Our (DIY'd) Home for 10

I wrote a series of posts about our family's homebuilding adventure, and I thought I'd gather all the posts into one spot for easier viewing...  This is a long one!



Some of you have kindly mentioned noticing that I replaced the kitchen picture on my blog home page with a photo of our house.  I felt a little refreshment for the page was in order, and our house seemed more appropriate to my blogger name and URL.  

RKitchen410  ;-)
My kitchen probably has enough space on its own page, and all the kitchen blog posts I've written.  

Ellie of Beauty 4 Ashes asked a few questions about our home, and I thought sharing answers to those questions was a good basis for a few blog posts.  (Thanks, Ellie, for your interest, and for the much-needed inspiration!)

To give you an idea of what's to come, these were her questions:

You built it, right?

Did you guys design it? 

How many bedrooms?

What steps did you take to make it functional for a large family?

QUESTION 1: You built it, right?

Yes, we built our house.  Our ultimate, family DIY project.   Hubby taught a housebuilding course for about 15 years, and the kids were often on site, helping out during after-school or weekend hours their dad spent there.  They saw and learned a lot on those projects, and by his side at other extra jobs Hubby's taken on through the years.  We'd also remodeled all our previous houses, and the kids helped more with each as they got older and learned more things.  At age 11 or so, Prince Stoic was Hubby's right-hand-man, framing and wiring a new dining room addition on our last house, and remodeling a bedroom for him and his 2 younger brothers.  He and Princess Bossy did a lot of sheetrock installation and finishing, and then painting, when we finished the previously unfinished basement. 

The blessing of building our own home when we did is that all of them were still home, and most could take part and feel part of the accomplishment... and remember.  
Prince CuddleBunny was only 2 when we started, but he was constantly in the mix, adorned with his own tool belt, measuring and pounding with his hammer.  (One day he was really into measuring and everything was either "5" or "18.")

Living on site was a big plus.  The 30-year-old, single-wide mobile home was anything but luxurious, or even in 'decent' shape, but the 10 of us squeezed in and made it work.  The 2 bedrooms were wall-to-wall beds, and mattresses leaned up on the living room wall during the day and were brought down at night.  

It had no central heat, so the little woodstove was a warm and lovely spot for us to gather 'round.  That was what kept us sane in the winter and the covered deck helped expand our walls in warmer weather. I was actually afraid of moving into the new house with its 2750 square feet, where everyone could go to his or her own corners and weren't forced into togetherness as we were in the tiny trailer.  It was not nearly the embarrassing nightmare our teen kids feared.

The kids were great troopers.  They baked, they played games together, they created lots of fun outside.

Some trees came down, and excavation started in the spring of 2006.  

These were milled, dried, and became our interior trim and
island top 
The foundation was poured in August, with quite a big group of friends and family to help wheelbarrow concrete from the truck, and fill the forms.   Hubby found out that after building over 10 homes with the school project, he still didn't know everything, and helpful, knowledgeable, and skilled friends were a big blessing throughout the build.  

The other huge challenge was keeping up with 'regular' life during the build.  We suspended a few activities, like Prince Go-for-It's start into Little League. Homeschooling was simplified, as we had no room for a table in the mobile home. Bedtime and nap routines were fouled up for the younger ones, since with such small quarters, we tended to go to bed as a household, rather than on an age-appropriate schedule.

We switched from the church we'd attended for several years (45 minutes away) to one within a mile from home, where the older kids were already involved in the youth group anyway.  
Princess Bossy readied for
Prom in the awful
But other things couldn't be avoided... Like losing grandparents... Senior Prom... and Hubby's job.

With the foundation in by early August, and framing in full swing so we could be 'closed in' by winter, the beginning of the school year roared up on Hubby in a hurry.  Prince Stoic, Princess Bossy, Prince Inventive, and I figure he still owes us for running off to meetings, leaving us to get the 2nd-floor, 40-foot, floor joists into position on top of the 9-foot tall, 1st-floor walls.    

The joists want to bend, but they shouldn't, since they'll splinter and snap.  Maneuvering them at ground level was quite a job in itself.  Getting from the ground to the top of the walls was a much bigger struggle.  Thankfully, as happened many times during our build, a friend showed up at just the right time.  This time it was a male friend of Princess Bossy's, a strong, athletic college freshman, who added just enough hands and muscle to make it work.
The bruises... and far
enough after that I could
smile about it  ;-)

We fed the joists through the front window opening, up and over the living room wall, and I was 'catching' them from atop a ladder at the back wall of the house.  When the joist would make it through the front window, and be let loose, the tipped up end would fall down toward me, and if not caught and managed just right it would hit me in the upper arm.  It did this several times... Every time in the exact same spot, getting more painful each time.  I'd finally figured a way to avoid this problem, but it didn't always work, and the last time it fell on me was the so painful.  I meant to say "Dang!," but it came out a little differently, and the kids are still amused about "the time Mom swore!"

