A Visit to Cob Cottage Company: Impressions and Photos

by ziggy on November 12, 2009 -- 7 comments -- Follow

Linda's Cob Cottage

Linda Smiley’s beautiful cob home

After the Natural Building Colloquium in Eagle Point, Oregon, I traveled with Ianto Evans and Linda Smiley to their home in Coquille, OR: Cob Cottage Company.

For those unawares, Ianto and Linda are two very influential cob building pioneers in North America, and authors of The Hand-Sculpted House, the number one go-to book for cob construction. They have been a huge inspiration for me during my house design process, and reading their book sealed the deal for building my home out of cob. Ianto and Linda have many years of experience building with mud. It was an honor to be able to meet them and spend several nights at their place. It was a great experience, and I took plenty of photos to share here on my own website.

The above slideshow should give you a sense of the Cob Cottage Company. My first afternoon at their place, I was blown away by the amount of cob building, and the lay of the land. I likened my initial experience to stepping into a cob playground.

"Bedrock" Cob House - Cob Cottage Company

“Bedrock” house at Cob Cottage Co.

Buildings at Cob Cottage Company

There are at least a dozen individual structures, mostly cottages of varying sizes, and some other buildings including a library, and a kitchen (currently under construction). Many are in various states of completion. Ianto and Linda host dozens of apprentices and students per year, and at least one new structure gets built from the ground up during the apprenticeships.

Linda Smiley's Laughing House

Inside Linda Smiley’s “Laughing House”… and her awesome little kitchen

Linda Smiley's Cob House

Excellent countertop design with additional counter that folds down over stove

It felt great to be in a place that was very aesthetically united. Every structure was built out of cob, and the styles of these buildings were all very similar – most had living roofs, arched doorways, earthen plasters and floors, etc. They all featured similar construction techniques. It felt like a very defined cob village.

Something else I want to note about the building aesthetic at Cob Cottage Company is their very handmade and low-tech style. Few buildings had opening windows, and all were single pane. Foundations were all dry-stacked urbanite, roofs were all covered in moss, roof framing was all roundwood, and floors earthen. Their style is what I idealize — the avoidance of synthetic building materials, the human power approach to building, and the use of what is actually available.

ccc-pan

Defining space with cob walls

Connecting many of the structures together (physically, and otherwise) are cob walls. You literally cannot walk anywhere without passing through a cob arch or two in one of the cob walls. Ianto and Linda are all about human scale construction, and these cob walls are a fantastic example of that. There is zero vehicle access on their land (all building supplies must be carted in by wheelbarrow over a creek, and up a fairly steep hill – not for the faint of heart!) What they have built is for humans — walking humans. The cob walls define space – they create it (in the form of gathering places), separate it (in the form of  barriers between walking paths, and ultimately, make the place incredibly beautiful and unique. I’ve gotta say that I’m simply a huge fan of what they’ve done with cob walls.

It’s also notable to say that unless you’re 5’6″ or shorter, you’re going to be ducking through most of these arched doorways (in the walls, and in most of the buildings). I’m going to claim that making most people bend their head slightly to pass through a space creates a very interesting environment. It makes you more conscious of your surroundings, and passing in and out of different spaces. Something about having to slightly duck through entryways made the experience feel somewhat sacred, in a way.

Final thoughts

Having spent those few days at the Cob Cottage Company, I have felt my desire to continue building with cob strengthened. I love the idea of building a sheltered cob seating area at Dancing Rabbit, or building a couple of very small cob cabins for visitors, guests, etc. I also adore the idea of building cob walls, and trying to make that work at Dancing Rabbit to create and define space. I also have some ideas of teaching cob building, and hosting actual workshops.

We shall see. But I can definitely say my visit to Ianto and Linda’s land has been very motivational.

View my full set of Cob Cottage Company pictures here!

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paul de haan-jungwirth November 19, 2009 at 10:02 am

thank you for sharing this (and for the entire site, really), ziggy. it has certainly fueled the already bursting passion that’s been growing in me since the beginning of the year when i first heard of cob and was swept away into the sense that THIS is something i am to do. i’ve been immersed in the hand sculpted house book this past month or so and currently surveying the available options for actually beginning to learn with my hands and feet and heart how to build with cob once this coming minnesota winter passes. i’d like to do a workshop (or ultimately an apprenticeship) at cob cottage company, but i’m keeping my eyes and ears open for other opportunities a bit closer to home. if you decide to take this motivation and run with it, i’d definitely be interested in visiting dancing rabbit to learn with you. please keep me posted.

light and love,
paul

ziggy November 22, 2009 at 4:00 pm

Paul: Thanks for your message. I urge you to follow that passion… it’s a heck of a ride! There are many building opportunities out there, so keep your eyes and ears sharp.

Ink November 23, 2009 at 5:27 pm

Hei Ziggy,
I’ve been reading through your site for the past few months (on and off), and it’s been really informative and helpful! Thanks for taking the time to document your house-building – Your posts have been a great inspiration! After looking at all those pics of earthen floors and rounded walls and tree mosaics and living roofs, I can’t imagine living in a box for much longer.

I’ve been dreaming about building my own cottage for years now, and I’m finally going to put these plans into action soon-ish. I’ll first have to find some land, however. And since I’m in germany, I’ll have to deal with a lengthy, arduous, stupid and straining permit procedure… I’m not even sure if I’ll be able to build with cob at all – for a full-fledged house, that would be extremely difficult. Hopefully for a small garden cottage it’ll be easier… The actual building won’t be as hard and exhausting as the paper work. At least, it will make sense.

Thanks for all the fotos of the Cob Cottage buildings! These walls with their low doorways are so beautiful, I can just imagine how much they add to outside spaces! There’s something enchanting about them, as if they could easily transport you into another world. or perhaps into this one, encouraging people to be conscious of their surroundings, showing us how awe-inspiring this earth really is.

Rebecca November 24, 2009 at 1:14 pm

Ziggy,
Thank You Thank You Thank You for posting that slide show. I did a workshop at CCC a few years ago and have been unable to get back there to see how far they have come. When I was there the large house with the half brown, half white front was built but it was till raw cob with only the roofing boards up. I was privaledged enough to be one of the first people to sleep in that building, up in the loft with thick plastic under me to prevent holes in my air mattress and a tarp above me to keep rain and bits of cob from falling on me while I slept. it is still one of my most cherished parts of my life. You have inspired me to at least go there again and regain that feeling I had once. Thank you so much.

Rebecca

Merry December 9, 2009 at 11:19 am

Ziggy,

Wow, what an opportunity! Thanks for the slideshow of the place. One of these days I’ll make it out there.

Question: One of the pics in the slideshow shows what looks like strawbales stacked like bricks, with a cob morter surrounding the individual bales. I’ve never seen that before. What’s the purpose of the morter? Is it to hold the bales in place? And would it cut down on the insulative properties of the wall?

peace,
Merry

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