How to Build a Dream Home in the Woods

Learn how to build your own home following Dave and Ardis Comstock's example of their dream house in the woods.

| January/February 1977

In 1971, Dave Comstock resigned his job as a book designer with the University of California Press in Berkeley and began to save money for the day when he and his wife could build their own "dream house" on 19 acres of land near the Tahoe National Forest. Well, Dave and Ardis Comstock have finally built that residence ... and what a house it turned out to be! Here's their story.  

It's been almost three years since our last report, and a lot's happened since then. The biggest news is that we've finally built our dream home in the woods: a 1,000-square-foot hexagonal structure that sits a full 8 feet off the forest floor!

The idea of building an "up in the air" house came from Fred Dyer-Bennet — our friend and architect — who'd drawn up some preliminary plans for us back in 1972 ... plans that depicted a six-sided dwelling perched atop our choice of wooden poles or concrete columns. (Given the beautiful natural surroundings, we found the idea of concrete pillars hard to accept ... so we voted for the poles.)

According to Fred's plans, the house would rest on a network of large beams arranged like the spokes and rim of a giant wagon wheel turned on its side. The hub of the wheel was supported by a small, six-sided utility room.

We found Fred's concept exciting ... but also somewhat troubling. Ardis (my wife) and I had never built a house before, and we wondered whether we could handle the construction of a conventional home ... let alone an elevated, hexagonal dwelling! And, since both of us are on the crusty side of forty, we wondered whether house-building would be good for us physically.  

Being adventurers at heart, though, we went ahead with the project. And we learned that there's no reason in the world why a middle-aged couple can't build a home in the woods — even a large, six-sided one — if the task is approached with a good deal of desire, fortitude, and imagination.  

Dave Comstock
7/18/2008 5:05:30 PM

Today (July 18, 2008) I took a look at this article (written by me 29 years ago) and notice that it ended with the house costing us $17,000. But that's not the end of the story. A few years later we sold the Jeep trencher for $2,000, which brought our total outlay down to only $15,000. Would that we could do the same now (or pay so little for gasoline)!

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