October 19, 2011 12:00 PM

Sara Evans and Jay Barker’s life would be the perfect premise for a modern-day sitcom: Two divorces (a gorgeous country singer and a handsome college-football star turned talk-radio host) tie the knot, combine their families (her three kids, his four) and try to manage the situation with Southern values and a sense of humor. Sample line: “I had to quarterback 11 guys and make sure they were all in the right place,” says Barker, 39, who led the University of Alabama to the 1992 National Championship. “Seven kids is easy!”

Finding a house to fit a family of nine? That was the challenge for the pair, who moved into their Mountain Brook, Ala., home after their 2008 wedding. With just four bedrooms, they knew the 3,600-sq.-ft. house would be a tight squeeze, but Evans, 40, didn’t consider that a drawback. “The point was to bring the families together, and it’s a lot easier to do that in a smaller house,” says the singer, mom to Avery, 12, Olivia, 8, and Audrey, 6, who relocated with her from Nashville. (Barker’s kids Andrew, 13, Braxton, 11, and twins Harrison and Sarah Ashlee, 10, live part-time with his ex-wife.) Adds Barker: “We like to be on top of each other.” For the four boys, that even means sharing one bedroom-by choice. Originally they were divided into two rooms, but, Barker recalls, “they wanted bunk beds in the same room, so we thought, ‘Great! That gives us a spare room upstairs.'”

Evans worked with Birmingham interior designer Lisa Flake to make sure the home (decorated in neutrals with pops of color such as turquoise and Alabama Crimson Tide red) was comfortable yet elegant and also felt fresh for the then-newlyweds. “We wanted to create something for them as a couple,” explains Flake. “Not her old style or his old style, but their new style.” The singer, whose former home was shabby chic, was thrilled with the change. “I think it’s gorgeous,” she says. The best part: “There’s nothing in this house that a kid can’t touch.” (That includes a white, stain-resistant sofa in the living room.)

To help maintain order, the kids follow 20 House Rules, which are posted in the kitchen and include “Put away your clothes” and “Clean up your own mess.” They also know not to disturb Miss Sara (as she’s known to his kids) and Daddy Jay (as he’s known to hers) before 10 a.m. on Saturdays, when “The Parents” relish the tranquility of their bedroom. “That’s our little sanctuary,” says Evans.

As the kids get bigger, the singer-who would like to have another baby-realizes they may have to turn the garage into living space, but she says they can’t imagine moving. “This is our forever home,” she says. “We dream about our grandchildren being here.”

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