Designing a Custom Home – Part 11 – Open House

By the time your home is almost finished, there’s a lot of excitement and anticipation about moving in.  One of the things we’ve realized, though, is that we’ve spent the greater part of the past six months talking about our new home to anyone who’ll listen.  Family, friends, coworkers, people you go to church with – they’ve all (mostly) listened and shared your excitement, along with advice and being someone you could bounce ideas off of to find out if they make sense or are really stupid.  These folks have walked along beside you in this journey, so it’s nice to repay them by letting them see the finished house.

My recommendation is to have the open house before you move in.  The house will be relatively clean, there won’t be unpacked boxes to trip over, and it shows off the building rather than the décor.

Keep it simple.  You’re going to be moving in soon, and no one expects a huge meal.  Have an assortment of simple appetizers set out for people to snack on, and make it easy on your time and your budget.  We are finishing our build in October, so the standard fare of candy corn and peanuts had to make the menu.  We also picked up several packages of mini cupcakes, brownies, and muffins from Sam’s Club, along with a veggie tray and cheese, and our favorite chips and salsa, and crackers and hummus.


Try to keep the food contained in one area for easy clean up, and be mindful of serving things that might make a mess.


Remember you haven’t moved in yet, but you are having guests over, so there will be some other items you’ll need to have at the ready.  First off, trash bags.  Skip the dishes and have paper plates, napkins, and plastic ware, which will make for easy clean up.  Next, toilet paper.  Some of your guests will need to use your facilities, which means toilet paper, soap, and towels (a roll of paper towels will suffice) need to stock your loo.  A small trash can in the powder room will be helpful as well.  Check the weather, too. You may need to have your welcome mats set out early for folks to wipe their feet on as they come in.



Last, remember this is a celebration for you and your family as well.  Don’t get so caught up in hosting duties that you forget to have fun.  Take pictures, talk to everyone, and enjoy yourself in your new home.

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In the midst of building a home and teaching at fiber events, I also managed to attend a work conference in Seattle the end of September.  This was my third trip to the Pacific Northwest, and I hope one of these times Robert can come with me.  Last year the conference was actually in Bellevue, across the lake, so I didn’t get to do any sightseeing.  This year, however, our hotel was right downtown in the middle of everything.


In order to arrive on time for the conference, I flew in on Monday and had Monday evening and Tuesday morning to do a little exploring.

The famous Pike Place Market was just a few blocks away.  It had been 16 years since I was last here.  I love all the flowers . . .




Fish, anyone?


And how about a cup of coffee from the very first Starbucks?  A tall caramel macchiato, please.


In the other direction, I could see the Space Needle from my shuttle. The Space Needle is an iconic part of the Seattle skyline, and it’s got great views during the day and at night. Next time I’ll make the time to go up in it again.


The rest of my days were spent in the hotel for the conference, which was very good, but during my free time I also managed to find a local yarn shop nearby.   So Much Yarn is part of Pike’s Place Market and was a cute little shop.


I spent the evenings in my room knitting and enjoying the spectacular view.


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Designing a Custom Home – Part 10 – Financing

So a while back I wrote a post about budgeting for building a custom home, but didn’t really get into the aspect of financing. Unless you’re independently wealthy, you’re going to need a loan. But what kind of loan? How long should you finance it? What kind of rate should you be looking for?

This is a two-part situation. First is the construction loan. Construction loans typically require a 20% down payment. You’ll make interest only payments on the increasing amounts borrowed month after month. Construction loans typically have higher interest rates than your permanent financing will, and usually are terminated within 12 months.

You’ll want to talk to more than one lender before closing your construction loan. Don’t look only at the interest rate, but the other costs involved. There are closing costs for either type of loan, and those can vary by lender.

Once you have your construction loan, your contractor will submit bills to you for payment. You’ll work directly with a title company who you pay, typically via a draw fee, to write the checks and get all the necessary lien waivers to ensure you’ll have clean title on the property once the home is built. They’ll also be responsible for issuing 1099’s to the contractor and sub-contractors. Draw fees also vary, so you may be able to negotiate with your lender and title company to get so many free draws, and you’ll also want to have your contractor work with you to submit bills just once or twice a month to help keep your costs down.

Once you can pin down your builder for a completion date – they don’t like to commit; ask me how I know, LOL – you’ll want to start shopping for your permanent financing. These will typically be a refinance loan, and you’ll look to lock your rate in when you’re 30-45 days out from completion.

Again, talk to more than one lender. Compare all costs, including the rate, loan origination fee, appraisal fee, etc. Prepaids are your escrowed taxes and insurance, title insurance, and the like, and they should not vary much by lender or title company.

When you’re looking at your interest rate, ask yourself if it makes sense to purchase a lower rate by paying points. Points are essentially prepaid interest, which gives you a lower rate and lower monthly payment. Calculate the break-even point based on the size of your loan and the difference it makes in your annual payment. Paying points generally makes more sense with a higher dollar loan amount and a longer term.

We also learned that different lock-in periods carry different rates. Locking in your rate 45 days out may mean a higher rate than waiting to lock at 30 days.

The amount of your loan makes a difference as well. The more you borrow, the better your rate should be, up to a point. Rates are typically better for a $200,000 loan than a $150,000 loan. Then there’s the term of the loan to consider. A shorter term loan should have a better rate than a longer term loan, but this also means your payments will be higher. But in the long run, you’ll pay much less interest overall.

Your mileage may vary, as the housing market differs across the country. Use the calculators at to calculate your mortgage payment and create an amortization schedule to help you make the best decision for your own situation.

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Dream in Black & White

After my Dream in Color post about paint colors, I thought it would be helpful to have a discussion on black and white as well.  Do you know how many colors are called “white?”  It’s crazy.  And they all have different undertones that play on colors around them, so it’s a pretty critical decision to get just the right shade.

