Friday, January 25, 2013

The House

I have wanted to write about this for a while but the last time I did that was almost 3 years ago! Can you say life defeated us a little? But we are truly hell bent to build this house even if we have to whittle it from the trees we have cut down and live like hobbits. I love my parents, I do, we just can not continue to co-habitate. There will be blood or tears or unkind words and I worked really hard to get to this point in my relationship with my mother so backwards is not an option, k?

First, I will give you the basics. My parents have the best kept secret in our town. It's called their land. All 40 acres of it. I say it is the best kept secret because it's off the main road, it is surrounded by 2 rivers and the only way to get to it besides the main drive way is by a trail through the woods. It's private. You would never know it was there unless you looked across the river from the farm over yonder and exclaimed "My, what a pretty field! I wonder how you get to it?". Generously, they have given both me and my brother a lot to build a house from it. And, because we are no dummies, we took the offer. Our lot is on the road that goes out to the field and stops at the edge of it. When we stared into it last fall it looked absolutely daunting. It was a tangled, overgrown bit of forest that is narrow with a fence on the back side (which belongs to another farm) and my aunt on another side. We got permission to start clearing it and within a day Montana Man got enough undergrowth and dead trees out of the way to get a better picture of what we are dealing with. It really is a unique and attractive piece. We worked for about a month on the weekends clearing as much as we deemed necessary and tried to save as many mature hardwoods as practical. We have cut and set aside enough red oaks (we hope) to supply us with hardwood flooring. More on how we will achieve that later!

I can't tell you how many floor plans I have drawn up in the last 3 years, I really can't. One day it just clicked for me. I abandoned trying to have a traditional 2 story house and decided a ranch with a daylight basement was our answer. Budget was the issue, a 2 story house would have been too cramped for the size we could afford, but a ranch with a daylight was within reach. And our land just happened to lend itself to the daylight perfectly with a southeast slope. I played around with different exterior dimensions and 28'x40' was the winner. What you see above is the main floor. The ceiling will be vaulted over the main rooms but then will be normal over the other half of the house.

The bathroom. We will not have a designated "master bath" but instead a pocket door access. Yes, how un-American Dream of us, sharing our bath with the children! Really, I thought about it and it's a big fat waste of money to have a master bath. If you have a bunch of money and want to spend it on that, go for it, but for us it was an unwise decision, and frankly just not an option. The bathroom is my baby. I have dreamed since I was a lot younger of a beautiful bathroom to call mine. With 1920's charm of hexagon floor tile and subway tile and a shower made from both too. A claw foot bath tub. YES. And, because I must have one I will be salvaging one from a junk yard and refinishing it myself. Pedestal sink and whatever toilet we can afford and that'll do it.

Bedrooms.Our room does however have a walk in closet. Not because I have a ton of shoes or clothes but because we had the room to spare for storage space. So it will be multipurpose: clothes, linen, luggage, bedding, crafts, etc. Our room is not excessive is size either, it is spacious enough to comfortably have our king sized bed and baby furniture if need be. No extra furniture except maybe a reading chair. Simple pimple.
You might notice Mini's room is quite small (if you can see the dimensions). She is a baby and that is the baby room. When she is older and we add another little one she will graduate to a bigger room downstairs like her brother. When we have no more babies we will see what we have for genders and assign rooms as need be. Puzzle Boy, as the oldest will have his own room to himself unless he were to suggest otherwise (which I doubt he would!). It just seemed fair. And we also feel strongly about not mixing genders in rooms. It is asking for trouble, kids are kids, and, kids are curious. No co-ed.

The kitchen is designed to be small yet efficient and functional. An island was essential to this for both storage and counter work space. We will also be having a counter depth fridge to keep an open feel. Big appliances just close a kitchen in and we don't need them/ can't afford them. My tip would be to get a deep freezer or a cheap spare fridge and put it in the garage or basement if you really need the space.

The dining room is an open extension of the kitchen and will have a patio door that will eventually open to a small deck. I gauged how big I wanted it to be by how much room we needed to have Thanksgiving dinner. For everyday living it will very comfortably hold a table for eight. Not that we need a table that big for us but we like to have company.

Downstairs will have a family room/ kids area/ school area, 2 bedrooms and a small full bath. The bedrooms will be fairly good sized with generous closets and that is good because at least 2 children will have to share one. By the way, please ignore the compass in the upper right hand corner, it is backward. My bad.

Now, for the best part. We will be building this house off grid. My awesome husband happens to know a thing or two about solar and we have made the commitment to go off grid completely. The lot has no power on it and we want to keep it that way. It is just one more independence from the mainstream we would like to maintain. We also are going to have a wood/oil combination boiler. We would have wood only but for legal/insurance and practical reasons this is not an option. But, we should only have to fill our small oil tank once a year to heat water in the summer. So electric bill, gone. Excessive oil bill, gone. Having peace of mind that we will have power and heat when others may not is everything. We will be responsible, not dependent on large companies and our wallet to keep us warm and functioning. Can you say AWESOME?

I want to document this process not just for us but for others who think they can't afford to build a home their way. Our budget is small for what we are to achieve. $100,000, that's our top and by my calculations we are at that mark right now in projected cost. Solar has taken 15% of this budget but it is worth the month to month savings in living cost. In a few years our only expenses will be a mortgage and typical smaller bills (insurance, phones, food, gas, car repairs, etc). No other loans, no huge credit card bills or oil bills or electric bills.

So that's our plan! Now to just start! Stupid winter.


  1. How exciting! We are finishing up our off-grid house plans, the code enforcement officer has already looked at them and only asked for a couple very minor changes so we'll be sending them back in soon with said changes. Planning to lay the foundation in the spring, yay!

    1. How exciting! We found had some insane prices on USA made solar panels as well as pretty good deals in pre-wired inverter systems. For our house needs it going to be a big chunk for us but it's worth a look if you aren't familiar with it!