I think, today, I will talk a bit about our new house. I will post a few pictures, but they don’t do it justice. And it is a work in progress, so you have to use your imagination a bit.
It’s still in the throes of construction. It doesn’t look as if we’ll get in until September, but when something is special, it’s worth the wait, so I am not complaining. This house will have taken us over a year to build. It has been stressful living in the cramped confinement of the cabin, and our lives have been in this transitional place longer than most people could stand. But we deal with it because we know, masterpieces take time. (The house, and our life, qualifies as a masterpiece, I believe.)
To say this is our “dream house” is not an understatement. It’s everything I’ve dared imagine – and if you know me, you know I have a vivid imagination without limits. Frankly, it’s out of my comfort zone as far as a humble abode could be. I never imagined I’d live in something so grand or so perfect for our personalities.
I think that is the key. Not that a place must be extravagant, but it must fit the residents. This home is a work of art and a work of nature all rolled into one inspirational package. I’ve never considered myself a homebody, but I don’t doubt, once in, I’ll become one. Most importantly, this project has made Mark happy. He is going crazy with the work, but he is, at the same time, filled with satisfaction and joy. He has always wanted to design his own home – this particular rustic style of home. And while we don’t have unlimited resources, he has enough money to work with to make his vision a reality. Actually, our limits force him to be creative and resourceful, and he responds well to that kind of challenge. Most of the best things we’ve done in our lives have been in response to our wanting more than our resources provided. We are masters at finding ways to accomplish something without writing a big check (we never had the capability of dropping cash like that). It’s not a bad thing (character building) to have to think out of the box.
For example, Mark wanted huge log pillars and detail in this home. But the size and quality of the logs he needed are bought by builders from out west and shipped in – which costs about $1000 a log (not to mention shipping and time factors etc). He wanted about 80 such logs in this house. So he learned to do them himself. He walked the property with the builder and together, they picked out trees that had the size, shape and wood they wanted. They chopped them down and carted them with the tractor to Mark’s workshop. He then debarked them with a chainsaw and began the laborious process of sanding them. Later, they were brought back to the house and since they weigh about 1000 pounds each, it took six men and prop devices to wedge them into place – in a few cases, they need a crane. But Mark got his logs. In fact, people who have worked on the house have said that they know builders working on multimillion dollar homes that would go crazy to buy some of Mark’s logs. Does he want to start producing them? If we ever get cash strapped, he has this option, not that I’d let him do that for a living.
The first day that Mark began a log, he came home so broken and beat I thought the project would kill him. Really. Lifting that heavy chainsaw and carving up these huge logs takes muscle. He’s out of shape, has arthritis in his hips and he was so exhausted and spent, I was certain he’d taken on too much. But he slept it off and the next day returned to the task. He is determined that way. The man always gets what he wants simply because he will endure whatever it takes to get it. That is an admirable trait, except when you have visions of widowhood looming each time he steps out the door. At times, he would prepare a log, and it would turn up a few feet short – all that work for nothing. Broke my heart. Slowly but surely, the logs took their place in the house. They are the pillars that hold up the huge back porch, and they create a majestic entrance in the front too. Inside, they hold up the staircase and run along the 25 foot peeked ceiling. Amazing.
When I walk through the construction site, inspecting progress, I always stop to caress a log with my fingers. I can’t describe how much I love these damn logs. My daughter chuckles when she is with me. The other day, she said, “You sure adore those logs –of course, you would. It’s so very you.” I said, “It isn’t very me. It is very dad.” And she smiled and said, “That’s what I mean. You love that your house is made of the essence of who and what you love.”
Ha. She is as romantic and corny as I am. But she is right. I do.
When we sold our home in Florida, I cried. I walked through the empty rooms and balled. Mark didn’t understand.
He said, “It’s just a house, and I’m gonna build you a better one in the mountains, where you’ve always wanted to live. Your next house will have all the things you want, like a big closet and a good kitchen.”
I tried to explain that it wasn’t the house I cared about, but what the house represented. Our kids were born there, and he had turned the house from a cracker box, average sort of home into a beautiful, stylish representation of us. And the garden! I looked at his pond, his 200 orchids hanging in the trees – all his gorgeous landscaping and I wept. I said, “I don’t want to give up all this beauty. I love waking up and looking out the doors at this Garden of Eden, you’ve created.”
He shook his head and said, “You will have 50 acres of Eden. Trust me. You won’t miss this house.” (I do miss the house – but not for reasons I can explain.)