Hubby's work kept him far busier than he'd foreseen, and the timing and success of the house is owed, in very large part, to the hardwork and skills of our kids,
 especially Prince Stoic, who had just finished high school as we started the 2nd year into the build.  
Installing kitchen flooring
He did and/or supervised a lot of the framing and finish work with more capability and care than most adults.

There are lots of memories and stories from our build.   We had marshmallow roasts over fires after cutting trees, 
the younger kids used the sub floor as a skating surface and the crawlspace as a clubhouse, the kids and Dad worked late into the nights, and the house rang with the workers' laughter.                                                                                                                                                 

There were also delays, and weeks and even months of little progress.  It got frustrating by the end of the task and the lingering months in the mobile home.  
We received our Certificate of Occupancy on February 27, 2008...approximately 18 months after pouring the first concrete, and about exactly 2 years after we moved into the mobile home.  It was a happy day for us all to see the mobile home destroyed and hauled away.  
The day after move-in!
The frustrations and waiting seemed to disappear into thin air as soon as we were in the house.... although there was still much work to be done.

Things we didn't do:  Septic system installation, rough plumbing, roofing, wiring the main box, sheetrock install and finishing, and vinyl, hardwood, and carpet installation.  Other than that, it was us.  
Hubby and the boys framed the structure, wired,  and installed millwork.  

I finished the doors and millwork, and helped with electrical fixtures and finish pieces.  

Hubby built all the cabinets and installed those, the countertops, and appliances.  All the while, he was glad to have helpers beside him, older or younger.  Always a dad, even though an under-pressure homebuilder.  

We all painted and insulated. The girls made meals when I was busy at the house.  

It was a gigantic, team effort.  I can't do it justice in blog posts written this far after the fact, and after I lost a crucial file of digital pictures.  I just have to say it was one of the greatest joys and blessings of our lives.

More on Building:

When we were living in the mobile home, we got a new computer, so I was excited to move all our pictures to the new one, and be able to access them more quickly and easily.  To do this, I had to transfer them to CD, then install from the CD onto the new hard drive.  It was working quite well, so I got too confident and deleted pics as soon as the CD was loaded.  

But guess what?  Of course, not all the CDs loaded perfectly, and I lost loads of photos...Including most from the framing part of our build.  :-(

But I found a few more today, that I'd saved on Photobucket, and thought I'd share a few more from the early building process...                                                                                                                                                                                                           
Hubby wanted to make sure we were building on the right
Foundation... Psalm 127 starts, "Unless the Lord builds the
house, the builders labor in vain..."

And remember these fallen trees?                                                                                                                           

This is what they looked like milled.....

for our baseboard, interior window and door trim, stairway posts, island top, etc., etc.                               

QUESTION 2: "Did you guys design it?" 

On our third date (2 1/2 years after we'd met in our college dorm), Hubby was telling me that his big dream was to build a home of his own.  Having always been interested in architecture, I asked what kind of home he wanted to build.  

And, nonchalantly, he answered....
"Any kind you want."  :-)

Of course, I was positively impressed, not realizing that coming up with just the right romantic thing at just the right moment --thereby making huge points-- was, pretty much, a once in a lifetime event.  ;-)  A silver-tongued devil, he is not.  But that can definitely be a good thing, too.  

We thought we'd build fairly soon after getting married.... as we did a few more times during our marriage.  For whatever economic or logistical reasons, it wasn't right and we pursued other plans, until this last move.

All through the 21, pre-build years we discussed the type of homes we liked.  One of our main goals was to contruct new that looked old... A house that had the modern niceties, but looked like it had been there 50 or 100 years. We didn't quite hit that goal, but it would've taken more time and money than we had available to do it 'right.'  

We knew we wanted covered porches. We favored Craftsman homes, since they used a lot of great woodworking details that Hubby and I both related to, and which felt so homey.  We married in the mid-80s when this type of style and detail was certainly not the norm, and we liked the idea of doing something no one else was into. As seemed to be usual, our plans may have been ahead of their time, but by the time we got to do anything about them, we were behind, and Craftsman-style homes were everywhere.  

