house plans from a middle school mind

Marian Parsonsa slice of life, All Things Home47 Comments

For the eighth grade yearbook, we were asked what we wanted to be when we grew up.  Listed under my picture of me wearing teased bangs and a white turtleneck peeking out of a red cable knit sweater, it read “Actress or an Architect”.  You know, two things that are pretty compatible.  I’ve always laughed at the ridiculous pairing of those answers, but I recently realized that being a home decor blogger is sort of somewhere in between.  I just didn’t know this profession would exist at that time!  As someone who was perpetually in plays, the reason why I answered Actress was obvious.  The reason I listed Architect as a desired profession was because of something I did in private.  I used to draw elaborate house plans while sprawled out on the floor of my bedroom listening to music.

It was the more mature way of playing with a dollhouse, which was my favorite toy as a child.  It wasn’t my favorite because I liked to play with dolls, but because I loved to rearrange the furniture and even create extensions to the house with lebkuchen tins.

I had beautiful German dollhouse furniture to play with and it’s interesting to see how that furniture informed my decorating tastes in my adult life.

vintage german bavarian dollhouse furniture | miss mustard seed

You can see more of my dollhouse furniture pieces in THIS POST.

vintage german bavarian dollhouse furniture | miss mustard seed

I was “too old” and grown-up for my dollhouse, so I started playing with furniture on paper.  I even made cutouts of furniture so that I could move them around in each room. and I studied real floorplans and design concepts, so I could draw doors, windows, stairs, and furniture pieces correctly.

When I was cleaning out the basement storage room last week, I happened upon my portfolio of floor plans!

house plans from a middle school mind | miss mustard seed

Most of the homes I designed were enormous and paid no attention to building code, weight-bearing walls, or even how practical the home would be to heat, cool, and clean.  It was all about creating something fit for my imagination.  My house plans had ballrooms, Florida rooms, verandas, multiple staircases, recording studios, media rooms, smoking rooms, libraries, and lots of plants filling empty corners, represented by a little scribble contained in a circle.

I taped multiple pages together to be able to show the full spread of each floor, including the grounds and pool.

house plans from a middle school mind | miss mustard seed

I even drew a plan for a theatre including fly space, dressing rooms, light storage, and green rooms.

house plans from a middle school mind | miss mustard seed

This hobby progressed into drawing different elevations of homes as well as creating drawings and floorplans for my own room.

house plans from a middle school mind | miss mustard seed

I showed these to my boys and we all laughed at my houses, which looked a lot like the game board of Clue.  While he thought it was a little dorky, I could see Calvin’s wheels turning about ideas he could draw out on graph paper.

house plans from a middle school mind | miss mustard seed

One of my favorite memories about these house plans was when I showed them to my Opa, who was a home builder.  “Now, most people don’t live in houses like these.  If you’re going to be an architect, you need to design some homes for real families.”  He challenged me to create a floor plan that was 1,000 sq ft or less.  I sat at the kitchen table, determined to meet the challenge, and fit everything in.  I wish I still had that 1,000 sq ft plan, but it wasn’t in this collection.  I’m sure it was lost in a move or a purge.

I was deterred from being an architect in high school when I realized it involved a lot more math and precision than I was willing to learn.  But I still build and renovate houses in my head regularly.  I still make sketches of rooms to rethink them.  I still make cutouts of furniture and shuffle them around on a piece of paper to figure out possible furniture arrangements.

And I still listen to music while I do it.

house plans from a middle school mind

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47 Comments on “house plans from a middle school mind”

  1. Oh – this is just fabulous! I can see the creative mind behind this and what wonderful imagination you were developing! My brother and I used to do something similar with him drawing futuristic space ships and me designing the costumes for the crew! My daughter drew elaborate, busty paper dolls and I saved them when she felt she had moved on…and mounted them in an album for her years later much to her surprise. Hours spent making up worlds from the fertile ground of a young mind…thanks for the memories!

  2. Oh my gosh, I drew out house plans during my Jr. High years too. I think I still have them too. I did not become an architect either because of the math involved as well. My grandfather was a carpenter. Enjoy reading the blog.

  3. Fascinating!! What a precursor to the career you have grown into. And to have the actual drawings to prove it!!
    Hope a peek into this story is included in your book. I was a creative person in my youth and many times regret that I had not followed a career path in that area. Looking forward to being creative again in retirement. So many projects swirling in my head. Thank you for sharing. Dreams can come true…

  4. Hah! I did the exact same thing as a teenager. It was my favorite past time on Sunday afternoons.

  5. When I was younger, I used Legos to build houses I even went to Virginia Tech for two years to study being an architect. Didn’t make it all the way through, but I now work for a builder selling houses and working in model homes. I am always redoing our house with new bedding, pillows, etc.

