Archive for July, 2013

Stephen Fuller Original- Preliminary Design Document

Stephen Fuller Original- Preliminary Design Document

I have received some inquiries about how to build, where to start, whom to call first, etc.  First, I am not an expert at all.  This is the first and as my husband will yell to you tell you, our last “build”.  Truth be told, I would do it again if I had a money tree in the backyard of the new house that I could shake the H-E-Double Hockey Sticks(you figure it out) of and be able to do what I wanted with no limits.  Not that everything has to be “expensive”.  I am all about a good deal and finding reasonable priced things(wait until you see my kids’ bathroom counters for a great “find).  Make no mistake though, money rules ALL when building.  I stopped calling what we did a “renovation” at some point because it didn’t do it justice.  This was a build with a gut job before.  It’s all new.

So, how does one begin?  Well, you must have a plan.  You know what happens if you don’t have a plan?  Bad things.  Bad, bad things.  You have to WANT to build.  My husband is a buyer. He will tell you that- over and over and over and over.  I’m fine with a “builder” label.  I liked to find pictures of what I loved, put my own spin on it and then create it.  It’s satisfying.

When we realized that we would have to build because we just could not find a house that worked for 6 people in the area we desired, I asked a friend that had recently knocked a house down and built how she started.  She had a HUGE notebook of pictures, all organized, of what she wanted, etc and I felt like I was 2 ft. tall.  I didn’t have a notebook!  I had 3.5 kids(Hudson was still cooking).  I don’t do notebooks.  But, I started collecting pictures.  It’s the BEST thing I could have done for myself.  Why?  Well, when you eventually bid your project out and you meet with builders, most of them are middle-aged (or older) men and I feel certain that my taste and theirs isn’t the same.  Specifics are key when building a home and if you don’t have a plan(the pictures, specifics), you will be building the home that the mid-life male builder thinks is “cool”.  Not cool.

Room by room, I started collecting pictures.  Pinterest was just taking off and nobody had “invited” me to Pinterest(loser for those that remember pinterest early days) so I didn’t use that until the house started or maybe just before. So, I used Houzz.com and decorpad to search for “ideas”.  My first love though was Southern Accents magazine(R.I.P., sniff, sniff). How could you be from the South and not love that magazine??  My kitchen, keeping room and family room are all due to a home I saw featured from Charlotte, NC that I read about in SA.  It helped formulate the look I was going for and it was a critical piece of meeting with the builder and being able to show him what I wanted to see at the end.  I had one builder use the term “Level 1 granite” when referring to the kitchen when we went over his proposal and I asked what that meant.   He told me like what Home Depot had but I wanted choice.  Choice is scary to builders because they do not know how to price choice.  That’s where the pictures come in and allowances are formed. You have to understand what the allowance represents and without doing some research, you’re at the builder’s mercy.

Figuring out whether you need to find your lot/house first or meet with the Architect first is like figuring out if the chicken or the egg came first.  I could argue either way but if you are looking in an area that doesn’t have much on the market, you have to secure a lot/house and you can’t do anything until you find where you want to be.

Your Architect is your leader.  You have to have a plan and the Architect has the master plan.  If you know you want to build, you can meet with the Architect, get started on a plan, get preliminary pricing and then find the lot.  We did the opposite.  We knew exactly where we needed to be for kids, school and found a house that we thought we could renovate.  Then, we went to a builder(not an architect) and were told that we needed to just knock it down and build a new home.  We would spend just as much renovating as building and not have a modern, new home to show for it.  If only it were that easy!

While waiting for our old home to sell, we ended up moving into Yellow House because I was due with a 4th child and I could not try to show the old house with a newborn and 3 other kids.  So, within one week, we made the decision to move, called the movers and moved into Yellow House.  A month later had our fourth child and sold our old house a couple of months later.  Living in Yellow House changed everything.  We hated every minute of it but we got to know the neighbors, we got used to looking at Yellow House and the homes around us and when we looked at the rendering of the home we were going to build, it started to seem wrong.  That’s when we decided to call an Architect.  I had always know the name Stephen Fuller because like any true Southerner I had a subscription to Southern Living magazine and when I heard that his kids went to our kids’ school, we gave him a call.  He pretty much walked in the door and told us that we should work with it and not knock it down.  That is what we were ready to hear.  We just needed someone qualified to tell us that was the right thing to do.

