Discover the perks of building a home on a budget catered to your needs.
At some point during their house-hunting experience, most people think about building their own home rather than moving into someone else’s vision of how a home should look. But the idea is usually abandoned quickly in the assumption that it would be too costly and too lengthy a process. However, Brooke and Steve Giannetti didn’t let those fears stop them. They were determined to find ways to build their house in a low-cost, expeditious manner. And their persistence paid off, as their dream home was built to their specifications and was move-in ready in an astonishingly fast six months.
Brooke explains how building a home unfolded. “My husband, Steve, an architect, was working on a large home on a beach and the homeowners wanted it to feel like a California beach house. That concept appealed to both of us,” she says. “Once we found a lot where we wanted to live, it took about three months to design and get permits, and six months to build.”
When asked what her advice would be for people who would like to build their own home as quickly and affordably as they did, Brooke responded, “It’s all about organizing—scheduling workers close together so there’s not a lot of downtime.”
Brooke, an interior designer, found another benefit to doing your own build: unrestricted creative expression. “Building a home lets you do a lot of things that clients won’t let you do,” she explains. “For instance, we have wood floors in the kitchen and bathroom. Most people worry about getting water on it, but it doesn’t damage the wood. We even have it going up to the shower. I love our wood floors. They are just random-width pine boards nailed to subflooring, and they get better with age,” says Brooke, who has lived in the home with her husband, three children and two dogs for eight years.
For those who lean toward buying an older home rather than building a new one because they are attracted to vintage architectural details, Brooke suggests ways to incorporate those features into the plans. “We love the details and proportions of older homes, so we built our home using details that would have been used on an older home. Steve used classical proportions when designing it,” she says. Decorating with an eye on vintage and antique accessories also gave the home an aged look. “Two old columns that we bought at a flea market flank the entry to the living room,” Brooke says. “The ceiling lights in the entry are antiques made of Murano glass flowers.”
The Giannettis had specific ideas regarding the home’s layout. “We knew we wanted a very open floor plan. While our home looks traditional from the outside, we wanted it to flow like a new house,” Brooke says. There’s a big family room and kitchen area, and an office in the front of the house for Steve. Convenience also factored into their considerations. “We put the laundry room upstairs with the bedrooms. It just makes sense to have it where most of the laundry is generated. Why run up and down stairs with laundry baskets if you don’t have to?” she says.
Perhaps the aspect in which the Giannettis showed their ingenuity the most was in adding light to their home. “Our previous home was very dark, so when we built this home it was important that it was light and bright,” Brooke says. “We wanted it to feel like the original white shingle beach cottages in Santa Monica, California. We installed French doors, which let in a lot of light to the dining room, living room and across the back of the house. We also added operable skylights in the middle of the house to bring in light there. There is no recessed lighting in the house; we only used chandeliers, sconces and table lamps—we didn’t want holes in the ceiling. Can lighting lights up the floor, whereas light fixtures light up the space. They provide a much better quality of light by illuminating the entire room.”
The Giannettis tailored the home’s exterior to suit their lifestyle as well. “The back was originally an outdoor porch, but because it was chilly by the beach, we made it into a sunroom/breakfast room by enclosing it with French doors and adding a farmhouse table and seating area,” Brooke says. One detail on the front of the house is functional as well as fun. “Our front door is a green Dutch door, which works well at Halloween. We can open the top door and not lose the dogs,” Brooke explains. “The green door picks up the colors in the garden. It’s a unifying color.” Other colors used throughout the house as accent colors are white, blue and pink.
In the end, it’s the personal touches that make a house a home. “We put lockers in the entry for everyone’s stuff,” Brooke says. “There’s a bed nook in our daughter’s room with two antique corbels above the bed. We put white subway tile in all the bathrooms and on the walls in the kitchen for a classic look. The kitchen pantry door is a Victorian green door.” A large farmhouse sink is softened with a skirt underneath, and the wood floors are made warmer by scattered vintage hook rugs that Brooke found at flea markets. But everyone’s favorite conversation piece is the nickel ship bell in the kitchen. “Each kid has his own signal. It saves on a lot of screaming for the kids to come to dinner,” she says with a laugh.
“There’s nothing like building your own home; it’s built to your specifications and lifestyle,” Brooke says. “And everything has a built-in memory as well.”
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By Meryl Schoenbaum
Photography by Mark Tanner • Styled by Jacqueline deMontravel