The Beauty of a DIY Straw Bale Home

THE BEAUTY OF A DIY STRAW BALE HOME

One of the great pleasures in running our hands-on straw bale workshops is hearing from graduates who have finished their own beautiful, DIY straw bale home. We were so excited to hear from two such folks, Julia and John Furlong from New York, and to see their amazing home featured in ApartmentTherapy.com! You can see the article on THIS page.

Julia and John truly took the DIY component of their 1,800sf build to its fullest. They even cut the wood for the timber frame and raised it themselves (with help from family and friends). Neither Julia nor John had previous construction experience. They are awesome examples of what can be accomplished when there’s a clear goal in sight, when one is willing to invest time into learning something new, and is willing to see the process through, even when things feel overwhelming and hard.

Photo by Julia Furlong

TAKING IT SLOW

Over the years we have seen many, many workshop graduates with no previous building experience go on to create hand-crafted straw bale homes that even professional builders are impressed by. What’s more, we learn something from each new person/family that goes through this process. One pretty brilliant piece of advice that Julia and John shared is this: if you don’t need to, don’t rush the building process.

They say, “Don’t jump into a solution. It’s easy to just go out and buy something that you think will help but then it ultimately doesn’t serve you well. It took us so long to build, but it gave us a chance to think about how we would use the space and what would work best for us.” Decisions made early on, especially in the design process, may not actually make sense or serve their functions well, but one won’t know without the passage of time and without being able to see the flow of a home after it is used for a while.

Photo by Julia Furlong

So if you’re in a current build and feeling frustrated by how long things are taking, or you’re planning a tight timeline for a future build, perhaps consider slowing things down a bit. Ideally you can live in the house while it’s under construction so you can really get a true feel of movement patterns and flow. Julia wishes that they hadn’t actually built any interior walls for a while. Having a wide open interior space can be a canvas for real creativity.

ENJOY EACH STAGE

Julia also shares this advice for DIY builders: “Don’t worry about things being unfinished before you feel like you can really enjoy your space. Creating a space that is truly your own takes time. I’ve loved our home at every stage, even when we had plywood countertops and outdoor furniture in the living room. I hope other people feel the same way about their homes, too.”

Photo by Julia Furlong

It took Julia and John three years to get their build to the point that they could move in as they were both working full time and could only get to the project on weekends and holidays. But little by little it got done and now they have a truly stunning, magazine-worthy straw bale home that they can live in for the rest of their lives. They truly showcased the beauty of a DIY straw bale home.

IRRESISTIBLE STRAW BALE WALLS

One observation they’ve had is that visitors always want to touch the walls. We’ve noticed this for years as well and we still sort of chuckle each time we see someone, inevitably, slowly make their way to a wall and start touching it. We’ve never seen anyone do this to a standard, sheet-rocked wall mind you. Plastered straw bale homes have a magnetic quality to them; we think it’s the combination of the beauty of a plastered surface along with the natural, organic undulations of the walls.

Truth window Photo by Julia Furlong

THE JOY OF BUILDING A DIY STRAW BALE HOME

A theme we hear commonly from people hand-building their home, especially when they’re new to construction and learning the skills along the way, is that the absolute sense of joy and achievement is pretty spectacular. Truly, seeing a home being built right before your eyes, and knowing that it’s YOU bringing this dream from paper to manifested reality is an unforgettable experience. It’s our belief that the desire to build shelter is nestled deeply in our DNA, and we often see people come alive during our 7 day hands-on straw bale workshops while they rekindle this deep ancestral calling. It’s beautiful to watch actually.

So congratulations Julia and John on your stunning, hand-build straw bale home! We are thrilled for both of you. We’re so happy that your hard work and dedication led to something that you love and cherish so much. Thank you for sharing your journey with us. 🙂

Photo by Julia Furlong

Photo by Julia Furlong

Photo by Julia Furlong

Photo by Julia Furlong

 

6 Responses to The Beauty of a DIY Straw Bale Home

  1. Avatar
    Cynthia Mon, November 8, 2021 at 7:28 am #

    How do screws and hardware anchor into the plaster without pulling out? I see shelving and outlets with faceplates, but don’t understand how those, or the wood trim above the kitchen tile is secured. This might be a dumb question, but perhaps it indicates where planning and execution intersect.
    Thank you.

  2. Avatar
    Julie Mon, November 8, 2021 at 8:48 am #

    What a beautiful home! Definitely adding these to my pinterest board =)

  3. Andrew Morrison
    Andrew Morrison Mon, November 8, 2021 at 5:58 pm #

    Hi Cynthia. Not a dumb question at all. The faceplates for the electrical outlets actually attach directly to the outlets themselves, which are attached to the rough-in boxes. Those boxes are attached to a plywood backer plate that is installed behind the mesh. You can learn all about electrical installations HERE. For other items, it’s best to install backing in the wall before installing the welded wire mesh. For example, cabinets that hang on the wall are attached to 2×4’s installed into the bales and anchored in place with the mesh. I would use this same approach for all items that you consider “heavy”, like cabinets and shelves. For artwork, you can use masonry anchors right into the plaster; however, if you are like most people and tend to move your artwork from time to time, you would be better off using a picture rail installed at the top of the wall and wire hangers to each piece of work. This way, you can move things without leaving holes in the walls.

  4. Avatar
    Crea Tiveone Thu, November 11, 2021 at 9:08 pm #

    Absolutely stunning! Congrats to Julia and John! We, in fact, right now are seeking out a framer to build our straw bale home in the Ozarks from posts and timbers dismantled from an 1880’s barn. Scary? Hell yes, but thrilling at the same time. Seeing what Julia and John have accomplished gives me trust in the process. Bravo!

  5. Avatar
    Lisa Astrella Fri, November 12, 2021 at 10:25 am #

    Are the interior room dividing walls made of standard drywall? Also, I noticed what appears to be an unfinished border at the top of the exterior walls. Does this need to be there for seasonal temperature and humidity fluctuations? Can a straw bale home have a basement? I love the character and charm of this type of construction.

    Thank you!

  6. Andrew Morrison
    Andrew Morrison Sat, November 13, 2021 at 2:46 pm #

    Hi Lisa. I am not 100% sure about the interior partition walls, but drywall is the norm for most homes. I always suggest that people continue with the plaster over the drywall so that the texture remains consistent and you don’t end up with an obvious transition to drywall texture. There is a piece of wood used at the top of the walls in this design. That is not necessary. In fact, it’s best that the wall to ceiling joints be sealed against any potential air leaks. They may have included an air seal tape “behind the scenes” that we can’t see in the photos. Straw bale homes can indeed have basements. Cheers.

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