This is the House that I built

Private Property South Africa
Lea Jacobs

My parents believed that renting property was a waste of time and encouraged all of their children to buy their own homes as soon as possible. I took their advice to heart and at the grand old age of 21, decided to build my own home.

I didn't know that much about property back then and certainly didn't consider the area in which I decided to build - needless to say, it wasn't in the best part of town. It was however, affordable and I duly signed the papers, got a bond and waited for the magic to begin happening.

I drove out to the site numerous times before the construction started. I'd stand for hours on my land, imaging how grand the home would be, how perfect the manicured lawns would look and how my beloved Labrador puppy, Storm, would enjoy romping around the garden.

The great day came when the builders arrived to dig the foundations. I took one look at all their hard work and promptly called the construction company: they had obviously made a mistake, I had ordered a three bedroom, two bathroom palace and yet the foundations revealed that something akin to a matchbox was going to be built. I couldn't see the architect tolling his eyes on the other end of the phone, but certainly felt foolish when he noted that foundations always look ridiculously small and that I shouldn't panic because that the builders were following the plan correctly.

Talking of plans, I was given a range of designs to choose from and after hours of deliberation picked the one that utilised the allocated space (98m2) most affectively. I became an expert overnight and knew that hallways wasted space. I also knew that big kitchens caused the cook to become tired and that there was no need for large bedrooms - after all, you only sleep in them.

The standard plan had a French door leading from the lounge out to the 10m2 patio. This obviously wasn't nearly grand enough and I promptly added another double door from the dining room. In other words there would be two French doors leading to the minute outside area.

The property was situated a fair distance from where I was living at the time and I usually only managed to get to see what work had been done over the weekends. It became apparent when the brickwork got to knee height that the builders had completely ignored my changes and had not inserted the requested French door. I was about to throw a frothy until I realised that no dining room furniture would have fitted into the allotted space had a doorway been built - I let it slide.

The fittings also proved to be a challenge. I had spent hours choosing carpets, bathroom fittings, kitchen cupboards and various wall and floor tiles and was initially ecstatic with my choices. The kitchen wasn't too bad, I'd ordered the latest and greatest of hob tops and my budget even stretched to putting in a double eye-level oven. Yep, my kitchen may have been the size of those commonly found in caravans, but it looked fantastic.

For some unknown reason I desperately wanted a cream carpet in the main bedroom. Unfortunately it only managed to remain stain free for approximately 25 minutes after moving in. Newly-built houses do not generally come with manicured lawns and I was surrounded by a sea of mud and building rubble for months. My Labrador puppy, who had no understanding of the importance of interior design, would march through the house leaving muddy paw prints in his wake every time I opened the door.

The navy blue tiles and bathroom suite in the en suite bathroom were also problematic - dark colours show up dirt and I would spend hours on my hands and knees cleaning the sunken bath and polishing each tile individually in order to get the room looking as it should.

I lived in the house for four years before deciding it was time to move into a larger property in a better suburb. I've owned a fair number of houses in my time, but nothing, absolutely nothing has ever come close to the feeling I had when I opened the door to my brand new home. That home was me, it reflected who I was and although it became clear at that point that I would never enjoy a career in interior design, I loved every square centimetre of it cream, mottled brown carpet and all.

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