Small Fry | Home Build Update

wallsburg, ho!

I know I teased our first home build vlog, but with Bijou last week and transitioning Small Fry everything has gotten a little out of whack the last month! I promised you’d get Russ on screen and I swear it’s still coming, I just need like 3 days on a desert island. So while we all wait for me to get my act together, I CAN give you the basics of our plans! And also answer some of the FAQs we get. I have shared updates on my personal Instagram because it didn’t feel right to do so in a partnership here on Small Fry. But, things change right? And so I am exploring what it means for me and this space. I hope it will be fun for you all to join in on the journey and although I haven’t decided how MUCH of me Small Fry really needs or maybe most importantly, you readers want, I am happy to share whatever you guys are interested in! So for those of you who are interested, let’s get into it! (Post edit: It turned out super long so catch the rest after the jump!)


We have a lot in a small farming town in between Provo and Midway right off of Deer Creek Reservoir. Wallsburg, for those of you who know it!

It took a LONG time to find the right land, in the right place, a lot of plans fell through over the years (we put offers on 8 different lots) and then one day all the sudden things started falling into place. Years ago, we looked in Minnesota where Russ is from, then in the last few years we looked into Salem, Woodland Hills, American Fork right by the top of Utah Lake, and a few different sized lots in Wallsburg. When it’s time it’s time, and when it’s right it’s right. You truly can’t force things like this, or at least we couldn’t.

We are on 1.3 acres and are just getting ready to pour the foundation. (It has already been excavated, leach fields and septic have been dug, footings and forms for concrete have been set!) My husband Russ has been a contractor for 10 years now and he knew he would be the one to build our house. And so far it has been all him with the help of a couple hired teenagers and buddies here and there. We are subcontracting out the framing on the main level and also the HVAC, but otherwise, it’s ALL Russ Frame. I am so freaking proud of him I could burst. He says he’ll be done by Christmas, but as confident as I am in him, I am just not going to subscribe to that timeline, ha! If we get in late-Spring, early-Summer I will be super happy!


This town is very secluded, most people farm or have second homes there. It’s one of the last places you can get a good sized lot affordably. So why us? We just wanted space. Space to let our boys roam, to teach them self-suffiiciency and hard work to have freedom and privacy from the suburb or city way of life. I know that this is not for everyone, and I am in no way saying it’s best or better than alternatives. It’s just what we feel is right for us!

We were so happy in our cul-de-sac surrounded by little friends that would play from 9-9 everyday. Families who would no doubt roll their eyes every time Russ started playing the drums or I started hollering at the boys. 😉 We have loved our time renting in a townhouse complex right off our noisy city center and walking to the library, the park, or to grab a treat. This time sharing walls and neighbors, for sure still eye-rolling. Happiness truly is a choice and I know we could find a degree of it anywhere. Isn’t it wild that we could lead so many different lives and thrive? I guess this one just calls to us more than others!


In our heart of hearts this life will be so right for us we won’t go anywhere until we’re buried in the backyard. But, who knows? Either way, we are trying to think long-term and factor in the many different stages we have ahead of us. For the immediate future, we have plans to have a large garden, greenhouse, orchard, and a few animals like chickens, goats and maybe more as time goes on. Russ wants to have a second structure for his different tools and and essentially a studio to make whatever his heart desires.

The boys’ imaginations have gone wild and every day they are pitching new plans they want to create. I envision dirt hills for their bikes, a treehouse and trampoline, a long driveway with whatever net or device they need for whatever sport they are into. I have my own plans and you’ll see them come to fruition soon, too! One of the FAQs I get is from when I shared a peek at the shipping container we had delivered to the property. Russ is way into Tiny Homes and we thought it would be cool to do a guest house Casita with the container!

We aren’t rich by any means, we just work hard and have saved up like mad to be able to get the house built so whatever plans we have will be over time and as we can afford it!


Yes! I sent sketches on graph paper to our architect Spencer Swalberg of MegaRad and the layout of the house is almost exactly what I had drawn, which is so cool! When I close my eyes I can almost feel myself walking through the halls, using the cupboards and what is behind them. The house is SO real to me and to have Spencer be able to see that vision and create house plans out of it was really, really great. Russ and I have very similar design aesthetics which makes it super fun. I have had my fair share of flip-outs, usually directed at his taking on building the house and panicking it’s going to crumble or something. Anxiety is so fun! Spencer and his unique point of view as an architect was a huge asset. He created our rooflines for us, since geometry is death. And would always remind me where our views were and how to take best advantage of the property.Small Fry | Home Build Update After Spencer finished we had the plans engineered by our friend Brett Brady. Another huge asset as he could tell us what was doable, affordable, insane, unrealistic, and we all need a little of that, too. My dreams of a suspended stair case in a cement wall had to be put to rest, but otherwise so far we have been able to make most things happen! 6a780a716967d5e984438f47e83fde86--stair-design-staircase-design


