house plans · New Home Construction Process

“A” is for Architect

A-R-C-H-I-T-E-C-T —- Architect.  Why I wasn’t ever entered into a spelling bee as a child, I’ll never know.  English, spelling, reading – anything to do with words – is all me, all day. But ask me about calculus (or anything beyond simple arithmetic), and I’m out. ✌🏼️

And don’t even get me started on word problems! Claire is to word problems as Thomas is to throw pillows (see Post 1). They are the bane of my ever-loving existence. I mean, who the hell decided it would be cool to take the beautiful English language, jumble it up into a confusing math problem, and say, “Here ya go. Figure this out”.  

Look, I don’t give a crap about how many apples Johnny had left after he climbed up and picked 20 off the tree, dropped four, then fell out of the tree breaking his leg and two fingers on his left hand. Good way to make an “English-minded” person want to jump out of the nearest window. Oh yay, here are some words to read in the middle of your math test. Just kidding . . . math trickery! 😡

Rant over. 

So the “I don’t know” factor (see Post 2) led us to hire an architect (probably a word problem-loving math-wiz). Or better yet, someone talented and patient enough to create the house plan of our dreams. 

Some friends of ours (hey, Dallas & Jeffery) recently built a house, and they helped give us an idea (read: rude awakening) of what to expect. They built a beautiful coastal home (on a limited budget) that looks out onto the MS Gulf. They also had someone draw their plans because they were in love with the facade of a home in Fairhope, AL and knew before they started they would need something custom. Brave (yet qualified) Jeffery, a (math-minded) mechanical engineer, decided to contract out the building of their home on his own. 

Jeffery’s other “claim to fame” is as a founder of The Junction at Mississippi State University — a project he took on while in engineering school there that transformed a crazy intersection with disorganized traffic flow into the tailgate motherland of Starkville, MS. As the current President of the MSU Alumni Association, he may be the biggest State fan on the face of the earth (aside from Stingray, of course).

Jeffery and Thomas have been friends since kindergarten and share the love of Mississippi State sports among other things.

When their beloved Bulldogs made it to the College World Series in 2013, they drove a total of 36 hours (yes, in a car) to and from Omaha, NE. That my friends is True Maroon

…somewhere in middle America (I cannot say “Omaha” without singing it/daydreaming of dreadlocks and microphones–thanks to Counting Crows. Click the photo for your listening/viewing pleasure…And no it’s not me singing, I wouldn’t do that to you.)

While they have much in common, there are also some big differences between these two lifelong friends. Jeffery is a decision-maker, and Thomas . . . not so much. Ole Tom even has trouble deciding between steak and chicken at a restaurant. Not only does he let the waiter decide for him, he usually proceeds to complain about said waiter’s decision once the food arrives. If the waiter doesn’t make the ordering decision, guess who gets that no-win gig?  This girl. 🙋🏻.  Same scenario plays out, except in this one I am to blame. Welcome to my life. 

Naturally you might think a mention-worthy commonality between Jeffro & Tom (pertaining to the construction of a home) would be engineering.  

Wrong. Another big difference. 

My sweet husband, while semi-math-minded (and way smarter than me), has an undergrad degree in kinesiology, a master’s degree in sports management, holds a teaching certification in P.E., a school administrator license, (attended damn near every university in the state of Mississippi in the process) and is currently employed at a local high school as a varsity football coach who spends his days disciplining alternative school students. 

Now you are probably wondering, “What about you, Claire? What do you bring to the table?” Well, I am a creative person by nature, but that’s about as far as my offerings go. I also have a talent for picking expensive items, which is not a good quality to bring to the budget-friendly home-building table, unfortunately. But my bargain-finding skills definitely helped. Where bargains weren’t found, creativity ensued.

While I have absolutely no problem selecting a menu item at a restaurant (I’m sure my yo-yo weight struggle will be a future topic of discussion), I’m not the decision-maker of the century where other things are concerned. 

My collegiate career is rather intriguing as well. While I am a State fan by marriage, I began my five-year (including a few summers) college career as a pre-pharmacy major (comical) at University of South Carolina (Go Gamecocks!). I transferred after my freshman year, still holding out hope to become a pharmacist, to Virginia Commonweath University (Go Rams!), where I switched majors (about 3 different times) every time Organic Chemistry rolled around. I now hold a bachelor’s degree in Marketing. Praise the Lord (and my mother for threatening to disown me if I didn’t finish school)! 

