We're Building a House! - Jenna Kutcher

Whew, it feels so good to let you in on this little secret and share more about it! Nearly four years ago we put in an offer on our current home (time flies), and it was our landing pad for making the move to Minnesota. I will never forget the day I found the listing on Zillow and sent it to my entire family saying, “Maybe this could be the next Kutcher craftsman!” to which I got tons of responses immediately and a video of my grandpa chanting, “Move home, move home, move home!” We did video walk-throughs of the home, toured the house before Christmas, and put in an offer before the new year. It was the home that got us excited about moving to the northland!

The day after we moved in, boxes surrounding us, I took a pregnancy test that told us Coco was on the way. There’s a piece of me that still believes God knew I needed to be close to family as I started my own, and so this home has held so many precious memories for us over the last four years!

While we absolutely love our neighbors (hi, friends, we love you!) and enjoy the development we’re in, we started to recognize this desire for more privacy, space to roam, and woods to explore. After spending the majority of 2020 up north where we have 20 acres of land on the lake and endless ways to be outside, coming back to suburbia gave us a different feeling, and we started to hunt for land for sale that we could build on in the future.

We bought land to build a future home:

As we started browsing the area and Zillow for land, we realized there weren’t a ton of options. We found a great realtor and walked two different parcels of land with him a few different times, and finally settled on an 11-acre chunk that’s only a few miles from our current home. We ended up combining a bunch of smaller parcels to find what we were looking for.

We are still in the city limits, close to all of the things we are used to, but we’ll have the privacy and space we’re craving! The land has the most fun terrain from groves of pine trees to little streams to a massive maple tree to giant rocks perfect for climbing.

It’s honestly such a beautiful piece of property and once I stood on it, I could 100% envision our home there and the memories we could make tucked away in the woods. I can’t wait for my kids to grow up being able to play outside like I did without worry!

Plus, our dogs love the freedom of not having to be on leashes, and it’s safe to say we all are more relaxed with extra space. We hit the land jackpot, put in an offer, and over the last year we’ve gone out to the land to just walk through it, explore, and dream about what we’ll do with it. Fun fact: there are a handful of photos in my IG feed that have been shot on our land over the last year, you just didn’t know it!

The house-building planning process:

We weren’t entirely sure when we wanted to build when we bought it. Once we had the land, we kind of relaxed our planning process, and we were content with the idea of waiting a bit before moving full steam ahead. We love our current home and neighborhood, so there wasn’t a mega-rush for us.

As we started to dream about what we wanted to build, how we wanted to use the land, and what it would look like, we definitely got excited. I started Pinterest boards and saving posts on Instagram for inspiration of what we were hoping to build.

Since we love our current home, we used the blueprints and plans of it to help guide the process for our next one. I made a document about things I would change or reconfigure (we don’t have a separate office space in this home which means I’m currently writing this blog post from my bed), and I started to look into options for designers, architects, and local builders.

One of the perks of going through this process is that my brother and his wife are building right now, so I’ve got a front-row seat to their process and how it’s unfolding, and it’s been super helpful to run questions by them and to kind of see how the timelines work in northern Minnesota! One of my friends from my high school days went on to be a super talented architect, and she actually grew up just a mile from the land we’re building on. I reached out to her to hear more about her business, Alma Homes, and within a few days, we had sent in our deposit and signed the contract.

One of my greatest fears in building was having it take over our lives or making a million decisions and regretting them, and so when I found Kirsten’s business, I had this gut feeling that it was the perfect fit for us. They walk through the entire process with you from choosing where your home should sit on the lot down to the last piece of sod!

It’s essentially an all-inclusive route for building and frankly something I am so thankful for! From design to contracting to selecting the right finishes, they walk you through it all, and it’s been such a blessing. So far, it’s been super stress-free and our decisions have come easily, thanks to their guidance. Hands down, this experience has been painless so far, and I attribute that to working with the best team!

Our new house plans:

It’s been so fun to dream about what we want, what we’d change about our house, and how we want to utilize the land! One of the things I am most excited for is that we’re building a separate (but attached) building next to our garage that will be my office on the top floor and a home gym on the bottom.

Working from home is such a blessing, but it also brings about unique challenges, especially when you record a podcast or host live webinars! I’ve spent a ton of time recording in my closet, and I’m so ready to have space that’s on our land but not one door away from the laughter of my kiddos! It’ll be connected through our garage and have a separate exterior door to enter if we have any work meetings or things happening! I love the proximity but I also crave the separation!

