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Dare to Dream

Dare to Dream

Making Your Custom Home A Reality

If you are planning to build a custom home in the Inland Northwest, you could be wondering what steps you can take to make your home stand out in a way that will grab attention, all while making it fit your lifestyle—no matter how crazy it may be!

Contacting a contractor who specializes in custom home building will get you moving in the right direction, but taking a look at current trends in custom homes will also help. Designing a home to your lifestyle is one of the top ways to get the most from the house you intend to build. Whether you would like to have a unique wine cellar or customized outdoor living space, you can reach your goal in no time.

First Steps to Take

Taking a few steps before you decide on custom home features is vital and will prevent you from making mistakes along the way. No matter what trends in custom homes you want to follow, you should first consider your budget and how much you will need to spend.

Also, do some research and meet with architects and builders specializing in custom homes in the Inland Northwest. As you move forward with the research phase, consider how the choices you make now will impact your life in the future. Thinking about the weather patterns of our area and how they will affect your custom home features will work wonders.

Indoor-Outdoor Pool

The summers may be short, but that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice the luxury of a pool, if your budget allows. To get the most of your love of the outdoors, indoor-outdoor pools are an excellent choice you will want to consider. The construction team will place this pool on the ground level, and it will have an entrance inside your home and another one on the outside. You can use your entire pool during the warm summer months, but you can close the outside section and still enjoy the indoor pool during the winter.

Beach-Themed Fire Pit

Opting for outdoor living spaces that you can enjoy with your friends and family is a smart step in the right direction when your goal is to get the most from your new home. If you are among the many people who enjoy spending time outside, a beach-themed fire pit could be perfect for you. The construction crew can dig the fire pit into the ground and add marble surfaces, using sand as the finishing touch.

Themed Bedrooms

When designing a home to reflect your lifestyle is at the front of your mind, you can’t go wrong when you opt for themed bedrooms. You can give your children’s bedrooms themes that match their favorite sport, game, movie or television show, and they will thank you for your creativity. Theming your bedroom after your favorite vacation spot is another option worth considering if you want your home to have a unique appeal you won’t find anywhere else. Installing themed bedrooms is sure to put a smile on your face no matter what it is you are interested in.

Indoor Slide

Are you a child at heart? Do your kids have endless energy? Use your custom home to keep your sense of fun and adventure alive if you don’t want to lose touch of your inner child. You can reach that goal by installing an indoor slide in the custom home you design, and you will be glad you did once you see it for the first time. When the weather turns bad, it will help keep the kids entertained and allow them a chance to get rid of that pent-up energy!

Spiral Wine Cellars

Although you can do many things when your mission is to create a custom home of which you can be proud, opting for a custom wine cellar is a great idea that will take your results to the next level. You can create a wine cellar under your kitchen that uses a spiral staircase, and you can even use a glass door on your kitchen floor for easy access.

If you want to get even more creative with your idea, create a hidden wine cellar behind a bookcase. Thinking about the methods allowing you to control your wine cellar’s climate will help you avoid future complications, and you will know you have done the right thing. Installing vents and using insulation will keep your wine at the perfect temperature throughout the year.

Vertical Garden

People who enjoy growing gardens are often disappointed that they can’t do so during the cold months of winter, but some of them have found a solution that overcomes the issue without stress. Rather than only growing fruits and vegetables outside, they install vertical gardens in their homes, and you can follow in their footsteps.

Placing a vertical garden in your staircase or another part of your home allows you to grow food at controlled temperatures. The size of your garden depends on the amount of space you have available. Your indoor garden will attract positive attention and let you work on your hobby whenever you want.

Thoughts from Those at the Heart of Custom Homes

Brandon Johnson of Affordable Custom Builders in Coeur d’Alene has been a general contractor since 2001. He has built homes in every state in the Western United States and has been licensed in multiple states for more than a decade, working on a variety of homes.

When it comes to unique requests from his clients, he shares that what at one time was considered unique is becoming increasingly common. “I think the availability of Houzz, Pinterest and Google searches can turn one interesting idea into a trend in less than 12 months,” says Brandon. “For instance, I thought it was fairly revolutionary to use concrete floors in conjunction with exposed concrete walls in a bathroom and include the shower as part of the concrete mono-pour. Now I get that request once per month.”

Brandon goes on to say that over the past decade, buyers are wanting a change from the predominantly craftsman, heavy wood look to something that is bright and clean. “Lower maintenance is also a major driver of design and product selections,” he says.

The demand for higher-end custom homes has definitely increased in recent years, locally and nationally. “I think that is due to the baby-boomer surge as they reach a financial level to justify those purchases,” says Brandon. “However, I think the ‘high-end’ may be a little more attainable as many of the choices in design have been reduced—particularly when it comes to house size—since the previous build cycle through 2008.”

As an interior designer for Selkirk Glass and Cabinets, a division of Ponderay Design Center in Sandpoint, Idaho, Annie Nye sees a variety of unique requests from those either building or redesigning their home.

In homes that have interior fireplaces or are heated by wood stoves, Annie suggests placing a firewood storage pass through the door from the exterior to the interior. Another feature that is being used in more and more homes is vacuums built into the toe kicks of cabinets for easy cleanup of your kitchen floor. “People are also having lights built into the toe kicks for nightlights,” adds Annie. A similar feature can be found in the bathroom where glass vanity sinks have lighting around them so they glow as nightlights. “It is very cool if done correctly,” she says.

Sean Gavin, owner of Mountain View Construction in Sandpoint for the past 11 years, has had many unique requests over the years including movie theaters, elevators and indoor swimming pools. And while the trend in the past was “the bigger the better,” Sean says today most people want a house under 2,500 square feet. “Houses have definitely gotten smaller,” he says.

