One of our favourite TV shows is Grand Designs, and it's nice to see that host Kevin McCloud has taken an interest in our broken city (Campbell Live pre-trip interview here, Chch interview here). We've always enjoyed his take on the building process, especially his little asides to the camera during which he questions the sanity of the people involved, and the likelihood of the project being completed on time or under budget.
And it always seems that, no matter how long the delays or how big the cost overrun is, the house and its completion are of the utmost priority and it just gets done. These are grand designs after all, the dreams that people have spent years thinking up while searching for the right site, looking for the window of opportunity, or just waiting for that perfect moment when time, location and funds all come together.
I'm sure we're not the only couple to have had idle chats about dream homes while watching this, or similar, shows on TV... pondering the practicalities of straw bale construction, or building into a hillside to blend in with the surroundings, or dreaming about the mythical land of lottery winnings in which you pick your 10 favourite cities around the world and buy property in each one while spending a few weeks on the private yacht travelling in between.
For us, and many others in our situation, building any kind of grand design right here, right now, is just as unlikely as waking up in that mythical lotto-land. This is not what we had planned for our lives... in terms of house-building, this is neither the time nor the place we would have picked. But as it turns out, it's not a matter of choosing the time and place, it's about playing the hand you've been dealt.
We've gone over our options so many times during the last 12 months. Whether to build, whether to sell, whether to pack everything up & run like hell... you name it, we've thought about it. But, for better or worse, we've decided to stick it out and rebuild our home. Only we're not rebuilding our old home - we can't afford to build a 5 bedroom, two-storey home like the one we previously owned - we're building a new home. A smaller home. A lower home. Most importantly - the home we can afford to build. And there's one thing we have to keep repeating to ourselves, and pointing out to those people and companies we'll be dealing with throughout this process:
This. Is. Not. Our. Dream. Home.
If I was building my dream home, I'd be requesting a double oven so I can cook two different dishes at different temperatures at the same time. Ain't gonna happen.
For my dream home, I'd be ordering a spa bath for the ensuite to soak away the stresses and strains that accumulate during the week. Nope. Way outta our budget.
My dream home has an outdoor wood-fired pizza oven. It comes complete with an established, low maintenance garden, more storage than your average crafty hoarder could ever hope to fill, plus a superbly fitted-out walk-in wardrobe. It would also have a library, gas supply to the kitchen, and a plumbed in espresso machine.
The home we're going to be building is likely to contain only one of the items mentioned above, and if you know us at all, you'll know it's the only thing that's non-negotiable. Our trusty La San Marco will be in the kitchen, plumbed in and taking centre stage.
This. Is. Not. Our. Dream. Home.
This is what we can afford right now... what we can fit on our narrow little section... what we hope we'll be perfectly happy living in until such time as we decide to sell up and move on. We were perfectly happy in our old house and we certainly don't want (& can't afford) anything bigger. I've never had two ovens before so I'm sure I'll cope with one. I don't need a massive walk-in wardrobe - our old house didn't even have wardrobes (neither does this rental) so any wardrobe is going to be an improvement on that. None of the other items have ever featured in my life before and I know I'll continue to be just fine without them.
Budget is the driving force on this project, not dreams. Combining the two will be the most challenging aspect of this non-grand design.
(How's the essay going? So nice of you to ask! Let's see now... thoughts: 50,000; words: 0)