The Innermost House: Off-Grid Cabin Life In California
Categories: Homes / Dwellings
by Susan Melgren,
Diana and Michael Anthony Lorence have been living in tiny houses for almost three decades. Motivated by their desire for a simple life that left them open to pursue inquiry and the highest truth, the couple has furnished, remodeled or built more than 20 tiny houses in the past 30 years. For the past seven of those, the Lorences have lived in the Innermost House, a 144-square-foot, unelectrified cabin in the coastal mountains of Northern California that epitomizes simple living.
Situated with a hill to its back, the home faces south. An open porch, sparsely furnished with two chairs, shields the front door. Inside, the tiny home is separated into five rooms. On the home’s east side, an 11-by-7-foot living room with a 12-foot-high ceiling features only a stone fireplace with a generous hearth, a wall of books, and two low chairs, facing each other so as to facilitate conversation. The west side of the home is divided into three rooms—a kitchen, study and bathroom—each measuring 5-by-3 feet. A sleeping loft, accessible by a wooden ladder in the living room, tops the three west rooms.
Designed by Michael, the Innermost House was built using post-and-beam construction. The inside walls are finished with plain white lime plaster, while the outside walls are covered in redwood boards naturally resistant to rot, fire and insects. The Innermost House isn’t just off-grid; it’s completely unpowered. Having neither electricity nor an alternative power source draws the focus of the home toward the fire, which in the absence of an oven, refrigerator, hot water heater, electric lighting and heating provides for most of the couple’s needs. Diana warms water for bathing, and cooks the couple’s meals (in one cast-iron pot), over the fire. After the sun goes down, Diana and Michael supplement light from the fire with beeswax candles. Local orchard prunings that would otherwise be burned as waste provide the fuel for the fire.
Of all the homes the couple has lived in, Diana says that the Innermost House is the best—and that living in it has changed her life. “We have always lived in small houses, but this one is the smallest and the best,” Diana told House Beautiful in an interview. “Here I feel all my loose and wandering thoughts are gathered up and made whole. It is an antidote to a world of distractions. It is a world unto itself. It is almost more myself than I am.”
The sleeping loft is accessible via a wooden ladder that the couple keeps stored against a wall in the living room. Because the Innermost House doesn't have a refrigerator, Diana and Michael eat a lot of fruits and vegetables, in addition to nuts and grains. All of the couple's meals are cooked in a single pot, which helps keep mealtime simple.
Although the home has running water, all water for bathing must be heated over the fire.
Diana describes the books in her home as their link with the world and says that all of the books were carefull chosen so as to contribute something essential to the Innermost House.
Images Courtesy Innermost House