Melissa Bahen

Building a Dream House: Smooth Sailing

Hi! I’m Melissa. I write about food, family, and farm life at Lulu the Baker. My family and I are about to fulfill one of those good, old-fashioned life-long dreams: we’re building our Dream House.

lulu the baker dream house

It’s only been two weeks since my latest Dream House post, and so much has happened! First, and probably most important, we finally signed all of that pesky loan paperwork! It was actually really weird to sit and sign papers with the lady from the title company because we would pass files that we had signed as long ago as last September! We really started this so very long ago, and it is such a relief to have it done and taken care of–finally.

lulu the baker dream house excavator

Right after my post last month, the excavator came out and back-filled what was left of the trench around the foundation. He also smoothed out the huge mountains of dirt behind the house, so we can finally see what it will be like to have a backyard! We also met with a landscaper last weekend and started talking about what we want the yard to look like. Landscaping that big, empty area is more than a little daunting. We want to have a big patio outside the basement, lots of grassy areas to run around in, a swing set, and a big garden. But beyond that, I’m kind of clueless! I need someone to tell me where to put planters and borders and what kind of plants look good together.

lulu the baker electrical work

My husband helped his dad and brother finish all of the wiring and electrical work, and we passed our inspection on the first try, which I’m told is a bit of a miracle. We’re really lucky to have had my father in-law work his wiring magic on our house! We still have a few light fixtures that we need to order (I’m not even sure what, at this point!), but we got the last shipment of bathroom sconces last week, and our outdoor barn lights have shipped and should arrive soon. As soon as the electrical inspection was finished, the insulation was installed. The whole house only took two days! It’s really crazy now to walk around inside the house and see the rooms sectioned off. Now, if you want to go in and out of a room, you actually have to use the doorway; no more walking through the walls! When we were out at the Dream House on Friday afternoon, we found that all of the sheetrock had been delivered. It was all divided up and stacked against the wall in each room, and the installation should be underway by the end of the week!

lulu the baker dream house

Last weekend when we were out at the Dream House, it was as busy as a wasp’s nest. The excavator was busy smoothing all of the dirt out, and a group of workers were installing siding more quickly than we could believe. They covered the entire back of the house in just a few hours! The siding on the basement and first floor is almost finished, and I’m curious to see how long the upstairs will take. It has so many windows and rooflines and vents!

lulu the baker dream house siding

We’re getting to the really exciting part of building a house: the finish work! Pretty soon, we’ll be taping and texturing the walls, installing trim, and painting! They’ll install real stairs (not those rickety ones we’ve been climbing for months!), flooring, and cabinets. We met with the cabinet maker last week and finalized kitchen cabinets too. I’m excited to see those computer renderings of my kitchen start to come to life! See you in July!

It’s been a few months since I shared an inspiration board with you! I’ve been waiting until we had a few decisions made, and now that we’re literally down to the last wire, we’ve picked out most of the important stuff. Here are a few details for the family room area:

lulu the baker dream house family room

  • We’ve had an interesting time trying to pick out stone for the front of the house and the fireplace in the family room (The stone and masonry showroom has the world’s craziest hours!), but we settled on a pretty cultured stone in shades of grey.
  • We also had a hard time picking out a fireplace–there are so many different options! Did we want millwork surrounding some stone surrounding the fireplace? Did we want a big mantle? Should the mantle be white or stained? What about a hearth (which we nixed because of possible bonks on the forehead to little ones)? I’m pretty sure we decided to have the fireplace be all stonework with a simple mantle across the front. The jury is still out on white vs. stained!
  • Dana from Made posted a photo of her new family room on Instagram a few months ago, and I immediately sent a screencap of it to my husband; they had the most gorgeous exposed beams on the ceiling! We called our contractor and said, “Is it too late to add exposed beams to the family room?” Thankfully, it wasn’t!
  • I decided a few years ago that I wanted a nice, warm grey on the walls to balance out all of the white trim. We’re have a sample quart of my favorite shade waiting to go on the walls once the walls are up. My fingers are crossed that it looks awesome and we don’t have to choose a new shade. Paint is intimidating!
  • The banisters! We wanted pretty simple, square newels (those big posts at the ends). We actually gave this exact photo to the stair guy, who I’m sure has a proper title that isn’t “Stair Guy.”
  • My husband and I both fell in love with this back porch. We have a long balcony that stretches across the back of the house, which you can get to through two sets of french doors on either side of the family room fireplace. We’re basically making it look exactly like this photo! We bought lanterns just like those and everything!

