information about financing…any lessons learned along the way that may help us?

  34. This is a great post! I found you through Pinterest since my husband and I are looking to build our own home too! I love how you shared the ups and downs and the mistakes that ended up being a great touch to your home! Thanks!

    1. Thank you! I’m so glad you enjoyed the post! Best of luck with your build.. so exciting! I’m so happy you found me. :)

  35. Hi! We are pursuing subdividing my parents’ 6 acres and building our dream home, so I stumbled across this post as I was perusing Pinterest. Beyond this great advice, I felt like I was walking into my dreams as I looked at each picture of your house…and then as I read I noticed you said you built in San Diego! We live in Oceanside!!! I don’t usually leave comments, but I just had to ask…any chance you would be willing to share your contacts with me, and could I pick your brain more perhaps??? (I hate to be presumptuous…but we are starting from scratch here and I’ve been wondering about so much of this stuff!). My email is, if you don’t mind…
    I’m definitely pinning this article to look back on more of your posts later (when the kids are in bed, lol!) Thanks for sharing!

    1. Hi Rachel! So nice to “meet” you! I love Oceanside. :) Definitely e-mail me if you have specific questions along the way! I could give you my contacts but I don’t think they would help you much because most of the people I worked with (builder, architect, carpenter) only take jobs in my area. I have a lot of info on building on my blog so hopefully it’s a good resource for you and like I said let me know if you have specific questions during your building process! xo

  36. This was an awesome post! I stumbled across your blog while doing all of my nightly research for our build. This is also our first custom built home. We are currently waiting on our permits to come back and hope to break ground around April. I won’t lie…I am strongly considering a couple of changes to our plans after seeing your home! Our styles are very similar and you have a couple amazing things I hadn’t thought of! I particularly LOVE the lockers in your mudroom and will definitely be talking to my contractor about those! So excited to dive into more of your home. Thanks for the valuable info for first time builders!

    1. I’m so happy this post was helpful Amy! Oh man.. you are in for a wild ride! Building is so fun and so awful all at the same time! Ha. ;) Did you see my most recent post? I made a printable of all of my paint colors if you are interested!

      Paint was a stressful stage for me. I hope my blog is helpful during your journey.. I know how many decisions are ahead of you and it can get overwhelming for sure. Good luck with your new home! I’m sure it will turn out beautiful! xo

  37. We’re in San Diego and thinking of building our new house and iit’s a pleasure to read your article. We are wondering if you would recommend your main builder and what is their company name? We would like to contact them to start our process. Thanks a bunch.

  38. Currently up at 4am stressing over wood or carpet in upstairs hallway (and you know it is more complicated than that). Need to get back to builder TOMORROW on decision😑. I resorted to looking for home building blogs. This post is so helpful, reassuring, and honest. It is difficult to have such an intense focus on an inanimate structure for such a long period of time during a build. It blinds perspective. I’d rather pour into my family and other humans! Your blog shows light at the end of this tunnel. Thank you for sharing!

    1. Oh my word Cali.. you hit the nail on the head with building! It’s hard to have to focus on it all for so long.. it really does blind your perspective. I remember after we were finished the house and had moved in and the stress had finally left me. I was chatting with my sister in law about random things and out of the blue she said “I’m so happy you’re back.. we lost you there for a while.” I don’t think I realized how much it was consuming everything in my life. There is light at the end of the tunnel so hang in there! xo

  39. Thank you for this article. I wish I had read it months ago!! We are nearing completion of our custom forever home that we designed. Almost nothing went the way I wanted it to. I was in tears this morning (again) and then I found your blog. The point about mistakes will happen made me feel a bit better. Although, I’m so upset about almost nothing turning out how I wanted it. After our builder is finished, there are soooo many things we need to change, fix or finish on an already way over budget home. My builder was a poor listener, liked doing things his way, never remembered what I asked him to do (even though I clearly explained things in emails or texts and in person) and really just slapped things together and hoped I wouldn’t notice. I regret not interviewing more builders. This morning, I wasn’t even sure I wanted to live in the house when it’s done, it was such a bad experience. But somehow your blog helped me. Thank you for that.

