Do you know what one of the best parts of building a house is?
You can do whatever the heck you want. Theoretically, you could build a house exactly the way you want it. The sky is the limit. Sure – you (or your home designer) have to take into consideration basic construction and engineering principles. Everything needs to be to code. It needs to be stable and able to hold up to the environment. And it has to fit in your budget.
But I’m pretty sure if there’s a will (and lots of money), there’s a way.
But, while it’s certainly possible to add an indoor tennis court or a Rapunzel tower (who WOULDN’T want that?), it’s probably not always practical.
As we built our new home, there were a lot of more conventional decisions for a new home that we skipped – both for cost savings and for practicality over time. These were splurges that just didn’t make sense for our home, family or budget.
These may or may not apply to you, but I hope they encourage you to think outside conventional wisdom to build a home that actually works for your family and your budget.
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A master bathroom
Explaining that we don’t have a master bathroom basically amounts to raising our freak flag very high. When we explained that we didn’t have a desire to include a master bathroom in our new home, our home designer raised his eyebrows and told us we were only the second homeowners in his 20 year career to skip it.
Here’s why we decided to remove the master bathroom from the “must have” list:
- We’ve never had a master bathroom before. We’ve never felt like we needed it or have missed it.
- Our house design was a story and a half, with limited real estate upstairs. With all bedrooms upstairs, space that would have needed to allocated for a small master bathroom could be better used for upstairs laundry and storage – which were more important to us.
- I hate to clean bathrooms and prefer to have less of them to clean. Having another bathroom to clean seemed like overkill, especially when a master bath is just for Ryan and I.
So far, the decision to skip the master bathroom isn’t something we regret. The idea of a master bathroom is really a more modern phenomenon, so I think we’ll probably survive without it.
Plus, only outfitting two bathroom instead of three saved us a good chunk of change in the building process. And hurray, I really do have less to clean.
No first floor master suite
The first floor master bedroom seems to be a newer home trend. The idea of a home that’s accessible for life is a really compelling idea, and something Ryan and I talked over a lot.
But neither of us wanted to actually sleep in a bedroom on the first floor with a child in the picture. And if we have more kids, we want to be nearby. So that bedroom would be wasted space for the foreseeable future. And to build a home with a bedroom we honestly wouldn’t use for years seems like a total waste. And probably a place to just pile junk.
Plus, that’s space that we could allocate to our main living space, since we chose to build a smaller home than the normal new builds at a little over 1500 square feet.
The only selling point to me of a first floor master suite is accessibility in the future. If one of us are unable to get upstairs, a downstairs bedroom would be a wonderful feature.
But while we plan to be in this home for a long time, we really wanted to build a house that fits our family’s needs now and in the near future instead of building a home for what could happen in 50, 60 or 70 years.
What this means for us – if something happens that requires a first floor bedroom in the distant (or not-so-distant future), we will have to consider a way to make this happen – whether that be some sort of addition or remodel. Until then, we are comfortable with all the bedrooms upstairs. (As an aside, there’s something I really love about having the private bedrooms away from where we would entertain. It’s a nice divider for the way we live.)
Okay, so since we didn’t put in a master bath, maybe this doesn’t come as a huge shock. But, our lifestyle just doesn’t necessitate double sinks.
In almost ten years of marriage, Ryan and I have never been getting ready at the sink at the same time.
We have different work schedules and routines – even on weekends. I really can’t even imagine why I would need a double sink in our household.
With that said, this is just us. I know that other people get ready at the same time and need that extra space. If House Hunters has taught me anything, it’s that we’re the only couple in the history of the world who doesn’t need a double sink.
But …. can someone please tell me WHY you need a double sink? If I had the bathroom real estate and Ryan and I got ready at the same time, wouldn’t it be more practical to have a larger vanity and a giant mirror and only one sink?
That’s not a rhetorical question. I really want to know if you would rather have a double sink or extra counter space.
Our home has two bathrooms and will eventually have a third bathroom in the basement. So, I figure that if one day we do have multiple teenagers with more primping needs, there is a little extra space. Or I could just banish them all to the barn and let them fend for themselves.
(You are welcome to hold my smugness over my head if I ever change my mind and wonder why I didn’t build a house with double sinks and a master bathroom.)
In other news, our vanity has plenty of counter space and was only $100 with the countertop. So I’m also calling that a modest cost savings over a double sink with all the plumbing fixtures.
All the upgrades and extras
This is a bit of a catchall, because there are tons of upgrades we could have done and skipped. There are a lot of times I wanted to upgrade all the things when we built our house. I wanted to pimp this baby out like a shiny black SUV with chrome wheels, LED lights and a lift kit.
I don’t think I’m alone in this desire to make everything fancy and perfect.
Every single decision you make when building a house feels like the most important decision. If you are choosing a dining room light fixture, it’s hard not to think that it’s the most important decision you’ll make in the entire house. Even door knobs and light switches and vents becomes life-or-death decisions.
But then you realize that if you upgrade everything – or spend $3,000 on a dining room light fixture – you can’t afford to have any more lights in the whole house. And I’d prefer to have some other lights in lieu of one perfect (expensive) dining room fixture.
So, we chose to go the budget route for many things in the home – light fixtures, hardware, vanities, flooring, closet shelving, etc. These are also things that CAN be changed down the line, if needed. Although I don’t forsee that need for a long time. I’m settling in and enjoying it.
That’s not to say that we cheaped out and have a cardboard box for a home. We made decisions that worked for our budget and for our lives. Not just making decisions that Pinterest convinced me were correct. For example, we would have spent a lot more on fancy tiled floors and tub surrounds, but we are perfectly content living with hexagon vinyl floors and a one piece tub surround.
I think that making huge upgrade decisions while building a house is a slippery slope. We did go over our original budget anyway. But if we had upgraded everything, we wouldn’t have been able to afford it.
So, I guess my take is that we would much rather live with our home before making giant, expensive upgrade decisions. If I want to upgrade the light fixture down the road, I can save up and do it. If I want to install a custom closet system, I can save up and do it.
Until then, I live with the abundance of beautiful and practical things we have. There’s a good chance I’d never notice many of those upgrades anyhow.
I hope this is encouragement to think outside the box (and Pinterest) when building your house. You can have a beautiful home that you love without sacrificing your family, your life or your longterm financial stability. I promise.
(And if you are wondering about where we did splurge and what we actually spent overall on our house, I’m working on those posts and they’ll be coming soon.)
How do you feel about the things we skipped when building a house? Anything you couldn’t live without?
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