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The Fifth House - The Beginning

This post is a little (a lot) chatty and if you like floor plans (which I happen to love) - this is the post for you!

This time, for the first time ever, when we moved, it was for John's job. After our son was born I did not return to work. It was a huge relief (the company I worked for was extremely gracious about everything) still, at the same time I was tortured by the decision and the feeling that I could not hack working in the corporate world anymore. After some time, and putting my life in perspective, I began to enjoy and really appreciate the time I could spend at home and with my children - a luxury that most people are not afforded. I helped with the auction at the school where my younger two attended for a couple of years and then I started working in the cafeteria at their school. I loved working there. I loved working with other school parents in the kitchen. I loved seeing all of the students every day and of course I loved seeing my own children in school everyday. My daughter was a little (extremely) hesitant for me to be "the lunch lady", she warmed up to it though. My son thought it was cool.

I would probably still be working in the cafeteria if we did not move. However, as I was working at home and at the school, John was working long, long hours for his job. When an opportunity presented itself for John to leave that job and join a company that would provide a far better work/life balance we decided he should go for it. The job was in Grand Rapids so it was time for our family to move again.

It was a quick transition from one job to the next so John lived in a hotel in Grand Rapids during the week and would come home to Grosse Pointe for the weekends while we got our house ready to sell. Our house sold within a week, fortunately for us, and we had to quickly decide where in the Grand Rapids area we wanted to live. We were used to living very close to Lake St. Clair in Grosse Pointe and we had a boat, thus we decided we would like to be close to the water again. We chose Holland, Michigan, a town right on Lake Michigan, as our next home town. It was about a forty minute commute for John to his office.

Holland was a bit of a departure from the places we were used to living in. The downtown of Holland is picturesque. It houses Hope College, has a small historical neighborhood to the south and it borders Lake Macatawa (which leads to Lake Michigan). North of Lake Macatawa and bordering Lake Michigan, there are a lot of lakeside vacation homes and a little inland there are several developments with new construction (recently completed and in-progress) mostly for the families that live in the area full time.

The newer homes are very similar to houses you see being built all around the country. They have very open floor plans and walk out basements. Having lived in homes for the past 17 years that were built between 1790 and 1940, and that maintained their original "bones", it felt foreign to us. We decided to rent a house for a year while we house hunted and adjusted to our new town.

Soon after we moved, my father, who had been diagnosed with lung cancer early in the year, took a sharp turn for the worse. In our first three months of living in Holland, I was in Florida more than I was in Michigan. My father passed away in the beginning of December and after the holidays, funeral and settling all of his affairs with my brothers, neither my family, nor I had made much progress adjusting to our new town.

In the fog of what was my life at the time, we decided rather than buy a house it would be better to build. We would have wanted to do a complete renovation to any house we purchased and it did not seem to make sense financially nor time wise. We had friends that had recently built a house in Holland and they loved the builder they used so we met with him to explore the possibilities of building.

In our first meeting with the builder, we asked him to price out building a house from a plan that we found online that we really liked. He came back with a figure that was, surprise, more than we wanted to spend. In our next meeting with the builder, we asked him to price out building a house that would have followed the floor plan of a Grosse Pointe neighbor's house (who kindly shared his plans with us). The price was better, still more than we wanted to spend though. I told the builder that I was ready to give up and start house hunting again. He asked if I would come by for another meeting so that he could show me something he could build that was in line with what we wanted to spend.

The house that he showed me was typical for the area, basically the same as the rental house we were living in. I did not want to build a house like that, for sure we could have easily bought one like that. I left the meeting asking him, "if I designed a house with the layout and look I want, without the complete architectural mechanics, could he turn that into a house for us?" He said "sure". With his advice to build up, not sprawl out (which our previous two plans had done) to get the most of our money, I set off to give it a try.

I sat down to work on a plan with a list of features that I have always liked in a house:

Front entry where you do not see the stairs from the front door

Windows in every room, including the bathrooms




Wood burning fireplaces

Upstairs laundry room

An en-suite bedroom in addition to the master

Home gym

Non-walkout basement

Three car garage

I also knew that an open floor plan and an egress basement with a bedroom and bath were very important to buyers in the area, so putting all of that together with what we needed for our family, this is what I came up with:

First Floor

Second Floor




I didn't spend a ton of time perfecting these drawings because I did not have a lot of hope that this would work out.

The very same day I sent these plans to the builder, he called me back and excitedly said, "Kerry, I think this could work!" and he sent me these plans:

First Floor:

Second Floor:

Front Facade:

The builder changed the location of the en-suite bedroom upstairs because he said there was not going to be enough room with the way I had it laid out initially, he changed closet locations in the bedrooms, and he put in kitchen and bathroom layouts. I sent the following revisions back to him with a little more detail of my vision (which was hopefully coming to life!).

I gave a more detailed layout for the kitchen, eliminating the peninsula in the builder's plan; and changed the layout of the mudroom and powder room:

I moved the fireplace to the outside for wood burning and added some notes about possible millwork and window placements throughout the first floor:

I changed the layouts of all of the bathrooms and the laundry room upstairs. I added a tub and water closet in the master, removed the tub in the ensuite, revised the laundry room utilizing counter depth machines and added a double vanity to the hall bathroom:

The builder used these changes. He also changed my basement plan, this time incorporating the space below the sunroom and mudroom - he said it would not really increase the overall cost of the build to add the space to the foundation. Here are his next set of plans:

First Floor:

Second Floor:



Since I am who I am, I revised the basement floor plan a bit, changing the location of the bathroom back to where I had it initially (so that it could have a window) and expanding into the mechanical space for the bedroom:

These are the plans he used to price out the build, which was in line with what we wanted to spend, and we were off!

In the next post, I will talk about my vision and inspirations for the finished product. I hope you will join me for that.

Thank you for visiting today,





Hi, I’m Kerry, a true lover of all things home design.  Thank you for stopping by to check in on the journey.  Please feel free to reach out to me, I love to talk design!

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