Putting The House In Showhouse

The past couple of months have seen quite the flurry of activity in the Homearama showhouse department, which you might remember as the house that we’re helping to design and decorate (along with an amazing team of builders, architects, and other pros) to benefit Habitat For Humanity. You can read some background on it here and check out a floor planning post about it here, but the exciting news is that in a matter of weeks the lot has gone from a patch of dirt to an almost fully constructed home. It has been amazing to witness, so here’s two months of progress boiled down into six pictures:

A couple of weeks ago we even shot a little house tour video for you. It’s a bit rougher than our usual tour video – mainly because there are no walls, no furniture, etc, etc – but also with all of the construction noise, the audio that we recorded on site was a mess. So I voiced over the tour again later from home. But at the very least it helps you see how this floor plan has come to life, and mentions a few plans that we have for each room as they come together.

With construction going at hyper speed, it thrust us into design-selection overdrive. Suddenly we needed to be making decisions about lighting, plumbing, flooring, fixtures, and more – all at once. Just so the bones of the house could be built to accommodate them. It completely makes sense that when you’re building a new house you need to know every last tile, cabinet, and sconce that will be going in (to allow for certain accommodations, like proper underlayments and correctly placed fixture boxes) but it has never been something that we’ve done all at once like this.

It’s been exciting, inspiring, awesome, humbling, and overwhelming all at the same time. There has been a huge learning curve, so I like to think that we’re getting better as we go – but for the last eight years of homeownership we’ve been so used to tackling one room at a time (often just choosing one element at a time) – so being tasked with picking a bunch of elements for every room all at once (before anything is even in the space – heck, before there are even any walls up) is definitely exercising a new mental muscle.

Just to give you an idea, here are the types of decisions that we’ve had to make over the last few weeks:

  • selecting 7 rooms worth of cabinetry (including each door/drawer style, paint color/wood tone, configuration/layout & the hardware for each one)
  • choosing 5 countertop materials for various rooms (the kitchen, the bathrooms, the laundry room, etc)
  • picking out 21 plumbing fixtures (including faucets, sinks, tubs, toilets, and shower sets)
  • selecting 44 light fixtures (just anything hard-wired, so this includes chandeliers, flush mounts, pendants, and sconces, but not table lamps)
  • doing an electrical walk-thru to pinpoint exactly where wiring needs to go for each fixture (to the inch), along with determining the placement of all can lights, outlets, and light switches
  • making 14 tile choices for things like the kitchen backsplash, the bathroom floors and showers, the mudroom and laundry room floor, etc
  • picking all of our appliances for the kitchen and laundry room
  • selecting door styles for the front door, the garage doors, and every interior door (including specialty pocket doors, all door hinges, and all doorknobs)
  • doing a carpentry walk-thru to share detailed plans/photos/sketches for moldings, wainscoting, and built-in features (including shelves, bookcases, benches, mudroom cabinetry, a desk nook, and a bed that’s flanked by two wardrobes)
  • choosing the hardwood floor style and stain color
  • picking an exterior stone style and pinning down a porch column height
  • mapping out a to-scale construction plan for the fireplace and the mantle in the living room

We knew going into this there’d be lots of decisions to make and materials to choose, but we forgot how intricate some of those choices can be when you’re trying to make sure everything meshes together well – not just in style, but also in size and placement. Just today we were coordinating between the counter guy, the cabinet folks, and our plumbing girl to make sure everyone was on the same page (so we wouldn’t end up with a sink cabinet with a counter hole for the wrong type of faucet).

One of our favorite parts of the hunt so far was lighting. You know Sherry loves herself some lights. So we can’t wait to share our finds as they start getting installed and the walls continue to go up.

I’m sure those of you who’ve built a home before are nodding along a bit. We’d guess the process is similar, although nothing comes to us pre-packaged like we hear that it can with some new construction homes (i.e. “pick from these three bathroom suite options”). It’s pretty exciting though, because the whole point of Homearama is for each of the seven houses to showcase different styles and (hopefully) interesting ideas for everyone who walks through. So we’ve found ourselves stretching our comfort zone a little in the hopes of creating something fresh and exciting, while still being comfortable and livable. The jury’s still out on how it’s all going to come together, so admittedly we have all of our appendages crossed pretty much at all times.

