From Vancouver Island on a Rainy July Night

I’ve been on then road for a little over 2 weeks now, it seems like 2 months. This trip has been rich, so much so that I haven’t had time to blog until now. The idea was to take 3 weeks going up the Pacific Coast, visiting and photographing builders’ work along the way, ending up on the islands in waters off the coast of Vancouver Island, where I’d heard for years there were some wonderful houses.

I started by visiting my friend Louie in Mendocino county, whose house, due to late rains, is only reachable by riding a bosun’s chair on a 500′ cable across a river. Louis and I share a passion for wild duck (my Dad was an avid duck hunter) and we’ve gotten into the habit of preparing dinner together, we have shots of tequila while making a salad from greens growing in pots on the deck, a little rice, ducks split open, marinated in red wine, then barbecued on high heat, along with Louie’s homemade inky-red Zinfandel. Two old guys, in their clubhouse in the woods.

When I left the next morning for points north, Louie handed me a bag and told me it was lunch. After about five hours of driving, I was hungry and found a meadow in the woods, pulled the truck in and opened the bag. One whole duck, a bottle of Zin, and a green apple. Yasss!

The Eel river was beautiful, crystal green, clear, lively with late spring rains. This turned out to be Hank Williams day, the CD was just right for the countryside.

That last long day she said goodbye,

Well Lord I thought I would die,

She’ll do me, she’ll do you,

She’s got that kind of lovin’

Lord I love to hear her when she calls me

Sweet Da-a-a-a-a-dy

A perfect song.

I spent a night in the old hotel in Arcata, a pretty cool college town (except for the draggy burnouts who seem to occupy the main square). Went for a run in the woods, saw these kids sailing frisbees through pretty densely forested areas. What were they doing? Playing “Frisgolf,” where instead of a ball, they sail the frisbee. In place of the holes were posts with pieces of pipe attached, that clanged when the frisbee would hit it. Kids all through the woods playing, an Arcata invention I guess.


You know, I started out writing this in sequence, the order of my trip, and it now occurs to me that if I were to go on at this rate, it would take me about 20 hours to just highlight what’s been happening, so I’m going to skip around, OK?

The most spectacular part of the trip has been visiting Denman Island and its sister, Hornby Island, reachable by short ferry rides from the east coast of Vancouver Island, maybe a couple hours north of Victoria. I’ve never seen such a collection of wonderful homes. People have told me for decades about the builders up here, and they weren’t kidding. Oh my!

Most of the guys I met on the islands were expatriate Americans who came here in the ’70s to avoid Vietnam, and became Canadian citizens. Every single builder I talked to knew our book 1973 Shelter well, and each guy would tell me to go see this or that place. In the course of doing this I made friends, some wonderful people who I’ll be in touch with forevermore, plus I saw the work of a builder that just stopped me in my tracks. It was the same kind of experience I had when I met Louie a dozen years ago. This was just another level of tuned-in design and building. And the name of this guy, whose work I hope to feature in my book on builders, is — Lloyd House. Was this meant to happen or what?

I’m now in an internet cafe in the town of Courtenay, east coast of Vancouver island after getting back from those beautiful islands, reason I’m here is that I spent 2 hours with Lloyd House yesterday, he’s a most unusual and delightful and (sorry for the overworked cliche), but he just blew me away. Wow! He now lives on an island off the west coast of Vancouver Island, 9 miles by boat from the town of Tofino, and I plan on visiting him on my next trip.

I met a wonderful designer/builder developer today in Courtney, Tom Larsen, who has built over 100 simple little houses for older and/or handicapped people in town. His latest project is a work/live complex of buildings in a light industrial area, where a young person can have a shop or office on the ground level and live in an apartment on top. The buildings are sided with corrugated metal, sited nicely, there are gardens and trees, it’s a grass roots little village, no government grants, just good design, good construction, at a good price.

This unit has woodworker’s shop below, with spacious-light-filled apartment above.

Then tonight Tom’s 29-year old son Olaf took me skateboarding in the hills above town. This is such a nice part of the world. I’ll try posting some pics from the trip next chance I get. I’m heading over to the west coast of Vancouver island next. Have shot over 1000 pics.

About Lloyd Kahn

Lloyd Kahn started building his own home in the early '60s and went on to publish books showing homeowners how they could build their own homes with their own hands. He got his start in publishing by working as the shelter editor of the Whole Earth Catalog with Stewart Brand in the late '60s. He has since authored six highly-graphic books on homemade building, all of which are interrelated. The books, "The Shelter Library Of Building Books," include Shelter, Shelter II (1978), Home Work (2004), Builders of the Pacific Coast (2008), Tiny Homes (2012), and Tiny Homes on the Move (2014). Lloyd operates from Northern California studio built of recycled lumber, set in the midst of a vegetable garden, and hooked into the world via five Mac computers. You can check out videos (one with over 450,000 views) on Lloyd by doing a search on YouTube:

4 Responses to From Vancouver Island on a Rainy July Night

  1. hi Lloyd,

    Read your beautiful book on west coast design/buildings this summer. We live in a Tom Larsen home here in Courtenay. I want to send you a photo of it, especially of the west coast architectural glass that Ted Goodden installed outside (Ted's my husband).

    best, Cornelia Hoogland

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