  6. It’s funny to see blue dishes and copper pots in your little kitchen and isn’t your armoire almost like the little one you’re showing us. So cool.

    1. Yes! I actually purchased a German wardrobe a couple of years ago that is almost identical in shape and design to that dollhouse wardrobe. The interior is even the same!

      1. I drew houses all the time in high school and still have some of those original drawings. I ended up becoming an interior designer and we are building our farmhouse I designed. You never know where those high school dreams will take you!

  7. I called it playing house, we had a ping pong table as my yard and neighborhood. My parents gave me and my siblings this box of houses you could put together with pastel roofs. I loved playing with those. I loved the concept of creating a place to live and play. I cherish those little memories of my childhood. Thanks for the trip.

  8. I just love this story so much! I can relate to how your doll house furniture influenced your furniture choices as an adult. I did not realize this is the same for me until I read your post!

    I cannot express the joy your blog and posts bring to me, especially in these very stressful times. I am a middle school counselor, working with my students remotely. Your blog is my guilty pleasure and a healthy form of escape. Your blog is my go-to when I need a “pretty things” fix. Thank you so much, I appreciate you more than you know : )

  9. You are still much the same, well as much as we know you. Very detail oriented, which may be why we feel that you handle it all so well. You see the big picture and the little ones, too. Nothing that grand for me. But, I sure made good mud pies.

  10. I, too, played with a dollhouse just to arrange furniture … and my sister and I also added additions to the dollhouse, with building blocks and shoe boxes. My first memory of re-arranging my bedroom was when I was in 3rd grade – and yes, I did it myself 🙂 I drew floor plans now and then too.
    When Nate (only son) started to build house and floor plans on the computer with his SIMS software – complete with home furnishings I knew we had a kindred spirit!
    I love your plans — and love that your Opa challenged you!

  11. I must say that I don’t find the two careers that unlike at all. Being an architect requires you to build dreams much as acting requires you to go outside of yourself and project beyond reality. Your creativity is a gift that you’ve put to such good use. Never a dull moment for you!

  12. I purchased your paintbrush in 2015. It is the best brush I have ever owned. Are they still available?

    1. No, they aren’t, sadly! I love that brush, too, and I still have a hoard that I pull from!

  13. I did this exact thing through middle school. Math was the deterrent for me as well! 😉. I still love to look at plans and dream about my own ideas.

  14. Marion, your talents are so expansive! If you don’t mind, what was your major in college? In graduate school? And have your studies led you on the current path of home décor blogging? Or has it been a more circuitous route? I’m fairly new to following your blog so other readers may know your journey better than I do. Love each day that I open my email and your entries are ready for me to enjoy!

    1. My degree is in musical theatre and I don’t have a graduate degree. I consider my growing personal library and online classes my “continuing education.” 🙂 In theatre, I took voice, all disciplines of dance (ballet, modern, tap, jazz, ballroom, etc.), acting, and some of the technical components like light design, set building, etc. My mom always said it was like Fame!

  15. I too, drew floor plans of homes! I had the “BIG Chief ” big thick red tablet. Every page had room designs. Except for the kitchen, every room had to have a chandelier. I remember my mom telling me, “Nobody would put that many chandeliers in a home.”….who knew!!! Did I start the trend in my little 4th grade self? I also, always had four “girls” that would be living in those homes….ah…in real life I ended up with two boys!!! When I got to 6th grade my Nono took me to the Sprouse Ritz Dime Store and told me I could have anything up to $2.00….I picked a tablet of graph paper. I was in heaven!!!! I too, still like to draw out plans before I move the furniture around.
    Thanks for the memories.

  16. I just perused your dollhouse furniture post, which I don’t remember seeing before, although I’ve followed you for ages. I’m howling laughing. That is sooooo you that if I were to see that doll furniture somewhere, I’d have thought of YOU. Too funny, Marian!! 😉

  17. I still have some sketches from my 9th grade art class. Although I too wanted to be an architect, I went into business. Funny how things work. Now that I’m retired, I want to draw again and see what I can discover.

  18. I remember your previous posts talking about this pastime of yours. So glad that you found the drawings to be able to share with your boys!
    I did the same thing(s) as an older child/preteen/young adult, drawing floor plans/houses and acting. When I was a young child, my favorite things to play were “schoolteacher”, “restaurant owner”, and the next Shirley Temple. God blessed me immensely by allowing me to enjoy all three of those dreams (well, I wasn’t the new Shirley Temple, just a local performer). He blessed you, too, Marian, and you have been a blessing to others. Thanks for this sweet post.