Photo credits: Country Ledgestone in Echo Ridge from Boral Stone | fireplace by Wettling Architects via | exposed beams from Dana of Made | Requisite Gray from Sherwin Williams | banisters from | back porch via Dashing Pearl; if you know the original source, please let me know!

Melissa Bahen

Building a Dream House: Stops and Starts

Hi! I’m Melissa. I write about food, family, and farm life at Lulu the Baker. My family and I are about to fulfill one of those good, old-fashioned life-long dreams: we’re building our Dream House.

dream house window may

It has been six weeks since my last post about the Dream House, and lots has happened…and lots has not happened. When I started this series, I intended it to be a very straightforward, realistic behind-the-scenes look at building a house from start to finish–the good, the bad, and the ugly, so to speak. Unfortunately, this six week stint started out with more of the bad and the ugly than we would have liked. Remember back in October when we had to put all work on the Dream House on hold while we resolved some financing issues with the bank? It was mostly just a result of the bank taking forever to get things done and being surprisingly unprofessional, and then the problem seemed to resolve and we moved on. In the six months between then and the middle of April, we’ve been continuing to work with the bank on financing, all the while believing that everything was working just fine, that things were just taking a little time. Every week when my husband would call, he would find out that the bank needed another file sent over, or another paper signed, or another check for another inspection. It was really quite maddening, but we figured we’d eventually reach the end and be good to go. In the meantime, we paid for everything out of pocket–all that cement, all that excavation work–with the understanding that we’d be reimbursed once the papers were signed. And then, in the middle of April, the bank called to say that they were ready for us to sign the final paperwork, but they also let us know that they would be financing a significant percentage less than we had agreed on. The difference between the original loan estimate from the bank and the new one was enough that we just couldn’t make it work, especially with our savings depleted. So, once again, we put a hold on Dream House work. That same week, our contractor, one of the nicest, hardest working men we know, had to deal with some really scary, serious health issues. Everything was just sad and grey.

dream house wiring may

There was a bright spot during all of this, and that was my father-in-law. I mentioned last month that my father-in-law is an electrician/math teacher, and that he would be doing all of our electrical work, which didn’t cost us anything, thank goodness. The timing happened to be just perfect to allow him to do all of the wiring and installation during this slow-down, and lots of the work we were expecting to happen this month (drywall and bead board, for example) couldn’t be done until the electrical work was finished anyway. We have our electrical inspection scheduled for the end of this week, and then we should be ready to move on to the next step!

dream house windows may

Thankfully, nothing lasts forever, even lame financing frustrations. Within minutes of the first bank calling us with that disappointing news, my husband had spoken with two other banks and begun the process of getting financing through them. They’ve been really great about speeding the process along for us, and we’re just waiting to hear from the underwriters before we sign final paperwork. And now that things are back on track, there’s been a flurry of activity at the Dream House once again!

dream house dutch doors may

Within the past two weeks, we’ve finished the electrical work and installed the furnace, the fireplace, the windows, the skylights, the exterior doors (did you see the Dutch doors?!), the roof, and the siding. We’ve ordered gooseneck barn lights to go on the front of the garage and over each exterior door, picked out stone for the garage, the back patio, and the fireplace, and met with the cabinet maker to figure out the layout and design for the kitchen cabinetry.

dream house siding may

We’re excited to have all of that progress we were expecting in May to happen in June: insulation and drywall, interior paint, pretty light fixtures, and maybe a few appliances! We really feel like the end of this project is in sight, which is a little surreal after all these years. Despite the frustrations and slow-downs, we’re planning on moving in before Labor Day. When we walk through the house, even though we’re still in the stud and 2×4 stage, we can imagine what it will be like in a few months, with walls and doors and paint and furniture. And lots of happiness.

dream house garage may


Melissa Bahen

Building a Dream House: Trussed Up

Hi! I’m Melissa. I write about food, family, and farm life at Lulu the Baker. My family and I are about to fulfill one of those good, old-fashioned life-long dreams: we’re building our Dream House.

