GIMME SHELTER – August, 2020

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Our Brothers and Sisters in France

Our friend Paula, who lives in a houseboat in Amsterdam, once said to us that France was “the California of Europe.” There do seem to be many French people who share the concepts in our books (which I believe reflect the California lifestyle) in building, gardening, and the spectrum of DIY. The French translation of our book Home Work sold over 10,000 copies.

Our French friend and carpenter Yogan and his creations have appeared in a number of our books. He was hiking in the Pyrenees recently and came across this beautiful little home. He recognized it from Home Work, where it was featured in a section on countercultural builders in France, and shot this photo. It was built by Jeanne-Marie; she based the design on the old stone barns of the region, but used wood rather than stone. It’s one of my favorite little homes.

Epiphyllum Oxipetalum, Brahma Kamalam night-blooming flower(Home Work, published in 2004, is the sequel to Shelter. Many of the homes in Home Work were inspired by the builders and buildings in Shelter.)

Epiphyllum Oxipetalum, Queen of the Night Cactus

The flowers bloom only at night. This one is in our greenhouse. Lesley has been checking it every night and last night, voila! In India, it’s called Brahma Kamalam, named after the Hindu god of creation. In Japan, it is called “Beauty under the Moon.” It is very fragrant, may bloom once a year. And then — in exquisite restraint — for only one night.

truck camper

On the Road

We’re starting to gather material for another book on rolling homes. A lot has happened since 2014, when our book Tiny Homes on the Move was published. For one thing, there’s been an explosive interest in vans, as evidenced by Foster Huntington’s Van Life: Your Home on the Road, which has sold 75,000 copies. People are taking off for vacations in vans, and as well, some people who have been laid off and can’t pay their rent due to the coronavirus, are looking at nomadic living as an option.

We’re looking for the new generation of road homes, circa 2020 and beyond — different from the vehicles (or trailers) shown in present books. What’s new out there?

If you know of any unique units, please contact me:
Send Submission Email

Charlie Winton, Musician

Those of you who know Charlie from the publishing world (founder of Publishers Group West, the Avalon Publishing Group, and Counterpoint LLC); well, surprise! When he retired from publishing, he picked up his guitar and started writing songs. He’s just come out with his first album — Hold On Tight — and it’s great — rock and roll!

On My Blog


  • Walter Mondale, age 92, said to Nicholas Kristof of the NY ‘Times’, “Not too many more years and I’ll be getting old.”
  • Gay Talese said something that caught my eye a while ago, like, “When you’re 80, you’re bulletproof.” Like you can’t be held accountable when you’re so old. I’m sorry, I can’t remember your name … Now where did I park my car? … No I didn’t get your text message…
  • Posture-posture-posture. We have to work at it. At this age, nature is bent on composting us — pulling us forward toward the ground.

Leap Before You Look

Book: Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College, 1933-1957Lesley’s been reading this book lately, and the title got me thinking that a lot of what I do is like this. (Ooops, have I written this before? Well, bulletproof, you know…) Starting a project and not knowing how it’ll turn out — the momentum carries you step-by-step, and pretty soon — voila! Most of my building projects are like this: I just start. Books too; I begin, a two-page spread at a time, and as I proceed, the book takes shape. Or this newsletter. I start, and add to it as time goes on. Or taking off on a wave where it looks grim — let’s see what happens here.

When I was training as a competitive runner, I’d sometimes run on the beach, where there were big rocks (like maybe soccer ball size and bigger)‚ and I realized that I was springing off of one rock, figuring out where my foot was going to land while I was in the air — leaping before knowing where I’d be landing. Somehow it worked.

Me Being Interviewed by 8-year-old Spanish Girl

Over a year ago, I was interviewed by a journalist in Spain for a children’s quarterly magazine, La Leche!, about tiny homes. The magazine arrived a few days ago — I hadn’t realized it would be in comic strip form — with a little girl asking me about building one’s own home. Here are two of the six pages:

Our Under-the-Radar Books

In our 50 years, we’ve done books that, for some reason, don’t sell. I’m going to list one in each of these newsletters.

William Cooper catalog coverI found (and fell in love with) this little catalogue at M. Weinreb, a bookstore for architects in London (in Bedford Square) in the ’70s. William Cooper manufactured prefab greenhouses, chicken coops, hog sheds, prefab homes, and rustic furniture in the early 1900s in London and shipped products all over England and to the colonies. 30 years later, I got around to publishing it. In preparing to do so, I got in touch with Mr. Cooper’s descendants, who were delighted that it would be reprinted, and they pointed out some of the Cooper pre-fab homes still in use in England. (Same in the USA with Sears Roebuck — which sold more than 70,000 mail-order homes between 1908–1940. It’s estimated that 70% of these homes are still standing.)

Here are two pages on the book reproduced in Home Work:

The designs are still relevant, 120 years later. For example, note the cold frame for starting seedlings, bottom row, 2nd from left, above. Top, right-hand page, designs for buildings made with corrugated steel (a relatively new product then).

The (hard cover) book has been reduced to $12.95 at: If you order it, plus The Half-Acre Homestead, you get a 30% discount and free shipping. Total for both books: $23.30.

I try to do an Instagram post every day. (Too bad the jerks at Facebook own it, but there’s no alternative.) You can view these (without signing up for IG) at:

For Anglophiles

Stuck at home? Here’s an enormous amount of info from “The Gentle Author,” who writes: “In the midst of life I woke to find myself living in an old house beside Brick Lane in the East End of London. I am going to write every single day and tell you about my life here in Spitalfields at the heart of London.”
One of the posts:

Closing Thought

In article by Anna Goldfarb in NY Times April 8, 2020, with headline Turn Off, Tune Out, Unlink. Then Get Some Work Done:

“Making ourselves inaccessible from time to time is essential to boosting our focus.”

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:

One Response to GIMME SHELTER – August, 2020

  1. In reference to possible content on you new book I have a friend who lives in Saskatchawan Canada who attends climate protests quite frequently. Instead of camping or staying in motels he outfitted his 4 door Geo car for living while on the road. He’s quite the clever engineer utilizing low budget ways to accomplish his needs, including a bed, custom cabinetry, cooking facilities and power management.
    Also, there’s my Bug-out bicycle camper and my Nomad bike camper. Kirsten Dirksen made the latter a viral video nearing 12M hits.
    Plus, I’ve been digitizing and cataloging my idea sketchers from past sketches books, (I use to draw an idea a day) and have quite a few drawings on the subject of livable homeless push karts, bicycle campers, camper-trailers etc.
    Thanks for your time Lloyd,

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