Have you tried the new snapshot it has tripwires and stuff without mods.I suck at building things yet I play Minecraft daily. My base isn't the best -- I'll post a picture of it later on.
I use the OcD texture pack and also the Quandary texture pack.
As far as mods go, Too Many Items and Single Player Commands are a must. Outside of that I use ModLoader for various mods that just add more fun to the game (i.e. a pogo stick, parachute, etc)
I am making a 100*100 castle with flying and too many items mod,You should try the PC versionI recently bought the 360-version to be able to play with some friends (which really isn't as much as a setback as one would think with the beta version and all...) and this is my house:
Two stoves, one workbench, a box, a bed and several paintings on a 3x3x3 space. Compact living.