Knowing we had cool tones and blues and greys selected for the walls, I looked for a white on a color card that had those colors adjacent to it.  Whichever white we chose would be the color of our trim and our cabinets so everything will be seamless.


We wanted a “real” white, not an off-white, and to me, Benjamin Moore Brilliant White fit the bill.


However, our painter had concerns about it being so bright.  After comparing several shades of white with our other colors and finishings, I agreed upon two additional possibilities.  The color names?  The first was “Super White” and the other one – no kidding – was “White.”  Yep.  White.  Plain, ordinary, boring white.  Guess which one we went with?  Uh, huh.  White.




Black was a similar story.  Our front door will be painted black and needs to work with the red brick on the exterior and the grey walls on the interior.  We wanted something that was more of a true black, and narrowed it down to Black Satin and Twilight Zone.  This is where names can either be a hindrance or a help.  As much as Robert and I appreciated the joke of our front door being painted so guests could enter the Twilight Zone, Black Satin just looked more right to me.


Sometimes, you just have to go with your gut.

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Designing a Custom Home – Part 8 – Paint: Dream in Color

For the knitters that follow my blog, they’ll recognize the title as a popular brand of yarn. However, this post is about literally dreaming in color. When we started building our home, I would fall asleep “walking” through the house in my mind, picturing where furniture would go, or pictures on the wall, etc. But it wasn’t until recently that I started seeing the paint colors on the wall, so I knew it was getting close to having to make those hard decisions.

Some people say paint is easy. If you don’t like it, just repaint. Well, first off, that’s true, but it’s also wasteful and can get expensive. Second, we’ve got some seriously high ceilings in a couple of rooms, plus a stairwell that would be downright treacherous if we tried to repaint it. That means we’d have to hire professionals, so I’d like to get it right the first time. I’m not saying we’ll never repaint years down the road, but for now, these need to be colors I can live with. (Fortunately, Robert is color blind, so he won’t mind what I pick, LOL.)

So how did I choose our palette?

First off, as with the rest of the house design, I looked at a lot of inspiration photos on Houzz, Pinterest, and the blogs I read. I knew I wanted the interior to have a beach cottage feel even though we’re in the Midwest, so that eliminated several color options. I also knew I wanted cooler undertones, and that my interpretation of beachy colors may not be everyone’s first thoughts. I also invested in a fan deck of all of the Benjamin Moore paint colors (the brand recommended by our painter).

My favorite kitchen on Houzz had this wonderful grey paint on the walls – Benjamin Moore Storm. Without remembering the name, I managed to pick that exact grey as my first choice for the kitchen.

But when I put samples up on our walls, Storm didn’t work as well as I’d hoped. It was too dark in some spots and too blue-grey in others.

Originally we’d thought that the family room would be a lovely ice blue, much like this photo from Houzz.

However, I had a hard time with the transition into the master suite, so we’re opting to go grey in the family room now. The mudroom and connecting hall are right off of the kitchen, so they’ll be grey as well as well as the foyer, the stairwell, and the upstairs landing.

Since we’d already picked the tile for our master bathroom shower, that paint color needed to work with the tile in there. I originally opted for BM Pale Sea Mist, which I thought played perfectly off of the green in the shower. But once on the walls, that color got the most reviled reactions from friends and family, so I had to buy some more samples.  The winner is Fernwood Green, bottom row, second from left, which is right below Pale Sea Mist.


With the master bathroom green, I needed to connect it to the master bedroom, which connects to the family room grey.  I also wanted our bedroom to be darker and moodier than the rest of the house, so we opted for Buckland Blue. With the white woodwork and dark bamboo floors, I think it will give that British Colonial feel I’m looking for.


Since blue and yellow are the two main colors that dogs can distinguish, and the laundry room/dog’s bedroom is right off of our master, I opted for blue in there as well. I went two shades lighter on the color card and selected Cape Blue.


One thing to consider when choosing paint colors is to limit your palette. Pick a strong neutral – in my case, grey – and then 3-4 coordinating colors. Not every room has to be different, and it’s actually more budget friendly to repeat colors in other parts of the house, which also lends to the cohesiveness of your color scheme.

Therefore, since the upstairs will have grey carrying through to the landing, we’re repeating Cape Blue in the guest room and office, and Fernwood Green in the guest bathroom.

That leaves the powder room and the sunroom, plus the interior of the closets. The powder room was easy. I put several color cards in the ceramic sink we ordered from Maui and the winner was BM Slate Teal.


For the sunroom, I wanted something light and airy, but it also had to work with our red furniture. Knowing we would also have a Cambria countertop in this room, I used the Paint Selection tool on their website which suggested either Meditation or Revere Pewter. However, those colors were either too brown or too grey for what I was thinking, and remembering one of my favorite Houzz photos I decided to use BM Windsor Cream, which on the walls looks like a really pale yellow. I’ll also have my office, which is right off of the grey kitchen, painted in Windsor Cream.

But it’s not just a matter of picking the colors from the fan deck. You’ve got to pony up and get samples and then get them on the walls. Put swatches on different walls in each room because the light and shadows will hit them differently. And last, check them out at different times of the day when the light changes.


After painting our swatches, I wondered if Storm was actually a little too dark still, so we had additional samples mixed at 60% and 80% intensities. I figured if I liked either one I was good, or I’d know if it had to be in between the shades I had mixed. I also thought I was going to use Storm as the interior of the closets and the garage, but at a much lighter intensity, so this helped a lot. Of course, then it turned out that Storm didn’t work in any intensity, and that’s when I selected Gray Huskie. For the garage and the closets, I went a couple shades down on the color card to Silver Chain, and think that will work very well.

I can’t wait to see the colors up on the walls now!


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