An off-grid cob retreat on a private bluff
Stoltz Bluff Eco-Retreat sits on 40 acres of private forest land overlooking a river valley on Vancouver Island in British Columbia. The small house was designed and hand-built by owners Tonya and Leon using natural and recycled materials, and is completely off-grid.
The home’s thick walls are made of cob, a mix of clay, sand and straw. The clay and sand are typically available from nearby sources, if not from the building site itself, while straw is an agricultural waste product, making cob a very sustainable building material. One of the advantages of cob building is that it is easy to create curved and sculptural forms. The thick walls give cob houses a lot of thermal mass, moderating indoor temperatures and making the house easier to heat and cool. Cob building is easy to learn but very labor-intensive. As a result, it is an inexpensive way to build if you do the work yourself, but is more costly than standard construction if you hire someone else to do the work.
The floor plan has two bedrooms in 1,000 ft2 (92.9 m2) of interior room. The kitchen, living and dining rooms are open to each other but each is its own distinct space. Salvaged old growth posts and beams set off the kitchen, and the living room is defined by a curving cob bench. The highlight of the space is the Rumford fireplace faced with compacted layers of colored soil. The floors look like concrete but they are actually compacted earth which has been sealed with natural oils and waxes. In the bathroom, the custom shower with cob seat was waterproofed with a natural lime plaster.
As Stoltz Bluff Eco-Retreat is off-grid, it relies on solar panels for electricity and gets its water from a well, with the roof designed for a future rainwater collection system. Waste water is treated in a constructed wetland, which removes contaminants using the same principles as natural wetlands.
Stoltz Bluff Eco-Retreat is available for vacation rentals. To book a stay, visit HomeAway.com. Have a great weekend!
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Photographs courtesy of Stoltz Bluff Eco-Retreat and by David Stanley (made available under a Creative Commons license).
Text copyright 2014 SmallHouseBliss. All Rights Reserved.
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