Room With a View Remains Unfinished

All summer, I looked forward to my new writing room in the strawbale house we’re building.  I figured it would still need some work, but it would be good enough for me to settle in for the long winter, watch the snow fall and catch up on writing projects. But alas, we were overly optimistic about our ability to get the house liveable before winter.  Here’s what my room looked like on October 17.

Workspace View
View of my future office space (walls and door and other amenities to come in 2013)
View of House From the Southeast
View From the Southeast. My writing room is the nearest corner.

That was the day we finished stacking straw bales. From there, we still had another month of preparing the exterior walls for stucco and then applying the first layer of stucco inside and out. We also had a few freeze-thaw cycles with abundant snow and ice, followed by mud — a challenge for any construction crew, especially an inexperienced one living out of a yurt.

On days like these, it was easy to imagine our work would go quickly:

The Great Room
The Great Room and our view to the Northwest

But the prep work took many more weeks and involved lots of trial and error:

Mixing Exterior Stucco
First attempt at mixing exterior stucco. We later borrowed a huge wooden mixing tub from a friend and mixed by hand – worked much better.

By November, the crew worked some long days through freezing temps and mud to power through the interior stucco:

Clay slip on interior
The first layer on the interior is a thin layer of clay slip. This will one day be the kitchen area of The Great Room.

The good news: we sealed the house up from packrats, and we can see it will one day be beautiful.

Stuccoed House, sealed up for winter
Stuccoed House, sealed up for winter.

The bad news: it would currently make a much better home for packrats (or maybe, a hibernating bear) than for us. So I’m back in Portland for the winter living and writing among half unpacked boxes and a vision of my life unfolding somewhere else. But at least we have heat, indoor plumbing and various other amenities. And we’ll be back at the new place in a few months. This time, for good.

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  1. So great to see your blog! Curious where you are building your straw bale house, and if you would recommend any resources about this kind of building, especially in terms of convincing a bank to finance, and what GC and architects will take this on. We are looking at a similar project…



  2. Hi Rosa. We are building in NE Oregon and worked with Bruce Millard, an architect in Sandpoint, Idaho. We did not attempt to work with a bank to finance, so can offer no advice there. Good luck on your project.

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