Anyway, our new home is remarkable, because it’s original and born of my husband’s vision. Mark spent months pouring through log home magazines to determine what he wanted. He cut out pictures and talked to builders about what was possible with our budget. Then, when he couldn’t afford something, he shopped and made compromises until he could get something as close to perfection as possible. For example, we needed a front door. Mark wanted something stately, so he looked everywhere. Night after night, he did research, comparing prices. Eventually, he found an amazing door that he could get shipped from Bali. It was only two grand with a thousand dollars for shipping. Two months later, the door arrives. It’s massive, made of this gorgeous African hardwood. It has a curved shape (It looks like a door from a Hobbit house in the movie The Lord of the Rings). Windows frame the perimeter, covered with iron detail. It’s rustic, but stately – (this home isn’t a cabin, it is just a rustic style home so it combines rustic detail with more classic design.) The company delivering the door wouldn’t drive in the gravel road to take it to the house, because it’s simply too big and heavy, and they didn’t want to be responsible for what happened. So Mark, the builder and 3 laborers lifted it into a truck and drove two miles an hour, screaming and panicking all the way, to bring it to the house. It took five guys to set it into place. But, let me tell you, we have a terrific door to show for the trouble.
When the electrician came to the house, he said, “Man, how much money do these people have? That door must have cost 15 grand!”
The builder grinned and said, “I think it was only 8 grand. This guy knows how to find bargains.”
Mark smiled but kept the real price to himself. Not many people would go to all that trouble over a door. For Mark, “trouble” is simply the price of satisfaction.
He has done the same kind of thing when it comes to light fixtures, fireplaces, cabinets, etc… He works magic, finding amazing bargains, and he rolling up his sleeves to dig in to do work himself when he must. He is doing half the contracting, the logs, some of the stonework, landscaping, and lots and lots of creative planning.
I guess it would help if I described the basic house plan. We’re building a 5000 square foot home (Our last home in Florida was only 1700 Sq feet, so you can imagine how excited I am with the space). It has four bedrooms, a grand (living) room, a kitchen connected to a breakfast nook, a family room downstairs, a big private writing office for me, a loft office for Mark attached to a craft room for his junk, a laundry room, dining room, a room for a pool table (grin), a huge workout room (yippee) and four bathrooms. We have a big (clean) garage and steps going upstairs to a large storage attic. We have lots of holiday decorations, camping equipment, etc, so this is a particular luxury. This home has a huge screened in deck, bigger and more lovely than the one we created in Florida, with a large stone outdoor fireplace and 25 foot cathedral ceiling with recessed lighting and fans. The mantel is a huge half cedar log that Mark sanded. He carved around the knots and burls to add detail, and the piece is filled with wormholes and spaulted designs in the wood. Beautiful. We also have two sets of French doors from the master bedroom that leads out onto another private deck (held up by Mark’s logs). Mark also has a large private deck off of his loft office. I think he imagines he’s going to be like the king lording it over the peasants in that big space in the sky over us all. That works for me – but if it is HIS space and we can’t go up there as he claims, he can clean it. Ha. Bet he invites me in before the first week is out.
We have four fireplaces in the house, a huge traditional one in the great room that is stoned 25 feet to the ceiling. We have collected geodes and unique stones to embed in the stonework to make it a conversation piece. Lights have been positioned to showcase this focal point. In this room hangs a 5-foot wide massive iron chandelier. We also have a fireplace in the downstairs family room. This is where we will have a big TV and a bar and what have you for casual living. (We always keep the primary room sans TV, so it is used for adult pursuits or the family when they are up for reading, talking or anything other than the boob tube. We are not big TV watchers in this family.) We also have a lovely iron stove fireplace in the master bedroom. It has a design in the structure so that when it is lit, it casts a subtle leaf pattern on the walls. This one has a remote control so we can switch it off when we go to sleep. We are lazy, I guess.
Like any log cabin, the inside of the outer walls are log. But we have some drywall inside too so the home isn’t pure cabin. It will be our home for many years, and we didn’t want it to be too hard-core cabin-ish, which would prohibit decor change or evolution.
We got rid of most of our furniture from Florida, other than a leather couch. So this house has no furniture. We are not planning to buy much. Mark plans to build it all. He is taking a rustic furniture making class in August and I suppose after that, the sky is the limit. We have picked out some pretty amazing pieces that he intends to reproduce. We will hustle to get this done, partly because we have to live in it and need furniture, but also because our builder thinks we are candidates for a log home magazine spread (He’s done several before with homes like this that stand out), and that would be a fun way to show off Mark’s final project. Nice to have for prosperity.
I have a huge closet – the size of my daughters former bedroom – all my own. This is such a kick. I will actually be able to see my clothes. I have a disgustingly massive wardrobe, and if I can see everything, I tend to be a creative dresser that puts things together in fun, new ways. I will be the best-dressed gal in the sticks, let me tell ya. Mark has his own big closet that he can keep as messy as he wants without hearing me whine.
