We’re Building A Home!

Building a home for our family wasn’t something on my radar for 2023. We’ve always known that we would eventually want to build something custom and personal. Our current home has suited us in this phase of life beautifully. We love our neighbors and our area so we really weren’t in a hurry to leave. It would almost have to be too good to pass up in order for us to take the leap. Over the years we have driven through neighborhoods to get a feel for where we might want to eventually be. We even put an offer on a home two years ago and ended up changing our minds because it just didn’t feel right (kudos to my husband for standing his ground on this one).

Last Fall, our kids started at a new school and settled right in. Anyone in the Dallas area can tell you how anxiety inducing school decisions can be. We were so relieved with the school community and our children’s experience. Obviously this played a big role in where we narrowed our search.

One day back in January, Kale sent me a Zillow link for a home. A tear down on an incredible lot with big, old growth trees. He wanted to make an offer. Sure, I thought. Let’s see what happens. I know after being married for 11 years to not immediately get emotionally tied to any ideas. Things happen, especially with real estate. It also wasn’t the first time we’ve put offers on potential homes so I knew not to get my hopes up too prematurely. He left the next day for my brother’s bachelor party and I went about my weekend pretty much forgetting it was even a conversation.

Until he texted me the next morning from a golf course in Cabo saying they had accepted our offer, without a counter. I was at a baby shower so neither of us were in a place to really discuss.

What now? He asked what I wanted to do and I honestly wasn’t sure. I hadn’t even driven by! To make it even more complicated, I tried to drive down the street and the local gas company had the entire block barricaded so I couldn’t even see the lot. It was also January so everything is brown and gross as far as foliage goes. Kale sent a google image of the street from what was very clearly springtime and it was such a dream. I was sold and we were under contract.

Initially the thought was to lease it out for a year or so while we designed plans for a future build. However, the woman who sold us the house had asked for a lease back until the summer which seemed like a sign to get the ball rolling. I knew I wanted to work with Mark and Maurie Gray of MGray Architecture. We had worked together a couple of times on client projects and I LOVED the collaboration. It’s so refreshing as a designer to work with architects who acknowledge designers in general, much less invite them into the process as early as they do. I think it really shows when a design team works this fluidly. Luckily, they were on board and we kicked things off immediately – sometimes with tacos and margs!

As a designer myself, I certainly had thoughts about how I wanted to approach our own home. However, I wholeheartedly trusted Mark and Maurie and knew the end product would be pretty incredible. I did a ton of research and ultimately landed on a concept that was a bit more streamlined but with classic exterior finishes for a timeless appeal. With so much influence in our lives from Morocco and Mexico, I felt the house needed to lend itself as a canvas for more global touches in materials and furnishings.

I put together what is called a program, which is essentially a wish list of things we’d like in a home. Things like – a fireplace, big pantry, home office, etc. In addition, I worked on a pretty loose concept board with materials and initial images we liked. Our first meeting with Mark and Maurie was to go over these items and talk through key points. Maurie even sketched a quick bubble diagram to study adjacencies so we could talk through how the house might flow. As architects, it’s their job to iron out this list in a way that best serves the family living in it. Over the course of 3 to 4 meetings, we had a floorpan we really, really liked. Mark and Maurie pushed us to make some bolder design decisions in certain areas and think outside the box when it comes to layout. It’s the perfect mixture of warm but striking and it’s so thoughtfully designed.

I am fortunate enough to work with some really amazing builders in the industry. I knew choosing a contractor would be a really critical choice for this process. You work closely with them for over a year and trust them with a very personal, and expensive, investment. Being that Kale and I have a tile company and I’m a designer, we had a really big ask for any contractor we chose – we wanted to supply a large portion of the materials ourselves. This is how a lot of contractor’s make their money, so I knew this might be a turnoff for someone. Don’t get me wrong, we wanted to fully compensate someone but also – we have access to our own materials so it made sense to supply it ourselves. I also didn’t want to hire just anyone – I wanted a custom experience, someone who could pull off the tile installs and would be willing to take on some more interesting details.

On my previous jobs with Mark and Maurie, clients had used Marable Homes for their custom builds. Blake is pretty much everything you’d want in a builder – even tempered, open minded, ORGANIZED and timely. The organized part is key. I love that I’ll get en email or text weeks in advance from his team giving me a head’s up that cabinet hardware selections are needed or paint samples will be done on a certain day for approval within a week or so. The planning ahead is so important. I’ve never felt rushed or frustrated on any of his jobs, and I can say the same for his clients too. This was the type of experience I wanted for us so thank goodness he was open to our unique situation.

Demo was completed this week and engineering has started their portion so we can get the foundation going. We’re hoping to pour in September with a project span of 12-14 months. I’ve been working on client’s custom homes for years now, but it is so much different doing it for yourself. I stalled for a bit, with a bit of a creative block. We’ve been in Mexico City this week and I am using the time to really allow myself to focus on making selections and working on cabinet details. I’m making some good headway, and I can’t wait to show you what we have planned!

Expect to see a lot of Riad Tile, obviously. We’ve also got new things we’re adding to our offering that were inspired by selections for the new house. I also had some lighting and cabinet hardware made in Marrakech when I was there in May. I’ve been slowly (and secretly) collecting. Friends and family have asked if the house has a certain design style, and the answer is no. It’s a culmination of our experiences and travels so it feels like us, rather than a carbon copy of a Pinterest board. Not there there is anything wrong with that, we just wanted it to feel special.

I plan on updating you throughout the process and breaking down the design too. I’m excited to bring you along for the ride!

XO, Aubrey

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