Thursday, June 13, 2013

Building the Dream by Alternate Means

Lauren and I went through the process of designing a dream house once, back when we thought we might actually be able to afford to build a dream house. It was nothing too fancy, nothing too ostentatious (the castle-like towers and the cupola reading nook all got nixed by Lauren before we even talked to the architect), but it was what we wanted in a house if we were building from scratch. Its essential features were: a super energy-efficient straw bale design, with an amazing kitchen, an open floor plan that ran said kitchen into the dining area into the living area in a seamless whole, one full wall of bookcases in that living room, and a basement (after all, our address is "Tornado Alley"). Also, it had a neat arrangement that gave our daughters connected but separate bedrooms, had office space for us, and lots and lots of windows.

Bookcases, a fireplace, and a huge wall of windows.

In the end, buying a house turned out to be the way to go, and though it would be easy to lament the lost time (and money) that went into designing our dream house, we're too happy with where we ended up to waste much energy on it. Let's see how we did:

Energy-efficient straw bale design: um, no. Not even close. But there's a certain efficiency in not building a whole new house, right?
Amazing kitchen: "amazing" would be an overstatement, but the kitchen was definitely a selling point of this house: check
Open floor plan: Not really, though it's true that I'm currently sitting in the living room and I can look through the dining room and see into the kitchen (or, anyway, 2 square feet of the kitchen)
One wall full of bookcases: no, but there was one free bookcase left with the house
Office space: yes, though it's basically a poorly insulated enclosed porch
Lots of windows: check
Separate-but-connected bedroom arrangement for the girls: does making them share a room count?
Basement: absolutely. In fact, here's us cowering in the basement during the tornado warning last night:
If we're trapped down here, we can live on maple syrup; also, the rubble will make finding the Easter eggs more fun.
It may look dungeonesque, and it may not be water-tight, but the metal post gives a remarkable sense of security in a tornado.

Now, even if the house didn't come ready-made with all the features we dream of, it's not as though we couldn't find ways to bring it closer to our ideal. For instance, Ikea was just the ticket to give us more or less the living room wall of our dreams:

Yes, it did need to be a bigger photo: it's the wall of our dreams.

 Hardwood floors and a wall of hardbacks (and quality paperbacks... and mass market paperbacks): throw in a couple comfy chairs for reading and another wall of bay windows and you've got everything we need. 

But while we're on handy storage arrangements, Lauren went one step forward in the happy display of my obsessions when she suggested repurposing two towering cabinets that originally went with the entertainment center we bought from some friends before they moved to Pakistan. They didn't fit in our living room and, anyway, there was nothing TV-related that we needed them for, so they went in a nook between our dining room and our office space. Originally, we had craft supplies for the girls in them, but Lauren suggested that I could put our board game collection inside. So, behind its doors, we have this:
It could still use some organization. And more games.

It's right off the dining room, around whose table we would likely be playing these games, assuming we ever get around to playing board games while our kids are 1 and 3 (which is to say, prone to anti-board-gaming behavior).

And these are some of the things we love in and about our home.


  1. I love, love, love your dream wall. It's perfect for browsing, it's attractive, and books make great insulation!

  2. Thanks Sarah. As I was writing this entry, I was thinking you'd be one to love it.

    The only unfortunate thing about the wall is that it isn't an exterior wall, because I was thinking the same thing about books making great insulation!

    It's been years now since we've had all of our books "on display." We've moved so many times--and knew we'd be moving again--that most of them stayed in boxes. We even pared down our collection rather than keep moving. If we start buying books again, it won't take long to fill that thing....

  3. Wonderful!! LOve the wall of books