Handmade Houses: A Century of Earth-Friendly House Design

Handmade Houses: A Century of Earth-Friendly House Design
Handmade Houses: A Century of Earth-Friendly House Design

From the Jacket:
“The first comprehensive consideration of the residential design of the back-to-the-land movement, “Handmade Houses: A Century of Earth-Friendly Home Design” exposes the roots of “green” architecture as it travels across North America and to the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, France, and Australia. From deep in the redwood forests of Big Sur, California, to the craggy, pink-sand beaches of Sardinia, Italy, this book visits houses in which cost-cutting DIY improvisation, eco-consciousness, art, and craft harmoniously converge.

Author Richard Olsen shares the stories of how, starting in the early 1960s, these daring, boldly creative designers and builders—some of them architect/carpenters, some of them entirely untrained in design and construction, and many of them in their 20s and 30s—sought to create a simplified, down-to-earth kind of house amid a world of political and environmental upheaval and technological dependency. Using sea boulders, old barn wood, wine vats, stained-glass windows from churches, and a host of other treasures that were at one point bound for landfills, these designer-builders created deeply personal, one-of-a-kind dwellings—some for as little as $1,000.”

“Today we experience increasingly standardized and commodified homes and lives. In this beautifully written and illustrated book, Richard Olsen shows us another way—a path toward beauty and comfort in harmony with nature.”— Sim Van der Ryn, Founder, EcoDesign Collaborative

Source: Richard Olsen.org

23 thoughts on “Handmade Houses: A Century of Earth-Friendly House Design”

  1. I plan to build a cave home in rustico area with nice view over the ocean in Canary Islands.
    Please let ne know if any similar expertise available.

      • Dear Mr. Owen:
        I am ready to start the project of building my first home. My daughter, Sofia, lives on a hilltop…she just gave birth. My dream is to live next to her. There is a community here that will help me. I need plans, and ideally instructions for a two to three bedroom house.

        • Unfortunately, Owen died a few years ago, but his home plans and “Earthbag Building Guide” are still available. You can review these and purchase them from the links under House Plans on this blog. Also, there is much more information available at http://www.earthbagbuilding.com

  2. Hello.

    Wanting to build a 2storey sandbag house approx 150m/sq each level.

    Wandering how to do a suspended slab and will the sandbag walls hold this?

    Do I do starter bars in a ringbeam as I would a normal block house?

    Any info on 2 story info on sand/earthbag houses would be welcome and not necessarily a traditional square or rectangle house would also be great!


  3. Pls i want to biuld earthen cottages in my village i need an architect that can volunteer to send me the art work for round cottages. Something like hand made homes.
    With regards,
    Rashid Ismael.

  4. The water effect inherent in the flooring design is brilliant.

    The way the stairs create the feeling of a waterfall, down to the glossy tile reflecting pool, to the rougher sandy-esque beach of adjacent floor tile, and the big boulders that seem to be waiting for the next high tide before waves batter them again, it’s almost as if one can smell the salt spray.

    Makes me want to enjoy a clam bake with friends right there on the floor.

    I half expect that dog sculpture to dig up some critter and bring it to the camera as a hunting prize all covered in sand.

    The only missing components are pretty girls in bikinis. Guess they are all camera shy.

    • I really like the light, airy feeling. This look wouldn’t work too well in our house though. Our dogs like to rub their dirty hair against the walls after wrestling outside in the dirt.

      • Sadly, the only thing a building code inspector would see in that photo are the missing and non-compliant railings. Well, that and the missing electrical receptacles every 6 feet, unless they are extremely well hidden. Of course, he’d also need to see an engineers stamp approving the use of the logs in the ceiling.

        Nope, the inspector would hate it all. Call in the bulldozer and demolish the place. The inspector doesn’t like it. It’s not a boring box made out of kindling. Can’t allow that. The inspector is really doing the home owner a favor by calling for it to be torn down. He only cares about their safety right? Well… maybe if the homeowner offers to invite him to a bikini party and slips him a few Benjamins he’ll look the other way and allow the owners to live in a house they love.

        • Sad but true. I wish some major muckraker journalists would expose the building code scam.

          Allowing owner-builders much greater freedom to build what they want would trigger a massive housing boom and provide a huge boost to the economy. But ooh no, too many people would lose out on their piece of the [corrupt] pie. Loosening the regulations would unleash a massive demand for freedom of choice that could not be stopped. One thing would lead to another and soon people would throw off all their shackles.

      • No problem about your dogs, Owen.

        Just adjust the design slightly. Instead of the secluded romantic beach theme, go for the fun off-leash Dog Beach style.

        Lots of places to hide Dog Treats so that you can play “sniff and seek”.

        Could even include a custom Dogwash. Let the doggie wash runoff flow down to water a Dogwood tree? (Probably not native to Thailand.)

    • Yeah, it’s a stunner. No idea where it is. The photo looks similar to another one we published about two years ago. It was mostly white interior with large arches. That photo was very popular and so that’s one reason I decided to use this new photo. Skim the book at a good bookstore and you’ll probably discover where the home is.

      • Thanks. You gotta’ quit showing pictures like these. I’m getting confused. I’m SUPPOSED to build Bag End but, with pictures like these……Seriously these are true works of art. Maybe something to consider with the right location and the right natural formations. Sheeezzz…you’re making it hard to try and stick to one theme. Haha….

        • You might want to spend a few hours in a very good bookstore (#1 largest in your state, etc.) and browse expensive architecture coffee table books. There are dozens of books like this filled with large glossy photos.


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.