What He Would Say
By Kelly Hagen
Building a home means you get what you want.
Of course, you can’t have everything you want. You’re limited by your budget, which is a real issue for someone as inconsequential as I enjoy thinking I am. You’re also limited by your imagination, which is a problem for me, too, but not in the way you’d think. My imagination is too special and magical to be of any use. The builders of our house had no idea what specifications to make a “giraffe room,” and I don’t see why I can’t have a soda fountain installed in the master bedroom.
But you get my drift. When you look for a home, you can either visit every listing and open house there is in your budget, and hope it has all the antiquities you’ve dreamed of having, or you can start from scratch and build a home to your specifications.
That’s what we did. I regret nothing.
I don’t want to speak for all men, but I will speak for myself when I tell me that there are two possible answers to your partner’s questions on how many ceiling fans you want, or what color countertops, or what wood type to use for the cabinets, and on and on. And the difference between these two answers is very, very subtle.
You’re going to want to say, “I don’t care.” Because you probably don’t. What color do I care the counter is, so long as it holds my sandwich up at waist level or so long enough for me to put it together, shake it for good luck, cut it and eat it?
I realize that, as a man, I should know the difference between wood types. I’ve heard pine can be knotty, so that’s probably best to avoid. Plywood – that’s a wood, right? I’ve never been in a ply forest, though. But I don’t get out much.
Resist the urge, though. Never say, “I don’t care.” Even if you don’t, you’d better at least try. Just make it into a fun guessing game. Because my wife had pretty strong ideas about fixtures and lighting and toilet seats, but she wants my opinion, too. So I try to read her eyes and guess the one that she’s thinking of, and when I guess right, then that means I’m a psychic. Which will come in handy as a side gig.
Answer instead with this one: “I don’t know.” Because, honestly, I don’t know. There are some who can picture things out ahead of time, and envision a thing before it is built. I can’t. I have a loose idea of what my giraffe room would’ve looked like, but I’m not altogether clear what difference it makes on what wall a window is placed in the family room.
My friend Stuart told me that when he and his wife built their home, his in-laws had to build models out of Legos for him to figure out what concepts they were talking about. I wish he’d shared that with me ahead of time. I speak fluent Lego.
So, most of our building process involved me guessing or shrugging, and mostly just trying to stay out of the way. And, of course, the house is wonderful, because our sweet Annette is something of a visionary. And the job got done the right way.
I care very deeply about the result. I just don’t know how it got there.
The walls of that house are not as important as what they hold inside, which is why we decided to build in the first place – unimportant walls and all. Searching for the perfect home for our family was proving to be too difficult. Once we became parents, our priorities had changed, and we knew exactly what we wanted in our next house that would make our little family comfortable.
When I say that “we” knew exactly what we wanted, I mean I knew what was needed, and that my husband knew when to pick his battles. When he didn’t understand why we would need ceiling fans in all of the upstairs bedrooms, I gave him that “Trust me on this one!” look, and he looked the other way. Little did he know, that he would be thanking me later when I didn’t turn into a monster when our air conditioning went out unexpectedly. What’s that saying? A temperature-regulated wife, a happy life?
And speaking of happy, one of my big splurges was to get a Jacuzzi tub in the master bathroom, and now I know why that was met with no resistance. Kelly uses that thing more than I do. No, he’s not sitting in there with a glass of chardonnay, but he does enjoy a good soak, especially after a long run.
I’m a bit disturbed by the amount of bubbles he uses, though. He says he’s a sea captain with a bubble beard. What a guy.
When I was younger, all I wanted was a cozy, old house with history. Unfortunately, history comes with small rooms and lots of walls. Walls make it difficult to keep up with a three-year-old running around the house with crayons and ill intentions. So, when planning our new home, a wide-open layout was a must.
Now Kelly and I can both cook dinner or wash dishes in the evening, and keep an eye on our daughter and any murals she might be planning to draw on the floor.
Know what you want when building a home. Envision your needs both now, and into the future. Plan accordingly, be specific, and you, too, can end up with the house of your dreams. Complete with regulated temperatures, crayon-free floors, wide-open spaces, jet streams, bubble beards and absolutely no giraffes.
Columnists Kelly Hagen and Annette Martel are married with one daughter, and have both written columns for a number of newspapers across the state for a number of years. They live together in a giraffe-less house with cedar cabinets.