The wonderful thing about a custom built home is that you can have everything exactly as you want. The terrible thing about a custom built home is that you can have everything exactly as you want. Huh? Yes, they’re both true. You actually have to decide what you want. Well, isn’t that the whole point? Yes, but the decisions never stop until all the furnishings are in their final place. For some, it all may be simple enough. For others, it may be so daunting they wouldn’t even consider it. Of course, for many it’s not an option due to the expense or the time it takes to completion. Why not buy a resale home and move right in? Or at least buy a home in a new subdivision being built and nearly ready for occupancy without further ado? For one reason, you can have exactly what you want instead of settling for something less. For another, the place where you have decided to live doesn’t have many resales and virtually no new standard homes being built by developers. Like Silver City, New Mexico, where we decided to settle in retirement.
It can’t be that tough, can it? Yes, it can—or at least it might have been for me years ago. Much to my surprise, it turned out not so difficult at all. More on that in a bit. First, let’s consider what goes into making that custom home. We’ll skip the location choice; that’s another big deal but one we had already made through research, travel to many towns and cities and an extended stay in the finalist to be sure about our decision. Maybe you could start with a menu of options offered by a builder; we didn’t do that, we decided everything.
- Floor plan—room by room, size and orientation, closets, etc.
- Materials—exterior and interior walls, floors, roofing, countertops, etc.
- Fixtures—plumbing, cabinets, lighting, etc.
- Doors and windows—plus the blinds or shades
- Colors—walls, ceiling, floors, appliances, fixtures, etc.
- Appliances—kitchen and laundry
- Hardware—for doors, cabinets, etc.
- Heating and cooling—limited for us by design
Most of the floor planning came well in advance of construction through use of software to design the house and applying what we didn’t like in our last home. Of course, as the infrastructure costs climbed we had to keep modifying (mostly shrinking the dimensions) the plan. Little things caused additional decision points to arise. Like the lighting store in our town closing or some manufacturers dropping our local window and door vendor. We adapted and worked through it. In the end, having moved in, we were delighted in the home that will be our last. We love how it looks. We love our view. We love how it works for all our needs and wants. Perfect for her quilting and crafting. Perfect for my writing. Fine for relaxation and all the tasks of daily life. It is the realization of a dream.
You may have heard the newspaper term, burying the lead. You might say I did that. This article is not really about the challenges of building a dream house. It’s more about becoming capable of doing it. It’s a subtle example of human revolution. A change that crept up on me unnoticed over time until we took on the task of creating our dream house. One of my prime motivations in beginning my practice of Buddhism some 39 years ago was difficulty in making decisions—small ones and big ones. Important ones like what I wanted to do with my life. Seems like after four years of a college quest to reclaim virtues and ideals lost in Vietnam and during Watergate I should have known. Nope. Then three years more for law school. I had to save the world and make it a better place. Be a lawyer? No, that wasn’t it, despite passing the bar on my first try. I went to work for local government instead. During the year I spent after law school figuring out that choice, I also first considered the dream house I wanted to live in—in a very elementary way. All as part of a book called Where Do I Go from Here with My Life, by Nelson Bolles—the guy who wrote the classic, What Color is Your Parachute.
But what about the human revolution? It’s not something that happens overnight, as in the violent revolution overturning a government via a coup. No, it’s changing your character—yourself, over time. As you acquire the wisdom of the Buddha through the practice, you evolve. Accepting the premise, that control of your mind and your actions is fundamentally within your power, your revolution in character proceeds. No one else is in charge of your life, you are. You set a goal and keep working toward it no matter the obstacles you may face. Buddhism posits a somewhat complicated syllogism about conspicuous and inconspicuous prayer and conspicuous and inconspicuous result. Either type of prayer can be associated with either type of result. In the case of my decision-making difficulty, I long ago had stopped conspicuously praying about. But the daily Buddhist practice had continued with an inconspicuous prayer. Eventually, midway through the home construction process, the conspicuous result became apparent—no longer inconspicuous.