Finding a piece of land for a new home (more than you ever wanted to know about buying a lot)

I mentioned our long process of finding a lot in my last post. This is a crucial decision and one that should be carefully considered because so many factors are involved. Over time, after looking at lots, we consolidated our “wish list” to help narrow our search, rather than considering every crazy piece of land that popped up on the MLS. Having said that, we agreed that getting every item on the list would be unlikely, so we had to be prepared for making concessions.

Here are the things we had to consider:

  • Price – what could we afford to pay for land considering the cost building of the floor plan we wanted? If you’re looking to build and are flexible about your floor plan and the size of your house, you may be willing to spend more on the land and sacrifice some square footage for it. Since we had our hearts set on a certain floor plan, we didn’t have a lot of wiggle room with our land budget.

  • Location – we have learned how hard it is for our lifestyle when we have a long distance to drive for everything. We knew we wanted to be within a short distance of the kids’ school, and in the direction of Chad’s work. Not only that, but we wanted to be within the district boundaries of the high school that we want Luke and Maggie to attend, as that will be an issue a few years from now and we don’t want to move again any time soon! Also consider: traffic, proximity of shopping, hospital, doctors, etc.

  • Size – many, many houses in Tucson are built very close together. Again, this is a lifestyle thing, but for us, especially coming from back east, we knew we wanted some elbow room – preferably around an acre or more with room for a pool and backyard entertaining. On the other end of the spectrum, maybe you’re looking for a low-maintenance lot and a small yard would be perfect for you so that you’re not tied down to a lot of yard work and upkeep.

  • Neighborhood – having said we want a large lot, I also like being in an actual neighborhood. These two factors are often at odds with each other, as many large lots stand alone and aren’t in a neighborhood. I just love for my kids to make friends and to be able to ride their bikes or walk to hang out with other kids. Plus, I feel safer with some neighbors nearby. However, the downside of a “subdivision” is having to deal with CC&Rs. These guidelines and rules are put in place to keep the neighborhood nice and maintain property value - but they also mean you don’t have free reign to do whatever you want with the design of your home. And if you have Sanford and Son tendencies like my Georgia farm-raised husband, you’ll have to hide your junk from the street view. And they’ll yell at you if you’re lazy and leave your trash cans out. Guilty.

  • Schools – in addition to the neighborhood factor, you need to consider where you want your children to go to school, and whether the lot is within the boundaries for that district. Open enrollment, where you can enroll your children in a school outside of their district, is an option in Tucson. However, that is a conditional thing and can be unavailable if your school is too full – I didn’t want to count on being able to open enroll and then panic if the high school didn’t have availability when it comes time for ninth grade. And whether or not you have kids, you will want to consider the quality of the school district for resale value for your home.

  • Orientation – I never paid as much attention to this until we got to Tucson, but here, view is everything. I really wanted an eastern-facing backyard with a view of the Catalina Mountains from the back of the house. In addition to nice views, the morning sun is a lot more tolerable, and the afternoon shade is a huge perk during our 6-month long summer. In our current house, we get a lot more afternoon and evening sun than I realized, and it is brutal during much of the year, making afternoon entertaining pretty uncomfortable at times. Also, mountain views are a boost to property value in Tucson. All of that considered, we had to think about how our house would face on any lot we considered.

  • Cost of development – the cost of land isn’t necessarily what it seems. This is an area where Chad’s experience helped save us, because I sure wouldn’t have known better with a few of the lots we looked at that seemed like a good deal. Some lots are seemingly affordable, but in order to place a house on them, they may require tens of thousands of dollars of land work - moving dirt, raising the pad, etc. Also, there can be environmental restrictions; for example, there was a 1-acre lot we liked, but you could only actually disturb such a small percentage of the lot due to restrictions that we couldn’t have fit the house and yard we wanted. Not only that, but there can be requirements that you re-plant certain plants if they’re moved during construction (saguaro cactus, anyone?), and that should be factored into the budget. In addition, you have to see if water, electric, gas, and sewer are available, or you’ll need to be prepared to account for the cost of bringing those utilities in, which isn’t cheap.

Overwhelmed yet? Even just writing this, I’ve been going back and adding more as things occur to me. And this is just the LOT – we haven’t even gotten to the house yet. Clearly there are times early in this process where we’ve already been questioning what we’re getting ourselves into. But the benefit is us working together as a family with a lot of patience and a lot of effort to create something we’ve been dreaming of for years. And how are you supposed to know all of this about the lot? A reputable builder will help you through the process, and a good realtor will know how to find you the right lot. I’m happy to know some of the best - contact me for recommendations!

Did we get everything on our wish list? Nope. What did we end up with? Stay tuned. I’ll tell you about the lot we chose in our next post!