It was then that we started working with an Architect instead of a builder to create what we needed.  I gave him a laundry list of items that I wanted to have with the completed house and it was his job to make it work.  And he did.  He made it work.  People will gripe about their builders and complain about cost, etc but you never hear about the architect.  They are so instrumental with what you end up with, choose wisely is all I can say.  The architect stays with you throughout the entire process so you need to 1. Like him or her and 2. trust him or her.  I both liked and trusted mine.  I have said before that he was my phone a friend and he really was.

Besides choosing a good architect, the other advice I would give is to pick out what you want before you ever get a price from a builder.  The more information you can provide before bidding out your project, the better everyone is.  I have gotten questions from friends that are thinking of doing what we have done and when I ask them what they want with the new house, they say I don’t know!  You cannot go into a project not knowing what you want.  If you do, it’s back to the middle-aged man picking out what you want in regards to tile, counter tops, trim, flooring, etc. and that just doesn’t work.  You can’t blame the builder either because if you don’t have a plan, I can assure you that he does and it isn’t a pricey one!  It will be the least expensive option and if your taste is beyond that, you’re toast.

So, 1. Get an architect or find a lot and then get an architect

2. Pick out everything- plumbing, counter tops, tile, flooring, any finishes really.  Finishes are what you see and what you live with everyday.  If you don’t tell your builder that you want a marble countertop, he will price out granite.  That’s not his fault.  It’s yours.  Knowledge is power.  The more specifics you provide, the better the process will be and the more accurate the pricing you receive will be.

Hope that helps.  If I can pull this off with 4 kids, one newborn, you can too.  Surround yourself with good people.  Just like anything else in life, the people who you surround yourself with define who you are whether you like it or not.  Choose wisely.


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One of the additions we added was an entire back hall that houses many of the daily required family functions including our laundry room, kitchen office, pantry, lockers and a powder bathroom.

I’ll start with the lockers, which as a mother of 4 small kids is one of my favorite things in the house because it hides mess and anytime you can hide mess with kids, that’s a big deal!  My main criteria for the lockers were that we needed one for each child and they had to have doors!  When I was giving our architect my criteria he looked up and told me- ‘Melanie, everyone knows you have kids.’ My response to him was- ‘but they don’t have to see proof with every inch of the house!’.  So, we went with doors.

Here they are finished-


The screen/mesh material for the cabinet doors was one of my best “finds”. It is difficult to find cabinet mesh other than chicken wire and it can get very pricey quickly.  I was lucky enough when using Houzz to come upon a photo that sourced the wire inserts on a picture I liked.  They came from http://www.brass-grilles-shop.co.uk/- Brass Grilles UK Online Shop.  They are completely online- you place your order with the correct measurements and they ship it to you. Shipping was very reasonable and their product selection is so dynamic, I love these guys.  I never spoke with anyone over there, I did everything via email and submission on their website.   I highly recommend them.  They sent the individual sheets directly to me and I handed them over to my cabinet maker.  The most unbelievable thing is they came FedEX Overnight!  I didn’t know they were delivered and I wasn’t looking for them because I figured it would take a few weeks to receive them and one day I checked my order status online and it said it had been delivered weeks ago!  I panicked and raced to the house to find them tucked away in the garage!

The metal inserts do a great job of hiding the “stuff” and the wire bins I found at the Container Store recently to keep the upper nooks organized.  We have way too many shoes.

Here is a closer up view of the metal inserts-


Here is a look at the bins-


Our family rules, courtesy of http://www.wisteria.com-


You enter the back hall from the kitchen.  This is the view from the kitchen and on the other side of the wall behind the lockers to the right of the clock pictured here is our pantry.




