Japanese House Built by Off Grid Champion - Brian Schulz

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Japanese Forest HouseBoatbuilders Creation

(page 1 of 3)  A couple years ago I found a neat little brass sink at the local recycle center.   Enamored of shiny objects,  I coveted it's golden glow,  entirely aware of the fact that I had no use for such a thing.   I wandered around for an hour or so with it in my hand,  looking at other stuff,  relalizing that if I took it I'd have to build a home for it.   I eventually brought it up to the register and started planning my house on the drive home.

The Japanese Forest House is a confluence of my love of small spaces,  my passion for local materials,  and my fascination with tradtional Japanese architecture.    

For those familiar with the intensely refined art of traditional Japanese carpentry,  applying the title of 'Japanese' onto my house might be laying it on a bit thick.  It's true I've fallen short of the refinement found in the homes of the upper classes,  however,  the work still embraces the design principles that make the traditonal tea houses (which were, ironically, modeled after peasant shacks) so appealing.    Oversized beams, live edge slabs, natural timbers,  real plaster walls, and minimal decoration, all encourage a deep sense of calm.   What I love about this structure is that it is architecturally honest,  meaning that where a lag bolt or a deck screw or a 16 penny nail was used,  no attempt to was made to conceal them.   Open joist pockets,  a visible birdsmouth from a repurposed rafter template,  I made a deliberate choice not to hide these things.   This ethic reflects my general dislike for the veneers of all sorts that seek to mimic things that they are not.    Moving outwards,  the structure compliments,  rather than dominates the landscape.   I made many design errors:  the roof pitch is slightly too steep,  the body of the house is a bit too tall,  and if I'd known that I was going to use a cedar shake roof I absolutely would have dipped the ridge and flown the gables.   C'est la vie.   

With deep enough pockets a person might be able to duplicate such a structure by writing a large check to a talented builder,  but that would risk missing the point entirely.   Almost every piece of this tiny house was salvaged,  most of it from within a ten miles of where the house sits.  Small details and decorations were created by local artists, even going so far that the paper in my Japanese lanterns was hand made seven miles from here.   I milled most of the timber on-site.   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.   To reiterate:  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 infinately more attractive than yet another plywood and sheetrock box.

Before I share the photos,  it may be of interest to note that this project will never be truly finished:  the stone-weighted shingled porch roof,  the bamboo plantings,  the outside lantern,  the tori arch,  the shoji for the windows,  are just a few of the things yet to be added.   For those of you who are curious about the construction details,  I'll give a brief description at the bottom of the page.   Finally,  I want to thank all of the people who helped make this house a reality.   Even if you simply gave ten or fifteen minutes,  chances are I remember you,  thank you.   The following photos were taken with a cheap point and shoot camera,  and they hardly do justice to the space,  but it's my hope that they will inspire someone else to explore,  to dream,  and to build.

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