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Building a home, week 1: Deciding to buy

A rendering of the new home, designed by W.K. Olson Architects, Inc. of Lemont, Ill. Rendering created by B & H Designs of Bakersfield, Calif.
A rendering of the new home, designed by W.K. Olson Architects, Inc. of Lemont, Ill. Rendering created by B & H Designs of Bakersfield, Calif.
B & H Designs

Since I got married in 2007, my husband and I have been talking about moving to a new house that would be ours. However, being a home renovation junkie, I had put quite a bit of time and effort into my home before we married and I continued doing so over the next seven years. I didn’t want to leave my home unless the new one offered everything I already had and then some.

This home in Frankfort, Illinois' historic district was purchased by Gander Builders, which will replace it with a new Craftsman style home.
Gander Builders, Steve Lecas

Our home is always in a state of home improvement. Our newest project is to refinish the wood floors on the entire first level including the kitchen, dining room and living room. The work was scheduled for the week of April 21 and I was faced with packing up everything in the three rooms and moving it into the garage.

Oh, but what a difference a week makes. In just seven days, we've gone from moving everything from the first floor to moving the whole contents of the house to a new home under construction in historic downtown Frankfort, Ill.

One of my favorite pastimes is going through open houses on weekends. Each time I return home unimpressed, perfectly content to stay put because my home has been done so perfectly with everything I wanted. Nothing else compared to it; nothing even came close.

That said, aside from getting everything in my house plus more, the big incentive for me was to move from my suburban subdivision was the idea of living in Frankfort's Historic District within walking distance of shops, restaurants, special events and, in the summer, the weekly farmer’s market.

This is where I start my journey:

March 28: We met my sister and her husband for dinner at Francesca's Fortunato in downtown Frankfort. When we left, we jokingly asked, “Do you want to drive by our new house?” We were referring to a new house under construction by Gander Builders that we found in downtown Frankfort in passing. We never seriously considered it as a contender. We drove by the location after dinner. It wasn't the first drive by and it wouldn't be the last.

March 30: Like many weekends before this, we decided to drive around and look at homes for sale but this time found a lot in downtown Frankfort. Posted on the property was a sign directing us to view a model home by the builder, McMahon Custom Builders, for more information. The plans for the house were nice but there was a problem. The water line from the neighbor ran under the property and would have to be relocated at the buyer’s expense. If that weren’t enough, the lot was on a busy street in town.

We drove by the Gander Builders' new construction again.

March 31: We called Gander Builders and spoke with the owner, Steve Lecas. We set up a time to meet him at the house later that afternoon. We joined Steve and his wife, Susan, who helps design the homes. The house had been bricked; the roof was shingled and the windows were installed. Inside, it was just to the framing stage. We liked what we saw and arranged to meet with them at one of their model homes for next morning to see what they had planned for the interior.

April 1: Neither my husband or I got any sleep overnight. We made lists and lists of questions for the builder. We knew this was different from the other homes we looked at. This was serious.

We met Steve and Susan Lecas at their model home, a custom English Shaker style home in Frankfort's Old Stone Village. Once again, we like we saw and the more time we spent with the both Steve and Susan, the more we liked them. Gander Builders is known in the Frankfort area for its unique homes, many of which are built with an eye to historical details, so for someone who likes a vintage-style home, this was a perfect match. We have driven through Frankfort and you can spot a Gander Home very easily; they have a very distinctive, historical aesthetic that said quality. After a thorough conversation, we made a deal and gave them a deposit. We were officially home builders.

Returning home, I promptly cancelled refinishing work scheduled for our hardwood floors later in the month.

April 2: We were fortunate enough that our timing is such that we would be able to customize much of the house. However, dry walling was about to start and we didn’t want to delay the process, which meant a lot of decisions had to be made immediately. When we left the April 1 meeting, we had our marching orders. We were told to look at ideas for medicine cabinets so that he could know whether they would be recessed or wall-mounted. The home is an Craftsman style design and my tastes are vintage, so I searched dozens of medicine cabinets and eventually chose some from Restoration Hardware.

Later that same day, Thompson Moving & Storage Inc. toured our house to give us an estimate for a move. Since I have two home-based businesses and a 13-year old, there's a lot to move. He tells us it will be a two-day move. I like the company and trust them. To save money, I'm planning on doing most, if not all, of the packing.

April 3: Met Steve and Susan Lecas at our home so they could see our tastes and how we have renovated the house. They took photos and video. We talked about plans maximizing storage, including adding a garden shed, setting up the master bedroom closet, including office storage and many other items.

Later that evening we settled on a new paint color for the exterior the home. Steve was planning to coat the brick exterior in a pale buff shade of Boral® PastelCote®, a masonry coating that creates a specially textured brick. We preferred a sage green and yes, we could change the color. I quickly chose three different colors from the Sherwin-Williams line of exterior paints that were candidates for color matching.

Whew! A fast seven days. The journey continues next week when we have meetings to choose the cabinets and vanities and discuss the Internet and cable television wiring needs of the home. To read about week 2, click here.