And of course, all of these decisions need to be made within a budget and to meet strict deadlines (we have zero wiggle room since the show opens on May 1st, whether we’re ready or not). We feel extremely lucky that our builder, aka Builder John (pictured above sporting his now-gone mustache for charity from December), is great at keeping us on track. He tells us we’re ahead of schedule, which I hope is true and isn’t just him trying to keep us from stressing out.

As for what else we’ve been hunting for, we would love for our house to have a mixture of new things and awesome secondhand scores, so there has been some of this going on…

We’re nearing the end of the fixture & finish selection part of the design (at least we hope!) so we’ll soon be transitioning to picking the items that aren’t nailed, wired, glued, or otherwise permanently affixed to house. I’m talking furniture, rugs, bedding, art, accessories, and… wait a minute, I feel a super nerdy color-coded excel spreadsheet coming on. Anyways, once we get a bit more of that done we’re thinking that we’ll start putting together some mood boards so you can see how each room is shaping up, along with photos of them coming together.

But we couldn’t leave you without a little preview. So here are a couple of items we’re particularly psyched about. Let’s start with some tile – the one of the left is going floor to ceiling in the powder room behind a pedestal sink with a mirror and some pretty sweet sconces. And the tile on the right is for the master bathroom shower. The watery blue glass tile will fill a giant shower wall and the octagonal tile will be on the shower floor.

We’re also having some fun with different hardware/lighting choices, like two giant gold pendants that will hang over a big navy blue kitchen island (the rest of the cabinets will be a different, lighter tone). And we’ve chosen crisp five panel doors for each room of the house (like these), which we think will be a nice departure from the standard six panel ones – especially since the exterior of this house is Craftsman-inspired.

Lastly, this isn’t an item, but an inspiration source. We knew we wanted to do the vanity in the kids’ jack-and-jill bathroom in a happy green color. But you know how our last attempt at picking a green vanity color went (seriously, it was bad). So randomly while at Target we spotted this side table, loved the color, and busted out our paint deck right there in the aisle (Sherry has that thing on hand more often than you’d expect). Courtyard Green, here we come!

Amongst other things, one of the next big steps is for the exterior of the house to get it painted, which should be happening within the week. In fact we were just out there with three test pots of paint, picking our favorite (along with choosing the trim color). So stay tuned for that update! We were also thinking it would be fun to open up some things in the showhouse to votes by you guys (like the color of the front door, for example) so stay tuned for those as we go. Can you believe that in around three months we should have over fifteen finished spaces to share with you guys?


  1. says

    This is so cool! I can believe that the experience of designing a new build is much different from renovating and styling an existing house, like you’ve been doing in the past. Do you think that working on the show house while you’ve been simultaneously doing your own new house has influenced each project? Are you inspired by what you’ve been doing for one house and used that in your design for the other, for instance?

    • says

      I definitely think every time we take on a side project (even smaller ones like fixing up John’s Granny’s powder room or his sister’s bedroom) it teaches us something and adds to our experience and how we approach our own house. So we have loved the learning curve of making choices that we hope are interesting for the showhouse. In a way, it’s inspiring in that “I get to play dress up and pretend I’m someone else” way – not someone completely different (the showhouse will definitely look like “us” – at least we hope it will), but we keep reminding ourselves that this house isn’t for us, and it’s our job to stretch ourselves and make different choices to hopefully introduce some fresh ideas for anyone who’s walking through. Sometimes it feels like a lot of pressure and we doubt ourselves, but it’s inspiring to just keep aiming high. I think the fact that it’s for such a good cause and that people will actually walk through it is really keeping us going. We want to make Habitat proud!


