Now that Dan and I have signed up for a cob building course in June (yay!!), I’ve found a good excuse to spend some time drooling over natural building images and dreaming about the home we hope to build one day with our own hands.
For those of you who are new to this, cob is an ancient building material, a mixture of clay, sand, and straw that can be hand-sculpted into buildings, with or without a timber frame. It’s extremely durable: there are cob houses in the UK, for example, that are hundreds of years old. Often the clay for building can be dug up from the building site itself, so it doesn’t get much more local than that — or affordable, for that matter! And because the building technique is easy to learn and there’s no need for machinery, cob building is also accessible: children, the elderly, and utter novices can all jump in for a work party.
What got me initially so fired up about natural building was the idea of being able to build with local, non-toxic, affordable and sustainable materials, such as clay and straw. But the more I visit actual natural building sites, the more I fall in love with the spaces themselves. I think you’ll see why…
When I now think of the words “dream home,” this is what I see I see in my mind’s eye — earthy, thick, breathing walls. Round, organic, at times playful shapes instead of box-shaped rooms and 90 degree angles. Cozy nooks that can be custom-sized to fit the person who is going to curl up there to read a book. Creative spaces that literally have their builders’ hand prints on them. Everything designed with comfort and the surrounding landscape and the daily rhythm of the inhabitants in mind. In short, utterly livable and lovable spaces.
In case you haven’t had your fill yet, here are some of my all-time favorites:
A low-impact woodland home in Wales.
And if hobbit houses are not your thing, cob lends itself to more conventionally sized homes as well, such as this one.
In strawbale houses, the rooms are more angular and the walls thicker, but they have the same utterly unique and earthy feeling. This is the writing studio of my dreams.