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Phase two of the rebuild has officially begun! We are adding a pool and finally finishing the backyard. Our kids are very excited(and so am I). Having grown up with pools in our backyards, when it came time to design our own, we wanted it to be modern and clean looking but we also want our children to use it.  I found myself gravitating towards rectangle pools as we browsed the internet. I have collected a lot of images over the years and used Pinterest to gather my thoughts. https://www.pinterest.com/mbpursell/pool/

Then came the kids’ feedback. All 4 kids had different demands. We settled on a something with height to jump off, a tanning ledge, spa and a slide.  How in the world to you make a modern looking pool that includes a slide? Well, we are going to try.

When you tell the pool guy you want a slide, in my experience, they either try and talk you out of one or they start talking about large boulders.  Our 10 year old is adamant about the slide so the suggestions of not having one it out of the question and our home will never go with a large boulder look, so that’s out too.  Trying to find a way to incorporate the slide without having to use rocks or boulders turned out to be a huge challenge. After meeting with several companies and pouring through images, we have finally come up with a solution that includes painted brick, a small grotto and a lot of dirt.  I am excited to see how it all comes together.

Pool design



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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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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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I met our Architect, Stephen Fuller, at the house last week to go over cornice and other trim options and I jokingly told him that he was my “phone a friend” for the house. With a project the size of this one, I have my mom that is my go-to “phone a friend” when something goes wrong and I am ready to cry, I have my designer, Teresa Hamilton, that is my “phone a friend” for any interior choices and then I have Stephen Fuller, our Architect, that is my main “phone a friend” for anything to do with what the RIGHT thing to do for the house-  because I know he will give us his honest opinion without me asking him to be honest with me.  I appreciate that.

If you are not familiar with Stephen Fuller(he calls himself Steve but I have to stop myself from calling him the full ‘Stephen Fuller’ each time we speak and so I just use Stephen- I don’t call my brother Matt either.  He’s Matthew…I digress…

If you are not familiar with his work, I would describe it as simply classic and tasteful, done with a respect for the past.  I am a fan of an older, classic look and I think Stephen is the perfect fit for us and this project.

From his newly updated site – http://www.stephenfuller.com/ – “We must respond to modern lifestyles while respecting and celebrating all that is great about the past.” That’s exactly what we hope to accomplish with our home- it should be one that can function in a modern, purposeful manner but still stay true to where it began.

I liked him when we first met.  He soon made fun of our circumstances, living in that house the way it was and he was very easy to get along with.  He wants things done a certain way and throughout this process, he has provided guidance and foresight to make sure that we do not make any mistakes that affect the overall vision of the completed home.

When we met Stephen, we had called him to come to the house because we were unsure about knocking it down or if we could work with what we had and he didn’t hesitate with telling us that he thought we should work with it and that has brought us to where we are today. I think it is pretty cool to get to rebuild something that was just fine to begin with but if you had the chance to rebuild your house the way it should have been built to support today’s modern lifestyle- that’s what we are doing.

After chatting with Stephen, he goes to work on the preliminary design drawings and I think they are awesome to view.  It was like Christmas morning to open this up and look at what our house could become.  Below are just a few images of where we began before we get to formal plans and such-

Stephen Fuller Original- Preliminary Design Document

The drawings were simply awesome to look at and they make you really start to see where you will be at the end.  From here, formal plans are created, he helped organize bids and meetings with prospective builders and ultimately helped us end up with the right builder for the project, which is key.  He understands the building process and he guided us through the initial steps of how to get started with this.  I just love the design drawings though.  They are done by a true artist.  It’s amazing how talented some people are in this world.

Stephen’s been with us through the entire build to make sure it is all done to plan and we 100% recommend him and his services to anyone that has any building project they are looking into at some point whether it be new construction, a renovation or rebuild like ours!  If you check out his website- www.stephenfuller.com – you can see all the different types of projects he has been involved on and there are many to behold.

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Friday Update

Friday Update

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Outside Update

No big update…just took a photo of the front tonight.  Siding is going up!


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Tile has been the hardest thing for me to get through.  The choices are unlimited and it is difficult to find a starting point.  

Our foyer in the rental house has become my staging/selection area. It gives me the best light and it is not in the way of the kids.  This is what I have selected- I say “I” because David has had nothing to do with any of this.  It’s really for the best because it is too difficult to have to run everything by him.  I just pick what I like and he says it looks great. I’m not even sure if he has really looked at any of it.


