The first thing that strikes you about building a custom home in the United States is the speed by which they build it. One day, all you see is the foundation slab and you come back couple of days later, the framing is up. Different building styles, materials, mechanized labor, contracts, etc. are part of the reasons for speed and efficiency. However, the process of interacting with the builder, making your selections while not getting tempted by expensive upgrades, and the joy of discovering quirks make it an enjoyable process. Although we are tempted to move in as soon as the home is complete, we do not close until May 31st . But at the same time, I will miss the process when it is complete.
Since we opted for a custom-built home instead of buying a readymade home or a standard custom because it not only gave us more leeway but also turned out to be cost efficient along with the added advantage of being in a better neighborhood. The process of custom-built home requires your constant interaction with the builder regarding selections as the home is being built. You may choose to go with the builder’s default features and selections but he offers you a choice if you are tempted to customize the home to your eclectic tastes. It may be as simple as choosing your wall colors to revamping your kitchen cabinets in order to go for a more contemporary look. The advantage of a custom home is that the budget for flooring can be transferred to kitchen appliances if you exceed the latter but come below the former.
We choose to go for a primarily tiled flooring in the living, study, dining, and kitchen areas, wood laminate in the master bedroom, and carpets in the other bedrooms. The default was carpet everywhere but having a boisterous dog who loves shuttling in-n-out of the backyard, carpet is simply not an option. And yes, we could choose the tiles and wood laminate. Our most time-consuming yet inexpensive change was in modifying the kitchen cabinets. We replaced the traditional raised overlay with round knobs with contemporary Shaker complete overlay style with long door handles. This involved getting together with the builder and the cabinet maker with pictures of exactly what we wanted and even if we wanted that ‘v’ groove to define the intersections (Ash didn’t like it). The other upgrade was a cement flatwork to extend our concrete backyard patio in order to create a permanent spot for our grill next to the direct gas connection. I did succumb to the surround speakers pre-wiring but I consider it as an added feature that would make the home lucrative when we sell it.
Our builder is a jovial Texan in his 60s who loves to talk and explain his building process and since he knows about my architecture background, he loves going into details. He is one of the few builders in town who builds ‘Good Cents’ homes and touts his environmental-friendly features. Living in Texas, this is big and unexpected. At the same time, he is also interested in our backgrounds, and of course our Indian-ness. He isn’t one of the jingoistic ‘America is the greatest’ Texans and readily admits things that America did wrong in building its cities (too car-dependent ergo oil-dependent). So it was a surprise when he whipped out his iPhone and switched to the Compass app and asked if we were into that Indian direction architecture. Ah! He was asking about Vaastu Shastra, my pet peeve about Indian architecture. I laughed it off and told him I thought of it as mumbo-jumbo especially if you are building in America because at least in India, it was based on some kinda of climatological basis. The next question floored us. He wanted to know if we wanted to build a certain structure for a certain holy plant as he had built for Mr. Aiyar in his backyard. He was talking about a Tulsi Vrindavan. We smiled and told him, nope we wouldn’t be needing it but we didn’t go into why.
There are plenty of such quirky and interesting tidbits that I keep learning about everyday. The house is chugging along great and now the sheetrock is up and workers are taping up the joints. I’m capturing every change in photographs and will share them with a select few when the process is complete.
- Our current rental lease expires June 30th so we cannot move in earlier [↩]