I'd studied many books of house plans from the early 1900s.  Plans from the Sears and Roebuck catalogs of mail-order houses were good and fascinating resources, as were books showing the home designed by architects of that period, like Gustav Stickley, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Greene and Greene. 
The American Foursquare
As our family grew, I could see that the customary 1 1/2 story Craftsman Bungalow, which we loved, was going to be a tough fit.  We needed more upstairs room for bedrooms.  The American Foursquare style, though, appeared to be just what we needed.
Hubby and I make a good team... I am the idea/creative person, and he is the 'make it happen' guy.  I design and he builds, and that's, primarily, what happened with our home.

My first plan was too big, and I had to start over, planning a home we could build in stages.... Most 
House rendering of how the plan would look with all phases complete...
We already know the garage won't look like that, and
Hubby nixed the red in favor of gray.
The porch gable was lost in the shuffle of construction.
essential part now, with a family room and garage to come later.  

With 8 kids at home, most all day, we couldn't exactly start small, but we had to try to stay as modest as possible without being cramped.
First try at the kitchen... 2 standard cooktops
and 1 long island with seating. Fridges with doors
that swing in inconvenient directions.  The 2nd sink
was an attempt at an in-the-kitchen butler's pantry.  Yikes.

The kitchen was the priority, as that seemed to be where we liked to spend our time, and 3+ meals a day for 10 people is a major undertaking, for which it was worth preparing properly.  
The table can
extend through
39 feet if needed
The next important thing was a place to have a table that would fit us daily for family meals, with room to expand for guests and extended family occasions, including when the kids grow up and bring back families.  8 children with 1 spouse and an average of 3 kids each, means, God willing, we'll want room to seat 40 to 50 people!  This meant situating the dining room so that the table could stretch into other rooms when necessary, but they needed to be useful to us the rest of the time...Every square inch counts and needs to earn its keep.

Then, of course, we needed places for all of us to sleep, and bathrooms.  Since that relates more directly to Question #3, I'll leave those details (and the 2nd floor) for the next post.

I started on graph paper, getting workable ideas in mind, hammering out the bigger challenges like house flow, and the staircase location.  Using Chief Architect drafting software, I drew and redrew the top idea, until it seemed to work and make sense.  The 3D renderings (like the kitchen and exterior renderings above) I was able to create and study were priceless in the process.  --Some ideas that seem great in theory, can look pretty bad in real life, and it's nicer to see that on a computer screen instead of when it's finished in a house!  Plus, it's invaluable to be able to tweak general ideas into better efficiency.  

Click to view larger
Many would say most of our rooms are too small, especially compared to the space allotted to the kitchen and dining room.   Although, without the future family room, we're a little short on seating room for watching TV or a movie together, we don't regret prioritizing the space in that way.  It works for the way we live.  

I took my plans to our architect friend, hoping for some professionally creative tweaks that would add a bit of pizazz or an extra dose of perfection to what I'd drawn.  He said he could never have planned to the extent I did on how this house would be used to our best advantage, and he had no improvements to offer.  He did help with roof pitches, beam sizes, etc., and since he was the high school drafting teacher at the time, also oversaw Prince Stoic's creation of the official set of construction drawings to submit for our permits, and to use as building guide.

The initial plan... See bathroom to the left, with storage area
by back door.  Full wall of shallow cabinets facing the stairs,
and tiny sewing room off desk area south of kitchen
A major, and wonderfully providential change was made in the midst of framing... Hubby figured out that the main floor toilet, as planned, would end up sitting directly over a floor joist.  

The result: Bath more central to living area,
larger sewing room for kids to join me,
and my beloved pantry!  A smaller desk area
in the hall left room for the fridge/freezer set.
With no room to scoot it one way or another, it gave me reason to rethink some other issues I'd questioned.  The changes we made at that time gained us a pantry and a much bigger sewing area, which we needed, besides locating the bathroom in a more convenient 

I lost some hallway cabinet storage I miss, but mostly, I'm very thankful for the 'problem' that led to the great improvements.

QUESTION 3: "How many bedrooms?"

In the too-big house I designed first, there were 6 bedrooms.  We couldn't fit that many in the more modest plan we were able to build.  It has been sad, because it means the grown kids don't get to keep a room to which they can come home.  Without even a guest room, it makes visiting home seem un-home-like --uncomfortable and unwelcoming, I'm afraid-- and it seriously breaks this mom's heart.  But that will be remedied by the space above the garage, and the transformation of the planned-library-that's-become-a-bedroom into exercise-guest room!

We have 4 bedrooms upstairs.  With the kids still so young when I started designing, I wouldn't consider a main floor master with the rest upstairs.  I can now see the possible advantages, but still think it's good that the upstairs is not just "kidville." --I think it would be too easy as the kids got older for me to avoid going up there, and who knows what it would look like, in short order.  