I also have 47 wasted biology/chemistry credit hours in pre-pharm studies (yes, that equates to 2.6 full course-load semesters of pretty difficult stuff) for which I have nothing to show.  I wish I could say I somehow use this knowledge in my daily life.  But, much like any undergrad degree coursework, there is sadly minimal utilization in the real world. Real life cannot be studied for, although sometimes I wish it could. 

After I finally graduated (no post-graduate degrees for this girl; school is not my thing), the job market was pretty awful. So I continued my role as a pharmacy technician at CVS, where I had diligently worked off and on since the age of 16 (hence the pipe dream of becoming a pharmacist). Luckily there are a bazillion CVS locations, because Lord knows I’ve lived in a lot of places. 

CVS dominates my resume until my short stint of miscellaneous PR work at the Ocean Springs Chamber of Commerce (hey, Cynthia) that totally tested my social anxiety issues. But I learned a lot there and became about 10% more friendly.  Then came the long-awaited day I was hired for a “big-girl job” in medical insurance — a job in which I talk to physicians and their staffs all day, 40+ hours a week, for going on eight years now. I am making Mom & Dad proud on the daily, and I now also get to hide behind a computer screen and share my fun (and not so fun) life stories with you once a week. What more could a (socially anxious) girl ask for?

Anyway, “sorry not sorry” for the slight detour down memory lane. Back to the home-building drama.

For whatever reason, indecision and inexperience aside, Thomas and I were feeling brave. Brave enough to take on the “contract it out yourself” challenge with minimal (ok, zero) experience on our own. In hindsight, I understand how crazy this was. 

We chose the same architect and general builder as well as several other craftsman/crews that came highly recommended by Dallas and Jeffery. This gave us a great start. We honestly couldn’t have done it without their help or the advice of so many friends and family members who are near and dear to us. We are lucky, (in the friends and family department, at least) and that is an understatement. Through the building process we have gained some new friends, too (most of whom will be later mentioned, not to worry). 

Enter Jim (creator of Dallas and Jefferey’s house plan), a local civil engineer who enjoys drawing house plans on the side for fun (and a little extra cash). Also an avid wearer of shorts and fishing shirts, I liked him the first day I met him. You could just tell this guy liked to have a good time and did not take life too seriously (a downfall of most math-wiz types, and I am not being stereotypical at all. Ha!).

So, we now had (a reasonably priced) someone to create our dream house plan. Piece of cake, huh?

Ummm, no. Not when you didn’t print out a single photo or plan of the 60+ concepts you were meshing. (Note: You MUST print out your ideas, on paper, to save the sanity of your potential architect.) Poor Jim. Poor, poor Jim. We walked into his office armed only with iPhones full of our unorganized dream photos. Champagne taste on a beer budget, of course. 

a screen-shot sample of my iPhone camera roll scrolled to January/February 2015 timeframe

I mean, you think I would have at least tried to organize my ideas on a Pinterest board. Heck, even the Houzz app offers a board option to save photos. But, doing that would make sense; something I don’t ever make much of. Instead, I just Google most everything and take screen-shots. The camera roll on my iPhone is the most random conglomeration of images you’ve ever seen (7,637 to be exact). 

The internet is a wonderful resource of screen-shot worthy home ideas . . . but you might want to consider the actual price of things you save to your camera roll (or pin, for you organized Pinterest-loving folks) before deeming it a “must have”. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it is highly likely that everything you love will be insanely expensive. So you either hit the little trash can button with a tear in your eye OR you keep it and search (for anything) on Craigslist or any other bargain outlet that lets you fulfill your dreams within your budget. I often say that Craigslist built my house, and later you will understand why. 

OK, back to Jim. Luckily, he is a super cool, laid back guy who’s coin response to any idea he likes is, “That’s killer.”

kill·er (kĭl′ər) adj.


Claire, you’re idea is killer. 

(For once) I’m not using an expletive on my own here, the online slang dictionary defined it that way: Bad.Ass.  And confirmed my idea was a good one, too! 😉 Lol.

Thank God and sweet baby Jesus for Jim. This guy is truly a saint (a killer saint at that) for dealing with us, and somehow we managed to get the majority of our conceptualized plan across to him during that first meeting. 

When all was said and done that day, he told us that while we had some killer ideas, including an original layout with spot-on space utilization, he was afraid there would be absolutely NO WAY to incorporate everything we wanted into a plan under 3,000 square feet. And this was even before we added the man cave, which was just plain out of the question at that point.

