Man Takes to His Local Forest to Build $11,000 House 1

Monday, February 3rd, 2014
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Japanese Forest House
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A boat builder has scoured his local forest for building materials to construct a home that cost only $11,000.

Brian Schulz unveiled his Japanese Forest House, a home he ambitiously built within the forest to discover “how small of a space (he) could make feel big.”



The structure exudes raw, uncluttered and minimalist architecture with a simple and stout timber frame measuring 14 feet by 16 feet sitting on a 200 square foot concrete pad.

While aesthetically, Schulz admits the house has “fallen short” of the refinement renowned in Japanese architecture, the home still embraces the design principles that echo a traditional tea house.

“Oversized beams, live edge slabs, natural timbers, real plaster walls and minimal decoration – all (encouraging) a deep sense of calm,” he said.

Schulz used the modest $11,000 figure to purchase things like concrete and insulation while leaving the rest of the building materials to Mother Nature.

Brass Sink, Walnut Kitchen Counters

Schulz and others hard-crafted the bulk of the home’s features and decor.

He built the frame from salvaging timber that was floating in the bay, while the corner posts were made of trees that had blown down on a friend’s property. Schulz also constructed the plaster with sand, straw and clay, doing so to achieve a natural result that offers a richness that can’t be replicated with sheet rock.

While the bottom floor is stained concrete, the top floor features fir flooring. Visitors helped Schulz haul trees to his property while he also leaned on local artists and suppliers for other components of the house, ensuring he maintained a sustainable, natural-material focus.

Bedroom with Hand Made Japanese Lanterns

Bedroom with hand-made Japanese lanterns

Inside, local artists helped with the decor, including Japanese paper lanterns that sit bedside which were hand-made just seven miles from the home.

“It is undeniable that the pursuit of local materials connects more deeply to your landscapes, your neighbours and yourself,” Schulz wrote on his website.

The staircase at the centre of the house features a large log as its foundation and uses alder poles for the railing, with with steps built in. Schulz also built three small tables from simple rounds off a cedar stump he found at the beach – a process that only took three hours. In the kitchen, counters were formed with walnut slabs that Schulz cut off a tree that fell in Oregon over 10 years ago that he’s kept since it toppled.

Brass Sink, Walnut Kitchen Counters

Brass sink and walnut kitchen counters

The Japanese Forest House features many windows in different shapes and at different heights, drenching the interior with sunlight and creating a positive “energy flow” through the spaces.

The home’s main heat source is a 1950s cast iron stove burner.

Schulz describes the house as “architecturally honest,” with no attempt made to conceal fittings including lag bolts, deck screws or a 16-penny nails.

“I made a deliberate choice not to hide these things,” he said. “This ethic reflects my general dislike for the veneers of all sorts that seek to mimic things that are not.”

Schulz was inspired to build the natural home a few years ago when he found a brass sink at a local recycling centre. While he had no use for it at the time, captivated by its “golden glow,” he immediately began envisioning applying it to a home.

Nothing concealed, all bots exposed

Nothing concealed; all bolts exposed

The Japanese Forest House was completed in about a year and half, and Schulz hopes to inspire others to explore similar projects.

“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,” he said. “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 neighbours and yourself.”

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  1. Ben de Leon

    It's a very inspirational read … the photos show the beauty of trying to stay as natural as possible. I've always dreamed of doing something similar and after reading this article, I am more inspired to pursue that dream. Excellent !!! Many thanks.