At the outset, I'd planned a bedroom for the 3 younger boys, a bedroom for the 3 younger girls, a separate bedroom for Prince Stoic (with his own, built-in desk),
Plan vs current reality
 and we gave Princess Bossy the "library," planning to use it as a bedroom only until she moved out.  Prince Stoic's room was to become the place for the next oldest to move, as each kiddo left the nest.  

The personalities and age ranges of the 3 younger girls proved to be an unhappy combination, so when Princess Bossy vacated the library, Princess Sassy moved in, and now, of course, shares it with her husband-prince until we have the garage with space above.  The residents of that room have use of the main bath, which is not always the greatest, as busy teens/young adults and publicly presentable bathrooms are a hard match. 

I had always dreamed of having bunk rooms for the kids.  This idea is done to perfection by August Fields in her boys' bunk room, and there are many more examples on Pinterest.  I thought they'd be an efficient use of space... But so much interrupted wall-space is needed, that they require more square footage than I'd imagined, and limit other features, like window placement.

Instead we ended up with more typical room configurations.  The squarer shape, I think, is why it was difficult for 3 girls to fit and commune nicely in their space.  In the boys' room, figuring it'd be longer until Prince Inventive got to leave it, I created an alcove to separate him a bit from his younger brothers.  They could still talk to each other, but he might be able to have a light on later, have a specific area to decorate to his taste, etc.   

To keep the highly populated rooms less cluttered, I designed built-in storage for the kids instead of closets.  They combine drawers, shelves, and hanging space, so separate dressers are unnecessary.  I also had Hubby build each child a bed with drawers so they'd never have reason to run out of room for clothes, books, and sports equipment.  

It was a good idea, in theory, since, of course, all sorts of things get crammed into each space until there is overflow into the rooms, and we have to have periodic de-junking... Which doesn't mean it doesn't work, only that we have 'normal' kids.

Hubby and I don't require a luxurious suite to ourselves.  It just doesn't suit the priorities of finding room for our big family.  This meant a modestly-sized bedroom, and no 5-piece bath, just for us.  We also have built-ins to help us out.  Hubby has a very small closet, and even though mine's a walk-in, and some larger, still is conservatively sized, especially since it serves to house our big Dyson vacuum, all our gift wrapping supplies (it's the hide-all spot at Christmastime), and extra pillows and blankets.  3 wedding dresses live in there now, too.    

We're more of a showering family, than into baths, so we limited the one bathtub to downstairs.  It went there in case anyone was ever too sick or injured to make it upstairs.  This proved to be a good idea, since Princess Bossy broke her ankle only 2 months after we moved in, and couldn't stand in a shower, and would've had a very difficult time crutching it up the stairs.

The upstairs baths were planned so that shower takers could be separated from those needing the sink or toilet, to avoid lock-out problems at crucial times.  The right-side bathroom has always been shared by 1 boy and a bunch of girls.  While someone showers, someone else can brush their teeth, the girls can curl their hair, etc., etc.  I owe my sister a debt of gratitude for suggesting the pocket door from shower into the laundry room as an alternate exit for the shower-taker.  This makes good sense for the deposit of dirty clothes and wet towels, anyway.

On the left side of the house, we have a variation on a Jack and Jill set-up.  The boys' bathroom and the 'master bath' is connected by a shower room.  Again, one of us can shower while the rest are free to use our respective sink, toilet, and mirror, as needed.

I find it a great blessing to have the laundry room upstairs.  In our last house, with the bedrooms on the main floor and laundry in the basement, we constantly had laundry waiting to be folded on the living room couch... Awful!  I am so happy to keep most of the laundry so close to where it comes from and where it goes to.  My dream laundry would've been much larger with more folding and sorting room, but this fills the bill.  Our solid core doors really help to cut any noise that might otherwise be disturbing for people trying to sleep while laundry runs.

QUESTION 4: "What steps did you take to make it functional for a large family?"

I think I have covered some of this in the answers to the 3 previous questions, so please forgive any repeat information.  I think I have a lot to say on this topic, so I'll divide it into sections.

Layout and Features:

I started the planning our house with barely more in mind than the fact that we needed a family-sized kitchen in which we all could work, and a stove that offered us more large burners than those we'd always had on our 30" electric range. I actually started off thinking we'd keep things economical and get our extra burners and a second oven by having 2 ranges, almost side-by-side.  But I ended up with far better.

