My Little Hut in the Woods

I live in a little Co-Housing on a farm just outside a small town in Switzerland. In Spring 2017, I sold my the little caravan that I was living in and started sleeping at the edge of the forest 200 yards from the farm, under some huge beech trees. By the end of Summer, I was feeling really at home there and decided I would make myself a home, so I could stay there in Winter.

I could already see the place for my shelter, hugging in between a small ash tree and an overgrown pile of dirt. So I started digging, using only a knife, a folding saw, and my bare hands. My inspiration was the debris hut, a shelter i know from the wilderness school.

The main structure is made of bent hazel branches, which looks like a huge streamlined basket. This a covered with jute bags, than a thick layer of pressed straw and a thick plastic lining normally used for ponds. All this is covered with dirt.

The entrance is formed by two well-chosen bent branches and around it, I closed the gap with adobe and some embedded glass bottles for light. The door was then closed by a few layers of woolen blankets.

Heat is provided by two small burners using denatured alcohol. It was warm and cosy this first winter. And even without heating, temperatures inside never fell below 7°C (44°F) inside, with -10° (14°F) outside, the warmth from the ground keeping the interior warmer.

In 2018, I added three layers of mud plastering to the inside walls. I dug the floor deeper and added a clay layer with gravel on top, covered by an earthen floor, sealed with linseed oil and wax. A small rocket mass heater now provides heating. With all the thermal mass from the mud, it now takes a little longer to heat up, but then keeps the warmth for more than a day.

The newest addition is a double-glassed door with a wooden frame perfectly fitted to the door shape, providing a lot more light inside when I use the space during the day.

All in all, the experience of building my own shelter, with not much more than my bare hands and what materials I could find in the vicinity alone was worth the effort. I think it is one of the most basic instincts of all living beings to make their own shelter, and we humans are no exception.

–Martin Fuchs

Article in Swiss newspaper (You may need to use an incognito window to get past the web block.)

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:

6 Responses to My Little Hut in the Woods

  1. Marvelous….Love it. It seems skillfully done. Surely not your first build?

    on another note
    ran across this if any interested
    Frank Lloyd Wright’s Final Design/Build (sort of)
    up for auction
    It will go to auction on Oct. 16 with no reserve.

    Wright had been working with Rattenbury on the Lykes House sketches and had chosen the building site and designed the furniture and built-ins for the home when he became ill and died at age 91.

  2. I’ve always had mixed feelings about Frank Lloyd Wright. I greatly admire how his buildings look but, unfortunately, he was more of an artist than an engineer and many of them had serious structural problems that had to be fixed at a cost of $millions to the unfortunate owners. If it had not been for the secret addition of extra supporting steel by the worried builder, his masterpiece “Fallingwater” would have been “Fallingconcrete”.

    He was also an arrogant pig with a very questionable personal life and never actually qualified as an architect.

    However, he was undoubtedly a genius and I love his work. I’d just never buy one!

  3. Yes to all. Oddly, just watched a clip from some program, the person interviewed claimed that the roofs on all of Wright’s buildings leaked. No idea if true, but from what I’ve read wouldn’t be surprised.

    a couple of yrs back, when I was reading up a bit on him, I read that he had not actually graduated from Architectural school, only worked as an apprentice and yes, that is lots of “training”, but…

    I was discussing him with someone, and they got all indignant that I should criticize him, saying it was his (Wright’s ) job to make them structurally sound, it was the “engineer’s”. Personally, if I hire someone to draw up plans to build me a house/building, I expect the dam thing to not leak, and to be structurally sound and habitable, if built according to plan. Otherwise…it is malarkey.

  4. Feels a little bit like the stories about monks who slept in their coffins to remind themselves of their mortality… but it does display how little we really need to get by. Very much akin to Sam Gribley’s hollowed-out tree home in ‘My Side of the Mountain.’
    As for Wright, here’s a story I did years ago about the restoration of Fallingwater:
    Always enjoy the blog, Lloyd!

  5. Great, Ed! I was a FLW fan in the early ’60s. We went to Taliesin West (on the same trip hung out a bit with Paolo Soleri at his compound in Scottsdale). Slept on the deck of a burned-down FLW house nearby. Visited the house (in Pasadena?) with imprinted concrete blocks and also got a tour of a home in Marin County by a guy named Berger who built it himself. So FLS’s engineering sucked. He was an artist!

  6. I don’t know if you’re aware of it, but Soleri was in FLW’s cult The Fellowship,and was exiled by the Master. It’s thought that he began Arcosanti nearby Taliesin West as a sort of slap in the face to Wright. Arcosanti is now a shopworn tourist attraction, nothing new has been built there since the ’80s. I do believe Soleri was sincere and serious, not a charlatan, but his followers have been log-rolling for decades.
    Wright came from a period during which architects largely WERE expected to possess engineering chops, which is no longer the case. His understanding of structure was sound, for the most part; the calculations for the cantilever at Fallingwater were done on the fly Roofs leaked, he was sanguine about it, or even defiant, dismissing it as a trifling shortcoming. FLW did not go to Harvard, CalPoly, Berkeley- he completely lacked any bona fides! . Withal, he was mentored by Sullivan, which just might count for something…
    His genius aside, he and Olgivana ran a cult, ruined lives.

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