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Building a Dream House: Spring Projects

unfinished basement dream house

It’s been several months since I did an honest-to goodness Dream House update. I’ve talked a lot about little projects that we’ve started working on over the past 6 months (playroom, studio, mudroom, front porch garden containers, etc.), but I haven’t written a plain old update since we moved in. I’ve been very focused on getting things done, and have completely forgotten how fun it is to see works in progress, not just finished rooms. And we’re up to our eyeballs in half-finished projects, so here’s a peek at what we’ve been working on (little by little) this Spring…

dream house basement studio

The basement: Back in the beginning of March (over two months ago), I wrote that the basement was slowly but steadily being finished, and that my studio would be done very soon. Well, it turns out, not so much. The basement is still being worked on steadily, just much, much more slowly than I thought it would. That’s life in the construction world, I’ve learned. The good news is, all the taping is pretty much done, so I’m guessing texturing should be happening soon. We already have the cabinets, shelves, and hardware for my studio, and I’m chomping at the bit to get it move-in ready!

apricot trees dream house orchard

The garden: When it was still cold out and still appropriate weather for planting fruit trees, we put an orchard in! Cherry trees, apple trees, peach, pear, apricot, almond, olive, quince, and plum. We dragged the kids into the backyard one sunny Saturday, used long pieces of kitchen twine to measure and make sure everything was square, and marked tree locations with those colorful little flags that landscapers use to mark irrigation systems. A few days later, our landscaper came out, dug holes, and planted 30 trees. And just like that, we became orcharders (I’m sure that’s not a word). Everything is green and leafy now, which is presenting a bit of a problem in the form of hungry deer. The orchard/garden area is massive, but fencing it is a top priority. We hired a team to sink the upright posts for us, and are just waiting until the weekend to hang mesh field fencing to keep the deer out. Hopefully they won’t strip all of the trees in the next 2 days!

dream house terraced garden orchard

We also started terracing a spot for our vegetable garden. We tilled up a big rectangle of land, covered it in chicken manure (our neighbors probably love us!), put down rows of railroad ties, and back-filled them with top soil to create level planting beds. We’ve gotten two rows terraced, and one row planted with potatoes, onions, and garlic. We have plans for corn, tomatoes, zucchini, strawberries, cucumbers, radishes, and a million flowers. It’s going to be amazing…if we can get it done!

dream house planting a garden

The mudroom: We’ve been talking about finishing the mudroom since we moved in. At first, we thought it was something we could put off since it isn’t a room that everyone sees all the time. But it’s one of the most-used rooms in the house and it gets a lot of traffic, so the sooner it can be finished, the better. The list of things we need to do to get the mudroom done is pretty short: install and paint a plank wall; mount two rows of hooks for jackets and backpacks; build a new cubby bench for shoes; and install a shelf at the top of the planks. Not an easy list, but not a terribly long list, and not one that’s that difficult to finish. We can do all of these things ourselves without hiring anyone or relying on help. And we actually crossed a major one off already by installing the plank wall after dinner a few nights ago. It took an hour and was ridiculously easy to do. I don’t know why we didn’t do it sooner. Now we just need to keep whatever momentum we have going so that we can finish crossing things off the list. Yay for Spring projects!

dream house mudroom plank wall

Building a Dream House: Shades of Gray

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 new construction front porch barrel vault

Exciting things have been happening at the Dream House in the past three weeks! The very same day my last post went live, my husband sent me a picture of the inside of the house with the drywall installed on most of the walls and ceilings. What an amazing transformation that was! I’ve been worried for a few months that the house would be too dark inside, that there weren’t enough windows and that it would end up being a dark, gloomy house. The contractor assured me that once the drywall was up and the studs and insulation were covered, everything wouldn’t brighten up a lot, and we’d be able to see what the house would really look like. And he was right, of course! The drywall installation took about two weeks, then the tape guy (what’s his title?) filled all the joints, taped, and sanded, and taped and sanded some more. And now, all of the windows and floors are covered and the walls have been primed and textured! We are ready to begin the painting stage on Monday!

lulu the baker drywall kitchen

Speaking of paint, I was really excited for the drywall to go up because I had my precious sample quart of interior color ready to paint on the walls in generous strokes all over the house. I was under the mistaken impression that that is what you do! But the drywall guys were a little miffed at me because paint on the drywall interferes with the priming and texturing. They had to sand quite a few spots (at least a dozen!) where I had painted my kids’ names and enormous rectangles of color on the walls. Lesson learned! It’s a mixed blessing, then, that the color was really gross and ugly, because despite how it sounds, I painted without much enthusiasm. Had the color been as dreamy as I was hoping it would be, the drywall guys would have had a lot more to be angry about!


It was a little disappointing to have to start from scratch on the wall color, but after no less than four more trips to the paint store and many, many hours of important internet research, we had a decent array of interior wall and trim colors to test. I wised up, thanks to many tips from friends and the internet, and painted large pieces of foam core instead of the drywall at the Dream House. We tested three more shades of grey (not quite as many as 50, ha!), dragged the samples all over the house, tested them in every single room on every single wall, took photos, made visitors give their opinions, etc. And I think we found a winner! Not too brown, not too blue, not too green, not at all purple (which was the problem with the first color). And it looks really beautiful with the trim color. The new paint color made the carpet color look totally wrong, so we had to swap that out too, and we finally made it to the stone place when they were actually open. So now we have our stone picked out too, and it all looks really lovely together!

lulu the baker interior paint colors gray

Despite my irrational fears that it would take them a long time to finish the siding, the workers actually got it done very quickly. They also installed the front door and all of the bead board. We’ve got porches on the front and back of the house, a little covered courtyard outside the mudroom, and a small covered patio off the laundry room where the stairs will go down into the backyard. And all of them have bead board ceilings. We bought 2400 linear feet of douglas fir 1×6 bead board at a construction surplus warehouse in Portland two months ago. We actually didn’t end up needing that much and have quite the pile of it still sitting in the garage. Whoops! Future project!

lulu the baker bead board front porch

We also tested and chose paint for the outside of the house (who knew there were so many shades of white??), and concocted our own private blend wood stain for the tongue and groove cedar paneling on the little barrel vault on the front porch. All of the gooseneck barn lights for the outside of the house arrived, and I made my husband pose with one as though he were installing it. Doesn’t it look great? All of those exterior lights (and interior ones, for that matter), will get installed after the painting is done.

lulu the baker gooseneck barn lights

So, what comes next? As I mentioned, the walls are taped and textured (a lovely orange peel finish), and the painters are scheduled to start this week! Although painting a house yourself takes forever and a day, hiring pros makes the job go surprisingly quickly, so it should only take about a week. Then comes all of the trim work–doors, windows, more doors, and more windows. That actually might take a while, but I can’t wait to see what our house will look like when it’s done! And the kitchen cabinets are almost finished! They’ll be installed about the same time the trim work is happening, so really, really soon! I feel like this month’s post has an inordinate number of exclamation points, but everything is just so exciting!

lulu the baker new construction siding

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!

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


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!

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