I mentioned in my last post that I am quite astonished every month when I sit down to write this column and realize all of the progress that’s been made on the Dream House since I last wrote. I don’t think words can accurately convey that feeling! Even though I know I’m going to experience it every time I write another Dream House post, I’m practically speechless when it happens. The first thing I do when I get ready to write another post is go through the photos on my phone and scroll back until I find the last picture I used in my previous post. That’s really the only way I can keep track of time in these photos, the only way I know where we left off last month and where to begin this month. And while I’m scrolling and passing pictures, I just keeping thinking, “No way! The garage and porch hadn’t been poured yet?? None of the interior walls were even up??” And that makes me so excited to see what great things will happen after today! When it’s time for me to write my Dream House post for April, what milestones will we have passed between now and then, I wonder.

One of the first things to happen this month was pouring two more major concrete pads–the garage floor and the porch. My husband tells me that the company doing our concrete (not the concrete in the walls, but the concrete you see and walk on) has a reputation in the area for being the best in the biz. The other workmen say the concrete guys are artists, and ooh and aah over their expert expansion joints and exquisite exposed aggregate.

About that same time, the framers started working on the interior walls of the main floor. Our contractor is really good about telling us when fun things are happening, things that involves huge trucks and really heavy machinery. He gave us a heads-up the day the massive support beams in the ceiling were being placed, and even though it was a little drizzly, we had fun watching the crane lift and place those massive pieces of wood and steel. Right after they placed all of the big beams, they installed all of the decking for the top floor. The framers also pretty much built the whole garage in one day! It was as though one minute there was no garage, and then all of a sudden it appeared out of thin air. Our workmen are magicians!

And then everything got really exciting and started moving like greased lightning! Two of the three sets of stairs were put in–the set going down to the basement and the set going up to the second floor from the entry way–which means no more climbing on ladders, hallelujah! All of the interior and exterior walls on the top floor were framed, which means we can see how big the rooms are and what the layout is like up there. It also means we can see what our view will be from the upstairs windows, something we’ve only been able to guess about for the past 7 years. And it’s stunning!

The trusses for the garage were not only delivered, but also installed, which means that our house is actually starting to look like a house instead of a big, strange series of boxes. Some dear friends visited us over the weekend, and we all went out to the Dream House for a picnic and a tour. The sun was shining and the air was warm. We ate and talked and played, climbed dirt piles, threw frisbees, and started not only imagining what life will be like out there in the fresh, country air, but enjoying it. It’s so close, I can feel it!

Milestones for the upcoming month include installation of the trusses on the rest of the house, building out dormers, decks, and patios, and installing the roof. The actual, factual roof! I’m so excited for our project to start looking like the home we’ve dreamed of, and I think the installation of the roof will be a huge part of that. And we, the family, have an important to-do list for the next few weeks as well. We have to choose roofing shingles and exterior stone (which will probably also go on the fireplace), and figure out what paint colors to use on walls, ceilings, cabinetry, and trim. And we need to once and for all decide what material to put on those kitchen counters! It’s crunch time, so we can’t put off the decision any longer!

Melissa Bahen

Building a Dream House: Master Bathroom Inspiration

Hi! I’m Melissa. I write about food, family, and farm life at Lulu the Baker. My family and I are hopefully about to fulfill one of those good, old-fashioned life-long dreams: we’re building our Dream House.