Our master bathroom features a huge tub with hot tub jets. Mark will actually fit into it (and he could even invite friends if he wishes, it is so big.) I had to lay down in it before I would give it a seal of approval, because I like to read in the tub, and I require a comfortable backrest sort of design. I think nothing of laying in a tub in a store. I’m grossly inappropriate that way.
This house is really Mark’s project entirely. He had done an amazing job. The things I wanted for this house, I made clear. I wanted lights. Lots and lots of lights. We have canned lights everywhere. The electrician said, “No one needs this much light.” But Mark said, “It is all my wife asked for. She’s gonna get it.” I have tons of light in the kitchen and there are recessed lights everywhere. What can I say? I don’t see as well as I did when I was younger, and I read everywhere – in bed, the bath, on the porch, in every room, you name it. I also like mood lighting. It is important to have illuminating options depending on your mood (wink).
I also wanted lots of counter space in the kitchen. Got it. I have a spiffy new stove with five burners and two ovens – but it isn’t as large as I wanted. In the end, we had to make compromises, and while I would have loved to spend a fortune on my kitchen, I can do fine with anything. I tried to be reasonable in this regard – but I did press for a good cooking set-up. Only fair considering the time I spend in there.
Downstairs, the famiy room open onto a large stone patio where we have the hot tub and plan to string some hammocks on the support logs. My kids each have a big bedroom. Kent has a drum room built into his with a loft over it to dull sound (grin). We have huge windows everywhere, which look out onto the most beautiful wilderness you can imagine. The best part of this house is the setting. When you are on the porch, all you hear is wind in the trees and birds. It is remote, like heaven. 50 feet from our porches is a gurgling creek. We plan to clean out all the underbrush after the house is complete so you can see it better, but this must wait until all inspections are complete. Can’t mess with Mother Nature without permission. We also have two springheads just beyond the house, and Mark plans to dig a big pond there, with an island for my future ducks to nest on. (We will have creek front property and a pond stocked with ducks and fish. And I want a SWAN. Yippee.) All around the house is forest, and if you walk down the drive, you come to the field where the horses graze. We plan to build walking trails with benches and such, so walking the property is a easy and soulful. Mark will also put stairs to, and places to sit, by the creek. In the long term, we have some exciting possibilities, which include a gazebo by the creek, a tree house attached to our home by a bridge from the deck, and maybe a guesthouse nestled in the woods nearby for friends. Of course, it all depends on money and where life takes us. The best thing is, 50 acres allows you 50 thousand possibilities. It is fun to plan, even if some of our ideas are far-fetched.
I am pleased with the house, but I must confess, it isn’t what I wanted when we moved here. We had agreed to live simply and to allocate our resources to things other than an extravagant home. Previously, it seemed our life was just an endless struggle for “stuff” and to create a beautiful home – but we were so busy working we never enjoyed any of it. I wanted different things this time – to travel the world, have experiences rather than things, buy toys to play with. I imagined us living a more conservative lifestyle so we had money to spend in other ways. I especially wanted a boat – we even looked at them last summer – but now that will have to wait. I got the horses, so it isn’t as if I didn’t get something to play with.
The house we planned to build originally was half the cost of this one. When Mark is on a creative roll, nothing stops him, and things escalated. I saw it happening, but I kept quiet. I figure we will still live simply (now we will have to) but in total elegance. If I want to travel and have a boat, I’ll just have to sell a book and generate income for those additional things. Or open a business (now you know why my mind shifts to those possibilities. It is to keep up with my man’s lifestyle tastes).
What is most important is not where you live or what you have, but the happiness factor for those involved. I am happy anywhere and with anything. But this house is what Mark needed to feel satisfied. And I get the benefit too. So I am thrilled with it. And frankly, it is a fantastic investment too. Our land’s value has already increased a great deal. Someday, when we decide to bravely shift into a new chapter of living, we will sell this and I’LL TAKE A TWO-YEAR TOUR AROUND THE WORLD, no compromises. I won’t have kids then, so it could happen.
In the meantime, I can live with staying home – since I can’t afford to go anywhere –after all, the home is a luxurious work of art. (Ha – do I sound spoiled or what?)
Now, I just marvel at watching this incredible project take shape. I’ve lost my husband to the search for perfect tile and stone, fixtures and trims, and that is lonely. I thought, this, our first year without FLEX would be a wild celebration of leisure and rekindling our relationship. We needed time to heal the last few years of turmoil and stress that our business created. Instead, it has been a ton of work. I don’t see Mark much. My laundry is filled with sawdust, and proof of his exhaustion is evident in his heavy snoring at night.
I guess certain sayings prove true.
Anything worth having is worth working for.
Because I know this, life is good.
Patience is a virtue.
That is the one I must remember.