Beyond the office/gym addition, a lot of our new house will mimic our current home in terms of bedrooms and bathrooms! We’re moving the laundry room upstairs which will add ease to that process, and we’re adding a little more separation between the dining, living, and kitchen! We love open concept, but we also love having slightly more defined spaces. The biggest difference will be that we’re doing a walkout (we’re currently on a slab), and so we’ll have a bonus room/playroom downstairs, which I am so pumped about for the kids! It’ll kind of be a flex space down there and a hang-out zone, and this plan actually worked perfectly with the grade of the land!

When we’re building:

We’ve been taking our time a bit (sitting on the land for a year before starting the planning process, giving ourselves a year to plan), and now we’re getting set to start the building process this spring once the snow thaws and the road restrictions lift! We got our driveway in place which was so exciting and got us even more stoked to live in the woods, and so that part of the process sets us up well for the next steps. We’re hoping to be in the home before the holidays but are remaining flexible with the process. It’ll be so fun to check in on how things are unfolding and get to watch our vision come to life! It honestly feels surreal!

We are also undecided on when we will list our current home, but we will be putting it on the market! The market in our development has been insane this last year, and there’s been a ton of homes that have sold super fast. We adore our development and our neighbors (going to miss them so much!), and so we’re excited for whoever ends up here!

Our hopes in the timing of selling is that we can avoid being in transition between the building phase and the moving in phase so that it’s easier on the kiddos and less chaotic. We also hope to sell our current home furnished, but that’s another story for another time! If you know of anyone looking to move to the Duluth area that might be interested in moving next fall, let me know! 😉 We plan to share bits and pieces of the process throughout the planning, building, furnishing, and moving phases, so I hope you’re along for the ride for our next adventure!


Dream along with us!

Tell me in a comment one thing you would make different about your current space!

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  1. I am in an apartment space here in Toronto. While I am learning to love the timing of my life and what this place has brought me, I am finding myself itching to find a place in a more centralized area and that is a little bit more cozy. I love my student apartment but I am ready to create something a little more mature and fun!

  2. Karen Brown says:

    At least one stepless entry, curbless showers and line up cupboards between the 1st and 2nd floors in case you ever need an elevator/lift. Electrical outlets 6” higher than normal and light switches 6” lower than normal. Accessibility is key for a house that you want to be in a long time or to prepare for unexpected events.

  3. Barbara says:

    Oh my goodness! Us – we would like to buy your house!!!! My husband was born and raised in northern Minnesota; I am from Germany, My husband and I met 2010 when I did a study abroad at Concordia College in Moorhead. My husband did half of his med school in Duluth (we then got married 2016 at Glensheen <3) and then the second half in the cities. We currently live with our puppy and two-year-old daughter in Michigan and will be moving back to MN – DULUTH – in the late spring/early summer of 2023. We would LOVE to be considered to buy your beautiful house.

  4. Barbara Gruhl says:

    Oh, and we would absolutely LOVE to buy a furnished home!

  5. Lauren says:

    I’m SO excited for you Jenna, but mostly just got goosebumps every time you said, “I’m just excited for a space for the kids!!!” (Plural!!!) I know you remember when that was just a dream and I know how much you love your girls — but just wanted to re-let you know how excited I am too! Xoxo!

  6. Annette says:

    This is awesome! We live between three homes and after returning to our primary home, which I love, I realized I needed views. (both our mountain and ocean home both have incredible views). We looked and looked and finally bought two lots that back up to a mountain in the Phoenix area. We will have a panoramic view of mountains from every room and city views from the front of the home! We are designing it now. I am trying not to get overwhelmed as this is the biggest project we have ever done and it is out of my comfort zone. My office suite will be separated by an open space outdoor living area and am so excited! Thanks for sharing your insight, it was helpful to know someone else is also building their dream!

  7. Breanne says:

    Absolutely love everything about this. We built 9 years ago and have learned so much by living in the space with children. Like you love the open concept BUT need some more defined spaces. Also, after the last two years having the kids in virtual school home designs need adjusted to accommodate working from home AND having kids home too. Good luck with the process.

  8. Jane says:

    This is like my dream acreage! I would love to be more private as well. My husband and I and our 11 month old daughter live about 30 minutes south of Duluth, and although we have 5 acres, we still aren’t as private as I would like to be. Also, not having a split level home would be nice. We have square footage, but it’s all broken up which makes every space feel small. I am so excited to follow along on your home building journey! 🙂

  9. Stephanie says:

    I would put as much thought and effort into the back door entry/mudroom as I did with the kitchen area. Take a lot of time and “walk through” how you live before you start to build. Even think about how you live on Saturdays versus Thursdays. Sounds weird, but my entire back entry would change based on how we do things differently on these two days of the week.

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