Real Families Tell their Home Building Experiences

Image for Real Families Tell their Home Building Experiences

Two real Twin Cities’ families who recently built a new home shared their stories with us.

An Accommodating Home


Sam and Tracy were tired of not being able to pass each other in the hallway. They also wanted a shower design that prevented them from tracking water all over the house. While these features might ring true for anyone living with a cozy floor plan, for Tracy and Sam the needs were more pronounced.

At the age of eight, a car accident left Tracy a paraplegic. Her husband, Sam, lost the use of his legs at age 13, the result of an ATV accident. Those tragedies, however, have not prevented the young couple from expecting the most out of life. Last year they built a home to accommodate their chairs; their service dog, Rocket, a golden retriever; and Taylor, their three-year-old; plus a brand new baby expected on March 1st.

A three-time Ironman triathlete, Sam was riding his bike training for an upcoming race when he spotted a large lot for sale in the northern suburbs. At the time, the couple was living in Tracy’s 1,600-square-foot detached townhome but had been thinking about a new home for years.

“We started to design our home five to six years ago, but it was never the right time to build,” says Tracy, who participates in sprint triathlons and, along with Sam, teaches adaptive skiing and kayaking.

“At one point we tried selling our house, but it didn’t sell,” recalls Tracy. “Then Sam changed jobs, and financially we couldn’t do it. When we were pregnant with Taylor, we decided to stay put.”

Still the townhouse presented challenges; it lacked a yard and didn’t easily accommodate two wheelchairs.

“When we found out we were expecting another child, we thought, it’s time. We have to move,” says Tracy.

The couple briefly considered an existing home and then equipping it with ramps, but up-ramps are not convenient when carrying groceries or car seats. They also needed three bedrooms on the main floor.

Having decided the timing was right to build, the couple interviewed two builders, including Christian Builders based in Rogers.

“We walked through Christian’s model,” says Tracy. “It was a quality built house. We brought them our floor plan. They helped us refine it, and we worked very closely with their architect. We were very happy with how they really listened to what we wanted and how they threw out ideas of their own.”

The 2,000-square-foot rambler offers wide turnaround spaces, a custom pantry with shelves adapted to Sam and Tracy’s height, unfinished basement with elevator access, and a very well-designed shower.

The open shower allows for an easy transfer from wheelchair to bench. “Our chairs never get wet,” says Tracy. “Our wheels stay dry and we don’t track water through the rest of the house.”

Because their children are able bodied, Tracy and Sam decided to install standard-height countertops. Strategically placed faux cabinets allow Tracy and Sam to access the sink, counter, and cooktop.

And the unfinished basement works well for now. “We run our dog and our daughter in the basement during the winter when getting outside is difficult. The dog plays Frisbee, and Taylor rides her bike,” says Tracy. “We have no regrets. Everything is so much more accessible now. It’s perfect.”

A Home to Grow In


Ashten and Karl Buchholz were able to watch their new home Take shape any day they liked – just by walking through their Neighborhood. They’ve lived in Nature’s Crossing since 2009, in a Resale of a Mega Homes’ model home. While the young married Couple enjoyed their house, it was Karl who first got the itch to build.

“We watched the neighborhood grow,” said Ashten. “Karl is an outgoing person, and he met Meg Jaeger, President of Mega Homes, on a job site. We got pretty inspired about building new, and he took the time to win me over. We discussed this idea with Meg on and off over two years, and we were always on the same page about what we wanted. This is about our future and how we want to live in a home.”

“We found a lot that we fell in love with, but it had an old house on it,” she said.

“We finally decided it was more practical to demolish and build new than remodel. The new home was designed to take advantage of wonderful views from back to front, including Elm Creek Park Reserve. This property is great for our two dogs, too.”

Both Ashten and Karl love the neighborhood and its easy access to nature, shopping and transportation to downtown Minneapolis, where Ashten works at Target Corporation. Nature’s Crossing, situated between Maple Grove and Champlin and bordering the Elm Creek Park Preserve in Dayton, is also a perfect spot for families.

“We were thinking long term when we built this house and hope to raise a family here,” said Ashten.

While they conceptualized a new home, Karl’s brother also built in the neighborhood. Karl is the youngest of three brothers who all work together in a business their father started.

The couple considered what they liked about their current home and what they would change in a new custom design. “I told Meg that I wanted open, flowing spaces, ” said Ashten, who also gathered and organized many images from Houzz and Pinterest. “Meg got the idea of what we were going for and put together the ingredients of our beautiful, safe, green and earth-friendly home.”

The resulting main-level floor plan is welcoming, with a large kitchen that opens to a flexible dining room that in turn opens to a great room with a corner fireplace, soaring stone mantle and a beautifully crafted media center. Well-placed and spacious windows draw in natural light throughout the day, anywhere in the home.

The heart of this home is definitely the kitchen, which showcases a stunning L-shaped design with a 10 by 4-foot cashmere light granite island. Its white cabinetry is a dramatic contrast to the rich stained alder wood of the center-island and dark maple floors. Ashten says that both she and Karl enjoy cooking, she loves baking, and everybody wants to congregate in the kitchen. This gourmet kitchen is more than double-chef friendly, with a pantry and space-saving gas stove top as well as a stacked oven and microwave/oven combo.

This couple’s home embraces their interests now, and brings seamless flexibility into play when their family grows. Karl’s favorite feature is generous garage space, specifically six stalls with three in front, so the garage doesn’t dominate the charming cottage-style exterior.

“Karl enjoys a number of outdoor hobbies,” says Ashten, “and the garage is heated, so he can easily work out there anytime.” The garage also has a drain, to easily facilitate dog or car washing.

The Spring Parade of Homes is sponsored by Wells Fargo Home Mortgage.