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Kristie Wolfe builds underground home & sets rural WA hamlet

Inspired by the success of the Hawaii treehouse home she built for $11,000, Kristie Wolfe began searching for land to build a “Hobbit”-inspired village. Knowing that there is land to be found for cheap in this country (she bought her Hawaii property for $8000), she began to search the Northwest for sites.

“There’s a lot of land everywhere, if you look on craigslist, if you look on zillow, you can find property so it’s not really that there’s not a lot,” explains Wolfe. “The issue is with property that’s in my price range- I’m looking for property that’s $10,000 to 20,000- usually there’s a reason why it’s cheap, it’s either an easement problem or you have to drive through a crappy neighborhood… but if you’re wanting to be off-grid, it opens up a whole world of selections, there’s a ton out there.”

Wolfe paid $18,000 for 5 acres on a hillside above Lake Chelan, Washington. Being a couple miles down a dirt road, there was no option to be on the grid so Wolfe put in a solar panel, septic and a water tank (filled by truck for now) and began to dig the first of her underground homes.

At 288 square feet, Wolfe’s “tiny house in the shire”” was over the maximum square footage allowed for an un-permitted build so she went to the county for approval. With only hand-sketched plans on graph paper, she was able to get a permit.

The structure went up in a few days “with a lot of help from family and friends” and it was “wrapped and roofed” in a few weeks and then Wolfe finished the interior on her own.

Inspired by the “Hobbit” books, films and cartoon (from 1977), Wolfe wanted to recreate the cozy feel of a hobbit hole. “Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole and that meant comfort.”

Rather than buying expensive custom details, Wolfe got creative. She used the top of an old cable spool – scavenged for free long before the build- as a round door. To create round windows, she hid secondhand ($10) square windows behind repurposed circular mirror frames. For a very unique cordwood floor, she cut scraps of wood (found beside the road and old firewood) into into one-inch-thick pieces glued down with a heavy construction adhesive and grouted by hand (again thanks much help to friends and family).

Wolfe has broken ground on the 2nd and 3rd hillside homes. She doesn’t plan to change much of her design except to make the windows larger. The completed “village” will include an above-ground communal kitchen built to look like a thatched-roof English-style pub.

[Filmed by Ivan Nanney]

  • Daniel Burke

    Always wanted to build an underground house. Not so much hobbit style… Very interesting wood framed? I wonder how they figured how much weight it could handle? Snow loads etc. plus needs kitchenette… Cool.

  • Mo86

    Oh, this is extraordinary!!!