    1. Linda! When I read your comment I wanted to just reach through the computer and give you a huge hug! I know exactly how you feel. Honestly I think EVERYONE ends a home build feeling so frustrated and just over it all! I remember my mom building a beautiful home years ago and saying the same thing after “I don’t even want to live here now!” It’s just such a stressful process and things never turn out exactly how you picture them turning out. Honestly move in and just move on with your life and give it some time. There are things you will learn to love in your new home! xo

  40. We are two months out from moving into our custom built home in Sydney Australia and your post completely resonated with me – I only wish I had found it sooner! Have been extremely stressed the last few weeks and keep second guessing myself. I got to the point the other day when the builder asked me a question and I just had no answer for him because I just couldn’t make one more decision! You house is absolutely amazing, thank you for sharing.

    1. Oh my word.. I know EXACTLY how you feel! It’s a stressful process for sure. I’m so happy my post was helpful! You will love your new home once you have been in it a while and the dust has settled. :) Hang in there! xo

  41. We decided to build a home rather than buy one – we were shocked that it was actually within our budget, and we were able to get exactly what we wanted. We found many houses in our budget but the kitchens and bathrooms (kitchens especially) were not at all what we wanted, and would require many renovations. Some, and I know it’s just my personal preference, would have required a total gut job.

    We received a TON of great advice while we were building but the best was about photos pre-drywall. While building, our realtor and our contractor both told us to come in before they put the drywall up so we could see where ALL studs were (yeah you can use a stud finder but it’s nice to SEE it), all pipes were, all cords, and anything else. I cannot tell you how many times we’ve had to look at that album on my phone. Mounting a rather large television in the family room, mounting shower curtain hardware, putting up shelving in the closets (we opted out of the wire shelves in many of the closets), putting up curtain hardware… and we saved ourselves a few potentially huge mistakes. That was by far the best thing we did and I never would’ve come up with that idea on my own. :)

    Really and truly I loved every minute of building a home. I thought it was way easier than planning a wedding!!! We only had to please ourselves, lol.

    1. I’m so happy to hear that you had a good experience Heather! That is a great tip (taking photos before drywall) and we did the same thing. Funny though.. I’ve never had to look back at those pictures! I love that they have been so helpful to you! Thanks for sharing! xo

  42. Hi there! Reading this post here in May of 2021! Thanks for this post, so glad I read it. The part about having decisions already made and being super nice to the crew stood out the most. It made me teary eyed when I saw how close one of them was to your little guy. Anyway, thanks again!

  43. Reading this in May 2021 ! So so helpful !Is there a post on who all do you need ..We just started interviewing builders but I read now that we would need to interview architects and designers as well .Somehow I thought they would be a part of the builder’s team (I know stupid) ..thanks for this wonderful post and sharing your experience with us .It all turned out great in the end !G :)

    1. Oh you are too kind.. thank you! You are not stupid for thinking that at all! There are SO many things that go into building a home. You really just learn it all along the way. Some builders do have architects and designers they work with often and recommend, but you are smart to really look around and find people who understand your style and who you will mesh well with. Best of luck to you! So exciting! :)

  44. Thank you for this post! It was so what I needed to hear right now; especially the part about mistakes will be made. I wish I’d come across your article months ago. Your home is lovely and I’m hoping, wishing and praying for the same.

  45. Thank you for all the info. I love your livingroom. Where did you get the plans for your home? I’m wanting to build a 1000 sq ft Beach house in Crystal Beach Texas. Did you contract the building or did you have a builder do it all?

  46. I am amazed how perfectly you put your experience into words. I am in the process of house construction about to finish in few months, everything you said relates to me 100% Thank you so much for sharing your experience which made me realise I am not the one going through this. I just feel like it’s a training ground where we learn to be patient. Kind flexible tolerant and l1etting go our attachments to perfection. Thank god and thank you..and sorry for my bad english

    1. Oh you are 100% right! It’s such a difficult process but full of growing opportunities like you said. Hang in there and you will love your home when it’s finished! Imperfections and all. :)

  47. Thanks for sharing this! I just bought a property north of San Diego and am starting the process of building a new home now. Appreciate all of your tips!

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