I wish I knew, maybe one of you interior buffs can help me. Basically since the beginning of time my decisions come from that feeling when something calls to your (heart? soul?) and it says yep that’s for me! All gut and intuition around here! I would say that the home is largely modern with Midcentury exterior lines and Scandinavian interior elements. It’s minimal in the sense that everything will be built-in, has a place, and very little will be out on its own or freestanding. But, maybe I am wrong? I haven’t seen anything like it, and so it’s hard to know what to call it. It’s a mixture of lots of things and I just hope it doesn’t turn out butt-ugly. Ha!  Small Fry | Home Build Part One

Small Fry | Home Build Part One

Small Fry | Home Build Part One


All great questions. And questions I am fielding inward all the time!

SCHOOLS: Currently we are zoned for a really great set of schools that I would be thrilled to send my kids to. We learned a nearby city is building a brand new Elementary school that Wallsburg kids will get bussed too, so that’s another great option! There is also a 10 year old charter school a town over that could be amazing as well. We can always drive them back into Provo for schooling, too! I am probably going to have them bussed or carpooled to the school they’re zoned for!

FRIENDS: The lot we came closest to buying was 5 acres surrounded by nothing and it would’ve been the most breathtaking living I can imagine. All we had to do was sell our home and then put an offer on it and the DAY BEFORE WE CLOSED someone paid cash for the lot. I was crushed!! So unlikely, as it had been sitting for 1.5 years without an offer. But with a little faith and open-mindedness something perfect came long, and the reasons why unrolled over time. The lot we purchased is actually in a cul-de-sac so we will have neighbors. Our backyard neighbor (they’re all acre lots or more so neighbor is used loosely) has 7 kids and two of them are my boys age and a few older ones are prime babysitting material. I breathed a sigh of relief at this news, allowing myself to remember of course it is ideal, even more ideal than a stunning 5 acre lot with no one in sight.

My boys have the best friends and cousins that they live and breathe for in Pleasant Grove and that will break my heart and theirs to not be close to them. Truly. There is no getting around that loss. I just hope and pray that they like sleepovers in a shipping container. 😉 But when I get dramatic about it, I try and remember that it’s only 20 minutes to Provo. Which is the same distance to Provo where we live currently. We can do this. And we can invest the time in the people we love and we know they will do the same for us!

Russ and I both grew up with very few boundaries afforded to us. We crave them as adults and being able to have such easy boundaries and privacy sounds amazing to us. I know we might lose some relationships naturally over time but I also know that that’s okay. We are open to the new ones our new life will bring and we will always make the time for those we love.

GAS, TARGET, RESTAURANTS: All 5-20 minutes away. It’s gonna be great, it’s gonna be fine! The trickiest of these things is that from Provo Canyon to Wallsburg there are no gas stations, and there are no restrooms. So gas up, pee before you leave. I learned that the hard way when I was pregnant with Raleigh. Side of the road works, too! Here’s another element to this move that appeals to me: I want to be the kind of mom who makes dinner at home. Who gets produce from the yard, who has a pantry like Ree Drummond. There is NOTHING wrong with the conveniences of modern living, heaven knows I tap those daily. Hourly even. But I have come to rely on them too heavily and it’s not what I envision for myself. I want to be a different kind of mom and I want my kids to have this life, too! I know it won’t be easy and I might even be resentful at times. But, I am committed to trying!

OKAY this post is officially the longest. I think I got all my FAQs taken care of but this concludes our Inaugural Wallsburg Update! Now that I have the option to film, I am excited to get some decent footage as we go a long so I promise it won’t always be this crappy iPhone business. Thank you to all of you who have shared in our excitement with us, it has made it that much more exciting and real. All our love!!

15 thoughts on “wallsburg, ho!”

  1. You are basically living my dream life! I heard about Wallsburg awhile back and thought that would be the perfect spot to live! Can’t wait to see everything unfold

  2. Love this post!!! Emily, your designs are beautiful and functional. I’m so amazed by your vision and determination to create the life you want to live vs. let life happen to you. Brava!

  3. Emily, I love this post and your gravitation towards a simpler life. It’s something I’ve been wanting, as well. Beautiful designs!
    While I’m at it, let me say that you’ve been on it with your fashion posts! I really like your style lately.

    1. Thank you so much Kendra!! I’ll keep up the fashion posts if you guys like it so love hearing that its fun for some!

  4. I am so excited that you are sharing this with our readers. I’m alway interested in reading about people’s dreams coming to reality. Also if it makes y’all feel better I’m 2 1/2 hours away from a target and I cry about it all the time

  5. I can’t wait to hear what you think of Wallsburg! We live in draper but would love to move to the heber/midway area or Ogden canyon. I’m loving following along on your journey so I can know what to do when we’re ready to do the same!

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