Building a new house. The excitement, and endless decision making.

foundationThree years ago Brad and I bought land in a gated community in the North Georgia Mountains, with the intention of building a summer home of our dreams.    Last fall we bought architectural plans, hired a contractor, and received building permits to start construction at the beginning of this year.  Upon clearing the land and building a foundation our one level, two bedroom cottage turned into three levels.  There went our small house!   The lot is sloped, so it needed a large deep foundation.  Our high ceilings begged for a loft so that space wouldn’t be wasted.  It made sense, and the second bedroom was relocated upstairs as we made room for a larger master bedroom.  We also added an office in the loft overlooking the great room. This was all decided from our house in Florida with numerous phone calls and video chats with our contractor, Duane.

building

When framing neared completion we flew in for a walk through.  The kitchen was too small, but we had a random room behind it where we could expand.  We changed some windows, and added a door in the bedroom leading out to a spacious deck.  The three of us figured out the placement of appliances, what made the most sense for an easy flow,  marking accordingly for electric and plumbing lines.

buliding1Before we headed back to Florida we picked out windows, roofing, outside paint colors and other immediate issues.  We continued daily chats and photo updates with Duane as he got things done.  Construction was moving along, until we didn’t hear from  him.  A week or two passed, we finally got word that he was in the hospital from a massive heart attack. We’d become friends with Duane, this tragic news affected us and our community.

My husband decided he could take over the completion of our house.  We loaded up our plane, dog and necessities for the long haul. Already owning a rental duplex we stayed there, getting kicked out on weekends to keep our rental agreements intact.  The evening of our arrival we checked on construction progress.  Much needed to be done, but I knew Brad could make it happen and I’d help anyway I could. 

He looked at his phone a bit teary-eyed.   “I just got a text.  Duane passed away at 7:45.  That’s about the time we walked in here.”

“Wow.  So sorry, but it didn’t sound very promising the past few days.”

Brad got busy organizing specialists for the upcoming weeks. Electric, A/C, flooring, painters, trim, plumbers, and cabinets.  There were no shows, high quotes, phone calls not returned and others too busy to take on new projects.  In the mean time we had my handy nephew drive up from Florida to help with some minor stuff.  We kept him busy with the outside fencing and cleaning.   We found dependable hard-working painters who started right away on the exterior.

bulliding2building5

 

We had to decide on fixtures, starting on the door handles.

“I’d like a statement piece on the front door.”  I said.

“What about the rest of the doors?” he asked.

“Just normal door handles.” I responded.

“What’s normal?  They have different colors, types, locks?”  He asked.

“Just the normal round knobs in nickel.”

“You don’t like the hooked door handles?”

“I don’t care, its a just a round knob with a lock right?”  I said in frustration.  “You pick the rest of the handles, and I’ll find the statement one for the front door.”

This is pretty much how we chose the details at first, until we sat down for a day or two searching and comparing our individual styles on Amazon and similar sites.  Fans, lights, sconces, sinks, faucets, fencing, appliances, indoor paint colors, trim colors, flooring and tiles. I missed Duane’s opinion as he was helpful with decisions. We made daily trips to Lowes, an hour and a half round trip. I noticed the details in these things everywhere I went in restaurants, stores and houses.  They were in my nightly dreams when I wasn’t running around trying to save my pup from strange creatures chasing us… a topic for another blog or a psychologist.

cincy1We visited my family in Cincinnati for a weekend, allowing occupancy for renters who had booked months prior.  We had to pack up everything  into storage or take it with us. A heat wave engulfed the east coast which made flying around or above the cumulus clouds and weather a bit harrowing.flying

hikingBack in the mountains I made a point to go hiking when possible and occasionally relax at a winery for a glass of Sauvignon Blanc with an amazing view.  Amazon packages arrived regularly, and on some days the construction site looked like a beehive with everyone working.

We’re leaving the basement unfinished for now.  It’s framed out with space for two bedrooms plus a storage area, and a sauna/hot yoga room wired for the required 220-240 voltage.  We have to leave again this weekend for our rentals and we’ll either camp out at our new house, or visit a nearby town such as Asheville. I’ve been slacking on  blogging, but it’s been a busy yearsmile nature1

A little piece of heaven in the hills

helen signA spur of the moment purchase of a mountain home in Helen, Georgia flung my husband and me into an unexpected trip and immersion into a country lifestyle.  We won the high bid on a foreclosure and decided to turn it into a vacation rental for ourselves and others.  Collecting furniture from auctions and personal knick-knacks from our Florida house we hit the road with the goal of having it ready for the rental market in a week or less.  Game on.  It was not my first rodeo doing this, we’d done it twice prior.  My ten pound snorkie was accustomed to the drill and probably thought we were professional movers.

It was my first time seeing the house, hubby flew up and checked it out prior to our bid.  It blew me away instantly. Within walking distance to the quaint Bavarian styled village, yet in the woods in a gated golf course community and we are the only house on the street.  Hiking trails are nearby as are wineries, ATV rentals, zip lines, mini golf, German restaurants galore and my favorite country store Betty’s.betty country store

What surprised me as the crème de la crème and the real gem of north Georgia are the super friendly people.  They are warm, sociable, helpful and generally pleasant folks.  We made friends everywhere we went, already feeling like part of the community.  Before we even arrived in Helen we got stuck in gridlock traffic on Interstate 75 due to a fatal accident.  We backed up an interstate ramp and pulled over to figure out directions around the traffic jam.  A local pulled up in a red dodge asked where we were heading.

“Follow me.” He suggested.

We sped through winding country roads, landing us just north of the accident and continued on our merry way.  During our detour I spotted a unique bright yellow government issued sign reading “Quiet Sickness,” and silently pondered its meaning.  Does this mean I’m in danger of getting sick and why the quiet part of sickness.  Weird and strange things to discover on country roads in Georgia.  Winding paths I’d become all too familiar with over the course of the week.georgia sign

The gate guard at our newly acquired house as well as the young freckled blond at the local convenient store were smiling and congenial.  As were our few neighbors who went out of their way to introduce themselves, welcoming us to the community.

The best part of our initial stay was the interaction at bars and restaurants.  One night we joined a biker party singing Karaoke combined with a separate birthday party group from Atlanta.  Everyone laughed, toasted drinks, exchanged home states and even shared an impulsive parking lot mob flash dance.  Many of them were in a band and we applauded their performance. I smiled all night including our stop at the local pub where we mingled into the wee hours.  One woman was a little too friendly and a fight between two men almost broke out.  My hubby grabbed the bartender, our new friend and neighbor, warning him of the tension building.  He was quick to react, diverting any fight.

At Lowes when I couldn’t find something the clerk was readily available and walked me to the item.  At Betty’s, when ordering lunch, the boys behind the counter were attentive, assuring me that my sandwich was made with care and the best I would have.  They were right.

helen roadSo with all the love is there any downside to Helen?  Just that’s it far from some basics like large chain stores.  Groceries, home improvement, Wal-Mart and anything other than a small country grocery store will be at least a 45 minute drive or more.  But I’ll take that given all the natural and cultural beauty of the place.