I just ran across this buried in my email files. I mujst have written it decades ago A friend of mine recently bought 80 acres of wooded land in Northern California and was speculating on what kind of house she might build. She had heard of straw bales and was also attracted to the idea of a circular building. What did I think?

I told her this, from my experience (and this could apply to a lot of other people as well): if you start out with an abstract concept in design (such as a building with curves) or materials (rammed earth, straw bales, etc.) you are very likely to end up spending a lot more time and money than if you started out with the concept of what’s practical, and what has worked in the area in the past.

My specific advice to her: get a copy of Lester Walker’s Tiny Tiny Houses, and use it to build something small and simple to start with. This is an wonderful book, with dozens of carefully drawn and simple little buildings to choose from, and my idea is to put up a cabin quickly and then have a place to spend weekends or vacations while you more carefully study how to construct the right home for the land.

Les Walker is a rarity in today’s architectural world: a guy who has turned his attention and drawing skills to the art of building small houses. There are 40 designs in this book, each one showing sequenced construction details, dimensions, and photos of the finished products, all under 325 square feet.

If I had a piece of land, I’d use this book for ideas on building something small and simple, perhaps that could be added onto later, or left as a guest cottage OR maybe one would find that the tiny house is all that’s needed. Published by Overlook Press; other books by Walker are The Tiny Book of Tiny Houses (a cut-down version of this one) and American Shelter, about the best book in print of classic American house styles.

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:

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