The Three D’s of our Dream Home – Decisions on Design, Detail.

 The time of dreaming about our custom-designed retirement home is over.

Today we signed off on the pre-construction phase of our new home and behind us are a thousand small decisions about detail.  This is as much fun as choosing tiling in a retail showroom to the mundane business of selecting finishes on skirting boards, the style of cornices or the colour of fascias.

We have acted as artists at a palette choosing finishes and colours and textures under the direction of our instructor, Stellar Homes’ client co-ordinator, Michelle. On paper, we are delighted with our selections and look forward to a stylish home finished in practical neutrals with the odd splash of colour and interesting finishes.

Ours is not the normal project home because it is tailor-made by building designer, David Frazer who chose the basic colours and products of our home – roof, brickwork, window frames and doors and so on. He incorporated our existing spa-bath and two leadlight feature doors from the old demolished house into plans. We chose our own leadlight front door later and we provided all our own appliances instead of having them included in the builder’s price.

This created extra work for Michelle at Stellar Homes’ selection centre and we spent about eight hours answering her myriad questions. It was exhausting, but like the artist when he has put the last brush stroke to masterpiece, we, too, were pleased and convinced that our retirement home will be a wonderful place in which to live out our lives.  

For the novice it is inconceivable at the beginning of the building process that the client (us) has to make so many decisions to turn the plan into working drawings which sub-contractors can use to build a co-ordinated, tasteful product.

Houses are products and anyone who doubts the use of this word should visit a Display Village soon to see all the magnificently presented “products’’ on display.

Nothing can be left to chance, not even the waste outlet for the spa bath. So, here we are, husband Olivier and I, signing page upon page of working drawings, and most important, signing off on the modest list of extras to obtain our fixed price contract.

The most important thing you can take to the building drawing board is the ability to listen – and to be prepared to adapt or drop tightly-held wants  for reasons of affordability, safety, sometimes  aesthetics and functionality. 

Affordability at a certain age is paramount and over the past few months we have stuck to the bottom-line budget. It forced us to replace wants with needs.  We needed to decide whether to have a timber kitchen or a timber floor in the main living areas of the house because the budget didn’t stretch to both. Both were big budget items which would have a dramatic impact on the style of the home. So we chose a silk finish Laminex kitchen and a solid timber Brushbox floor laid on batons.

Boomers who build don’t have time on their sides as first home buyers do when signing up in their 20s or 30s to pay off debt, so determining the budget is paramount. What size home do you need, can you afford? Then keeping to that budget is vital, especially if one has to dip into superannuation funds.  

It begs the first question to ask is “Can I afford this new house and still have enough funds to live well within its walls?”  Building is not the most cost-effective way to house oneself in old age, but rebuilding in one’s 60s for safety and future disability, can avoid the need to move to more suitable housing in old age.

Without a firm resolve to keep to builders’ selections included in the basic price of building the home – at least in most areas – one could well end with a mortgage at the age of 70.

PS: We did weaken with heated towel rails, mixer taps and shower nozzles on vertical bars, while upgraded door furniture was also on our extras list.

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