We did not have the space for a large walk-in pantry.  This layout actually works quite well because I have a lot of shelving, some pullout shelves and plenty of room to garb it up with snacks and dry goods.  I use the upper cabinets for storing things we do not use that often.  Opposite of the pantry is a little beverage station(I can’t stand the term “wet bar”) that houses wine, a beverage refrigerator and an ice maker.  It’s right by our backdoor which I love because we can run in to grab a drink or ice.  The walls are covered in shiplap. That’s what we call it because I have seen several names for the wood boards people use on their walls.  Ours is spruce and painted the same color as our trim.  It creates a farmhouse type of look and we used it in most of our back hall.  It is great for hiding handprints!

We added pocket doors between both the lockers and the pantry area to the rest of the back hall to be able to hide our laundry and kitchen office if and when we have guests over.  All of our doors on the main floor are painted dark.  It totally makes the look of the house and I love it!  Great for hiding hand prints too!

Here is the “beverage station” area opposite the pantry-


The lantern is from Shades of Light.  I ordered a few lights from there and they all worked and are in the house but the only thing that was disappointing with them is when you place your order, they do not tell you if your item is in stock.  The first thing I ordered it turned out was on backorder for weeks.  It was very upsetting to find out after your order that you can’t get what you wanted!  I called and they gave me a discount off the purchase so that made me feel better and I just waited for the item to arrive.

Closer up view-


The countertop is walnut and the sink is a hammered nickel.  The whole thing does what we need it to and works well for both wine and juice boxes!  What more can you ask for?

Want to see more of our main floor? Check out this latest post full of pictures! https://riverviewredo.com/main-floor-tour

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Well, it’s been a long time since my last post.  We got distracted with life and pinterest! Lots of photos ended up on pinterest but I am going to try and go through and update what we ended up doing for each of the rooms.  I think we stopped with the exterior!

I will try to post pictures and info about each of our rooms so maybe it will help someone else that is thinking about going through this process. I used so many blogs, pinterest photos, etc when building our home. I was frozen without a reference photo.  It’s hard not to be able to give specifics to your builder and not be clear on exactly what you will end up with.  

For now, here is a photo of the completed house.



I love it.  I am thankful that we have this to call home.  David and I have always admired white, Greenwich, CT inspired homes and I feel like we accomplished it with ours.  Here are some additional exterior photos-



We were able to keep the cedar shake roof.  The middle section(front) stayed up throughout the build and our builder was able to remove and save the old shakes from the two side sections that were taken down to the ground and rebuilt.  They used the original shake on the front portion of the home when they put the roof back on and we added new cedar shake to the rear and sides and it has already the patina of the original shake.

The home is a shade of white by Porter Paints and the shutters are a brown/grey color by Sherwin Williams.  The front door is by Farrow and Ball- blue gray #91.Image

We enlarged the lower bluestone patio so we were able to include two facing benches which I love!  All of the boxwoods we requested too.  I picked up the house numbers from Home Depot and installed them myself!  The light is from Ballard Designs.  All of my friends know I love Ballards and frequent the outlet weekly but I had to actually order this one which was painful for me!




The planters I ordered from Restoration Hardware.  I saw them pictured with the door color and the bluestone patio on a website and loved them.  See, pictures help! The benches we procured from Hayneedle which is one of my new favorite online shopping sites!


One of my favorite little things is the light we chose to use on the garage side of the house.  Image

I spent many hours online looking at exterior wall lanterns.  There are many good looking lanterns.  These made me smile when I came upon them and the Liberty Bell look had an olden charm that spoke to me so this was the clear winner!


The rear of the home is perhaps the biggest exterior change.  We redid everything but kept the front true to its original build.  The rear of the house, however, got a complete overhaul.  We basically shaved off the back of the house and put an addition across the entire back.  Thanks for Stephen Fuller, our architect, it is beautiful and light-filled like we had hoped.

We painted all of the brick that remained and the brick that was added to match the house.  That is one of the easiest ways to update an older home- ugly brick? Paint it!

Lastly, the elevated patio which was one of the biggest nightmares to envision and create turned out to be both useful and pretty.  Peacock Pavers from Atmore, Alabama was our paver choice because it does not heat up, even in the full sun.  


That’s all for now.  I will start on the inside next!


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