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A journey to four walls of your own

A family of four, plus dog, takes on the adventure of building their own dream home. Thanks to professional support, though, the adventurous part of the undertaking was kept in bounds. A portrait of the Märki family from Bellikon in Aargau and their journey to their own four walls.

May we present the Märki family: Manuela, 39, André, 43, Sven, 8, and Lara, 6, and their cocker spaniel Hasco. The Märkis have owned their own property since 2003. Back then, they bought an apartment with a terrace in Bellikon in the canton of Aargau. When they did their family planning and decided that, at some point, they'd like to have to two children, it was clear that, one day, the apartment would be too small. "So we started looking round for alternatives," recalls André Märki. Although the family was open for change, one thing was set in stone: living in Bellikon, where they all felt very much at home. So the parents surfed the net to find something new, although the choice was limited due to the restriction on locality. Until finally a plot of land came on the market and the Märkis responded. "The land was being sold by an agent who worked with Swisshaus," recounts André Märki. Which is why the house was then built by the company that specialises in individual single-family houses. So it was more coincidence that brought the Märkis and Swisshaus together: "We would have been happy to take something already there or go directly to an architect."

Decisions on a single day

The decision was made easier by the fact that, among the Swisshaus house ideas, the Cadra appealed to the Märki family, matched their budget and was also feasible on the available plot. Then things started moving really quickly. The Märkis spent a day talking with the architect in the Swisshaus branch in Lenzburg. "On that one day, we planned the whole house and made lots of decisions about room layout, footprint, garage, exterior paint colour and the like," explains father Märki. And the overall budget was already set as well. "Details" came later, like choosing the bathroom suites, kitchen and flooring.

Exterior paint colour changed again

It hardly needs saying that future home-owners cannot simply kick back after planning and designing. Interested to follow the progress of his own project, the father made a point of visiting the building site on occasion to check all was well. In this regard, the Märki family knew the work was in good hands, as André comments. "We struck gold with our site manager from Swisshaus. He had been a freelance architect, was already a bit older and had loads of experience." Only one negative experience during the construction phase sticks in the mind, although everything worked out fine in the end. The house was inadvertently painted in the colour chosen at the start without a sample being made up for approval first, as had been agreed. In real life, the Märkis did not like the colour selected in the slightest. Because communication had been less than ideal in this instance, Swisshaus repainted the outside wall as a goodwill gesture. So what tip would André and Manuela Märki give to other families who are thinking about building? They are very quick to reply: "Don't build until you've got the budget to do what you want." Because it is much more expensive to have changes made after construction has finished. "Of course we had the advantage that we were building for the second time," states André Märki. So they already knew what to watch out for. "But you really have to put plenty of thought into what you really want from a house." A general contractor, like Swisshaus in this example, can provide invaluable assistance while planning. But formulating personal wants and making decisions is something no one will take away from the future home owner.

"We struck gold with our site manager from Swisshaus. He had been a freelance architect and had loads of experience."

André Märki

Text: Stefan Millius