  19. Oh, I identify with you! 🙂 I used to do the same things. My favorite part of playing with my Barbie Dream House was getting the “story” all set up. I drew a floor plan of my bedroom and cut out (and laminated with tape) scale pieces for all my furniture. My mom drew house plans in her spare time and always had one going on the giant drafting pad on her desk. I loved to stare at it and imagine walking through the house. My grandpa (my mom’s dad) was a home builder, and developed our neighborhood while I was growing up. We used to go around the neighborhood and walk through any new houses that were framed. I loved guessing what each room would be. Fresh concrete, new lumber, and sawdust are some of my most favorite smells. Now, I use Floorplanner.com. I created a plan of our house and that’s where I go anytime I’m thinking about rearranging furniture or changing something. My husband jokes that it’s Minecraft for adults. 😉

  20. Oh Marian, I used to do the very same thing! But I was fascinated with the idea of a round house and drew many different configurations. When we lived in Illinois, I designed the addition we put on our house and the builder said he didn’t need anything more than my graph paper pencil drawing – complete with electrical, plumbing and HVAC lines. I think the greatest creative challenge Would be to build a house from the ground up – but I’d rely on a professional to draw up the plans! I’ll have to look into Floorplanner.com now!

  21. I totally get you Marian! I can recall as a child working on designing & decorating a dollhouse my dad built as a gift for my sister one Christmas. I added wallpaper & carpet, miniature potted plants, even battery operated lighting!

    This love of house designing for me culminated 3 years ago when I designed from scratch our new ‘old style’ farmhouse!

    I created a home of my adult dreams & had a draftsman draw up the technical plans, sourced materials to fit my design, found a builder to build it & now I get to live in it – although it’s a new home it’s so familiar because it’s been carried in my mind for so long, I dreamt of it & refined the design for 15 years before it became a reality!

    It has some quirky features like decorative windows in interior walls, lots of beautiful gables, vaulted ceiling, arched windows – I put my heart & soul into the house which is one of a kind, & I have chronicled the build & ongoing decorating in my blog which enables me to continue the journey now with the interior design. 🙂

  22. So glad you saved these drawings. I loved this story. I also loved
    My dollhouse and rearranging furniture which I do in my house now. I just can’t draw.

  23. Did you ever think that your young self would resonate with so many of us? When I was in the 9th grade, I had to write a paper on my life’s aspirations and goals. I wanted to be an FBI agent, an actress, or an architect. When I was a little kid, I made houses out of cardboard, and furniture, and wore it all to tatters rearranging it. I always read my mother’s “lady magazines” and I didn’t care about any of the articles except those having to do with houses or fashion. I agree with the commenter who thinks you should frame this stuff and hang it up somewhere.

  24. I can relate to so much of this ! I remodeled my dollhouse more times than I can count and loved coming up with new decorating ideas. In fact, I still have that dollhouse and have slowly been working on it in my spare (ha! ) time. I also drew floor plans in junior high and high school, took mechanical drawing and architecture drawing classes in high school. I wanted to study architecture in college but the math was what got me as well ! I still enjoy designing and dreaming. Thanks so much for sharing 🙂

  25. I’ve loved reading all of these responses to Marian’s post. There is definitely a connection between our early interests and our continued interests as adults. As a child I enjoyed rearranging dollhouse furniture, building houses and lawns bordered by walls in our sand pile and drawing living rooms complete with a fireplace and mantle. Marian, thank you for sharing your fascinating story of your interests and pursuits during your early life. I loved reading it all.

    1. I agree Bea that there is a connection between our child & adult interests.

      Apart from loving houses I was always drawing & designing things, plus I had lots of small pets as a child (I wanted bigger animals but couldn’t do that in suburbia) & I wanted to be a vet. Now as an adult I farm alpacas & have my own web & graphic design agency, plus I designed our farmhouse – little me & big me are much the same! 😀

      It took quite a few decades working in jobs that paid the mortgage but didn’t fulfil me in any way to get to the point where the interests of my child self & adult self align, I feel blessed to be able to live the life I have now.

  26. When I was young and sitting in church during the sermon (and the subject was over my head) I would imagine that the sanctuary was a large family room and I would imagine large sofas and bookcases, curtains and quilts and a kitchen where the pulpit and choir were. I won’t tell you what I imagined the baptismal pool to be 🐠

  27. I first got interested in drawing floor plans as a school project when I was twelve. Fifty-three years later, I am still at it. I also began by drawing luxury estate homes. I also spent hours playing with my doll house. It’s great fun.

  28. A kindred spirit! I have only a brief snapshot memory or myself at age 3 in 1956. My big brother had a summer job on new housing construction. He would bring me random ceramic tiles to play with. I used the tiles to outline floorplans. Throughout my life I drew floorplans. To this day I look at floorplans on the internet, often thinking how I’d change them to suit myself. Often criticizing the wasted space, or awkward placement of doors. As I was growing up I always said I was going to be a commercial artist. I never became one. As I look back on my life I know I should have been an architect, but it never occurred to me until recently that architect was the obvious career choice.

