You’ve Never Seen a Yurt Look as Good as This Modern, Minimal Hand-Built Home
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Zach Both, Nicole Lopez, Maya (Black lab), and Lion-owl Richie (Resident great horned owl)
Location: Portland, Oregon
Size: 730 square feet w/ additional 200 square-foot loft
Years Lived In: 1 year, own the yurt, rent the land
After traveling the country in a van for three years, I knew it would be difficult to live in a basic, blasé apartment ever again. When my girlfriend, Nicole, was offered a job in Portland, Oregon, we immediately started considering alternatives. Could we convert a firetruck? Maybe we could build Ewok-style tree houses to call home? The yurt’s rich history and unique construction inspired us to take on the challenge of building one ourselves with the helping hands of our closest friends and family.
The round, wood-framed, and fabric-covered structure has become a dwelling of contradictions. In a span of 24 hours, a yurt’s internal temperature can fluctuate from unbearably cold to oppressively hot—from meat locker to Finnish sauna. And with the exploding popularity of “glamping,” yurts are regarded as both primitive and luxurious, as if the ideal guest would be a strong-browed Neanderthal with an affinity for silky patterned bathrobes. It’s these contradictions that make the yurt’s DIY construction rewarding, puzzling for building officials, and enthralling to neighbors who stop in the road to gawk at its UFO-like shape.
We wanted to build a yurt unlike anyone has ever seen. It would take us five months to adapt the yurt structure into a modern, contemporary-styled living space. The process of designing, building, and living in the yurt was documented and compiled into a free online build guide called DoItYurtself.com. Our triumphs and tribulations will hopefully inform and inspire others as they embark on a similar journey.
Apartment Therapy Survey:
My Style: An emulation of Lloyd Kahn if he had grown up in Denmark. Unusual structures with a minimalist, modern flair.
Inspiration: Open a new tab on your preferred web browser. Visit Google images. Type in “Weird houses.” Scroll down. Keep scrolling for exactly 2 minutes, 16 seconds. And stop. The image on the bottom right. That’s our inspiration.
Favorite Element: Everyone’s favorite element in the yurt is the round, plant-covered bedroom loft. It just so happens to be my favorite, too. It’s a unique, architectural element that—from my research—has not been done before in a yurt. The four dozen plants along the loft’s perimeter create a lush oasis where Nicole and I spend our nights looking up at the stars while debating the intricacies of the Trolley problem (pull the lever!)
Biggest Challenge: Nicole and I were complete novices at the beginning of this build. Almost everything was a first for us and came with a steep learning curve. Refinishing and installing salvaged wood flooring would add an entire month to the build and subtract five years from my lifespan. Not to mention, this will be our first and last time installing drywall. I learned perseverance is key, in addition to a stockpile of podcasts that help distract from the mundane pain of endless sanding.
Proudest DIY: Building the exterior yurt structure was an intimidating prospect, but it happened to be the most enjoyable experience of them all. This joy can most likely be attributed to our close friends from around the country helping with the build over one fall weekend. While most of our rag tag group would struggle to pick out a Philips head screwdriver from a toolbox lineup, it made me that much more proud to see everyone working together to build something of this scale.
Biggest Indulgence: Since yurts are typically off-grid structures, I would say our biggest indulgence is the electricity and running water. Or that third massive monstera plant.
Best Advice: This applies to more than just building a yurt: be over-realistic about the time involved to build anything on your own. Take your initial time estimation and immediately double it. Planning on documenting the build process to create an in-depth online guide akin to Doityurtself.com? Quadruple it.
PAINT & COLORS
- Varathane – Ebony (Yurt Rafters)
- Varathane – Antique White (Flooring)
- Sherwin-Williams – Futon
- Sherwin Williams – Tricorn Black
- 30 foot Eagle Yurt – Rainier Outdoor
- IKEA Cabinets
- Stenstorp Kitchen Island – IKEA
- FF923PL Refrigerator – Summit
- Hybrid Latex Mattress – Nest Bedding
- Tencel Sheets and Wool Comforter – Nest Bedding
- House Plants – Costa Farms
- Villa 9215 Compost Toilet – Separett
- Vanity Sink – IKEA
Thanks Zach and Nicole!
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