Southern Comfort in a Straw Bale Home

This rural Georgia straw bale home balances grace and style with sustainable design.

| June/July 2004

  • Straw Bale Home
    The precedent-setting straw bale home of Elise Lang and Michael Pierce.
    Photo by Shawn Schreiner
  • Build Your Own Home
    The reclaimed lumber on the walls and an old claw-foot tub give rustic charm to the master bathroom.
    Photo by Shawn Schreiner
  • Straw Bale
    Under the Southern Building Code, which we followed at the time Elise and Michael's house was being built, there's nothing that said you couldn't build a nonload-bearing straw bale home.
    Photo courtesy Fotolia/fpegueroles

  • Straw Bale Home
  • Build Your Own Home
  • Straw Bale

Near the end of a dirt road that weaves in and out of the woods outside Farmington, Ga., sits a tasteful Southern farmhouse owned by Elise Lang and Michael Pierce. Its wide hip roof and the deep eaves that cover the wraparound porch echo the era of mint juleps, seersucker suits and the sweet twang of banjos.

But look a little closer and you'll find a house that puts a new twist on tradition — the "truth window," a small 6-by-6-inch hole on the north wall of the foyer, says it all: This house is built with straw bales.

Standing in the home's entryway, with its tall ceilings rising to a 20-foot peak and dramatic arched passageways to the home's interior, you can easily overlook the truth window. At first, the unplastered patch seems like an imperfection in this nearly new home, but it reveals what makes Elise and Michael's house so distinctive: This house is a straw bale structure — the first permitted in Oconee County, Ga., according to officials there, and according to the couple, perhaps the first in the state.

Dixie Meets Determination

Elise, a former U.S. Army captain, stumbled across straw bale building while stationed at Fort Huachuca, Ariz. "I was looking for a place to live, and some people told me about Mary Diamond, who was looking for someone to take care of her straw bale home," Elise says.

Although she couldn't leave her post to be a caretaker, Elise took the opportunity to tour Mary's house. The home's amazing insulative qualities appealed to her environmental sensibilities, but Elise distinctly recalls that it was the feeling of the house — the sense that you were embraced, snug and cozy inside the structure — that captured her heart.

Louise Castellan_1
6/26/2008 7:39:04 PM

How can I contact Elise and Michael about building a straw bale house. I will be purchasing land in the Athens area and would love to speak to them about seeing their home. Any assistance would be greatly appreciated. Louise Castellan

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