Natural Home of the Decade: A Hobbit House

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Gary sized and polished reclaimed granite for his kitchen countertop.
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Gary spent three years and around $40,000 to build his home in the 1990s.
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Salvaged floors, stones and windows kept costs down.

Perhaps no house has evoked the kind of sentimental response that Gary Zuker’s “hobbit house”–published in one of Natural Home‘s earliest issues–brings forth. The rustic, low-maintenance home sits in the woods, just up the hill from Lake Travis outside of Austin, Texas. Despite having no carpentry experience, Gary handbuilt his home using cob–a mixture of clay, water and straw that’s been used to build homes since the 15th century–using a recipe he created based on historical documents and modern-day innovations.

With help from a friend who had studied ancient Hindu design, Gary developed his plan for a simple, 900-square-foot clay house built on a foundation of limestone boulders. He finished it with salvaged items–including an antique heart pine floor from an old schoolhouse and kitchen cabinets from a demolished pharmacy–and branches and limbs from his property. He built a window seat out of a cedar log he’d found and crafted the front door out of 4-inch cedar planks.

 “You just don’t ever let anybody tell you it can’t be done. Anybody can do anything if they’re willing to work hard. I didn’t have any skills–no special talents. I just wasn’t afraid of a little hard work.” –homeowner Gary Zuker

Three things we love about this house:
1. It’s built by hand–by a novice.
2. The use of branches and stones found in the nearby woods connects it to its site.
3. Cob construction and handcrafted details give it Old World charm.

Read the original Hobbit House article.