Adventures in Natural Building: Strawbale Studio

Walking into Deanne Bednar’s Strawbale Studio in Oxford, Michigan is like walking into the future…or maybe the past.  Either way, it is at the same time homelike as it is ethereal and dreamy.  It is a wonderful, welcoming space in which to find oneself.

Here, you are immediately immersed in a more nature-based state of living: jars of herbs, kombucha, and kefir line the counters, whittling projects lie about the room, and natural trinkets like spiraling wood, herb bundles, and dried flowers can be found in every corner and adorning the walls.

What is more unique to those unfamiliar with natural building techniques are the wonderful Earthen plasters that soften edges, relax the eyes, and bring the outdoors into the home. 


Even the room that we slept in had a beautiful, hand-built wooden sleeping loft.

sleeping loft

The quiet, serene, and chickadee-filled outdoor space completes the feel of tranquility one experiences at the Strawbale Studio.  The property is inviting and scattered with wonderful experiments in natural building.

One of Deanne’s specialties is thatching, the process of artfully using dried vegetation for roofing.  Here, we saw our first example of thatching on the roof of the in-progress “Children’s Cottage”.


Thatching also completed the roof of a clever, spiral-shaped cob outhouse.  Quite the inviting space for a bathroom break!


In another building, we discovered one of the more impressive rocket stoves that I’ve seen yet.

rocket stove

Last summer, a two-week workshop was held at the Studio where the group made progress on a new strawbale cottage.  The project is not yet finished and the external plasters still need to be put on the walls to give it a more finished look.  However, it’s certainly a wonderful start!

new cottage

Wherever you look, artistic touches have been added to give the inside of structures and the property at large a unique energy. There are cozy fireplaces, sitting places, and a cob oven.


But perhaps the most impressive structure was actually the first (!) to be built on the property.  It is a wonderfully inviting strawbale home with thatched roof.

exterior strawbale

The interior is filled with hand-sculpted, unique, and welcoming benches, a tree coming out of the wall, stained glass, and more.

interior 1

inteior 2

interior 3

interior 4 or 5

And of course, along with all of this amazing exploration, the weekend included some hands-on practice and learning.

Pop Quiz: Is this a problem patch of invasive phragmites reed?


Or the beginning of a new roof?

reed gather

Why fight nature when we can work with her?

And of course, my weekend at the Strawbale Studio was also filled with wonderful people.


I highly recommend a trip to see all of this in person if you can!  Be sure to check out the Strawbale Studio’s website and head out there for a workshop or class.

More Information:

What is cob?

What is a rocket stove?

A write-up from a woman who helped to build the newer (currently incomplete) cottage.

Past Posts on These Light Footsteps about Natural Building:

Experimental Earthen Painting

Straw Bale House in the City

Colorful Bean & Corn Salad (good recipe + rocket stove gathering)

Permaculture Design Course Completion (my first time making cob and seeing a rocket stove in person)

The Ojai Foundation

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14 thoughts on “Adventures in Natural Building: Strawbale Studio

    • Currently, the home is mostly used as a workspace during the summer and it was not heated while we were there (although there is a wood stove inside). However, even without heat, the strawbales were definitely providing insulation and it felt much warmer inside than out! I believe the designer mentioned that she wouldn’t make the ceiling as high next time to make for more efficient heating of the building.

    • wow, I found this site while looking for strawbale studio logo…and wow, Christine, what a fabulous presentation of Strawbale Studio. So appreciated that you took the time to take this beautiful photos, and put together such an expressive article. Thanks so so much. Deanne Strawbale Studio
      So what’s alive in You these days?

  1. You are talking my language girl! What a study in sustainable gorgeousness! Wholesome, practical and stickin’ it to the man all at the same time, who couldn’t help to adore this wonderful post and these equally wonderful people embracing what they can do themselves with what is available 🙂

  2. Gorgeous pictures. A very inspirational blogpost. We are currently in the planning stages of a small sustainable cottage, so ideas like these are helpful and appreciated. Thank you for sharing.

  3. That’s pretty amazing! The strawbale home looks beautiful! I especially like the natural artwork inside. I would love to work on designing homes like that instead of the multimillion dollar mc-mansions that I currently work on which are such a waste of resources. I think I’ll have to look into this to get more information!
    Thanks for sharing

  4. Pingback: These Light Footsteps: Best of 2013 | These Light Footsteps

  5. Pingback: First Cob of the Season | These Light Footsteps

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