Todd and Zetta Stam have lived in Coeur d’Alene for nearly 30 years. Together they started Aspen Homes in the early 1990s and have been working with families to help build their dream home. Zetta, who is also an interior designer, said they have done much with unique and fun requests from clients.

Among those requests include home theaters, elevators, elaborate wine cellars and more!

According to Zetta, high-end custom homes are currently very much in demand. “During a good economy, we always see growth,” she states. They are also seeing a greater focus on fun for both adults and kids. “Much more open floor plans suitable for entertaining are also very popular.”

Both Todd and Zetta take pride in not only the work they do, but also in providing unique and custom home designs that allow them to be as creative as possible, catering to any whim their client may have. With inspiration from the beauty of North Idaho, they want their clients to feel that same feeling of “awe” when they enter their home as when they step outside and take in the picturesque mountain views.

John Dana of Dana Construction in Sandpoint has been a general contractor for more than 10 years, although he has been in the home building industry for far longer. He worked for Alpine Lumber for 16 years and reviewed up to five home plans each week. “I’ve literally seen over 3,000 home plans in my life,” he says.

John has built many beautiful custom homes over the years, ranging from 1,000 square feet to more than 6,000 and has fielded all kinds of requests for unique features. His latest project, a 4,900-square-foot home with an additional 3,000 square feet of patio and decking is located in Martin Bay on Lake Pend Oreille and is one of which he is especially proud.

“It is a custom timber-frame home,” says John. “It’s more traditional with mortise-and-tenon jointery.” In addition, it has custom doors and windows with high-end hickory floors and ceilings that are all tongue and groove.

While people don’t always request it, when John builds homes he tends to build the main floor living for wheelchair accessibility, making door entries wider than the standard size. “I do it because I know most of my clients are going to live in these homes for at least the next 20 years,” says John, who works closely with his clients to build a home that will meet their needs for years to come.

Another feature he has installed for people, which he says is becoming more and more common in the homes that are over $1 million and are multi-floor living, is an elevator shaft. “Installing things like that after the fact is when it gets expensive,” according to John. “There is really no added expense to have it all wired and the shaft built when constructing the house.” Until the homeowner is ready to install an actual elevator, the space is used on each floor for storage.

Another unique request that he has done over the years is to install hidden rooms. “I did one for a client that was used as his gun safe,” recalls John. The room was hidden in cabinetry and was climate controlled for temperature and humidity for the guns. Others have used hidden rooms to store their valuables for when they are out of town.

And then there is the coveted wine cellar. John shares that this feature is becoming increasingly popular and there can be very creative ways to integrate this into the home. This, too, should be climate controlled for storage of wine. “The racks and the doors can be quite extensive,” he says.

John shares that timber-frame homes are deemed “the new log home.” While log and timber-frame homes run about the same in cost, there is more upkeep and maintenance with log homes, and timber frame is much easier to work with when it comes to putting in wiring and other infrastructure.

“In Europe, the homes that you see that are over 600 years old are typically timber-frame homes. They last a long time,” says John.

Creekside Construction & Restoration has been in business in the Hayden and Coeur d’Alene area for more than 30 years. Paula Merk, business development coordinator for Creekside, says there has been a significant shift in the style of homes they are building in recent years. “People are wanting a more contemporary look as opposed to a rustic North Idaho feel,” she says. “A lot more paint and less stain, painted millwork and doors and clean white walls.”

They recently completed a “Hangar Home” over Carlin Bay. The hangar is 5,600 square feet that is attached to a 2,500-square-foot custom home. The garage doors were 65 feet by 18 feet six inches tall.

“We also just completed a historical renovation in Downtown Coeur d’Alene,” says Paula. “A lot of people downtown are getting into restorations. It’s been a really fun experience.”

With the economy getting stronger, those at Creekside Construction & Restoration have seen a trend where people are more willing to spend extra to upgrade their homes than in previous years. “Going above and beyond their budget on finish items and upgrades is trending,” Paula says. “Between the interest rates and incoming traffic from California, we are definitely seeing people willing to invest more money in building their dream homes.”

Final Thoughts

While designing a home is always a fun and memorable experience, you can make it even better by adding custom features that match your taste and lifestyle. Meeting with architects and your builder will get you started, but you will then want to consider what path makes the most sense for you and your family.

The home you have been dreaming about is much closer than you once thought, and you won’t want to miss your chance to craft a home that will provide you with positive memories for years to come. Rather than using these ideas as they are, find creative ways to make them your own, and you will be thrilled when you turn your dream home into a reality.


According to John Dana of Dana Construction, being a general contractor is much more than just running the job and overseeing the sub-contractors. “The general is the customer’s advocate,” he says.

He and other successful contractors take ownership in the job and help guide their customers through the entire process, ensuring they stay within budget and have a home of which they can be proud.

It’s important to be aware of the time it takes between saying “I want to build” and the actual start date. There are a lot of things to be done including budget, design, permitting and more.

John advises that it is important to first pick the contractor and have them involved from the outset. “Just because an architect can draw it does not mean it can be built here,” he says. John cites examples of a plan that may work great down south, but it may not be suitable where heavy snow is common.

It’s also important in places like Bonner County, which does not have a building code or building inspector, to make sure your contractor always builds to code.

Allow the contractor to work for you to get the house you want for your budget. Communication is key. Can you have a good working relationship with him or her? It can make a world of difference in your homebuilding experience.

Ask to see the contractors’ past and present work and contact the references given by the contractors. After all, this is probably the largest investment one will make in their lives. Dare to dream! It just may become a reality!

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