Slightly disappointed, we asked him to take a look at it all anyway and get back to us once he started the CAD drawing (I say this like I have a clue what I am talking about) to see where we stood square footage-wise. We could always scale-down from there . . . sigh.

Fast forward two weeks (to the day of Erin Edits‘ birth!🎉) and Thomas received the following email from Jim:

Date: March 2, 2015 at 10:11:38 PM CST 

Subject: Houseplans

These are pdfs of what I have done so far. I didn’t finish putting in the doors and windows, but I think there is enough for you to see where I am headed.

I was pleasantly surprised that the square footage was under 2,200 heated. Look it over and let me know what you think.

Remember that the colors and elevation isn’t what the finished product will look like, but it gives you a pretty good idea.


O.M.G. Pop the freakin’ champagne! Our shattered dreams were pieced back together by this genius man AND we were approximately 300 square feet less than what we were aiming for. YAHTZEE! 

So this was it. Punch the Staples coined “That Was Easy” button. 

Easy Button

Except not at all. 

This would be one of about 30 emails exchanged with Jim. I have included the first response for your review so you can appreciate Jim’s saint status. (NOTE: changes/ideas were not always numbered; we always included a bunch of random pictures/screenshots; and it is obviously Thomas coming up with all of these requests, not me.)😂

Sent: Tuesday, March 03, 2015 5:08 PM

Subject: Re: Houseplans

Hey Jim,  

We really like the layout of the whole house and think it looks good. We just have a few changes we would like to run by you and see if you could work it out. I’m really glad the square footage came out so low so at least we have a little to work with. I would like to stay around 2250. 

Here are the list of things. Just let me know what u think and if it is possible. I will include pictures also:

1.)Is it possible to move out the front a little bit to make the office a little bit bigger to accommodate a window seat like the picture I will attach? <image001.png>

2.) Could you rotate the island to face the great room instead of dining room? I’m not sure if you would have to move the dining room back or not but I just like looking into the great room if i am prepping things at the island. 

3.)Is there any way you could add a small walk in closet (maybe like 5×5)off the master bedroom maybe by the shower? I would use it for myself or for coats, hunting stuff, gun storage, etc…

4.)Could you move utility room and half bath all the way to right edge and make mud entry hall where 1/2 bath currently is? We would really like to enter from the back where the carport will go and have a small little area with lockers to put stuff in as we come in. I like the setup but we would just like a small little mud entry area. 

5.) Is there anyway we could do exposed beams in the vaulted great room or is that going to be really expensive. Claire likes this look. <image002.png>

6.) We would also like to do an oven wall in the kitchen somewhere if possible? 

7.) Also we would like to do a built in china cabinet on one of the walls in the dining room so one of the walls probably doesn’t need windows? 

8.) The entire house will also be on a brick chain wall right? I just noticed the only thing brick is the front porch? 

9.) Last question is what is right outside of the master shower between it and the toilet room? Just curious. 

Hope this isnt too much! Just let me know what you think. We are very pleased so far and really appreciate it. 

Thanks and talk to you soon. 


(Another) NOTE: Request 3.) is now my shoe closet. Poor Thomas.

So 29 emails, 300 changes, 450 new ideas, and two more in-person appointments later (one of which involved a field trip to see Jim’s killer man cave and his drool-worthy covered back porch at his home), we had a plan . . . 2,473 heated and cooled square feet of pure beauty. 

Hold up, where did that additional square footage come from?  Funny you ask.

Well, turns out Jim was concerned that there was too much “house” on the right side as opposed to the left, making it seem unbalanced. So of course, we NEEDED the man cave we were initially sacrificing, and I NEEDED a walk through jack-and-jill bath on that side. So we were super excited to be able to incorporate these “extras” while remaining within reasonable square footage. I mean you “gotta do what you gotta do” to balance out a house, right? 

All in all (while a few changes were made during the building process – our builder was also a saint), we finally had the perfect plan — a foundation of brick and mortar (and hardie plank) to start the next chapter of our lives: 

Chapter Forever. 

In the words of Ricky Bobby, “If you ain’t first, you’re last”. Subscribe Now to receive email notifications as soon new posts are up. First to know status is key here, guys. And maybe (just maybe) I will send a little extra readworthy fun to my subscribers. C’mon…you know you wanna. 

K, that’s all. 💜


4 thoughts on ““A” is for Architect

  1. I know you and another Carolina girl that just loved pj’s and math class at 8AM First semester at Carolina. Love your blog. It makes me laugh because I can see you and your ideas

    Liked by 1 person

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