When Troy and Jennifer Gay decided to build their home, they knew they wanted to do most of the work themselves.
“We did everything out here,” Jennifer said.
The couple's home sits on a hill along County Road 5 overlooking the Elkhorn River Valley north of Arlington.
But the Gays home isn't the traditional wood-frame house. It's made of concrete.
Building their dream home
When the Gays purchased their acreage, there was nothing but trees on the property.
“We had to bring in dirt to build the house up because all it was was just a hill with cedar trees on it,” Jennifer said. “We had to clear it.”
The 11 acres narrows to a point at the Elkhorn River. The property also includes a road to access the river.
To design their home, the Gays worked with Jennifer's uncle, who is an architect, and his son, who was studying architecture in college at the time.
“It really has been a family-and-friends project because we couldn't have gotten it done without them,” Jennifer said.
The Gays decided on concrete after talking to neighbors, who described the wind as “horrific.”
“We knew that being at the top of hill, we wanted to make sure we didn't want to feel the wind,” Jennifer said.
They started building in 2009, but the weather didn't exactly cooperate.
“That was that June that it rained every single day and the Elkhorn River flooded,” Jennifer said.
The project took a while — 22 1/2 months. The Gays lived with Troy's mom and worked on the house in their spare time.
“We worked on it after work,” Jennifer said. “He would come home from work at six and we would meet out here.”
They'd work on weekends, too, often staying in a motorhome on the property.
The house was built using foam forms. Two inches of foam was installed on either side and the concrete was poured inside. They poured concrete four times to complete the house.
The Gays did almost all of the work themselves with the exception of the drywall, trusses, the steel roof, plumbing and electrical.
A unique design style
In addition to the concrete, Troy and Jennifer decorated their house with their own unique style.
“I'm an HGTV junkie,” said Jennifer, who is also an art teacher.
Some of Jennifer's artwork can be found around the house.
“The whole (house) was kind of an art project,” she said.
Jennifer likes to get a reaction to those who visit her house.
“'Oh, I never would have thought of that.' That's what I like to hear when people come over,” she said.
The family's home also carries a unique theme — rectangles, squares and circles.
“You will always see those three shapes no matter where you are in house,” Jennifer said.
Those elements are evident in the kitchen.
Three light fixtures hang above the island. Each light made with recycled glass and metal in circle shapes around the bulb.
Tile hung on the wall behind the hood vent above the stovetop is vertical rather than horizontal to form rectangles.
Three square windows built in a row provide a view overlooking the Elkhorn River.
But the better view is in the living room, which features a wall of windows.
The living room floor is wood, but not hardwood. It's plywood, sanded, stained and laid in a brick pattern.
A deck runs along the entire back of the house.
Support beams on the outside of the house are covered with a corrugated culvert and the wall underneath the deck is covered with corrugated tin, which has rusted. But that was the look Jennifer wanted.
The concrete home also one other unique feature.
“The fun thing about the house if someday I decide I don't like the floor plan, everything is supported by trusses,” Jennifer said. “I can rip out all the walls and start over and not have to worry because we have absolutely no support beams on the main floor at all.”
Still a work in progress
The Gays, along with their son, Remington, moved into their home in 2011.
But they aren't finished with the house.
Jennifer wants to try another project she saw on TV on the basement floors.
She'll use brown craft paper, crinkled and glued down to the floor. She'll stain it and then add a layer of polyurethane.
“I was going to stain the floor, but now everybody's doing that,” she said.
She hopes to hang burlap from the ceiling, which already has corrugated tin hung on some portions of it.
They also plan to add a fourth bedroom for when Troy's mom moves in with them.
Outside, they plan to terrace the hill — hopefully this summer — and lay sod in the yard. They've tried to grow grass, but there's too much clay in the ground.
They'll also add an area for a fire pit.
On the front exterior, Jennifer hopes to add a faux brick around and above the entry way to the home.
“I had a vision and then it's trying to make that vision happen,” she said.