Dream of a handmade house lives on
A recent book looks at the history of homes built by hand, a movement that was particularly strong in the 1960s and '70s.
When I was looking for my first house years ago, one of the first homes I looked at had been built by hand. It was a small, wooden building, just one bedroom. The owner had since built a second, larger house next door to accommodate a growing family.
I was charmed by the idea of living in a handmade house, but eventually decided against it because it was too far out of town.
Bill Lahay explains how the handmade house movement gained popularity during the back-to-nature movement in the 1960s and '70s:
Those decades experienced a confluence of historical events and trends — the war in Vietnam, a burgeoning environmental and counterculture movement, experimentation with international influences and psychedelic substances — that gave the handmade house movement a unique new tone. In addition to the practical issues of providing shelter, these dwellings allowed for self-expression, a canvas for self-portraiture in wood, glass, steel and stone.
My mother’s parents put their own house together in the 1930s from a kit ordered from Sears Roebuck, delivered by rail to their Appalachian Mountain home. By the time I was old enough to be interested, nobody was left who remembered exactly who put it together.
The artisan home movement is enjoying a new popularity in some circles, including among some lovers of small homes and advocates of frugal living. Two women in California built their own tiny homes for about $4,000 each, using salvaged materials, and are helping others do the same.
And you can still create your own home from a kit. Shelter-Kit, a company in New Hampshire, has been selling complete home kits since 1970. The company says that 85% of its homes are constructed by people with no building experience.