What did you want to grow up to be? From my earliest notion of what a career was, I wanted to be an architect. I’ve always been a literal homebody: When I played with Barbies, I usually only got as far as setting up the dream house (complete with a Ziplock bag waterbed!) and arranging furniture. That was it for me. I had no interest in dressing the dolls up or acting out date scenarios with Ken. Setting up and arranging a home was my play.
Until the embarrassingly late age of 12 or 13, I played with the Fisher Price Little People houses and city buildings and just created neighborhoods. My mom would casually urge me to go out and play with real people, but she generally left me to my own interior design devices. My home economics class in middle school was a dream - there was an entire section devoted to color schemes and furniture and setting up a home! I loved it. What a little weirdo I was.
Around this time, probably a bit before, actually, I started to draw floor plans. Not of the actual house I lived in or my friends lived in or even that my grandparents lived in, but just floor plans of houses with grandiose proportions that I wanted to build one day. My dad has very architectural handwriting and draftsman-quality drawing skills, so there was always a pad of graph paper handy. I tore off a few sheets and started drawing.
Soon houses had pools and landscaping and furniture started appearing in each room. And the people who lived in these houses started appearing in my head as I drew. Not in the “she might need some counseling” way, but when I look back over the drawings, I can remember who I was designing each house for, whether they were real or fictitious, and what their story was. The plan above, for example, was inspired by the book Wait Till Helen Comes. Ghosts need places to chill, too.
This one with the hockey rink? I liked a boy in the seventh grade who played hockey. And he clearly needed a home rink if he was going to make it to the NHL.
On a summer vacation to Florida, I drew a house for my younger cousin, Drew. I think it’s still one of my favorites. It had an atrium and a pool like my aunt’s house did, but I distinctly remember being influenced by my cousin’s love for Pee-Wee Herman. That rug, man. That was for Pee-Wee… and I’d totally buy it if I saw it in a store today.
I was in band, so obviously I had to design a music conservatory with practice rooms and classroom spaces.
I’d like to think my spaces became more refined and sophisticated as I grew a bit older, but I can see now that it was a lot of repetition from one house to the next. This is the last one I ever drew and, when I compare it to my first, I do see definite improvement and a closer attention to detail, so that’s something. This one has a sunken living room and, man, I thought that would be swanky AF.
This decidedly analog hobby took hold when the internet wasn’t even a speck on my horizon and I love that. I drew one plan in MS Paint and, while it was a challenge, I found it to be tedious and not nearly as imaginative and therapeutic as when I would lay on my stomach with a pad of paper, a ruler, and a freshly sharpened pencil. Maybe I should take up this hobby again for those nights after a stressful day at work…
If you were wondering, I didn’t end up becoming an architect. I majored in interior design for three semesters before calling it. I got a degree in linguistics and, eventually, a master’s degree in library science. Turning something I loved (working with houses) into a career made me kind of hate it - it lost all its fun and just became something I grew to dread. So I kept the fun for me and just do design-type-things as a hobby, just like when I was a kid. A few years ago, my little rental house was featured in a kooky design magazine, so it’s worked out pretty okay. Twelve-year-old me, who even then loved to pore over issues of home magazines, was thrilled.