PHASE 1: We’re Moving? Again?
We all know that packing up your life and moving to a new residence is one of the most anxiety-provoking events we endure in life. Add to that the task of building your new home from scratch, and you could have a recipe for a nervous breakdown. Luckily there are ways of easing the stress and struggle of such an endeavor, one of which is choosing a less traditional way to construct your home. Modular building has come such a long way in the last couple of decades that it’s barely recognizable. The outdated concept of boxy, unappealing dwellings, slung together cheaply and without much creativity is now passé. In fact, the modular house you are about to see built, step by step, will shatter that stereotype altogether. In this 3-part series, I’ll take you along as I embark on the most exciting home project of my life: the quest to build my luxury dream home using the latest modular innovation.
Having spent the better part of my 20s and 30s as a nomadic adventurer, I was pretty tired out by the time I hit 40. It was then that I met the man who would become my husband, and suddenly felt the overwhelming urge to settle down—in more ways than one. Mitchell and I left our “bachelor” apartments and bought a home together in a Long Island, NY suburb with the intent of putting down roots. After an extensive renovation that included our first modularly built addition to the home, unforeseen circumstances required us to move. Although distressing, I informed him that if we undertook another upheaval, I wanted it to be for the last time.
We found a house in an even more lovely suburban neighborhood about 20 miles away, and I immediately began the process of nesting once again. We were happy homeowners for almost eight years, had weathered two separate renovations and were planning a third when I told him, “Don’t even think of moving again.” But once in a while I spied a certain longing in his eyes. It was the same look I noticed as we drove down rural roads in Pennsylvania and upstate New York. I had discovered something interesting and unexpected about my “city boy” husband. Underneath his suit and tie, he was a rancher at heart. He loved animals, but not just the ones you keep inside as pets (we already had five of those.) No, hubs crooned over horses, cows, alpacas, llamas, pigs, you name it. I tried to ignore that look when I saw it and prayed his fascination with “farm livin’” would be confined to our occasional trips through the rural east coast.
On more than a few occasions, however, I caught him researching properties online. They were homes on plots of land that had ordinances allowing for horses and other ranch animals. I paid this little attention, until one night, after a couple of glasses of wine, he confessed his feelings on the matter: Life was short. He wanted to live his dream. He wanted to reduce his stress. He wanted the serenity and peace that being around animals had always brought him. The places he was eyeing were only twenty minutes from our current town, but offered a more rural living style. Would I just “look” with him?
Maybe it was the wine, maybe his soulful manner, but I agreed. I love my husband very much, and my years with him have been, by far, the best of my life. I wanted to make sure he was as blissful as I was, and so I agreed. Within a week we happened upon one special property. It was three acres, already populated with four horses, two Shetland ponies, three goats, and even a pig. It backed up to a rural county park that offered horse and hiking trails, picnic areas, and even a dog park. It was everything he dreamed of, and the price was right. The only problem was the old, rundown farmhouse on the property would never suit us. We’d have to knock it down and build a new home from scratch. The thought of a long construction project was overwhelming—and a deal breaker for both of us. Luckily, thanks to past experience, we were already familiar with another, better option: modular building. Not only would it save us in time, but it would save us in expenses, too. And how exciting to not have to move into someone else’s space, but instead build a brand new home exactly the way you wanted it!
Some people may not be familiar with modular homes or may have a negative, preconceived notion about them. Any concerns should be put to rest; here’s why. Modular homes are homes built in large sections (modules) in a climate controlled, indoor environment that protects the entire structure during the build. This means harmful weather never touches the inside of the home. They are also built under the most stringent codes. In the U.S., each home is built under an approved quality assurance program, which is audited weekly by a third party inspection agency. The agency is then audited by the state. Building time is substantially shorter than that of conventional building. Also, since modular homes need to be moved to the site, they are engineered to a higher standard of strength than stick-built homes. Once complete, the modules are loaded onto wide load transport trucks, driven to the site, and (after the foundation is poured or installed) constructed there, usually in a matter of weeks.
After doing his due diligence and research, Mitchell chose a company out of Pennsylvania that had built a wide variety of impressive properties.
With many of these modular companies, customers can choose from thousands of upscale personalized features to fit their budget and taste, such as flooring, lighting, cabinets, shingles, and much more. Some people may not want to build completely custom, like we did, so the company offers an array of architectural drawings for capes, ranches, split-level, and two-story modular home designs. After meeting with the owner, discussing the process in depth, and finding out the actual house would take only ten days to build in the factory, we were on board. Now the fun began. It was time to design our dream home!
I had always wanted a center hall colonial with a turret, a wrap-around porch, a grand foyer with a circular staircase, a glassed-in breakfast nook, ten-foot ceilings on the first floor, and a vaulted, deluxe bedroom suite with giant closets. I collected some beautiful photos from such websites as Houzz and Pinterest and mixed those concepts with our own innovative ideas to design plans for a luxurious home so exquisite even my husband would never want to leave it.
Next, we found a local architectural company, knowledgeable and experienced in how to streamline the filing of multiple permits (including demotion of the old farm house) to ensure our plans ran smoothly and on schedule. At present we are awaiting these and other approvals, after which the modular company can begin the process of building our home.
In Phase 2 of my series, I’ll post some amazing photos of what actual modular building looks like in progress, from the inside out. Stay tuned!