Built to Last – What’s on the blueprint?

We bought our house plan off the internet. When Josh started to seriously consider whether or not we should build, and I told him I’d build if we could find a house plan that we both fell in love with, I Google searched “4 bedroom craftsman blueprints” and started clicking through options. I found I layout for a two story that I loved on the third or fourth search result.


First floor
First floor
Second floor
Second floor

We then spent a bunch of money to purchase those plans, during which time I learned two things about blueprints very quickly.

  1. The above images are not blueprints. They’re really layouts or floor plans.
  2. Blueprints are very specific in some things (like the architecture firm we bought the house plan from was in California, so it included all kinds of requirements for earthquake protection). They can be, however, frustratingly vague in other things, (like when the ten foot gap above the garage doesn’t have any kind of instruction for joists or rafters but instead just says: “hand frame.”)

Our blueprints from the original architecture firm had to go through an engineer here in Minnesota so that things like snow load could be accounted for, and modifications like earthquake straps could be removed. In the process we could also make small changes to to the layout to better suit our purposes, and we’re finding even now that our blueprints are finished, there are still some things we have to tweak on the fly either because in the process of building we realized something wouldn’t work or because we decided in the actual space something no longer makes as much sense in reality as it did on paper.

Sometimes, it’s been a matter of both, like in the case of the window over our master bathtub that we A. ordered to big, and B. decided was a bad idea when we realized how much of our “bathtub selves” we’d be exposing the neighbors to if we kept a window how it was positioned on the original blueprint. The plan might show it…but there’s not a window there anymore, and that’s probably for the best!

From an instructional standpoint, I don’t find the blueprints very helpful in explaining what happens when. Josh is much better at being able to read and discern the order things have to happen in, and what instruction the blueprint does offer versus where it mostly says “do this…eventually…” It feels a bit like the picture on the front of a puzzle box. Here’s what everything is going to do and be someday. There are lots of pieces…wood, shingles, drywall, etc. etc. etc. Go put them together. We suggest you start with the borders and corners because…well…structure!

This is one page, of many, of our blueprint:


I especially love such vague instructions as “frame in floor as needed.”

And of course nothing on the blueprint suggests how these things are supposed to happen. Like, the floor joists laid out in the above blueprint weighed almost 200 lbs, good luck getting them up 10 feet in the air.

Like I said…puzzle box picture…you figure out how to put it together and solve it!

Which is how I feel about a lot of things in life. Look at a picture…figure out how to get there!

Image result for blueprintWe do this for style: look at an outfit…a hairstyle…a makeup look…figure out how to replicate it (preferably on a budget!). It’s pretty much all Pinterest is for: look at a beautiful plate of food, home decor, holiday table, etc…figure out how to replicate it! We follow all kinds of influencers and celebrities on social media trying to build a small piece of our lives, or a small corner of the internet to match a “plan” that someone else has laid out before us. And we do it in our relationships.

There are blueprints for successful relationships. And like blueprints for houses, people will try to sell them to you. Some are based on questions, like this freebie I found from Chantel Cohen. Some are propagated by the relationships that we watch from afar and believe that we wish to emulate. We see this in full form every time a popular celebrity couple breaks up, and social media floods with messages like: “Can’t believe X and Y broke up! I don’t believe in love anymore!” and “If X and Y can’t make it, no one can!”

The thing about blueprints is, while they can be guiding and helpful, they don’t really tell you much about how to build it. So in picking a  “relationship blueprint” for yourself and your partner, it’s important to remember it’s only a plan, and it’s up to you to take actionable steps to build a reality.

When we picked our house plan, we picked a plan we loved, and then set ourselves to the task of the hard work to build it. Could we have built an “easier” house? Maybe. I’m sure a one story box would have had less nuance and character then the house we chose, and thus been easier. I’m learning that things like second floor laundry rooms come with extra code requirements compared to their lower level counterparts. There are probably lots of plans that don’t include quite as many references to “hand framing” as our plan. But in the end, we didn’t pick our house because it would be easiest to build. We picked our house because it was the house we wanted to build.

While your relationships shouldn’t be inherently “difficult,” it’s also not worth picking an “easier plan” that leaves you unfulfilled and unsatisfied. And even if you pick an “easy” route, you still can’t skip the work part!

Image result for love blueprintAn example: a couple I know attended a marriage seminar over the course of a couple weeks. During the program they were encouraged to plan and map out what they wanted their marriage to look like and how they might accomplish it, and they were genuinely happier than they had been in a while. At the end of the course, they wrote a marriage constitution that laid out the ways they would build their marriage stronger. They labored over this document like an architect might labor over a skyscraper plan making sure it was thorough, heartfelt, could stand the test of time, and reflective of the values and goals they wanted at the center of their life together. They even talked about framing this document and hanging it in their home.

When the seminar ended and they went back to their daily lives with this amazing blueprint of how to build their successful marriage…nothing changed. In fact, they were at times even more frustrated with each other than they had been to start. In talking with them about their frustrations it became clear that once they had the blueprint, they just expected things to start happening. They expected habits already long established in their relationship to just go away. They expected change to be immediate. They expected the rest of the work to be easy because they’d already done the “hard” working of designing the marriage they wanted.

No offense against architects and designers…but having watched Josh frame a house by himself, with his own two hands and a gaggle of good friends who came to help with some heavy lifting, it’s hard for me to say that planning and designing is the “hard work.” I think planning and designing is the “fun work.” I love dreaming up what spaces will look like, imagining what the ideal layout and decor will be, adjusting things “just so.” It’s a process…creative and expressive…but the “hard” work, the heavy lifting, that’s in the building itself, and while a blueprint can be a great guide, but it can’t lift a 2×4.

And it won’t always tell you how to fill in the gaps! You might follow an Instagram power couple that says the secret to a successful relationship is a Friday date night every week. And you might plan a Friday date night every week. But that “blueprint” doesn’t have a conversation for you. It doesn’t keep you from bickering about bills over dinner. It doesn’t keep you off your phones. It doesn’t make you hold hands or kiss goodnight or set healthy boundaries or open up emotionally. It might not be a bad plan, but it’s always going to be up to you and your partner to “hand frame” the parts in between instructions into something that uplifts and supports the health of your relationship.


Published by Kate

A former Wisconsinite, Kate now resides in southeast Minnesota with her husband where she teaches high school English and theater. She recently completed her master's degree in learning design and technology, and continues to study and advocate for arts integration in the classroom. A recipient of the RISE America grant for high school theater, Kate is working to innovate and expand theater opportunities for the students at PIHS. An avid distance runner, concert pianist, and want-to-be wine aficionado, Kate's blog "ink." is a passion project, embodying all the best parts of life: friends, food, wine, thoughtful conversation, style, and sass!

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