  2. Meredith R. says

    I can completely identify with you guys! My hubby and I are currently in the middle of building a house here in New Orleans, and I’m due to have our first baby in the next few weeks. Picking out everything for the build can most definitely be a lot to take in! I’ve done pretty well on everything but lighting – that stuff just completely overwhelmed me. So many different rooms with different types of lights and so many choices! Eek!

  3. Hannah H says

    Two things:

    1. Love it – love it all!
    2. Are we any closer to the other big announcement you’ve hinted at but not revealed? Just curious :)

    • kb says

      oh my god I totally forgot there is ANOTHER thing in the mix! what else could there possibly be since you’ve already got a new baby, a new house, a big huge billboard with your faces on it (btw, are you going to announce that formally on the blog?) and a million other things?!

      are you guys going on the virgin galactic space flight?!

    • says

      Hahahaha! It’s a really exciting collaboration of something we have been baking for 3 years! Seriously, it has been SO LONG in the making, but it’s crazy exciting and we can’t wait to share it with you. Unfortunately it does not involve space flight though. Sadness.


    • says

      Oh man! I totally forgot about the other surprise, too!

      Okay, you don’t have to answer me, but I’m going to officially make my guess that you’re coming out with a furniture collection. OMG. (I hope I’m right!)

    • says

      I hear that if you want to go rogue on that, some builders are cool with it, so I think if you see three choices and aren’t in love you could ask what the value of those things are and who their supplier is and maybe you can make a “lateral trade” for something else. The funny thing is that at the counter-picking place we kept falling in love with amazing stuff and it was under our approved budget! We couldn’t believe it (literally, it was nowhere close to our cap) and that never seems to happen! Sometimes it’s funny how certain things are priced (the stuff we loved looked and felt like the best stuff there!).


    • Rachel says

      Hi Anne,
      When we were choosing fixtures and fittings for our new build the company were great at allowing us to ‘play’ with the choices, for example:
      – in the kitchen we chose cupboard doors and units from different sets
      – in the bathroom we used two different tiles in the shower and submitted a sketch of how to fit them
      – we put vinyl flooring in one bedroom (now office/craft rooom) and used the saving to upgrade the master bedroom carpet
      – Upgraded some flooring and downgraded others so the same flooring runs through the hall, w/c, coat closet, kitchen, utility, kitchen and conservatory for a sleek look
      – swapped under counter oven and integrated fridge/freezer for eyelevel oven, pan drawers and stand alone f/f.
      Some of my ideas they couldn’t do or cost too much but befriend the sales staff and don’t be scared to ask!
      I loved the whole process of choosing and walked around for weeks with samples in my handbag – if only I had had pinterest then!
      Good luck with your new home.

    • KathyG says

      if you go custom, which IMO is not much more expensive than the builder stuff, you’ll start from scratch on your own!

  4. Jenn says

    I was looking at the foundation picture and noticed something: It doesn’t look like a post-tension slab. Out here in Arizona, they’re all built that way. Is it not something very common back east?

    • says

      I think houses in AZ are usually on slab and here things are foundation a lot of times (with a crawl space under them, for access to pipes and stuff, etc). Anyone know more? We are hardly experts on the construction arena, but it has been awesome to watch!


    • says

      I live in Texas, so this may or may not be true for Arizona, but we all have slab foundation here for the most part because there is too much clay in our soil for there to be any kind of basement / crawl space beneath our homes. The weight of the soil would literally crush any subterranean space eventually and cause the house to collapse. Of course, there are some VERY pricy work-arounds to this problem, but most people are stuck with slab out here and no basements / crawl space. The soil on the east coast doesn’t have as much clay, thus you see more subterranean spaces.

      Also, a house slightly elevated with a crawl space underneath would be a huge safety hazard here in Tornado alley. We want these suckers anchored into the ground as much as possible! Haha! (again, not always the case, but most modern built homes avoid them!)

