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December 20, 2013 at 8:00 AMComments: 1 Faves: 0

Michael Buck's Cob House: A Response to British Housing

By Rachael Ellen More Blogs by This Author

Tucked in the countryside of Oxfordshire, England, former art teacher Michael Buck decided to build himself a house. But his idea of building a home was not to provide his family of five with a roof over their heads. Buck was looking to make a statement.

With the help of 20 volunteers, three cows, and some old world techniques, Buck and his team constructed a cob house. For about $250, Buck was able to design and construct the cottage out of local materials that were either found or unwanted.  Initially, Buck had hoped to build with no costs at all and rely solely on his finds.

 Unfortunately, after running low on materials such as straw, purchases had to be made to complete the project. After two years of gathering materials and eight months of building, the cob house was completed in his little garden.

Cob is a millennia old building material made by mixing clay, sand, straw, and water.

The cottage, with its walls made of cob and plastered with cow dung, is covered by a thatched roof made of straw and supported by a wooden frame. The romantic vibe of the cottage is accentuated by its one room design, with a dining area, kitchen, and a mezzanine level for cozying up at night. Buck explained that he wanted the cob house to be a part of the Earth, and not impede upon its beauty.

Logs were used to support the thatched roof.

The amenities of the cob house, all romantic charm aside, are bare minimum. No electricity or running water are available, and the entire residence is heated by a wood stove. Although the cob house is considered a “summer residence” (part of the reason that its construction didn’t require permits), Buck boasts its ability to be a year-round home. The thick walls and wool insulated roof, Buck says, provides enough warmth throughout the seasons.

The inside of the cob house has been plastered to emphasize its charming curvature. 

Currently, the cottage is being rented by a worker from a neighboring farm. The current tenant pays rent in milk and cream, and has introduced a gas stove to do the cooking. Bathroom amenities for the cottage are located in a separate outhouse behind the cottage, and water can be fetched from a nearby spring. Practical? Not entirely. But Buck has managed to make a statement.

For water, residents have to run to the nearby spring. 

The whole ideology behind the cob house, Buck explains, was to “challenge the notion that paying for a house should take a lifetime.”

“I wanted to show that houses don’t have to cost anything. We live in a society where we spend our lives paying our mortgages, which many people don’t enjoy,” said Buck.

Buck even went as far to say that the construction of cob residents could be the solution to Britain’s troubled housing market. As fantastical as the cottage is, and how reminiscent it is of a Hobbit’s home plopped in the Shire, its impracticality makes it a tough sell for English winters. Maybe it serves a better purpose catering to the inner child longing to escape to the lands described by J.R.R. Tolkien. 




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1 Comment

  • I would love to live in a cob house, though I would want it set up with running water. They really can be every bit as comfortable as the more traditional American homes we're used to. Cob is just the material used to build the walls. They can be set up with heat, electricity, plumbing - anything you want. :)

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