Monday, March 23, 2015

A Comfortable Shape

If you put 20 people into a room with 20 folding chairs stacked, leaning against one wall, and you ask the people to sit down, what will they do?

They'll form a circle. You won't find them lining the chairs against the flat walls, sitting in a square. People don't do that unless forced to. As a matter of fact, if a group of people entered a room and found all the seating was against the 4 walls (picture an awkward wedding reception type situation), they would move the chairs away from the walls. They'd likely make a circle. At the very least, they will soften the angular shape of the room, placing the chairs in a curve.

People like circles for living. They don't like squares and hard angles. Think of your own house -- do you place furniture into the middle of the corners to soften them? Have you ever put a bed, couch, chair, or "corner" hutch into a corner, to soften the harsh angle and make the room more of a ... circle?

Why do we have square rooms? Because we have square houses. Why do we have square houses? Because we plane lumber to flat boards with blunt ends. Wood works well that way -- it's hard to form wooden boards into curved structures.

So, we humans live in houses shaped uncomfortably for us, because we build with wood.

Enter:  The Cob House!

Building with cob is less like building, and more like sculpting. You sculpt your house from the ground up. Because it's sculpting, it's creative; it's fun. (Said from somebody who hasn't done it yet! But so I've heard cob home owners say.) Cob can be shaped any way you want it. There are thousands of square cob houses. You can do square if you like.

But a round cob house has a special attraction to me. I can't wait to live in a round cob house. I've read that without the wasted corner spaces, round cob actually feels larger. Round cob is a warm, welcoming, peaceful space.
Cob builders are interested in community; they're more interested in what happens in the house, than the house itself. They build a space to accommodate what will happen there.
Cob interiors often have more than round walls. They have round built-in seating, sculpted during construction, round windows, gentle archways.
Sculpted ovens are common, and lots of windows, which are easily sculpted into the cob walls as construction goes up -- put the piece of glass in, and form the cob around it!
Here's a cob kitchen with fabulous views. Shelving can also be built into the cob as you go along -- all the shelving you want! Book shelves, kitchen shelves, niches. You can even put a vase directly into your cob (at an angle) for a spot on your wall to insert flowers! Gone are expensive, space-wasting cabinets.
Soft, round shapes abound in cob.
I say all this for various reasons -- some of you simply haven't heard of cob before, and these thoughts about comfortable shapes for living are new to you.
But there might be others who don't have a home. Perhaps you think you can never own a home -- a mortgage is too overwhelming. You're too old to begin home ownership. You can't afford to build a conventional home.
Look into cob. Go online and watch videos. Granted, many of the folks 'into" cob building are kind of wacko, greenie, new-agey people, but they are sincere, hard-working, and have some great ideas. And if you can buy or borrow a little piece of land, you can build your own house (yes ... you!) for only a few thousand dollars. Paid for. Made to order for you. Creative and beautiful. Comfortable and amazingly energy efficient. The clay walls hold solar heat collected during the day and release it at night, keeping temperatures more constant.
A cob house is our dream. Whether that dream will ever become reality in this life remains to be seen. But it's a lovely dream, and I'm enjoying it! What do you think of cob?

12 comments:

  1. Are you guys going to build a cob? Wouldn't that be amazing? Have you seen the Grand Designs episode with the man who had built his family a cob home and was selling it to build a cob palace? He was an over-reacher, but the vision was superb!

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    1. Mags, I think we did see that online, a year or two ago. It was fascinating how BIG he could build with cob.

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  2. Hobbit! And adorable. Which, really, is the same thing.

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  3. I heard about cob houses about ten years ago from a school secretary who was moving from Colorado to Oregon to build one. I love how they look!

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    1. Pom, some of the oldest programs to teach cob-building are located in Oregon. It's kind of a hub of cob support :)

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  4. The photos are intriguing and simply beautiful! They make me think about a similar technique in miniature --- wouldn't that be fun?

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  5. I have seen cob on TV. I watch various home building/renovating shows, generally made in Britain. We don't get them here. What is popular here amongst the green community is mud brick. But they are a conventional shape, albeit very eco friendly. It was once my dream. I had the land, and the dream, but then things dissolved and the reality is a nice conventional square brick and timber house in the burbs.

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  6. I've never heard of Cob. What is it exactly? Sounds intriguing. You're right about the circle though!x

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    1. Kezzie, cob is made of squashing clay, sand, straw, and water together into soft loaf-like globs. Some people enjoy mixing it all with their feet, outside, on a tarp. You stack them while soft, squashing them together to form a wall, and allow it to dry completely. Sometimes the walls are as much as 18-24" thick. There are various methods for making the walls strong and causing the cob loaves to cling to each other well. Once dry, it is very sturdy and long-lived. Cob is used world-wide; some of the homes are many hundreds of years old!

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  7. I LOVE this lovely dream and these pictures. I'm planning to build some sort of little house eventually. Like you said, I feel too old to take on a mortgage, but I could build something small on my children's property. I love these cob houses, I just didn't know if I could do one. I will do some research. I'd love me a hobbit house! :)

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    1. Lisa, you really should consider it and research it. Single moms have built small cob homes. A lady named Brigitte Miner did -- look her up online. YOu can build something little, 500-800 squ. feet. Just suited to your own needs. It's amazing that ordinary people can truly build their own homes.

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