retaining wall custom home build

Our European Exterior Custom Build Update

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This building journey has been a process, to say the least, but it’s leading us to a decade-long dream that is now becoming a reality! If you’ve been following along with this process at all, then you know that it’s been full of disappointments and delays and at times (okay, most of the time) I had wondered if this was even worth it.

Psst: Here’s a little background info for those that are new. Keep scrolling if you want to skip it!

Because at the time, we were building a house I felt lukewarm about at best. Though the person that created our blueprints is good at their job from a technical standpoint, I didn’t feel as if my exterior design aesthetic was fully captured.

Before Exterior Makeover

We went back and forth a lot and as I tried to explain European details we got a little closer…

before exterior makeover custom build

…but it still wasn’t what I was looking for.

And it would have been a fine house, don’t get me wrong! A brand new nice-looking house is certainly no reason to complain, but it wasn’t the house for me.

But instead of trying to continue to go back and forth and potentially hold up the process, I told myself I would just try to accept it.

And I wrestled with it for months, telling myself it was the sensible budget-friendly choice and I tried to convince myself that I would love it once we did landscaping and added special details.

And that somewhat worked…until it didn’t. Once we broke ground, I had a major freak-out moment as reality dawned on me. We were spending all this time, money, and effort on a house I didn’t love.

As I was sharing my concerns with my sisters and general contractor brother-in-law one weekend, they were all confirming what I had really believed deep down.

“Getting the style you want is why you build a house.”
“It doesn’t make sense to spend all this money and not even like what you’re building.”
“You’re going to have to live here for years. You want to build something you can be happy in.”

That’s when I knew I needed to make a change. And fast. It wasn’t the ideal time to make a change like that and I said I would just change it later so people wouldn’t be mad at me haha.

(But of course, redoing your entire exterior after it’s already been done is not a smart decision, as my GC brother-in-law reminded me.)

So I turned to this architectural design firm, Providence House Design, that I had been following on Instagram for a while. I loved their work and our styles were similar, so I knew if I told them “European”, they would get it.

So I reached out, explained my situation, and asked if they could give me a European chateau look while keeping my same foundation. And that I would need this in a matter of weeks!

And boy, did they deliver!!

European Exterior

Can you even believe the transformation? It’s been over a month, but I still get so excited when I look at it. They did an absolutely phenomenal job basically creating a new house without changing the foundation.

I had asked to see the design with one minor edit, but I ended up going with their one and original design- that’s how good they are.

And guess what? All that worry about changing the plan in this part of the process and it wasn’t even that big of a deal. Since we were still stuck in the waiting game, trusses hadn’t even been ordered yet. And since Providence delivered the design back so quickly, no one was waiting on us and we didn’t have to redo anything.

Sure, maybe having my desired design in the first place would have been perfect timing, but this comes in close second!

And besides a few things that were out of the architect’s hands, I can say this is pretty much a dream house.

For example, I had really wanted a side entry garage, but on our land, the price would have been astronomical because we would need a giant retaining wall. We couldn’t justify adding 6 figures to the build just to flip the garage entry.

This is a good reminder that even when you’re building you don’t get everything you want! I fell in love with the land before I thought much about the house, but building on a narrow slope does present some challenges. (Our land goes back really far, it’s just not very wide or flat.)

But I don’t even really notice the garage because my eye goes straight to the center and to all the European details. Those arches, those lights, and even those gutters and gutter boxes. Swoon!

european exterior elevation

We’ll have concrete under the arches and there’s enough room for a few bistro sets. I can just picture all the coffee and croissants we’ll have out there on our little courtyard patio.

And I love how it still looks good in black and white. That’s how you know it’s a good design.

european exterior elevation

For those wondering, we went with 2 garages over 3 because they had to be front-facing and I wanted as much symmetry as I could get. Putting 3 on one end would have not looked balanced to me or we would have had to make the other half of the house bigger which equals bigger costs.

Plus, as previously mentioned, our lot is not super wide and HOA rules state that our house has to be a certain amount of feet away from the road. The further back from the road, the more dirt work, the more it costs, etc…

But the garages are oversized and we’ll have a separate garage in the back of the house for mowers and tools. We won’t be hurting on driveway space either because we plan to do a circular/U-shape so there will be plenty of spots to park cars for guests.

driveway shape inspiration

There’s nothing we really need to buy for the exterior ourselves since most of it is architectural, but with the design team’s recommendations, I picked up 3 of these gorgeous exterior lights.

They just arrived and after unboxing them, I can already say they’re worth every penny! They are big but in a good way. I know that a larger scale light packs a punch better than something that looks a little too small for the space.

Plus, the lantern style and the copper material are a nod to the European aesthetic of my home. When traveling in Europe, copper lanterns were something I saw again and again.

Related: How to Create a Parisian Courtyard (Using Ideas Straight From Paris!)

Overall, things have really looked up since my last home build update. I have had my “come-to-Jesus” moment haha. Instead of feeling (as) frustrated for the delays, I feel more thankful. Every month something doesn’t happen when it should is an extra month to save for fancy details and hone in on the design.

These past months during the wait I’ve defined more of what I wanted the house to be than the whole year or so we spent waiting. If things had happened when I originally wanted them to I would not be building this style of house!

At the time of writing this, the foundation crew is working on our retaining wall- the foundation to the foundation! Once this is completed, then they can start the actual foundation. Let’s get it!

Catch up here:
10 Features of Our Custom Build I’m Excited About
Life Update: Rental Living & Breaking Ground!
What I Bought for Our Home Build | Lighting

Carolyn Arentson
Carolyn is the founder and creator behind My Chic Obsession. When she's not dreaming up new content, you can find her watching a funny tv show with her husband, raising her two boys, or planning her next trip to Paris.