When I began my career at Donald Gardner Architects, I never dreamed that one day I would be building my own Gardner home.

Building my own Don Gardner home.

The Northwood Plan 209

About two years ago my husband Bryon and I began looking for a house to purchase. Our wish list may have been a bit ambitious because nothing we found met our expectations. One night while out on a walk with our dog, Bryon said to me, “you know, you look at house plans all day, maybe we should build one”. The thought had never crossed my mind. Did I even want to build a house? It was an exciting and intimidating possibility.

I came to work the next day with a new perspective. If I were to pick a Gardner plan, which one would fit our needs? Our house search came up empty, mostly because we wanted 10+ acres of land and our home style is very contemporary (see mention of ambitious wish list above!). Building gave us the possibility to have both and it suddenly became very clear that yes, we did want to build a house!

Building my own Don Gardner home.

Building my own Don Gardner home.

Starting to clear trees to open up the mountain view.

Finding Land

We knew we wanted around 10 acres. It was an arbitrary number, really. Basically, we didn’t want neighbors, or at least not ones we could see. We wanted space to hobby farm with goats, chickens, and a garden. And we wanted to build trails around the border of our land to run, build an obstacle course, and take long walks with our lab-mix. Oh, and we wanted a mountain view! Ambitious… I know!

Building my own Don Gardner home.

Closing Day!

We looked at dozens of land properties for over a year, but one really stuck with us and we kept going back to it. It was 13 acres with a view. We made an offer on this property in June, and after waiting for a survey to be completed, we finally closed in early October.

Finding a Plan

We received a lot of advice about picking the right house plan. All the factors to consider regarding resale value, the master bedroom on the first floor so you don’t have to go upstairs when you’re old, that two-story great rooms are out, etc.

And then while digging through hundreds of Gardner home plans we found our perfect design! We ignored all that advice! It was two stories with the master bedroom up, had a giant two-story ceiling in the great room, and we decided to convert one of the bedrooms to a roomy laundry/mud room, reducing the overall bedrooms to only two.

Of the 1000+ gorgeous Don Gardner house plans, we fell in love with an extremely dated floor plan from 1989. We immediately envisioned our mountain view through the floor-to-ceiling windows, we loved the statement-making fireplace, and the vertical board exterior fit our contemporary style. The interior was in the general layout that we wanted, but it needed some updates. I printed the floor plan and used white-out and a pen to draw in the changes that we would submit for modification. This was it, the home we dreamed of!

Building my own Don Gardner home.


Finding a Builder

Finding our builder was the one factor that we really sought and listened to the advice of people we trusted. We received a recommendation for Addison Homes. Their building philosophy fit perfectly with our desire for an energy-efficient home. A quote from their website perfectly sums up why we wanted to meet them, and eventually chose them as our builder – “Addison Homes is committed to making Zero Energy a mainstream option. We’re modeling a vision of sustainable construction that’s attractive, affordable and attainable for homeowners.”

Consider your goals for the performance of your home before you start interviewing builders. Are you wanting to build Green? Is it important to have a low-maintenance exterior? Find a builder that meets your standard and someone that you generally like. You’re going to spend a lot of time working with them!

What we’ve learned, so far….

Patience – Everything takes longer than you think it will. Not just days or weeks longer, sometimes months longer (see land closing above!). This is not a process that you can rush through – and if you try to, it’s not fun. Enjoy where you are in the process and don’t set hard deadlines and expectations for yourself or for things that are out of your control.

Compromise – Luckily, Bryon and I have very similar style. So, we had created detailed Ideabooks of exactly what we wanted on houzz. But when it comes to making product selections, what you love in a photo may not be realistically within budget. At this point in the selection process, you must decide what you can walk away from to stay in budget and what you are willing to splurge on for #housegoals.

It’s been a fun and rewarding process! – People will often warn you about how stressful and hard it is to build a house. Everyone’s experience with building is different but we have truly enjoyed the process of planning for our future home and are beyond excited to begin the construction process. Not everything has gone as planned and we will certainly face issues and setbacks as we move forward, but we are resilient and know that it will all be worth it in the end.

We are excited to document our planning and home building process in this personal “Rendering to Reality” series. Check back soon for updates!

Echo Jones – Marketing and Editorial Assistant, Future Don Gardner Homeowner

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