Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen didn't set out to become back –and front!– yard farmers. But once this Los Angeles couple discovered the pleasures of making things by hand and living close to the natural world, one thing led to another and today their ever-evolving urban homestead (if we dare call it that) is a true inspiration in the heart of the city.
You may know Erik and Kelly from their blog Root Simple, their best-selling book The Urban Homestead, or even Erik's How To Build a Backyard Chicken Coop tutorial here on Apartment Therapy. The pair also have a brand-new book called Making It: Radical Home Ec for a Post-Consumer World, which is a wonderful handbook for household projects both small and large scale.
Touring their Silver Lake/Echo Park home, we were struck by the self-sustaining nature of their indoor and outdoor spaces. Bees pollinate flowers, which Kelly harvests to make lotions and salves. Erik nurtures seedlings that grow into vegetables – scraps of which are fed to the chickens and become compost. The 1/12th-acre lot is dotted with fruit trees, bee hives, a twig-burning stove, a rain barrel, a rooftop solar dehydrator, and compost bins (the couple admits the bins aren't quite "Dwell magazine material" but they are truly the heart of the operation).
Everything they grow is useful in some way, and they demonstrate the simple yet revolutionary acts of making their own beauty products, brewing their own drinks, and living with great awareness and creativity. Inside the house, the DIY spirit continues with a couch fashioned out of an old child's bedframe and artwork made by friends and local children. There is a seriousness to their post-consumer lifestyle but the couple clearly has a lot of fun, too – witness the brand new addition to their family sampling Erik's homemade beer (just kidding, folks!).
Since visiting the couple, our vision of our own home has definitely changed, too. We've been inspired to plant a few extra seedlings for our balcony garden, made flaxseed styling gel from a recipe in their Making It book (so cool!), and started dreaming of our own chicken coops and bee hives... One might not expect to find these things in the middle of LA, but Erik and Kelly show that it really can be done!
Our style: Hoarder Chic.
Inspiration: Our friends' beautiful gardens.
Favorite Element: Our chickens, but the new kitten is challenging their position.
Biggest Challenge: Keeping chicken poop out of the house.
What Friends Say: "Can I borrow your sauerkraut crock?"
Proudest DIY: Our elegant dry toilet constructed with a milk crate and a five gallon bucket.
Biggest Indulgence: Expensive cheese
Best Advice: Keep new projects small, change your house and your yard slowly. Plant fruit trees wherever and whenever you can.
Green Elements/Initiatives: Greywater, composting, solar cooking, garden beds and edible landscaping, lots of home cooking, homemade cleaning products – really, our whole house is a green initiative!
Food Growing: the work of John Jeavons
Beekeeping: Backwards Beekeepers
Humanure Composting: The Humanure Handbook
Fruit Trees: Dave Wilson Nursery
Lifestyle: Backwoods Home Magazine
Philosophy: Wendell Berry, Seneca
(Re-edited from a post originally published 05.06.11 - NM)
(Images: Emily Ho)