Why we're building a new house

Why build a new house / new home construction / building a new home in Tucson, AZ

For a long time now Chad and I have been ready to build a new home. We’ve built three homes together in the past – two in Georgia and one with Pepper Viner Homes, the company he’s been with here in Arizona for the past 12 years. The house we’re in now has served us well over the past nine years; we moved into it when Maggie was only one month old. The kids are approaching their teen years now, though, and we need a little more elbow room. 

Over the past couple of years the stress and hassle of commuting to work, school, and activities for all of us has really taken its toll. We started looking seriously at lots about a year ago, and the process of finding a piece of land in the right location at the right price has been much more difficult – and much slower – than we anticipated. More on that later.

Another reason – with the housing market on an upswing after several rough years, prices and costs are going up. We’re hoping to get moving along with this process sooner rather than later.

Our Work in Progress - why we're building a new house

Luckily, with Chad having worked in the homebuilding industry for most of his life, we’re coming at this process with a pretty clear picture of what we want to do. We’re excited to be using one of Pepper Viner’s existing floor plans with a few tweaks to customize it for us – that alone will save us time, money, and angst. We know the plans are well-designed and engineered. Our floor plan was built as a model home at one of their communities last year, so after touring it several times, we knew this was the one. It will give us the space we need, with plenty of room for a home office, guest space, and for the kids to hang out with their friends.

To sum it up, building a house is the right decision for us because it will save us money, allow us to customize our home, give us the space we need, and allow us to choose our location.

We’re so excited to get started – and I’m going to chronicle our process right here. I hope you’ll follow along and chime in with your thoughts, questions, and suggestions as we go!

Re-redecorating Luke's room

Remember when we redecorated Luke's room a few years ago? I still loved it. Still loved the navy blue furniture, the light gray walls, and the setup. But for several reasons, we recently redid it.....again.

Sadly, my grandmother passed away last fall. My parents were kind enough to offer some of the furniture from her house, and I was happy to have some special pieces of hers. One of the bedroom sets was perfect for Luke: a full-size bed for our growing tween, and a really nice corner desk/dresser combo that would give him the workspace he lacked in his current room. If we wanted it, we needed to take it, so another room shift ensued. 

I purchased some full-sized bedding and some accessories, and luckily the neutral gray walls, white curtain panels, and woven blinds still work fine with the new setup. I'm still looking for some wall art – once it is all set up, I'll post the final results, but here are some in-progress peeks. 

Decorating for Fall

Fall is my favorite season, and I'm always ready to break out fall colors and decorations in August. This is even more comical since I've been living in Arizona for 10+ years, and fall weather begins sometime around....November. So I hold off until around late September and inevitably decide that I'm not waiting for a change in weather to change some things around the house. I don't do anything that takes tons of time or money, but I love the results when I add some little touches of fall.

First off, I pick up small pumpkins in orange and white and place them here and there. I like mixing the real ones with the rustic brown ones that I bought at Michael's years ago.

This year I balanced a few of the white pumpkins on candlesticks in front of Maggie's little abstract art canvas. I remembered that I had this black tassel garland left over from a birthday party, and threw that up on the wall since it looks sort of Halloweeny. 

My assistants wasted no time stretching fake spider webs anywhere they could. I let them have fun with it.

I also put out the canvas trick-or-treating art that Maggie made a few years ago, along with this little candy dish that my grandmother made for me when she was taking ceramics classes years ago. Still makes me smile when I look at it.

After Halloween, I'll take down the spider webs and jack-o-lanterns, leaving the pumpkins and fall leaves for Thanksgiving.

For more simple decorating ideas, seasonal or otherwise, check out The Nester's series on vignettes. I love to use her ideas - like incorporating some simple kid-made art and sentimental items - when I change things up. How do you decorate for fall? 

Joining the linkup at! Stop over and check out the ideas over there.

Color for warm weather months {decorating the living room}

coral ombre throw and floral pillows for summer

I'm a big fan of light, bright neutral palettes for home decor, and I have an official fear of color  -partly because I'm afraid I'll get tired of it. The up side to having a neutral backdrop is that I can work in little pops of color that can be easily changed out, so I jumped in and did just that this summer. I'm loving these bright patterned pillows and coral ombre throw that I picked up from Marshall's for this summer, and I can tuck them away when fall comes and I'm ready for warm earth tones. 

Patterned Wallpaper Accent Wall in the Office {removable wallpaper from Target}

I've been working on an office makeover for way too long – it's one of those projects that I got started and then kept putting on the back burner. My office is also the guest room, which always presents decorating dilemmas, but more about that in another post. 

Today I wanted to talk about the one small project that we did that made a huge difference in the way this room looks. We put up some patterned wallpaper - Devine Color Diamond Wallpaper in Twig from Target - just on the window wall. I love the mod pattern and the soft grayish taupe color scheme, which looks great with the brushed gold accessories and curtain rod on that wall. The wallpaper has a sticky back and is supposed to be removable and repositionable – perfect for commitment phobes like me who have always shied away from wallpaper because of what a task it is to take it down when you tire of it.

