Today marks the completion of the first year in our new home.
It has been a wonderful year. This being the first home that we built from, almost, scratch, there are interesting lessons we learnt.
As there is always a potential that one of my readers may end up building their own home, I thought it prudent to list down few of my learning.
Don’t rush things:
I pride myself as a quick shopper. I spend 7 minutes in any hypermarket for grocery shopping. That includes car stop to car start. Other purchases are equally brutal. In no shop, do I spend more than 10 minutes. The 7 minutes limit I have, stretches to 10 when the girl behind the counter warrants it with her shape and looks.
This is achieved by keeping choices simple. Shoes are black. Trousers are gray or black. Shirts are white. The rest are ordered on Amazon.
I extended the same logic to buying a property. The home that we now dwell in for a year was the third one we saw, of a total of 4. Left to myself, I would never have reached #2.
I saw the first property, a beautiful wooden structure, with lush green gardens and a terrific garage, and I decided that it would be my home. That it was already 15 years old and it was a good 14 kms from city centre had to be explained to me, by a friend, before I kissed it goodbye.
The second was virgin land. Being developed by a builder. He was ready to combine two plots and make an independent home. The original project was meant to be a row of houses.
A cluster of matchboxes is what my daughter called it.
We had a huge row and she almost broke down crying. To this date I do not know why I fought for it. My daughter 28 years my junior, patiently explained how a home in the middle of a cluster of matchboxes is still not a home, in the real home sense, and how would I react to the shrieking of the kids from the basketball court, which would have been sharing the boundary with what would have become our home.
It was only after she said that I noticed that there was a school next door.
The third was what would eventually become our home. But the first time I saw that I was like “meh”. No way.
So much work to do.
Did not even cast a second look.
Closed and left with polite thankyous.
The fourth was another “love-at-first-sight”. What my wife called a place fit for banshees to dwell. The place was dark and a reasonably big part of the house was below the ground level. It had a horror film backyard. With a creaking swing dangling from a forlorn tree. One of my friends once commented that I have vampire blood due to my aversion to bright spaces and sunlight. Probably the reason why I loved this place!
Ever the democratic family we sat down to evaluate the 4. After a lot of due diligence we zeroed in on #3, to my absolute horror. The logic was that it was a blank canvas and we could paint what we wanted. Unbeatable logic.
Only catch was I did not want to paint any canvas!
I agreed with a heavy heart. I looked at the jobs left to be finished, the shamble around the house that needed to be levelled to become a garden, the entire second floor was a football field. It gave us the freedom to design it specifically how we wanted it, but at that moment I saw only additional work.
It took us 3 months to select the right property. Looking back now, it was wort it.
Lesson learnt #1: Don’t rush it.
As my daughter patiently explained to me as she would to a small child “Dad, you are 51, this is probably the last property that you will buy and develop, why the rush”
The devil is in the details:
The two simplest things I did were paying the erstwhile owner and hiring a builder to finish my home.
Hiring a builder also would have been “meet-the-first-guy-explain things- a little negotiation-and close” affair.
But another friend of mine insisted on floating a tender and asking for quotations and we involved two parties who gave the identical sum after two months of negotiations / clarifications and we finally decided on the guy I decided at the beginning, but after a thorough and laborious process.
Honestly this two month period did drop the price.
And I thought I was done.
I have a semi-finished home and I am paying a builder, so all I need is move in after 4 months. Simple, right?
The number of things that needed to be selected and approved is mind numbing.
The size of the tiles.
The colour of the tiles.
The wall colour.
Outside colour of the house.
The pavement around the house.
The light fittings.
Position of the switch boards.
Number of switches.
The wood colour of the garage.
The fire place.
The tiles around the fire place.
Do the doors open inside or outside?
The above questions are from the builder who has been paid to do this job.
His logic, supported by that of my wife and daughter, is the same. The builder’s job is to execute and the selection comes back to us, as we are the ones who will be living in the home.
And the selection is almost impossible.
A combination of about 200 colours (I know only 7), 70 designs/patterns and price range from 400 to 10,000 per unit (The unit could be pieces, square meter, meters, kilograms, liters).
Simple mathematics puts the combinations at about 5 to 10 million!!!!
Add to this a long distance daughter who wields veto power over the selection/combination.
We, my wife and I, were very close to divorce on more than one occasion.
My question, which is still the most logical to me, that why not have one tile and one colour for the whole home, was discarded even without a cursory acknowledgement.
There has to be a perfect marriage between the ruthless efficiency of a man and the perennial dawdling of a woman to finish this enterprise.
But as each room takes shape and when you are able to see the lifeless tiles come alive in the pattern that you conceived, the hours spent suddenly becomes meaningful.
Lesson #2. There is no short cut here. The variety needs to be explored, the budget needs to be relaxed at times and hours need to be spent. The famous 7 minute rule must be forgotten for a few months.
You must make the visits for
Flip through shades of paint
Devil is in the details, avatar 2.
This comes under the guise of built-in furniture.
When you inherit the empty canvas the flip-side is that there is no limit to the imagination. The other members of your family conceive of ideas of how the furniture should be built in permanently. Here there is a catch. Each member has a weak spot and there is no way one can deride or downplay another aspect without putting your soft spot in peril.
