Earthen structure we built in Round Valley, California within the Mendocino National Forest just before moving to Costa Rica on the winter solstice of 2012.
Walking around the structure clockwise…
The six round windows below are openable porthole windows.
Other than the skylight and porthole windows, the rest of the windows are made of art glass and are fixed in place.
As you can see, the skylight opens. I had to design it myself because, for some strange reason, it’s really hard to find small round skylights that open.
If the chimney capstone looks a bit like ice cream, it’s probably because i used to work at Carvel during my high school years.
Thanks to my buddy, Ben Revord, for artfully wire wrapping the quartz crystal and glass chunks onto the vent of the compost toilet.
I wasn’t terribly thrilled with my use of color nor the particular pastel-like hues I had available. I originally intended to use much more color but I had to rush the process because the mandatory evacuation due to the huge 2012 fire wasted too much time and winter was approaching so I had to hurry up and finish it before I really considered it done.
Close-up view to see the texture better.
Nice view of both quartz crystals and round bathroom window.
Ben Revord captured this dazzling shot of sunset striking the skylight and quartz crystal I embedded in the chimney capstone.
Now it really looks like ice cream, huh? The particularly interesting thing about this structure is that it was built in a rainy/snowy climate yet has no overhanging roof, which is virtually unheard of, if not considered impossible by most earth builders. I still need to get a good photo when the snow is 2-3 feet deep. Happy to report that it’s still holding up well 3 winters later…
Home-made heavy duty plank door with dragon-like brass knocker I bought on my honeymoon in 2009-2010.
Parts of this mosaic outside the front door actually glow in the dark at night making it easy to find the doorway. Hope it’s not radioactive!
Living room couch/futon directly opposite the door. Thanks to Elita from Riga, Latvia who beautifully custom crocheted these rugs with a spiral motif. You can find her on Etsy: http://www.etsy.com/shop/ELITAI?ref=ss_profile
Although I had intended to sculpt the living room couch out of mud, I was running short on time and decided to buy a futon instead since we co-sleep with our baby and thought it would be hazardous for her to sleep up on the loft without a railing, which I didn’t want to build.
Kitchen plank-style cabinets that match the front door. Mosaic constructed of glass chunks, mirrors, and this round carved stone thing in the center. I also made the various ceramic mugs, bowls, and plates on the counter/stove.
Propane refrigerator not yet installed to the left of the sink. Also still need to hook up the water and gas lines.
A big thanks to electrician James Boska for the “delightenment”.
A peek inside the bathroom of the Envirolet compost toilet–one of the most expensive components of the house. The wall to the left of it is heated from the wood stove, creating a more comfortable toilet experience in the winter.
Wood stove with spontaneously-designed glass chunk mosaic.
Bathroom not yet painted/tiled/mosaicked.
View from the couch/futon.
Wish I could show you in a photo how cool this looks at night with the green lighting illuminating the entire ground floor.
The lighting changes dramatically throughout the day, depending on the angle of the sun and the combination of stained glass windows it shines through.
FYI, the color is mauve, not pink!
View looking down from the loft.
Round bed on the loft. The rectangular box above the head of the bed was designed to be an operable vent since the clear window (on the right) over the front door is fixed and can’t be opened. For now it’s just sealed with clear fiberglass, but when replaced with a decorative vent, it will create a nice cross-draft with the openable skylight for those hot summer nights, negating the need for any air conditioning.
I never got around to doing it but (other than the glass chunks already embedded), I envisioned a burst of colors spirally emanating from the skylight.
Spiral of glass chunks flowing from the skylight, which opens/closes by turning the 1″ stainless steel screw.
Like a giant steel basket, this house began with a rebar frame covered with 1″ chicken wire over an earth-cast rebar & fiber-reinforced concrete slab with thickened edges. It’s a cross between “wattle & daub”–one of the most ancient construction methods, and ferrocement–one of the most modern methods. I would have preferred to have used home-grown hemp stalks for the “skeleton” but, since they weren’t readily available, I used salvaged rebar instead, which is fireproof and easier to manipulate. Despite the “bones” concealed within the “skin”, the metal is not really necessary for structural reasons at all, except for the loft, which defies gravity. It does happen to make the structure stronger and more earthquake-resistant (even with thinner walls), facilitates smearing the mud on quickly without slumping, and also makes it easier to create livable free-form sculptures.
Forming the large eastern window. Notice the electrical conduit just above.
Welding the loft onto the rebar frame.
My wife Hooma doing some mud work.
Hooma mudding upper window.
This is what the house looked like after it was covered with mud but before the sculpture layer was applied. This is the west side view of the main entrance with loft window above. I never finished the wrought iron awning above the door.
Step ladder on the unfinished loft (S)
Step ladder on the unfinished loft (N)
I had to start construction before working out the ornamentation details so here are some conceptual sketches I drew to try to figure out how I wanted to sculpt it. In the end, it turned out a bit different than any of them.
This is what it looked like after mudding but before liming.
Walking around the house clockwise…
The hole near the base is for the wood stove pipe.