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.
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.
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!
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.
The interior is filled with hand-sculpted, unique, and welcoming benches, a tree coming out of the wall, stained glass, and more.
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?
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.
Past Posts on These Light Footsteps about Natural Building:
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)