I have planned. I have imagined. I have dreamed of what my new house will look like. I see the paper plans and I know where the walls will go. I have tile samples and paint swatches and pictures of my faucets. I can imagine all the details, but it’s all rather like a dream – everything floats freely, void of those pesky constraints of reality. Whenever I imagine my kitchen and I suddenly realize I have not imagined where the coffee pot will go, the scenery stretches like a vision from Harry Potter’s world and suddenly makes room for whatever I forgot to imagine. Real walls don’t do that, I know. My mind is just a playground.

When our builder first drew our house (actually the second drawing) he used the basis of a home he had already built in order to accommodate everything I said I wanted in the house. The layout was already done, and then he tweaked rooms and elongated walls to make me happy. Since then, he has been saying, “I have to take you to see [Joe’s*] house! It’s so similar to yours!” (*Names have been changed to protect the unknowing.)

Two weeks ago, we finally went to see Joe’s house. We turned into the subdivision, wound down some back streets and parked. Wow. The house really looked nice. And vaguely familiar. As we headed up the front steps, our builder pointed out Joe’s four steps as compared to my three steps (or two, if I desire to save a little cash). We walked inside and he pointed out the small differences between our kitchen and Joe’s. We stood on the back patio, the “loggia” as our house plans refer to it. (That’s what happens when an Italian builds a house for another Italian: you learn all kinds of new words!) Dominick, our builder, would say, “This is what yours will look like, except yours does this…” and he would brilliantly explain the difference so that my head started to nod as I caught my own “aha” moment.

We walked into the master bath where I decided I really liked the fixtures above the mirrors, and I took pictures with my phone to make sure that I get the same look, ‘cause I’m not too sure that what I picked is as pretty. Dom recalls what we already picked and what we were looking at in this home to be exactly the same. Joe and the Mrs. have some good taste, at any rate.

As we toured the house, I would comment on things that I liked that I could have never imagined on my own. Like the pattern markings in the concrete porch that made it look like two-foot diagonal tiles. And the lovely woodwork that framed the bathroom mirrors and fixtures with its inward facing shelves. To each of my comments, Dominick would say, “You like that? We can do that in yours,” followed by a story of how the idea or process came to be. Or, in some cases, why a certain idea didn’t work. Dominick’s stories can involve humor or life lessons, but usually have a healthy dose of both.

We walked upstairs to see what our bonus room will look like. Sweet. And then I wanted to see the hallway leading to the garage. There was the “locker” in all its dark-wood glory. Just like what we are putting in our back hallway, a place for the kids to store their backpacks and lunchboxes and probably more than a few odd shoes. This was the by-product of my once grandly-envisioned mud room, scaled down to a more affordable and less wasteful use of space. And it was, in a word, perfect.

That’s when I turned back into the kitchen, stood with my back to what will be my fridge, and gazed at what would be my living room. I could see here our builder’s lines of symmetry that he had shown me on my own plans. Tall ceilings and perfectly placed doorways. Golden walls. I love the color Joe’s wife chose for the walls. Hey, Dominick, can you get me the name of this paint???

“Absolutely,” he beamed. “I’ll get you the whole darn list!”