  29. I did these same exact things! The rest of my friends would play the MASH fortune telling game, and I would always draw the home they would live in. I’d forgotten about that until just now – too funny! I don’t think I have of those plans anymore though.

  30. Amazing how many of us liked to rearrange furniture & draw floorplans when we were younger. I never had a real dollhouse, but would make rooms in shoeboxes , & decorate them with cardboard & paper furniture that I would spend hours constructing. I am now 65, & finally purchased a real dollhouse which I am thoroughly enjoying remodeling &furnishing. Would love to see a post with your childhood dollhouse – enjoyed the one about the furniture.

  31. I did the same thing! And I’d close my eyes while riding in the car or trying to get to sleep and redesign all my friend’s homes in my mind – complete with wall colors and furniture in place. I also designed elaborate stables for all my Breyer ponies and would then try to build them in the backyard with twigs and cardboard boxes. Great mind exercises!

  32. I also designed my whole future house as a kid and an orphanage I was planning to run one day. Life ended up to be a bit different. 🙂

  33. That sure brings back memories! I started “designing” houses when I was in grade school. My dollhouse, Legos, Lincoln Logs were solely used for “house making”. When I was four we moved to the country and there was an unused chicken house. My Dad gave me that whole house – which was actually large enough to be a two room house. I spent my entire childhood working on it, building furniture, having a schoolhouse, etc. None of my friends could believe it was mine and my sisters didn’t care about such things, but it was the love of my young life. I drew plans for it and my bedroom, endlessly rearranged my room, my friend’s rooms etc. I do the same thing now- just on a larger scale. Your dollhouse and the little furniture are the most beautiful I’ve ever seen.

  34. I love it! I did the same thing starting in grade school and my homes were large and had fantastic staircases and wooden room dividers with pillars which donned the homes of several of my friends who came from large families. Like you, there was no attention paid to load bearing walls and I didn’t even have graph paper. Not even sure if the second (or third, in some cases) floors even fit on the lower level! Anyway, I didn’t save mine, nor did I follow through (again, math) regarding college major but thank you for sharing yours and bringing back such memories!

  35. Those would be super fun framed and in your studio. Kinda reminds you of where you were to where you are now! Great memories

  36. I began sewing as a child before I “learned how”. My treasure is my childhood troll dolls packed away in their circa 1967 troll cabin and their felt and polyester double knit wardrobe. But the real treasure is the pattern book that I made ala Simplicity patterns, of all the fashions available to “clients”. Over 50 years later, I have managed a fabric store, sewn clothing and costumes for three generations of family, and made doll clothes and many, many home decorating projects. Isn’t it fun to look back and see the beginnings of a lifelong passion!

  37. I am astounded that this many people here have had the same exact childhood loves of making/imagining houses in some form or another. I am no different! I used blocks, Legos, Lincoln Logs, had dollhouses, furniture, Barbie houses/furniture, Fisher-Price houses and people and furniture, used sticks in dirt, drew dream homes on paper, absolutely everything. I wanted to be an architect but did engineering instead, so unlike most here, I had no problem with the math! Nevertheless, the highlight of all was when my mom used to choose “special” days when she would get out all of HER old doll furniture and open up the dining room table and let my sister and I play with it for hours on end. She loved it as much as we did. We lived in a gorgeous house that my mom and dad built with their own hands and my mom loved to arrange and rearrange the rooms. I learned early on that no layout was static, you could change stuff around whenever you felt like it. Now as an adult I like to have lightweight furnishings so that I am able to move them without much assistance! I still have all my grade school dream house drawings too.

  38. How wonderful to have found those drawings back (all my childhood drawings and work from Artschool was destroyed in a cityfire 🙁 )
    Your story brings me back to the time I built an entire science fiction space centre complete with spaceships for my barbie : ) (I was a great Yoko Tsuno fan=French comicbookhero ) on the attic which was already then my studio, no clear piece of plastic or anything else I found on the attic was safe for my creativity; I made a spacehelmet out of the plastic easter ball packing I got from grandma. I even built a working elevator with the help of rubberbands on the side of the worktable. Unfortunately I have no photo’s from that time. before the spacecentre I built a barbiedollhouse in my closet; and made rollerscates from curtainwheels and an old white bag from my mother. I was always drawings things too as a child but the3 D things I built I made inspired by what I could find in our home. Apart from that I was always trying to decorate my room to my liking(my parents never could fullfill my dream of a white and red room ) so I taped the heating with red tape and got my father to paint the walls white.
    Now I life in my dream-home I have pimped up a lot of furniture, built an alcove and have been building dollhouses from scratch the last months. I was thinking last week if you were ever interested in dollhouses because I use the inspiration I get from your blog in my tiny rooms. Your old German dollhouse is beautiful 🙂
    It is so much fun to read all the creative youth memories here!

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