Tonganoxie man returns to roots as he embarks on new career
Tonganoxie resident Dennis Bixby has redesigned his career.
The 45-year-old Tonganoxie resident who recently worked for Himpel Lumber has started a business, D.J. Bixby and Associates.
"I draw house plans and I do construction consulting," said Bixby.
While he was working at the lumber company, builders requested Bixby's help in drawing house plans.
It was something that Bixby already knew how to do, because he majored in industrial education at Fort Hays State University.
While in his senior year of college, Bixby worked for a company to gain experience in drawing home plans and then worked full-time designing homes for nine years. He continued the trade part time, while working on other construction-related jobs.
From the start, building was in his blood. In the 1890s, Bixby's great-grandparents moved to Kansas from Indiana when commissioned to build the steeples on the roof of the Catholic church in St. Mary's.
"My great-grandmother would cut the boards on the ground and she would raise them up to the roof with a rope or in a bucket to where my great-grandfather was," Bixby said, "and he would send the measurements down to her for the next piece."
This was a story that Bixby grew up hearing from his father -- a fifth-generation carpenter. This legacy, Bixby said, helped build his interest in construction.
His favorite part of his work, said Bixby, who works out of his home-based office, is getting to know the people who will live in the house.
"I might work with them for 30 days in the designing of a home they're going to live in for 30 years," Bixby said. "How a house functions becomes a part of their life."
And his least favorite part of the business is making revisions -- a necessary part of getting the plans right.
"It's really not uncommon to do three revisions on a house plan. I've been with some people going into their sixth revision."
But Bixby said there's a good side to that.
"It's a lot cheaper to do it on paper, obviously, than when you have a crew out there working."
Bixby said he starts by having his clients complete a questionnaire.
For instance, he will ask a husband and wife to list their top 10 wants for their new home -- without talking about it to each other. Then, he has them prioritize the list.
Then, they compare their lists, and consider their budget for the house. This ties in with an important facet of home design, function. Bixby said.
"Frank Lloyd Wright developed it years ago -- you design the function," Bixby said. "How are the people going to live in the house."
Bixby said he designs the house to meet 90 percent of the homeowner's budget, to accommodate for possible increase in construction costs and upgraded materials or changes.
"The last thing I want to do is design a house for a young couple -- that they get into this beautiful dream home and they find out a year later that they can't afford it," Bixby said.