There are lots of really fun things about writing this Dream House column for Style Spotters, but my very favorite thing is looking back at my photos from the past month and seeing all of the changes that have happened since my last post! Since things are progressing so quickly, it’s really easy for me to forget that just last month, for example, we were over-the-moon excited to get the concrete poured for the basement floor. I’m usually quite surprised when I sit down to write another post and realize just how much has been accomplished in a few short weeks. I’m so grateful that this column allows me to document the process of building our Dream House, because I’m afraid we forget so quickly and so easily!

Last month, my post ended with the decking being installed for the main floor, which was actually a surprise for us, and the build site has been a whirlwind of activity ever since! Right after the decking was installed, a couple of tons of gravel were used to backfill the big gap around the basement and foundation, which means no more gigantic, scary pit waiting to swallow up anyone foolish enough to go near the edge (mostly my children). Having that filled in is such a weight off this mama’s mind!

The gravel delivery was followed by the delivery of the rest of the ICF (insulated concrete forms) for the entire house. It took a couple of weeks for all of the ICF and rebar to be installed, and for the doors and windows on the main floor to be framed, and then yesterday we got to watch them pour concrete! The top floor of the house will have traditional timber framing, so now that the ICF is installed on the main floor, we are done with it for the remainder of the build! I was chatting with our contractor yesterday afternoon while we watched the ICF team pour the concrete down into the walls, and he said the framers are scheduled to come at the end of the week to start putting up interior walls!

One of the funny things about this project is seeing our Dream House come to life—sometimes in ways that we hadn’t envisioned. I said last month that I’m having a hard time translating the plans into an actual house accurately, so I’ve imagined details here and there that are not at all realistic. Like the transoms I’ve been picturing over the French doors in the family room, the transoms that aren’t happening at all. Big sad face. My husband called me last week from the build site with a slightly ominous question: What was I picturing for the window in the master bathroom shower? We wanted to have some natural light in the shower so that it wasn’t a cold, dark cave, so we’d asked the draftsman to put a long, high window in the plans. And we’d just assumed that when we saw a window show up on the plans, it was long and skinny, and very high up. So imagine our surprise when the window looking into the master bathroom shower from the front porch was 2 feet wide, over 2 ½ feet tall, and at chest level, giving visitors to our house a straight-on view of anyone showering. With walls made of concrete, you have to catch problems early-on, before they are literally set in stone. Luckily, we caught the window problem early enough that workmen could make the window much smaller before they poured concrete yesterday; no one needs an enormous window in their ground-floor shower!

So, what’s happening in the next few weeks at the Dream House? As I mentioned earlier, framers are scheduled for the end of the week to start working on the interior walls for the main floor. If the main floor goes as quickly as the basement did, they’ll be putting decking up soon so they can start framing the upstairs too! The concrete trucks are coming out again to pour all of the pads and slabs (porches, drive-way, etc). And a little bird told me that roofing trusses are on order! We’ve had more weather problems (snow, freezing temperatures, and lots and lots of rain), so cross your fingers that it all goes smoothly and on-schedule.

Lastly, since we had the master bathroom on our minds so much this month, I thought it would be fun to put together another inspiration board showing you some of the things we’ve purchased and chosen for our bathroom!

  • The oil-rubbed bronze sconces and fixtures, and the white wall-mounted medicine cabinets are from Pottery Barn, and were purchased at the same time as the pendant lights that will go in our kitchen. I had actually forgotten what all of these looked like until I looked them up yesterday, and my reaction was, “Hmmmm…” C’est la vie!
  • I spotted this built-in linen cabinet several years ago and fell instantly in love! So much prettier than a boring old closet!
  • I made the mistake of looking at bathroom vanities on Restoration Hardware “just for fun” and was smitten by this simple but jaw-dropping pair. They are way out of our price range, so we bought two of the tallest sinks we could find at IKEA, and are having our cabinet maker make us two simple stands for them. Cross your fingers that our plan A) works, and B) actually saves us money!
  • You really can’t have a farmhouse bathroom without a clawfoot tub or white hex tiles.

Photo credits: bronze scones, white medicine cabinets, and oil-rubbed bronze fixture photos from Pottery Barn | built-in linen cabinet from | vanities from Restoration Hardware | clawfoot tub from | white hex tile from