Surrounded by the sounds of hammers and power saws with sawdust still lingering in the air, former state Rep. Jim Bob Duggar and his wife Michelle are all smiles as the dream home they have spent the past three and a half years building is finally nearing completion.
"The deadline [for the house to be completed] was supposed to be [January 14]," Jim Bob said, but there is still some work to be done.
"I just can't believe it's coming to this point," Michelle said. "It's just such a blessing."
The Springdale-based Duggar family most recently gained national media attention last October when Michelle gave birth to the pair's 16th biological child. An unusually large brood for the 21st century, the Duggars have become the subject of television specials for the Discovery Health Channel and The Learning Channel is set to begin filming a program about the family's new home Wednesday.
"I guess it's a little unusual in today's day and age to have this many children," Jim Bob said. He said the couple never thought they would have this many kids, but they would both "love to have more."
With a total area of 7,000 square feet, an increase of about 4,600 square feet from their old house, the Duggars' new digs in neighboring Tontitown will give the family "a little more space to stretch out," Michelle Duggar said.
"We've spent about 10 percent of my life working on this house and 25 percent of the older boys' lives working on this house," Jim Bob Duggar said.
"Our whole goal in building this house was to be a learning project, a family project, together," Michelle Duggar said.
The Duggars' built the all-steel house from a kit, debt-free, and what began as a family project came to include the assistance of extended "family" from the church and "dear friends," Michelle Duggar said.
When each next step in the construction process was reached, the Duggars contacted a professional in that particular area to teach the skills necessary to complete the job, Jim Bob Duggar said.
"It was quite amazing to see them putting this massive structure up," Michelle Duggar said. "I would be praying from the house that they didn't fall off the roof."
The Duggars taught safety rules from the very beginning, Jim Bob said. "We would also pray every morning before getting started for safety."
Such dedication paid off, throughout the entire construction process there were no broken bones or major injuries.
The Duggars credit their friends, the Wilsons, who left their home in Mississippi for more than a year to help the Duggars accomplish their goal.
Incidentally, Jim Bob said Clark Wilson incurred the only notable injury when he drilled through his finger. A testament to his dedication, Wilson wrapped his finger with duct tape and kept on working, Jim Bob Duggar said.
"Duct tape has medicinal qualities," Wilson added with a smile.
Wilson was responsible for building the large staircase in the entryway of the home made from raw material, Jim Bob said. "Michelle told him what she wanted, and he just built it," he said.
Jim Bob designed the interior of the home. Because of the open space provided by the steel framework, the inside walls of the house could be placed wherever the Duggars liked.
"Every day he'd think of something different and change the plans," Michelle Duggar said with a smile.
"It was an advantage because you can change, but also a disadvantage because you can change," Jim Bob Duggar said.
Sitting on 20 acres of land, a sparkling white exterior and bright green roof set the house apart from its natural surroundings. A porch stretches across the entire length of the front of the building with white columns used as supports for the overhang.
A large open space upon entering the first floor of the home will serve as a multipurpose living room and kitchen. At a total of 2,000 square feet in area, "it's about the same size as our whole other house," Jim Bob Duggar said.
The family plans to utilize this space for church gatherings and Financial Freedom Seminars, which they had previously offered at the Jones Center in Springdale, Michelle Duggar said.
Joshua and John David, the two eldest sons, installed a studio room upstairs and a sound system that goes throughout the house for such occasions and the system "sounds like heaven on earth" when it's turned on, Michelle Duggar said.
The home's general kitchen boasts a 4.5 feet wide by 20 feet long countertop, along with two sinks, two ovens, two microwaves and two dishwashers.
The house also includes an industrial kitchen to accommodate large groups when thet come over. Jim Bob said they were able to obtain about $100,000 worth of equipment for $11,000 at auctions.
The Duggars were able to get much of what is included in the industrial kitchen when restaurants and stores were closing. For example, they have a canopy from Schlotzsky's Deli and a serving line and swing doors from the Kmart that closed in Rogers.
Among other conveniences, the kitchen also includes a commercial dishwasher that can "clean dishes in three minutes," and convection ovens because "the girls like to bake bread," Jim Bob Duggar said.
"Everything will speed up our living a lot," he said.
The house has two garage bays, neither of which will be used for cars. One is already fully stocked as a pantry with rows of products provided by the Campbell's Soup Co., a sponsor of the family's program tentatively titled "The Duggar Dream Home" which is slated to air on The Learning Channel in March.
The other garage will have shelves set up for storage, and houses a Greenwood furnace that provides radiant heating for the home.
A dining hall runs parallel to the front of the house and has space for two tables with 18 chairs. "That will seat all of us right now, but we can stretch out and add more if we need to," Michelle Duggar said.
A soda fountain stocked with Coca-Cola products sits tucked into a nook beside the kitchen for special occasions when guests visit. "It will probably have a big cover over it," Michelle Duggar said.
"And a key to turn it off," Jim Bob Duggar added.
The house has a total of nine bathrooms, a "big switch" from their previous home, which only had two, Jim Bob Duggar said.
"We had such a shortage of baths in the past we had to be sure we had enough."
A "goodbye room" sits beside Jim Bob's office at one end of the house. A playroom complete with pool table, climbing wall and a slide that connects to the boys' room upstairs by a tunnel, anchors the other end of the home.
With such a large number of people under one roof, the Duggars produce quite a bit of laundry. A laundry room with four washers and four dryers aims to speed up the task. "We can't wait to get all these up and going," Jim Bob Duggar said.
A laundry chute will drop dirty clothes from upstairs, and the family shares a community closet adjacent to the laundry room to simplify the putting-away process.
With such a large house, and so many people, an intercom system will be installed as another convenience to quickly find someone when the phone rings or a visitor is at the door.
Upstairs, built-in desks and cabinets line the wall outside the door to the boys' room and on the other side of the hall by the girls' room.
"We home-school, so we wanted a place for the children to sit and do their work," Michelle Duggar explained.
Both the boys' and the girls' rooms have two bathrooms connected to them, and a vanity with two sinks inside the bedrooms themselves so someone can still brush their teeth if someone else is in the shower, Michelle Duggar said.
The home is very open and lighting plays an important role. Arched windows on either end of the house and above the bedroom doors allow light to enter the home's interior. Twenty 6 by 8 windows line the front of the house to also help to achieve that goal. "We like a lot of light and also want to be able to keep up with the kids out in the yard," Jim Bob Duggar said.
The Duggars made it a point to utilize every inch of available space in their new home. Be it a loft in the boys' room that they can reach via a rope ladder, or storage areas of varying sizes, every space has a purpose.
"Our goal is to make the house really functional for our family," Jim Bob said.
The Duggars' 16 children include two sets of twins and range in age from 17 to three months. Also, their names all start with the letter "J": Joshua, Jana, John David, Jill, Jessa, Jinger, Joseph, Josiah, Joy-Anna, Jedidiah, Jeremiah, Jason, James, Justin, Jackson, and Johannah.
The Duggars' home television special is projected to air on The Learning Channel on March 11, 2006. In addition, the family has agreed to share their story in more television programs for the Discovery Health Channel this year after a program about the family became the network's highest rated show.