I like the 12×24 bricks for the kids’ bathroom floors and Avery, Audrey and Hudson will have just that- Hudson is going with a gray for his bath, Avery has a “marble” tile and Audrey has a really pretty linen pattern beige tile for hers.  All of them will have Botticino honed marble subway tile and trim.  It’s neutral, mostly white and clean looking. I wanted to choose something that will not look dated in 5 years. I do not plan on re-doing kids’ baths anytime soon!

For Addi, she has a bath that was fitted into the roofline over our bathroom and it is a tight space- perfect for her frame!  I want her to have the hexagon marble tiles for her floor- I love that vintage look and the extra grout that goes with that will give her more traction in her bath which is also good for her little frame!  It looks great too. She will have a simple white porcelain subway tile to go with it.

I think I am using Corian in Audrey and Addi’s baths- I found a “white” I really like and for Avery it will either be that or this cool Silestone gray- it is the square laying on her floor tile.  I really like the look with the white and I just want to make sure I can live with it for a long time and it won’t be too trendy.

Hudson is getting an awesome silver veined limestone countertop that I got at a warehouse sale- it is awesome and it was a great deal. Thanks to my designer, Teresa for that find!

The basement is still up in the air- I am leaning towards a honed travertine tile for there since it will get a lot of in and out from the backyard and eventual pool- seems like the most intelligent choice for down there.  

I didn’t include the master bath in the picture but our floors and counters are a limestone and the shower and backsplash are a glass mosaic tile- I absolutely love it and cannot wait to see it in the house.

So, I guess we ended up with a little of everything- the wood floors are “character grade” which looks old, the tile has a neutral palette with a modern style and hopefully all of it will feel like home.  

We’re getting there. I actually heard the word “home” come out of my mouth the other day when referring to ‘yellow house’. It caught me off guard but hopefully that is a sign for what is to come and it will feel like home very soon and will actually BE our home very soon!

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April 13, 2012

We’ve quit calling it a renovation.  That is a severe understatement.  We are rebuilding the home.  It’s a rebuild.  I think we have created a new genre of construction with this project.  It’s not a renovation, it’s not completely new construction, it’s a rebuild.  Many people have asked me why we didn’t just knock it down and start anew.  Well, you have to consider your lot and place in a neighborhood.  The worst thing we could do financially is out build our lot.  Don’t get me wrong, this is a big project but when you start with a blank page with new construction, you go large.  It can keep going and going because there are no limits.  We were forced to stay within the foundation for the majority of the house and like Tim Gunn says, “Make it work!”.  This lot in this neighborhood didn’t need a castle sitting on it between 2 modest homes so we went with the rebuild.  We will likely still out build our lot, especially if you ask David, but the home will not look abnormal, it will blend and it will be unassuming, all qualities that make us comfortable.

April 13, 2012

This was the back on April 13, 2012.

April 27, 2012

April 27, 2012

Before the addition.

Back progression

April 27, 2012

As the addition goes on

May 18, 2012

May 18, 2012

Addition is on!

Front updated view-

May 18, 2012

Front view with addition complete.

The rear is still missing the courtyard and from what we understand that will be added towards the end of the project so the rear view is not complete at this point.  The plumbing is going in and the electrical begins Monday!

Garage addition-


We rebuilt and added the garage

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The last 2 weeks have been like what I imagine watching paint dry will be like expect there is no paint.  There are no walls for that matter.  We’ve managed to get the addition foundation walls poured and set and we now have a dirt pile 10 feet tall in the backyard.  It was delivered to fill in under the soon-to-be back courtyard if they ever start framing that is.

Right now, it is so slow.  Waiting for cement to dry is like watching paint dry.  Waiting for the inspectors is like waiting for your turn to check out at Target with a kid screaming in the cart.  Lots and lots of waiting and in the mean time, I am frozen waiting on what to do next. I haven’t made that many decisions yet and I feel like I am going to be steamrolled eventually and not prepared. I’ve had some weird dreams.  Nothing with naked people but dreams that make you wake up thinking you forgot something.

We need a landscape plan. Don’t really want to pay a company and we would rather look for an individual to help but that doesn’t seem easy to find right now either.  We have like 6 weeks before school is out and after that, I will likely be dragging 4 kids with me to any appointment and I can already feel the “That’s fine, whatever”, boiling up in my throat when it comes to what all needs to be selected.

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Friday update


3-30-12 Update


The windows are back in, front is wrapped and old landscaping has been removed.  The changes in the backyard are dramatic.

Before addition and garage


The footings are set to be poured today and then the addition can begin next week!

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