Chad found that it was a little tricky to work with, which resulted in one visible seam and a few bumpy areas – this would totally drive a pickier person crazy, but I was able to disguise the imperfections with the wall art and bookshelves that are placed in front of the wall. The result? A big difference that took less than one afternoon to accomplish, and that can easily be undone when needed. What do you think?

removable wallpaper - Devine Diamond in Twig by Target

removable wallpaper - Devine Diamond in Twig by Target

Has anyone else tried this removable wallpaper at Target? Check out their other great patterns and colors!

Decorating with gold

Are you on the gold bandwagon? All of a sudden it's everywhere, from parties to design to home decor. I'm glad for a change from pewter and iron - loving a little sparkle in the house. I'm working on some fun graphic design projects that are incorporating some metallic touches too - stay tuned!

gold home decor accessories

girl's room DIY update - new lavender paint and built-ins

lavender girl's room makeover with built in shelves and gold sconces image.jpg

I posted years ago when we updated Maggie's room from a toddler room with a crib to a room with a "big-girl bed" and a few adjustments to the decor. More recently, we did a bigger overhaul since the walls were due for repainting - and repainting leads to rearranging, which leads to the need for more storage....and on and on it goes. 

I loved the yellow walls in her room, but it seemed silly to keep the same color if we were going to go to all of the trouble to move everything and paint, and it had been six it was time for something new. She wasn't really ready for a "tween" room, and I"m not a big fan of theme decor, but her one request was lavender. So lavender it was. I did a lot of looking for a shade with a bit of muted earthiness to it - nothing too bubble-gum or neon. I also want the room to be light and bright, so I was worried about going with too dark of a shade. I'm pretty happy with the one we chose. 

I was inspired by this image, which I found via Pinterest and originally from this site

white built-in shelves with sconces from

I loved the open, white shelves and the gold sconces. Chad created a similar setup - the nice folks at Lowes even cut the shelves to size for us, saving him a few steps in the construction process. We still want to put cabinet doors on the lower shelves, and perhaps build a bridge over the bed like the inspiration photo.

I bought inexpensive sconces from Ikea, spray-painted them gold, and was happy with the result:

gold sconces with lavender walls girls room.jpg

To organize her accessories, we painted a pegboard the same lavender and added hooks - perfect for her many hats, belts, scarves, etc. 

I added a few other lavender accessories (some of them spray-painted with Krylon ColorMaster in Gum Drop), canvas wall art from Wayfair, and we were done - a fun, fresh made-over room on a very small budget!

a boy's room makeover

Although it didn't seem that long ago that we did a little sprucing in Luke's room, the time had come for a major overhaul. This overhaul was needed mostly because Luke hates to get rid of anything, and it was becoming increasingly difficult to get any semblance of order with all of his STUFF. Added to that was the dire need for new paint on the walls and a better system for organizing his belongings.....and perhaps most importantly, a place to display his prized Lego creations. We also had a very, very low budget for the whole makeover.

We started by emptying the room of everything except for the furniture, and that was no small task. Chad then began the process of painting the room a pale, clean gray (Behr Silver Drop) and I did some thorough cleaning. We shipped the kids off to the grandparents' for an overnight, and then we set to work organizing. We spread out all of Luke's belongings out and categorized them – stuffed animals, cards (Pokemon, Bakugan, Ninjago, etc.), Legos, action figures, cars, books, the list goes on.... We made a pile of items to donate and brainstormed about how to organize the other items.

For the stuffed animals that were too sentimental to give away, I purchased two large canvas bins from HomeGoods, and we placed those, full of stuffed animals and too-young but special toys, into the display nook above his closet.

For the rocks and seashells that he just. could. not. part. with., I bought large acrylic canisters (also from HomeGoods) so that they'd be on display, neat, and new arrivals to these cherished collections would have a home. Luke was pretty excited about these, and we also added a couple for special Lego parts.

We added new hardware to the furniture that we painted navy blue a few years ago

Chad designed and built shelves for Lego and toy displays, and we painted them a slightly darker shade of gray.

We added a few new accessories – a lamp and shade purchased on clearance at Target, coverlets from IKEA, and accent pillows from HomeGoods.

We reassembled the room and were finally finished! It is so nice, bright, and clean  – I no longer cringe when I go in there. Here's hoping it lasts!

refinished kids' art table

The makeovers continue.....Chad refinished the kids' art table, which they use all the time. They draw, paint, and craft there, and they love to sit there with their snacks when they watch a movie. We took it from a light maple, which really didn't match anything in the house, to a dark wood. Now it looks like it belongs here!