I've made some pretty large and useful bases in my time, but they've always grown out of the hole I dug in a rock wall so I could make a furnace on my first night, or I spent three nights in a dirt hole while I collected the supplies for a small wood cabin and then worked on them. This really doesn't seem very efficient and is particularly costly as creepers spawn and do as they are known for.
What do you guys do while you build your massive complexes and bases? Or, heck, your finely decorated domiciles?
I recently spent 78 in-game days living in a wood shack with a dog, a chest, and a bed while I built a village with a hotel and thirteen residences, including a stately manor, because I wouldn't change over until it was done.
Then an incident with flaming wool and the munitions room of the barracks (which itself featured beds for 23 soldiers) led to the entire thing being ravaged by TNT, and a new save starting.
I dig a small dwelling into a hillside; it usually has a small storage room, furnace room, small area for a bed, and a strip mine entrance. I'll stay there until I can set up a proper tree farm and gather enough wood for a real house.
I make a 5x5x3 hillside burrow witch then becomes the entrance to my stairmine.
This, pretty much. Given the ore distribution patterns in this game, large and permanently established bases unfortunately aren't really worth it. By the time you've got one built, the ground underneath it will have been completely mined out, and you'll need to move on.
I usually hole up in the side of a mountain while I build a cabin. Once Ive moved into the cabin the hole becomes my underground quarry where I just basically hollow out the mountain for cobble and coal.
On the first day I do a mad rush to get a 8 by 13 by 5 house with a cool roof and double doors. I build it on sand and the spend the night mining sandstone for a floor. Two days later, I have an awesome(if small) house.