      (Granddaughter of a custom home builder going back into her cave now…)

    • Avery says

      In any part of Canada, you’d find it virtually impossible to sell a house without a proper full basement. As a minimum you have to put the footings down at least 4-6ft to get below the winter frost line so you don’t have the frost heaving your foundation. It you are digging down 6′ anyway it only makes sense to go another 2 feet and gain an entire extra floor in your house. In addition to all that extra living space you have somewhere to put the furnace and a lot of storage. We live in a rocky rural area and there is one home in our neighborhood with a crawl space. I don’t know the backstory but I assume they were trying to save money by not blasting down into the rock, or building up and doing a lot of extra backfilling to raise the gound around the house. The first time it came up for resale I went on line to be a nosey neighbour and was stunned by the low price. Then I read the description and saw crawl space. Ah. It took endless months to sell and finally went for over $50k less than similar houses in the area. Saving a few thousand on the foundation definitely costs you in the end here. Our basement is home to a massive woodworking shop, the pool table and TV sitting area for the kids to entertain their friends, storage, and best of all my son’s drum set far from our main living areas!

    • says

      We don’t really do basements in Florida because the water table is just too high. Nobody wants a constantly damp basement! My parents’ house was built in the 1920’s and it has a crawl space underneath, which did not seem to cause any issues during the three hurricanes we had one year. My family is in construction so I know all about building codes changing frequently to stay current with hurricane protection, but those old original Florida homes held up fabulously to the storms. Block and stucco!

      I’m excited to see y’all’s final results! Building homes is just so much fun, especially when you are spending someone else’s money. And even better, you are doing it for charity.

  5. says

    You guys! My head is spinning just reading that post! How in the world are you doing all of that, on top of your own house, Clara, cooking the Barnacle, and another book?! Hold on, I need to take a nap. I’m seriously in awe. And feeling wildly inadequate and lazy. Haha

    Your foyer grout post the other day did finally kick my butt into gear and I got my bathroom tile grout all sparkly and beautiful. Thanks for the extra push!


    • says

      Aw, you’re so sweet Lisa! The answer is that I’m putting a ton of things off (like cleaning the house, haha) and we’re just so excited about everything (the nursery! the barnacle! the showhouse!) that it keeps us going. Sounds like such a cliche, but when you’re doing something that makes you want to leap out of bed in the morning, it’s amazing how much less sleep you need! Ha!


  6. veronica says

    The tile for the powder room is gorgeous and I love the green for the jack and jill bath! I can’t wait to see more on the progress and of course the finished product! Good luck!

  7. Sarah says

    Ooh! I wonder if I’ll be able to talk the husband into going to tour the homes in May since my bday will be during the window of time… :)

  8. Stefani says

    Seriously HOW do you find the time for all of this plus your own projects & the hospital? Kudos!! I own the cabinet from target in that green color and it is such a favorite of mine!!! The perfect happy green.

  9. Jessaca says

    Having built a home, I can’t imagine selecting/sourcing each part of the home. How overwhelming! Are they providing any input at all? Our construction manager was great at telling us what would hold up in his experience, how things go in, how to properly care for them. Can’t wait to see the finished product.

    • says

      We’re being sent to a bunch of different builder-approved vendors (many of which they work with all the time for multiple houses a year) so our selection meetings with them are great since they can weigh in on what appliance suites have the best customer satisfaction, or just clue us in on whether a certain tile or sink would work in a certain area. We definitely couldn’t do this at all without their pro advice!


  10. says

    Looking good!! I can only imagine the amount of decisions you have to make for this show house, absolutely crazy. How much time are you hoping to have to decorate once the building is complete?

    • says

      We’re hoping to have around a month and a half to shop for things and then a month and a half to pull it all together. Sometimes I think that sounds like so much time, and then I think about how many rooms it is and I wonder if we’ll have everyone we know out there helping us in exchange for free pizza at the end. Haha!


  11. Rebecca says

    So the other day I commented on how I was doing a similar wall treatment for my kiddos’ bathroom… well the other plan is to paint their now white vanity green! I currently have green swatches taped up, and will have to add Courtyard Green to the mix to see if that’s the right color! So funny! What paint line – I’m assuming BM?

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