I showed in my series on kitchen zones, and particularly in the post on zones and workpaths, how our zone-focused kitchen layout allows us all to work on different projects without working on top of each other, or walking through each other's paths.  It's WONderful.  The 48" Wolf rangetop  not only offers us 8 large burners, but also room for 2 cooks to work, side-by-side.  (I'm pretty certain there have been times where 3 different people used it at once.)  The double oven lets 2 separate projects or 1 large, several-rack batch of something cook all at once.  Different counter heights also offer comfort for different sizes and ages of people.  For our baking, cooking, and food-loving family, plus friends, the kitchen design has been pretty successful.

Following that, I had other specific hopes and goals to keep in mind.  Some had to do with function and comfort, and some had to do with economy, since keeping costs down while getting the most for our money is a constant concern for this big family living on one teacher's income...

Storage:  My mom taught me at a young age that good storage is crucial in the efficient management of a home.  I've always believed that closets are what make a small house (or modest house for a lot of people) work.  So that has been the source of much self-battery and tears since we moved in... WHERE are these closets I'd promised myself, and that I'd considered absolutely necessary?  I have no back door closet, no utility closet, and no linen closets.  WHAT was I thinking?!!  But the truth is, people space took priority, and the built-ins and bed drawers were supposed to be the compromise, with each room or person storing their own extra sheets, etc.  I can say those things are priceless, but don't quite replace more substantial, central storage.  As I said in my previous post, my walk-in closet holds a lot of what those absentee, public closets might store for us.

Dining:  I also mentioned previously that it was important for us to be able to sit at the table, at least for nightly family dinners, and to be able to fit guests and larger, special event meals on occasion.  This meant a room long enough for our 10-foot table, plus the ability to add to or expand table space through to the front of the house to seat the 40 or 50 our family may grow to in coming years. 

Additionally, it was important to me that the kitchen not be in full view to the dining room.  Preparing meals for 10 or more usually means the kitchen is left in less than pristine condition by the time we sit down to eat.  I don't want to look at that while I eat, an uncomfortable, cluttery scene to begin with, and a constant reminder of the work waiting to be done.  It especially upset me in our past house when guests felt compelled to get up and clean, instead of relaxing after dinner, sitting to visit.  --And I want my family to also sit and enjoy each other's company at dinner, focusing on each other and the conversation, not have the waiting dishes be a part of the dinnertime atmosphere.

The doors also keep hungry, bread-
loving doggies out when things are
cooling, and within a snout's reach
Of course, for efficiency's sake, the dining room had to be close to the kitchen.  Doors that we can close during a meal enabled this while also solving the view problem.  The glass panes allow a still-open feeling, while stopping the eye before traveling through to the probably messy kitchen beyond.  The added advantage of the doors is to confine noisy kitchen activity, when necessary.   

Bed Space:  I discussed this in Question 3, too.  We had 10 people to go to bed here each night, and needed adequate space for those, most of them growing, bodies.  Space for the movement and personalities that accompany those bodies had to be figured in.

Sewing/Art:  Besides cooking, sewing and art are important to many of us here.  Whenever I start to sew, it seems to motivate others to come up with their own projects, and like in the kitchen, a few people want to work at once.  
Sewing room overview rendering

Our sewing room has a continuous, U-shaped counter around 3 walls of the room.  This allows two completely independent sewing machine stations, with storage and counterspace in between.  We will, one day, have a work island in here that stores patterns and offers a wider, deeper work area for cutting and pinning.... Also for other types of arts and crafts projects.
You might be able to make out the desk to the right of the
aquarium shelf.  It is 4 feet, so homeschooled students and
teacher can work side-by-side, when necessary, or 2 can
view the computer
Pets:  We've always had pets and wanted a pet-friendly house.  In our last house, a 10-gallon aquarium actually sat on one corner of our kitchen island, because it had no other place.  Therefore, I was determined to not let that happen again, and planned in space for a 50-gallon aquarium in a space where everyone could enjoy it.  The built-in cabinetry has not been built for that area yet, but it will.  One area I feel I missed was feeding spaces for the cats and dogs... Separate feeding space, since the dogs love to snack on the cats' food, if possible!  --Right now the cat food sits on the sewing counter, which is not my favorite.  The other issue is water... It's nice to offer them water indoors, but tough to do that where it won't damage the flooring.  We're still working on that one, and haven't found the answer to that one, either.

Options:  I'm sorry that this category title is a little vague, but I'll explain.  We needed places to be together... We also needed places to be separate, in smaller groups, or alone.  We needed places to be loud and places to have quiet.  Places to play and places to work/write/read/think.  

