ornamental entrance door of old house in city

How to Have the House of your Dreams Without Buying a Mansion

When I was younger, I believed I was going to live in a giant mansion with actual directional wings. My friends would clearly live in another mansion, attached by a pool, and my parents would live in the west wing where I wouldn’t have to see them unless we really wanted to. We would eat at tables so long you’d only hear the gentle clatter of plates and utensils being used.

A couple of decades later and my square footage desires have changed. The idea that I should have everything I want has not. My dream home now consists of a large acreage, a meadow, a sauna, pool, hot tub, beautiful and functional kitchen, large closet, and library.

I know. A little much, but I’m already halfway there. Without moving or spending a million bucks.

When my husband and I were looking at houses, there were a few things we weren’t willing to take off our list: a bedroom big enough for a king bed, a large closet, a large backyard or land. We kind of got all three of those things. The bedroom is just big enough for a king. The large closet is available to me after converting a bedroom into one. The property is large, though smaller than what we wanted. Unfortunately, budget restrictions toned down our dreams.

When I worked in real estate, people would dismiss houses for the stupidest reasons. The paint colour was weird, the yard wasn’t manicured to perfection, the counters weren’t stone. These weren’t million dollar houses people were looking at, and thus needed to reach a certain height of expectation, they were simple family homes. Everyone was just getting too caught up on watching HGTV and Pinterest, assuming that houses came immaculately designed in a small budget. Changing the way you think about houses, about your own house, can make a huge difference. Unless your house really isn’t working for you, or you want a different neighbourhood, you can update and tweak until it’s what you want — and need.

Learn how to be creative. Instead of looking only for a house with an already built walk-in closet, I looked at homes that had 3+ bedrooms, so that we could easily convert one into a closet. It worked. My closet is now a dream and houses everything I love, including a work station for writing. It won’t stay my closet forever, as we re-design our house to fit our needs well into the future, but a small office turned storage turned meditation room will soon house all of my shoes and clothes. It may not be as spacious as the bedroom is, but it’ll be perfect for what I need, and will actually be attached to our bedroom.

Have patience. That sauna? It’s scheduled for the next year or so, even as the pool and hot tub lag dangerously behind. We lived with a kitchen from the ’70s, a kitchen that was missing a cupboard door, one that has a dishwasher poking out from underneath the cabinets that wasn’t ever designed for a dishwasher. The fridge was designed for people who only kept 5 things as groceries. Our floors are a flamboyant yellow that I’ve come to learn how to ignore. It’s not our dream kitchen. Not even close. But, it’s being designed, getting ready to be gutted and made up into something beautiful and functional.

Tone down the Pinterest dreams. That library? Well, it’s definitely not as big as I had ever imagined. I won’t have a ladder to climb to the very top of the book case, pretending I’m Belle. It won’t be filled with rich mahogany, a large globe hiding liquor, and a humidor of expensive cigars. A nice grey or dark blue with a normal globe and perhaps one or two Romeo y Julieta will do. So will the spare room. It may small in regards to a library, but a comfy spot to sit in a comfy chair and read is all you really need. Add a day bed and that little library of yours has a dual purpose as the spare bedroom it once was.

Plant your dreams. That meadow? It’s being planted. It may not be acres, but wild flowers and prairie grasses will grow. Maybe years from now we will be able to buy more land, converting acres into forests and grasslands. Maybe not. Maybe we will be happy with what we have and learn to love it, tweaking here and there to work with our needs and wants.

My house is nowhere near completion. It isn’t fancy. It has only 1,400 square feet. And, yet, it’s everything I’ve dreamed of. I know that the things I want will come in time, just as the wants will change. You don’t need to spend your entire budget on a house you think you want. You don’t need a mansion to get everything you want. You can reno and design and create what suits you and your family’s needs. Maybe you don’t have enough room to convert a bedroom into a closet, but you’ve got an alcove or a hall closet that could be turned into a reading nook. Sounds delightful to me.

Our expectations that our homes should be perfect right from the start is side-splitting hilarious. Only a choice few of us have the budget to do so. That doesn’t mean the rest of us need to hate our homes. Have fun with it. Look at rooms differently. Use every little bit of space, being smart with your design and organization. You just might end up with the house of your dreams.

Make your home the house of your dreams - without spending millions | The LT Edit

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