Building an Earth-Sheltered Home: Part IV

Constructing kitchen cabinets.

| May/June 1984

Is it possible to achieve food and energy independence on one acre? Well, with imagination, hard work, and the right one acre, we think it can be done . . . and that's what this project is all about. Of course, providing most of the basic needs for four people from such a small piece of ground is a tall order. Still, we think it's a goal worth pursuing, and we're hoping that in this series of articles about our low-cost homestead we'll be able to help some of you in your struggles to increase your self-reliance . . . by doing some of the experimenting for you. 

In previous installments, we discussed our initial plans for the earth-sheltered home project (Part I), the construction of the building's shell (Part II), and its waterproofing and insulation . . . as well as some special energy-related "extras" (Part III). This time, we'll concentrate on the interior, specifically the fine cabinetry which complements our home's kitchen.

Until you've actually built, or been involved in "costing out", a residence, it's hard to comprehend how much cash it actually takes to finish the heart of a home. Yet in dealing with a dwelling as personal as our earth-sheltered home (and who'd deny that any owner-built home absorbs some of the character of its creator?), we felt it would be almost sinful to skimp on the soul-pleasing amenities, even when faced with a very stringent budget.

We also believe (and we're confident that this opinion would be shared by many owners-to be) that the kitchen area serves as a significant focal point for our home's entire communal zone . . . not just in that it's traditionally a place where the family gathers informally, but because—considering the openness of our dwelling's design—its use as such is more a matter of fact than choice.

Given these circumstances, it wasn't too difficult to justify the expenditure of time, in lieu of monetary resources, required to handcraft the kitchen cabinets you see in the Image Gallery. Believe it or not, much of the foundation material that went into the cupboards could be termed junk, with the remainder being dressed from rough lumber or, in the case of the surface laminate, purchased outright.

On the other hand, please note that we're not about to suggest that a novice woodworker with a minimally equipped shop could easily duplicate the caliber of craftsmanship revealed in these furnishings. So, in an effort to accommodate the beginner on a budget, we've come up with an alternative cabinet plan. Though not quite as pleasing to the eye as the former design, it is a whole lot easier and less time-consuming to build yet results in a serviceable and attractive fixture.

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