You may have noticed that at the doorway to our living room, some French doors are leaning against one side.  I concocted a plan for a 4-door set up... 2 doors will be mostly stationary, and with 2 more doors in the middle that open and close.  This would allow that room to become a quiet, seating area for conversation or reading, closed off from activity and, hopefully, noise from the rest of the house.  
But the doors will also be able to hinge back completely out of the way if we ever need to extend the dining room table the full length of the house.  We haven't framed the doorway and installed those doors yet...But they really aren't needed until we build the family room addition... Who knows when?

We have 3 desk areas, and I'd hoped to tuck a bench into the stair landing as a cozy reading spot, but that didn't fit in our streamlined plan.  The library was to be another spot that had a desk area, comfy chairs, and a table at which to play board games.  Now I think it will be our exercise and guest room instead.  

Laundry:  Another dream was a large laundry room, possibly with 2 sets of laundry equipment.  I wanted a laundry tub, plenty of folding space (so that no laundry left the room unfolded), cubbies labeled with names for placing that folded laundry, and room for large hampers in which to sort dirty laundry, plus a full-size ironing board that never had to be put away.  This was another dream that had to be toned down, due to budget and space limitations.

We plumbed for one laundry set in the laundry room upstairs, near all the bedrooms, and one off the sewing room, planned to be used for anyone using the library as bedroom, and for kitchen, dining, and main bath towels.  We didn't have the money to buy 2 sets of laundry equipment at first, so we got by pretty well with only the laundry upstairs.  When the in-laws no longer needed it, we were the recipients of their laundry set, which now serves Princess Sassy and Prince Steadfast, and will continue to when they move above the garage.

Our laundry room has, instead of an official laundry tub, a sink the same as that we have for our kitchen prep sink.  It's adequate for almost any soaking or rinsing task, and much better than nothing.  That leaves us about 4 feet of counter for folding.  There are shelves above that counter and above the washer and dryer.  I thought I'd want enclosed cabinets, but find the open shelves to be handier.  I also incorporated a hanging rod at one end above the folding counter.  Under that counter, and to the left of the laundry sink was space for hampers.  It would only fit 3 and I needed 4... One each for towels, dark colors, light colors, and reds.  So Hubby built shelves and we use baskets instead of hampers.

Entries:  After having an entry that was about 3 feet by 4 feet in our last home, I wanted something more gracious behind our front door.  I wanted to be able to answer the door and have the person on the other side, whether friend or stranger, to see only the entry from the doorway, not into the entire house, and especially any kitchen mess.  
It was when a 3D rendering showed me that from the front door, I could look through doorways straight to the main work area of the kitchen, that we added a door between the kitchen and entry, which is also helpful for noise control, as with the doors between kitchen and dining.

I'd also always dreamed of one of those cute mud room spaces with lockers and cubbies in which to organize family coats, boots, and sports gear.  This also didn't happen, and, in fact, we barely got the family to use the back door, so muddy feet and pets' paws  have tromped through the main entry instead. I hope to change that with the room that connects the house to the garage addition.  That new door should be easy for the family to use and the space will offer the storage space we now lack.

Mechanical and Construction Considerations:

Heat and Hot Water:  I was tired of cold showers and high heating bills with our former oil furnace.  In this house, we opted for a heat pump, which was put on zones, so we could concentrate heat where we needed it, upstairs or down, without adding heat where it wasn't needed.  This also pertains to cooling in the summer, a luxury we'd never enjoyed before.

$1 for 5 minutes +
another qtr for every
extra minute.  Might
have paid the water bill!
We also have 2 hot water heaters, so that after 9 others shower, Mom might get a minute or so of lukewarm water for hers.  I threatened to put in campground showers... The kind that take coins for a certain amount of time, for which we'd give the kids a certain number of coins per week.  If they wanted long showers, they'd have to put in their own earnings.  I didn't do it, but I still think it would've been a good idea!  ;-)

The water heaters and auxiliary furnace are all housed in the crawlspace, so don't take valuable square footage from the house.

Building Economy:  The reading I did prior to planning our home gave me a few hints about saving money and getting the most of out of the space I planned.  One strong suggestion was to build square...with as few corners and turns as possible, as such things are more labor intensive, and more expensive per square foot because of additional materials and possible waste.  It's also best to plan the exterior (wall length and door and window placement) in increments of 2 feet... even 4 or 8, if possible, since framing materials come in even lengths, and sheet goods come 4 feet x 8 feet or 4 feet x 12 feet.  This means less cutting (labor saving) and, again, less waste (money saving).  The main part of our house is 32 feet by 40 feet, but I placed windows and doors by appearance and size we wanted, not by the 2-foot rule. 

