CALIFORNIA. Mo. - Watching the fireworks from Proctor Park this past Independence Day, Don and Brenda Cram sat contentedly in front of their "shouse."
It was their move-in day, though their former house was only around the corner from their new construction in the 1200 block of Birdsong Street.
For Brenda, the home is a dream come true.
For neighbors, it has been a curiousity.
The home isn't exactly a "shouse," a shop and house combined in one.
But with its tin siding and roof, it doesn't look like any other house in town.
Brenda said she didn't want her self-designed home to look like a shed, so they used two-toned siding, staggered the front walls and included a porch.
Many people have asked about their house. And the Crams are not opposed to bragging on their home designed to see them through their retirement years.
While the exterior is low-maintenance, the inside has several energy-efficient features. Combined, the Crams are hoping these initially more expensive construction choices will save them money over the long haul.
For added insulation, the exterior walls were built with 2-by-6-inch studs, rather than the traditional 2-by-4 inches.
Just through the summer months, they have noticed a reduced energy bill.
What they're anxious to experience is the radiant heat, where high-temperature water is cycled through pipes inside the concrete floor, which heats up the flooring and subsequently the home.
Even though outside temperatures this fall have dropped to freezing, they have not yet needed artificial heating.
The utilities are housed in the over-sized, single garage, which means easy access for future maintenance.
The Crams were able to fulfill this ambition because of a combination of lowered home interest rates and the willingness of the property owner to sell the double lot. Cram had maintained the property for about 20 years and kept calves in the next-door fenced lot.
The first step was clearing the large, mature trees. And the second was to build Don's shop.
After touring several "shouse" style homes in the area, they began construction in January.
"Talking with other owners, we picked up some fun ideas," Brenda said.
Brenda worked out several ideas on graph paper. When they were close to what they wanted, they enlisted the help of a friend with a two-dimensional graphics design program. The technology allowed them to see what each room and detail would look like.
"I always had a vision of what I wanted in a house," Brenda said.
But the priority in the floor plan was handicapped-accessibility - no steps, no hallways, walk-in showers, doorways that are 3 feet wide, laundry on the main floor, pull-out drawers in all kitchen cabinets and an open living area.
"This is our old folks home," she joked.
Not long ago, a family member had a medical emergency requiring EMT response. Because his home had narrow hallways, the technicians couldn't get the gurney to him so he had to be carried to the gurney.
"We can get along good today but we don't know about tomorrow," Don said.