Have you ever heard a couple say, “Building our new custom home over two years was a joyful, educational, and worthwhile experience?” Probably not! Personally, from gabbing with my friends over the years about their experiences, I always left the conversation wondering what reset buttons I would use to prevent or reduce the intensity of overwhelming emotions that can often run astray. And, many years later I was put to the test.
Building a home from scratch is a project that requires you to make a multitude of decisions. When you have a Mars and a Venus or two Mars and two Venuses building, remodeling, or redecorating a home, it requires the ultimate commitment and a meeting of the minds. You will make joint decisions that are endless. Since most of you are not contractors, architects, landscapers, or interior designers, the number one joint decision is your choice of that team.
Choosing Your Creative Team
You both have to have 100% respect for the talent of your team of choice because you are going to rely on them to bring in a completed project that you enjoyed playing a part in. From the contractor to the architect to the landscaper and interior designer and let’s not forget the foreman who orchestrates the project, these are the people you will lean on for their expert advice. Choices you have to make are in the hundreds and they never stop. And, unless you are ‘twins in thought’ – it might be wise to add a shrink onto the list of your team!
My Ultimate Concierge and I are twins in thought. We read one another’s minds. As I have written in the past, we love the same lifestyle, the same art, the same type of restaurants, the same TV shows, the same kind of people and friends, etc. We are lucky we chose one another because we are an in-sync couple. We just agree on almost everything. A miracle if there ever was one! Therefore, it was easy for us to choose our team and the three most important members. The contractor, the interior designer, and the foreman were not only the tops in their respective fields; they also bonded in friendship and loved the project.
There Were Situations!
Here are a few vignettes that could have turned sour if not for the professionalism of our interior designer, contractor, Ultimate Concierge, and me staying united.
The architect had a problem with the designer, but the designer had 60 years of experience and knew just how to handle the architect!
Richard Himmel, our interior designer, saw our home in his head. He was already a man in his 80’s and knew every area of the trade, and that included architecture. The architect was a younger man and a male chauvinist who was also very arbitrary. He wanted to fight and prove himself right the day my Ultimate Concierge and I sat around the table in his office with our contractor, Warren Stocker, and Dick. Dick would not argue.
Dick wanted the house to look a certain way. He wanted a long walkway up to the double doors that opened into our home. The architect said with snark, “The long walkway will look like a bowling alley!” Dick was not a bit taken aback or insulted but in his gentlemanly manner differed. Dick won. Dick was right. None of us sitting around the table interfered in their conversation. So, there was no confrontation.
Trusting Your Team
Dick ultimately became our designer architect and I refer to our home as, “This is the home that Dick built.” At this time, my Ultimate Concierge and I could have had mixed feelings about who was right and who was wrong. Obviously, we did not want the walkway up to our home to look like a bowling alley but we both trusted Dick over the architect, Ultimately, the architect did what Dick asked him to do!
After we moved into our home the architect came over to see the bowling alley! “He was right! It doesn’t look like a bowling alley!” The architect knew he was a very good technician but not a great designer. The point of this vignette: My husband and I agreed to let Dick take over the design of our home and let the architect build it.
Another problem was, our landscaper. Dick wanted us to plant ficus trees in front of our home. A long wall of very tall ficus trees. One day outside our finished home, the landscaper screamed at me, in front of the contractor and my Ultimate Concierge, “I am not going to plant your f-ing Ficus trees!” Needless to say, he was asked to apologize and leave our property. I ran into him several years later and he apologized and explained to me what was going on in his life at that time and we parted friends.
We Thought Of Each Other’s Needs
My Ultimate Concierge and I were thinking of one another’s needs. I knew there were times he did not care to go shopping with me and Dick, but he went and enjoyed the process because he saw my delight. I did not want him to purchase the land we ultimately bought but I knew my husband wanted to live on the golf course we belonged to. We were able to appreciate each other’s needs
We communicated, we listened, and did not interrupt. I know there were times he wanted to interrupt and he knew there were times I wanted to interrupt but we held back until the other stopped talking. That was hard, at times.
We Never Blamed
For example, before I was satisfied with our landscape I hired three different landscapers! I told you about the first one. The second one totally disappointed me. He did the work while we were in Chicago. Bad move on my part. One day a friend of ours, Arthur, rode by on his golf cart and yelled as he passed, “That new large rock you added to your back yard looks like a meteor dropped out of the sky!” I did laugh because I found his comment hysterical but I was crying on the inside. The third landscaper was the charm.
My Personal Advice
My advice on building, remodeling, or redecorating from my personal experience is as follows:
- Discuss in length the following:
- Style and size
- Personal desires you want to be incorporated
- Choose a team of professionals you ‘both respect’
- Choose a team that will work well together
- Build your home together. Please one another. It feels good to give back!
- Don’t be afraid to take the plunge
The Famous Designer, Richard Himmel
My biggest disappointment was the death of Richard Himmel, our famous interior designer. He passed away as our furniture was being delivered. He never saw his last project, our home, completed. But over the years so many did, and they all fell in love with “The last house that Dick built.’ Our Shangri-La.
Of all the men I have met he stands out as one of the most respected. He was named the Decorator of the ’60s by Architectural Digest. Darling, he was so creative. No one to this day in my mind has surpassed his greatness for creativity, imagination, and love of beauty.
I was on his page 100%. He had a Wheaton Terrier, we have a Wheaton Terrier. He had orchids in his home in Palm Beach, I have Orchids in our home and named our first Wheaton, Orchid. I know he would love the name of our second Wheaton, America. I can hear him saying, “Very clever, very clever name. It speaks to me.”
I think of Dick often, especially when I look through each month’s Architectural Digest and wonder why they turned down the entry of our home. Oh well, I know what Dick is doing…he is as busy as ever, fluffing the pillows in heaven!
Have you built or redecorated your home with your partner? I would love to hear your advice and struggles. Please tell me in the comments at the bottom of this page.
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