Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Plans.

I have a confession to make.

I considered using a Ouija board to choose my house plans. Or closing my eyes and flopping open a book of plans and building the first house that I see. I even considered scrapping the project altogether and joining the ranks of apartment dwellers who live in landlorded comfort, not having the daunting proposition of choosing their structure's style and then knowing every cement block in its foundation and every roll of Tyvek home wrap hidden in its walls.

This house is the thing which I will place all of my other things within. I will raise my child here. I will shelter from storms and take charge of my guests' comfort within these walls. One day I may be wrinkly here. How do you choose what to build that could be adequate for all of that?

At first it was fun. I hated every one of the plans I looked at. I laughed when I saw the stucco and cow skull home which would have required me to serve fajitas for every meal on multi-colored Fiesta dishes. I put on my best Thurston Howell-meets-Snagglepuss accent to mock the double turreted, 3 story mansion mysteriously named "The Hinkleman Legacy". There were cabins with built-in gun racks over fireplaces which were ruled out because I don't own a Confederate flag or 7 shotguns and ultra modern geodesic domes I rejected because they look like miniatures of the Epcot center. The last thing I need is disappointed children walking into my giant golf ball expecting Mickey and finding me. Not to mention, I checked out some of these geodesic hippie homes and found that there are internet forums for Dome dwellers, rife with domicile puns and advice on furniture placement for people with no square walls. No thanks. My piano is unruly enough in a house with 90 degree angles.

Dad sent me to sit in the grass facing my house lot, admonishing me, "Envision!" "Daydream!" "Imagine!" (Side note: my father is not in the care of a mental health professional, nor did he consume hallucinatory chemicals in the '60's. Unless you count the stuff that made his labs smell like nail salons and rubber hose. You never know quite how pickled a chemist's brain might be.)

Armed with a sense of purpose and mom's impenetrable-by-light, make-a-coffin-nail-float coffee, I went to daydream.

Perhaps I have read/traveled/seen too much in my 31 years because when I daydream major things happen.

First, I sat cross-legged in the grass, eyes closed, chin raised expectantly and...saw the Ripley's Believe it or Not Upside-Down House complete with upside-down car on a driveway high up beside the bottom of the house, its gabled roof buried in the ground as though it had just dropped from space like a suburban landing module for a terribly clever alien species.

I sighed heavily and wondered if all those Ripley's books I had smuggled into school inside sleep-inducing textbooks were the victorious act of rebellion I had thought they were, or if I had, in fact, rotted my brain like Mrs. W. said I surely would.

I resumed the position to allow my imagination to create a house for me. And... I saw a restored Torwood Castle, which would be my home in Scotland if I were to win the lottery...twice. I could hear myself cursing the drafty rooms and stalking the hallways, a kilted and grumpy Lord of the Manor, wiry-haired wolfhounds at my heels, tapestries billowing in my wake.

Is allowing yourself to purposefully dream a recipe for heartache? Confusion? Frustration??

Reminding myself of the purpose of the homestead I rededicated myself to reality. Taking a deep breath and stifling the inner child that rears her spoiled pigtails far too often, I dug in to dream more realistically. A farmhouse. That's all I need.

Like a dream sequence in a war movie in which the hero longs for home and sees it so vividly in his mind that he's able to soldier on for one more, Oscar-worthy battle scene, the house from Field of Dreams came easily into my mind, complete with ball field, acres of corn and mitt toting ghosts. (I told you the inner child awakes at will!) Mentally erasing the ball field and players, I had something I could work with.

Running back inside to search for plans, I typed in "farmhouse" and "2 story" and, what should appear? A house named, I kid you not...The Field of Dreams. It was destiny, I tell you. God Himself had known the house for me and guided my Google search like King Arthur to the Stone of Excalibur.

My heart a-flutter, inner child skipping with heady giddiness within, I looked at the house details. 3500 square feet. 3500, a number which would require nearly 3 times the budget we must build this house with, a size of home in which I could raise my livestock INDOORS! Every home I have ever lived in COMBINED would be about 3500 square feet.

Crushed, disenchanted, feeling the beginnings of despair creeping onto me like the kudzu that crushes the life out of anything left sitting still too long in Alabama, I glanced to the bottom of the page. "Smaller Families May Also Consider: The Mountainview". At first thought, Mountainview sounds like somewhere you'd bury a good horse or rent a honeymoon cabin but I clicked on it anyway.

50% plain as brown paper, 50% adorable, my house looked out at me. It's what you might imagine if someone said the word "house" to you. (Unless you, too, have been to too many Ripley's Believe it or Not museums...or are an architect...or Hugh Laurie.)

It has everything I had written down as "No Compromise Requirements": front and back porches, a master bedroom big enough for my library (which is, incidentally, about the same size as our local library, God Bless Mississippi), a spot for a fireplace (which I will replace with a potbellied, wood-burning stove because they can heat a house unlike a fireplace, which The Professor often reminds me, create "negative heat".), and a bathroom big enough for the biggest bathtub I can find.

Looking at the plans, I could see The Kid happily reading some obscure work of dystopian fiction next to his dormer window which looks out on our slice of near-utopia, I could smell the bread I will bake in my country kitchen tucked away under the optional loft which will hold our desks and overflow library. I spotted a wall that could house my neglected, untuned, turn-of-the-last-century upright piano and even imagined my garden gnome, Sheldon, smiling out at me from among the fictional species of foliage drawn by some artist, cursing his job as a houseplan renderer and spicing things up with fanciful vegetation.

I had found our house. If I'm honest, it doesn't make my heart sing like castles and oddities that would put me in the Guinness Book for best roadside attractions. But it doesn't feel like a costume, either, like stucco homes and pseudo-mansions created to make the nouveau riche bourgeoisie feel like venerable states-people no matter where they build their brick and fountained monstrosity.

It makes me feel like a pioneer couple: half hard-working, forethinking husband building what his family needs to survive, half loving wife, feathering a nest to make the utilitarian shelter into a lovely home. I trust this house to serve its purpose, but I also think it will be a homey little addition tucked into the pines that cover our hill.

I may have to find some other way to get the attention of my beloved Ripley's but, believe it or not, I like my house plans. Just fine.


  1. Hi, are you going to post drawings showing the layout that you will build to?

  2. Sure. I can post basically what the layout will be, minus the loft we are adding over the kitchen and a few other minor changes.
    Stay tuned.

  3. There. See the bottom of the blog for renderings.