Heart & Soul

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 Randy Benson would have you believe that his successful scrapbooking software company and fine home are things any utahn could have. And to a certain extent he is right — that is any Utahn who has persistent, dogged determination for excellence and the work ethic of a souped-up peterbilt diesel engine.

By Jeanette W. Bennett

Randy Benson and his wife, Elaine, were driving through north Utah County looking for their dream lot when Elaine spotted a line of trees.

“Head toward those trees,” Elaine directed Randy. As they approached the green row that grew along a creek in Cedar Hills, they knew they’d found a place to call home.

The couple purchased two plots of 2/3 acres each nearly six years ago and continued their quest to build their dream home. Six months ago, they finally moved into their dream home in a gated subdivision near Deerfield Elementary.

But the path from their 2,200-square-foot home in Lindon to their new custom home valued at $1.3 million wasn’t quick and painless.

“We spent nine months going back and forth with an architect to get the home just the way we wanted,” Randy says.

To help his wife visualize their plans, Randy took sidewalk chalk to the parking lot at nearby Lone Peak High School and drew out the home to scale for Elaine.

“The police stopped and thought we were doing graffiti,” Randy says. “But we were just making sure we liked the space the way we had designed it.”

The long road to their home also involved selling one of the lots when they realized they couldn’t afford two lots and their ideal home. Fortunately, Elaine’s parents bought the lot from them and built a beautiful brick home for the grandkids to roam in and out of.

The Bensons didn’t hire a general contractor to bring their finalized house plans to life. Randy spent at least 10 hours on the job site every day doing much of the work himself and guiding the subcontractors along the way.

“We could not have afforded it if we hadn’t done it ourselves,” Elaine says.

The family completed the home for just over $600,000, and it now appraises for more than twice that amount.

Randy saved $15,000, for example, by gathering the stone for the exterior from empty lots in Orem and around Utah. The limestone for the fireplaces came from Gunnison.

“I ruined my back and my truck in the process,” he says. “But we got great rock for a great price.”

The full-time building process took 17 months. For some, this would be harmful to their marriage. For the Bensons, it was enjoyable and strengthening.

“Working toward a nice home has been a common thread in our marriage,” Elaine says. “We’ve talked about it and dreamed about it for years. For recreation, we used to drive around and look at land and analyze houses.”

The couple’s oldest daughter grew up going on the house hunt with her parents and developed a hankering for a “standout,” which is the name she gave to balconies. To fit her request, her bedroom sits on the front of the new home and has a “standout.”

The house has many custom touches. One of the daughter’s bedrooms has an 8-foot-by-8-foot loft area with 7-foot ceilings. Another daughter has a hidden storage area behind a bookcase in her closet to allow her to foster­­ her “packrat” tendencies.

The Bensons aren’t the only ones in their neighborhood who took building their home personally. The men in the neighborhood often headed for milkshake runs at 11 p.m. to chat about their homebuilding and give themselves a break from their manual labor.

“We had instant friendships with our neighbors,” Randy says. “We felt like we were home right from the start.”

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The Benson family patterned their home after this Hurd Window brochure. The couple put together a large binder of ideas from Parade of Homes magazines and other publications.

 

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The showpiece of the Cedar Hills home is this winding, floating staircase in the front entryway. Randy and Elaine Benson designed the metal and were hands-on with the artisans who put the wood and metal combination together.

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The Bensons enjoy entertaining outdoors with this covered patio that overlooks a creek. The patio includes a fireplace, sink, barbeque and Dutch-oven-style pit.

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Randy Benson cut and placed these tiles that surround the family drinking fountain.

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