The daughter supports the walk-in closet, the wife dreams of her kitchen while you fantasise on your bar.
No one gives an inch and this part is quickly settled and usually ends up the most expensive part of the deal.
Each gloats about what they managed at the completion of the home. And one year later this furniture still gets categorised as mother’s kitchen, dad’s bar etc..
As with most of the things that you conceive by your own imagination the end result is usually fabulous.
Devil is in the details, avatar 3.
This is the killer.
This is the furniture part, the piecemeal part.
Left to me I would have finalised 3 identical cots, 12 identical chairs, 3 identical tables (one of them the dining table)2 identical sofas and few, identical, center tables.
Only a fool would expect this to come true.
“Each room must have a theme dad” – this was my daughter.
For the first time in their history of 23 years of co-existence my daughter and my wife were in agreement and united.
One man against one woman is a mismatch and is a closed chapter when it is against two women.
I walked and walked and walked the length and breadth and the width and the depth and floors of this furniture shop. Even a dying deer delivers a last feeble kick when life is drained by the suffocating crushing clamp of the jaws of a tiger around its neck. And so did I deliver one ultimatum. All furniture shall be bought in one shop. I shall not jump from one shop to another.
A mistaken false stand. This one shop is equivalent to at least 5 of the biggest shops I had seen in my life.
I travelled from the displays of living room to dining room to bed rooms to studies to outside seating to cupboards to centre tables to sofas to ……..
Despite my resolution to finish the shopping in one go (a futile meaningless target) I ended up visiting the same shop three times and later bought additional pieces from other shops.
Lesson learnt #3: Leaning on a cliché - A baby takes 9 months after conception. The same is true for furniture for your home.The time spent is exactly the same, whether you do it in one attempt, two attempts or multiple visits.
Planning multiple visits judiciously yields better results and lesser arguments.
And one additional information. Never buy the mattress that comes with the bed from a furniture shop. A furniture shop is good for making a bed, not a mattress.
I slept fitfully for almost one year and woke up most mornings with a sore back before I bought a correct mattress from a mattress shop.
Few hours saved in initial shopping and the convenience of all under one roof resulted in a yearlong aching back.
All that you need after everything is in:
Sounds like a paradox.
These are stuff that you need after you think you have covered everything.
Ladders. (a small one if you already have a big one and vice versa)
Additional plug sockets.
Movement sensors for the garage.
Solar lamps on the outside, along the walkway.
I am still buying stuffs one year later so I do not know if it ever officially ends.
The blasted garden:
Numerous picture postcards and movies have forever spoilt our mental image with a perfectly manicured lawn, neat flower beds and various, perfectly positioned trees.
What you get after few months of toil is an uneven patch of overall green with lumps of grass inter-spaced with glaring bald patches. A conspicuous weed (not the smoking type, the unwanted weed), non-uniform flower plants, and conifers of horrendous dimensions and differing heights is all that you get.
After months of toil you wish you had spent additional money on concreting the whole damn thing. That would have been best value for money.
But all I have now is a miniature forest with a mind of its own and a land that is fertile to unwanted plants and barren to all the flowers plants we painstakingly plant, water and nurture.
It is too late to concrete the place now.
One rose in the whole summer and spring, few coloured leaves in the autumn and three apples in the summer justify the need of the garden to my wife.
Add to this bounty few random vegetables that grow more by accident than by design, the garden is here to stay.
Whether you like it or not.
The unfinished remains unfinished.
This is the golden rule. You move to your home because you do not want to wait till everything is in place.
Plus you have well-wishers who advice you “Move in, the remaining things will happen over a period”
This never happens.
Things that are not completed before you move in, usually take longer to get completed and sometimes remain incomplete forever.
Seating in the sit out, a swing in the balcony, an automatic gate… they all remain at the same stage as it was when you moved in.
Best part is throwing things out
One of the best parts in building a new home and shifting gives you a golden opportunity to throw away things that you would otherwise not do.
The secret is in packing things from your old place after you send your wife to the new place. You should be the packer and she should be the one who unpacks.
A shrug of your shoulder, palms upward and outstretched is your answer when your wife asks you “What happened to the ….?” for nearly five months after you have moved to the new home.
You remember exactly where did you throw that damn thing away while packing but feigning amnesia is the best strategy.
Improve quality of life.
This may sound a little far-fetched, but is really possible.
Individual homes and personal choices are different.
Hence this can’t be considered as a golden rule.
I will give one example from our life.
In our new home, we placed the TV in the drawing room on the first floor.
In the one year that we have spent in our new home, we must have watched a total of 20 hours of TV. (most of them UEFA CL matches)
Reaching home and switching on the TV for news is a habit that had died and yielded additional hours for us to talk.
(all right and to fight, argue too…..)
Give in to a bit of madness
Not everything can be planned.
Not everything should be planned.
A chance conversation could be a key.
Our discussions to decide the décor of the kitchen wall facing the living room led to some serious mad ravings. One challenged another, some provocation took place. We slowly transited from comfortable monotony to outrageous atrocity.
This was the only part of the home that my son participated in.
The result is now the talk of the town.
It is good.
And one last bit of advice.
Plan on such an investment when your son is in the final school year.
He cared two hoots and it was easier handling one hyperactive child instead of two.