The series of pocket doors between master
bedroom and boys' bedroom that makes
our bathroom/shower set-up work.
Sort of like the entrance to "Control" at
the beginning of Get Smart!
Limiting Unneeded Square Footage:  With 10 people and money enough for only 2500 square feet (stretched to 2750), every square foot of our house needed to serve a purpose.  I skimped and reduced... as I said, maybe too much in terms of closet space.  
I found that in drawing our floor plan, door swings could require a lot of room without gain in room function... So we have 9 pocket doors in our house.  I was hesitant at first, remembering cheap, hollow pocket doors and weak hardware from pocket doors I'd used years back.  But Hubby assured me he could get sturdy hardware and we could use solid core or even French-style glass paned doors in the pockets.  I love them.  They do the jobs quite well, are not hard to use, and the doors are never in the way.

Expansion:  The only way I could know expansion would be possible is if we planned for it from the outset.  First of all, we needed to place the house appropriately on the lot so that any additions would fit without encroaching on lot boundaries or the required buffer around our septic system.  We also wanted to plan for an easy-as-possible, inexpensive-as-possible change.  Adding the garage meant losing the back porch, which was sad, but unavoidable.  Other than that, just a simple add-on, sized and angled to keep the back of the house far enough from the back property line.

Adding a family room would be more complex, since it would become part of the house, and need electricity and heat, joining in the existing systems.  In preparation for that dream, we placed a larger-than-necessary header over the window in the center of our south wall, so that it could become a wider doorway to the new room.  
Rendering of idea for family room.
Doorway is where current window is.
Also, we dead-ended wiring runs from each side of the window, so we wouldn't have to relocate wiring that stretched across under it, and so we could, quite easily, just continue circuits into the family room for outlets and lighting.  HVAC lines were planned similarly, for easy extension of ducting runs.  The window we'll remove will move to the front of that new room. 

Materials meet Family-Life... and Contributions aren't all about Work

Materials/Atmosphere:  I had facts of life with which to deal... We have 8 active kids of varying ages.  We have 2 large dogs.  We live in a rainy climate with a yard with a dirt driveway that runs up in front of the house, meaning all feet coming inside, whether from playing on the lawn or coming from a car, traipse through dirt, and often mud.  

We certainly teach our kids to be careful and conscientious, and we take precautions like using door mats, etc., but I never want material possessions, including our home, to take priority over relationship.  I want to encourage fun, adventure, and outdoor play (and work), not just scream about footprints, and worry about delicate materials or objects.  

The materials that went into this house needed to be tough, hopefully, easy-clean, and user-friendly.  I wouldn't be asking my 90-year-old grandparents to remove their shoes, and I wasn't putting in floors that would require removing and retying young children's shoes multiple times a day.  Some people are comfortable with that, but not me.

This was the case with all types of flooring, counters, etc.  --If it couldn't take a bit of unintentional abuse, or if it was so expensive, we'd worry about it getting used, it just wasn't for us.  Paint had to be scrubbable, finishes had to be water-resistant.  And, obviously, everything had to be 'affordably priced'...

...But not cheap.  We believe in choosing quality materials that will last.  No use saving money at the outset, only to have repair and replacement costs come up in just a few years.   Our sweat and muscle should only be applied to something that will last and serve us well. 

I knew we'd want a home that we could dress up and be proud of, but yet was, more importantly, homey, welcoming, and comfortable for all who live here and all who visit... A "Barefoot House."  Not where one is required to remove their shoes, but where one is comfortable in every situation.... Where it lives like a still-nice-looking favorite sweater, or pair of jeans in which you look fantastic, but are totally comfortable...

I'm sure there are varying definitions of a "Barefoot House," but I like this one, written by "Oruboris" on a discussion on the Gardenweb Building a Home Forum

"Having a dress [or undress] code seems the antithesis of a barefoot lifestyle....
"I'd say the true hallmark of a barefoot home is a feeling of comfort and relaxation, both physical and psychological, that is low maintenence without being shabby. It asks little and gives much, it welcomes, it is genuinely gracious but never grand."                                                                                                   

Family Involvement/Input:

Keeping cost and durability in mind, we still cared about look and the color;  something that reflected our family style and personalities.  That often meant looking a little longer and further, but it was a labor of love and a privilege.  I didn't get the blessing of choosing everything new and to my taste and design too often... ever... so I wanted to get it 'right.'

