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Zen forest house: handcrafted, 11K, small home in Oregon

Brian Schulz wanted to see “how small of a house I could make feel big”. Inspired by the traditional Japanese Minka homes that rely on local materials and steeply sloped roofs to create affordable, open structures, Schulz created a home using materials salvaged or sourced from within 10 miles of his home.

The result is a 14-by-16-foot home in tune with its surroundings that cost only 11,000 dollars – mostly for concrete, shakes, and insulation-, along with about a year and half of Schulz’s spare time.

Much of the wood Schulz collected from the bay while kayaking (he teaches traditional wood kayak-building for a living) and then he milled it himself on-site. Corner posts were blowdown trees from a friend’s forest. Kitchen counters were milled from a fallen tree he’d held onto for 8 years. Stair railing is alder poles cut from beside the house.

The 3 tables in the home were cut from cedar found on the beach and constructed in 2 hours. He laid flooring using low-grade reject fir, created trim using miscellaneous scrap wood, and bought all the home’s windows for $40 from the local dump (the french doors came from craigslist).

Even the paper for the Japanese lanterns was handmade just 7 miles from his home. For Schulz, this focus on local and recycled wasn’t just about saving money, but about something much bigger and more satisfying.

“Whether or not one believes that turning a log from beside the house into the house itself imbues it with some mystical qualities, it is undeniable that the pursuit of local materials connects more deeply to your landscapes, your neighbors, and yourself. The simple act of searching adds richness to our lives…

“You meet people, you discover new places, you have adventures, you learn things, AND, you come home with beams, windows, doors, and shingles. It takes more time, but that is also time you are not working to pay for it, and actually enjoying yourself, building something infinitely more attractive than yet another plywood and sheetrock box.”