Friday, March 20, 2009

Bilyeu Homes website

I just saw on the McNamee blog that Larry and Blake (finally) have a web presence. I'm hoping this doesn't generate TOO much business for them, since I like all the attention we're getting. But the website looks great, and we're even mentioned on the "Recent Projects" page!

Toured the McNamee House

Wednesday evening Larry and Blake took us out to see one of their current projects, the McNamee House. The house is at a beautiful spot in west Salem, perched on a hill with a great view. The first thing I noticed when I walked in at around 5:30pm was the sunlight bouncing off the ceiling, streaming through a series of 15 small windows up near the ceiling and facing west. It was really quite striking. Although the house is style-wise very different from what we're building, it does share some similarities. Besides being energy efficient, it also has an open great room layout and a kitchen somewhat similar to what we are imagining.

It was great to walk through the house with Larry and Blake and talk about what will translate to our house. I got a better idea of how a lot of the green features will work. Well-insulated walls are much thicker than in most homes, which creates a deep window sill (Abby will love it). It also allows for some beautiful window woodwork. We got to take a look at the solar thermal water heater. It's pretty fancy looking, and I had to resist the urge to turn various levers and knobs.

Blake has me mostly convinced that we should install hardwood floors. Up to this point I wanted laminate floors, since the one we have now is so durable. But it seems that hardwood may be even more durable and has fewer environmental toxicicity problems (offgassing and whatnot).

We will likely be using the same cabinet maker, and the build quality of the cabinets looked great. In fact, the fit and finish throughout the house was great. Even though I never had any doubts about their ability to build a house, it's still reassuring to see quality work.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

3D model

Here is a screenshot of our house model in Google SketchUp. If you follow the links in the previous post you can install it and load up our house. Obviously this is an early draft - it's a bit hard to get into the house right now.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Met with builders

Yesterday afternoon we met with the builders to discuss updates to the floor plans. Larry had drawn up some plans with the kitchen and bathrooms filled in, and had flipped the upstairs layout so the kids' bedrooms face the front. This lets the windows on the front be symmetrical. Otherwise we'd have a large master bedroom window on one side and a tiny (or nonexistent) bathroom window on the other. The front view would be lopsided. He also enlarged the kitchen/dining area by shrinking the mudroom a bit. He drew in a huge kitchen island. Even though these are still early plans, it's great to see the house taking shape. It's becoming easier and easier for me to visualize the house.

Blake built several 3D models of the house in SketchUp, including some that incorporated a specific roofline we had told him we liked. Then we picked the simplest one that didn't have that element. We're the best clients ever! He even imported the model into Google Earth and placed it on our lot. Sweet!

Right now Sarah and I are looking at the layout of the living room, especially as it relates to the stairs. My concern is that people will have to walk through the living room and in front of people (thereby briefly interrupting the view of the TV!!!) to go upstairs. So we talked about having the stairs form a U shape so that people could approach along the western wall of the room, without having to go in front of any seating. But that ends up shrinking the effective size of the living room because that wall space now has to be kept clear. It effectively becomes hallway. Discussing this at home with Sarah, she came up with a better idea. We'll leave the stairs in the L shape, and place a couch about 5 feet from the western wall (the couch would face east). Based on the size of our current living room, this would still provide plenty of space and, because of the open layout, actually allow an additional couch in the living room (against the south wall). The media center would be on the east wall. A chair or two near the middle of the great room could complete the living area.

So what about this giant, five-foot-wide space in the western part of the living room? This area would be reserved for a children's play area. Until the kids come along, we could put a table or something there (we already have a sofa/console table that would work great there - it holds our CD player right now). Then later we could convert it: maybe a low, kid-friendly table or toy boxes or kids' desks.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


I'm just introducing myself on the blog. I hope to also contribute once the house gets going. I'm very excited about this process, and mostly I can't wait to move in. :-) The new lot is on the same block as our current house, and we can actually see it from our upstairs bedroom window, which will be nice when we want to keep an eye on the builders.

Speaking of those builders, we have hired Bilyeu Homes in Salem, a wonderful local company that specializes in "green" building. Larry and his son Blake have worked on some of the homes in the Pringle Creek Community, a green community in south Salem (

Our architect is Nathan Good of Salem, also known for his work on green buildings (

Nathan, Larry and Blake have worked with us to design a plan that will incorporate as many sustainable features as we can afford. I'm most excited about this aspect of the home -- I can't wait to always have my home be a comfortable temperature and save tons of money on my energy bills.

You're supposed to have a title!

This is an historic photo (taken way back in the 1970s) of the house that was on our lot. This house was built right around the turn of the century. It was demolished about 10-12 years before we bought the lot.

Floor plans!

So after a few sessions with the architects and builders, we have managed to hammer out some initial layouts of the rooms in the house. We also have an idea of how we'd like the house to sit on the lot.

I personally love these layouts, and it's going to be hard to talk me into any significant changes (I'm looking at you, Blake). The garage faces Nebraska, and the front of the house is on 16th. The great room features an open layout that includes the kitchen, dining area, and living room. All the bedrooms are upstairs, as is the laundry room (all houses should be like this!). We have tons of backyard space, and a nice porch on the front.

Floor plan PDF
Site plan PDF

Welcome to the house blog

At some point in the near future I'll be posting updates about the progress of the new house. I'll try to post some photos of the empty lot, and I'll see about putting up the rough draft of the floor plans.