In writing about planning this house, I've used a lot of "I."  True, I did the basic plan, and felt a lot of responsibility.  But making it into a true family project was most important in making the house ultimately functional for our large family.  As I made the many, many changes and adjustments in plans, I asked the family for feedback along the way... Often more frequently than they would've liked!  I made quite a few of the color and materials choices, but always with kids by my side, and with the OK from Hubby.  As you've seen in the building photos, everyone did a share of the work of construction, but all got to participate in the fun stuff, too...

Without a lot of strong opinion about decor choices, Hubby was happy to leave most up to me.  He did, however, love the raised, 5-panel interior door style more than I loved the flat, 5-panel door style, so we went with his preference.  
I had also planned on classic, round knobs, but he'd always loved the egg-shaped. Wanting both of us to feel it was our home, and be able to look at certain things and be excited about our decisions, we used his knob choice, too. 

He had been extremely impressed with Marmoleum Click flooring during a home show excursion, so that drove the flooring choice for the kitchen, back hall, and sewing room... It's easy-care, comfy, durable, and DIY-friendly.  So in that case, he chose the material, and I chose the colors.
Princess Artiste was a main source of thoughtful opinions.  At age 11, she was around the most, and was great company on many trips to tile shops, etc., not only helping watch younger siblings Eager and CuddleBunny as I looked, but lending her artistic eye and thoughts as I needed.  She was the one most willing to help... Or too nice to not!

Installation was a
"Mom & kids"group project.
I really wanted to do a 'tile rug' in our entry, and I let her choose the tile. I had seen intricate patterns, similar to Persian rugs or quilts, as we visited every tile shop or source in the area.   I couldn't determine which I liked best, and tossed the decision to her. 

Princess Artiste wisely elected to keep things simple.  She had fallen in love with penny round tiles early in our search, and was glad to return to them.  

I was slightly afraid they might clash with the also red-brown Brazilian Cherry hardwood floors, but they were an exact match!  It was meant to be.

Princess Bossy, also interested in design and interiors, helped choose the upstairs carpeting, and had free rein (within budget limits) for the library and the main bathroom.  

She chose to paint the library with a deep brown, similar to the color of chocolate syrup.  She kept the room in a rich vein by choosing a chandelier for the central lighting.  

She went a whole other direction with the lighting in her bathroom after falling in love with a moose-adorned fixture. She explained that the whimsical animals perched over her mirror would make any grumpy morning into a smiley one.  It was a little more expensive than I'd planned, but I thought the promise of a cheerful morning countenance from a girl, like her mother, who is decidedly not a morning person, would be priceless to all of us!  She chose the countertop and deep gray-green paint to coordinate with the fixture, giving that bathroom a lodgy, but elegant look.

Princess Sassy made the selections for the upstairs bath she, her younger sisters, and Prince Stoic shared when we moved in.  She aimed for a blue-green color scheme, with Beluga Formica, pale gray walls (BM Gray Horse), a combination of glass tiles in teal, gray and light blue.  With the chrome faucet and more traditional polished nickel light fixture, the room is light, clean, and a nice twist on a Craftsman, period style.

Sassy also chose the fun turquoise blue (Ralph Lauren Emporer) that brightens our laundry room.  Thankfully, it was a great transition from this bathroom, to which it's connected, and we were able to find vinyl flooring that went nicely with both.

Prince Inventive had control of the boys' bathroom.  He chose a masculine blackish, grid-patterned Wilsonart laminate with linear tiles to match.  The vanity knobs repeat the grid pattern, 
but the frog knobs for the linen cabinet were Prince CuddleBunny's fun addition.  

The kids were able to choose their own bedroom wall colors.  The younger boys put their heads together, choosing an "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" approach, and going with the taupish gray (Ralph Lauren Manor Grey) they had and liked in their bedroom in our last house.  

The girls had a bad outing with the seemingly spring-like Behr English Meadow, which turned into a garish green when reflecting back on itself from all four walls.  Second time was the charm, when they settled on the softer and bluer Behr Gray Morning.  

The dark red was a great backdrop
for Prince Stoic-made guitars
We were a little surprised when our staid Stoic chose Behr's Cinnamon Cherry for his room!  It was fun to see the stronger, brighter part of his personality reflected in his surroundings.
Of course, this involvement helped them all feel all the more that this was truly their house, too.  It was great to see them take ownership, and proudly point out the colors and/or materials they had a hand in choosing.  Their investment in work and input help them take pride in our home and, hopefully, makes them want to continue to keep it in like-new condition.
In the planning stages, the hope was to create Our Home for Ten (RHome410), but the result is Our Home by Ten.  :-) 

Thanks again, Ellie of  Beauty 4 Ashes, for asking these questions about our house and inspiring this whole series!

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