Inspiring Handmade Homes

Explore the joy, wit, and harmony of these exceptional handmade homes, each one a standing testament to the talent and creativity you'll find along the Pacific Coast of North America.


| February/March 2009



handmade homes - Northern California temple

A design primarily associated with Mongolia, this temple in Northern California is reminiscent of a yurt — which is arguably one of the original "handmade homes."


PHOTO: LLOYD KAHN

It’s a land of blue and green: the blue of the water — ocean, bays, estuaries, inlets, rivers, and creeks; and the green of the trees — cedar, fir, hemlock, balsam, alder, and spruce, all fed by abundant rainfall. It’s along the Pacific Coast of North America, from San Francisco up to Vancouver Island, British Columbia. And it’s in this relatively small geographical area that I discovered most of the handmade homes featured in this article and in my new book, Builders of the Pacific Coast.

The quality of design, imagination, and craftsmanship in this part of the world is astounding. Over a two-year period, I made four trips of about three weeks each, with cameras and notebooks, shooting these photos and talking to builders.

Specific locations usually aren’t given, in order to preserve the homeowners’ privacy. Suffice to say, it’s a coastal marine environment, latitudes 37 to 49 degrees, with boats everywhere. Many of these buildings can be reached only by water. You get to the islands by ferries.

Due to significant rainfall and fast-growing forests, there’s a large amount of wood available for building. Its abundance (although more so 30 years ago than today) has given many of these builders the material and inspiration to create these structures. A lot of the wood used in these buildings came off the beach, or at least from very close by.

About 80 percent of the builders featured in the book are Canadian. Some are Americans who emigrated to Canada to avoid being drafted for the war in Vietnam.

Many of these buildings were constructed in the ’70s and ’80s, some in the ’60s, a singular period in North American history. This group of builders, the types inspired by the Whole Earth Catalog, were acting out their dreams. You could live on very little money, land was cheap, and building codes few. It was a period not likely to be duplicated, a 20- to 30-year span of inspiration, freedom, and spirit manifested in a number of homes.

victorw
4/13/2013 5:16:37 AM

Restrictions, poet Sandra Cisneros lives in a purple house, she even wrote about it. She is fined by the city but will only pay the fines and not paint over it. Society always makes me laugh at how uptight it is over individuality. Let everyone create their own footprints and not walk in others I say.


cathy prescott-hathaway
4/12/2013 4:00:34 PM

Kudos to Lloyd Kahn for his life's work of preserving the wonderful history of hand built, home made shelters in the U.S. and elsewhere. His books/articles are truly inspiring!


ryanhall27@gmail.com_13
10/28/2009 10:14:34 AM

jkhkj


mona_1
2/13/2009 8:42:53 AM

Beautiful homes!!! But I am curious about the author's comments that building codes would restrict their being built today. Perhaps codes (especially in rural areas like those shown) are not so restrictive in my own area but I believe similar type homes could and are being built today. They are more time and labor costly, but for those who love these concepts they are still possible. Thanks to the author for these inspiring peeks.


lee_2
2/4/2009 9:26:26 PM

Cool! Its sad that the freedom to do these things has been taken away by people who were from the same generation as those of us who did but they were the do-gooders of our time,now they are in charge,sad!






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