It all began with a dream to achieve creative freedom and start our own ethical business. We longed to escape the oppressive workplace needed to pay the mortgage and bills. Our vision was to create a unique and beautiful holiday-home that would evoke inner peace and tranquility. It would blend seamlessly into its natural surroundings and offer a little something “different” for guests to experience.
With hard work, blood, sweat, tears, a lot of luck and a touch of magic, the dream became a reality in March 2019…
As our values are love, respect and beauty, this influenced every decision we made. For example, I used “A Pattern Language” by Chris Alexander to develop the design brief and give specific purpose, with reference to nature, to each and every aspect, both inside and outside the build. Sam, our architect, was able to interpret the brief into a beautiful and low-impact design.
Our passion for building naturally led us to Hartwyn, natural builders and educators, whose values were aligned with ours. They understood our vision and would live and work on-site, and provide natural build learning opportunities for students as part of the process. From June to September 2018, we created a pop-up “Learning Village” which consisted of a camp-site with a central marquee, which provided working and living spaces, for Hartwyn’s two natural builders, an apprentice, 11 students, a cook and a photographer & filmmaker. This was a highlight for me as it enabled the ability to capture and share the entire process in weekly photo albums and a documentary for Get Rugged, a charity I initiated to support more people to consider natural building.
We chose to build with wood, straw, clay earth and stone as they are all plentiful in Moray, could be easily sourced locally and are replenishable. The roundwood henge, with reciprocal roof would add beauty whist the straw-bales would provide excellent insulation. All the earth we used came from our own site. It consisted of a proportional mix of the clay earth, straw and sand. This mix was used in various consistencies to create the clay render for the straw-bale walls, the internal wall partitions for wattle & daub and lath plasters, and the beautiful earthen floor. The insulation consisted of straw for the walls, perilite ( a volcanic rock) for the roof and glaypor (recycled car windscreens) for under the floor. The windows and fixed furnishings were bespoke by Hartwyn with the rest being salvaged from pre-loved sources. We used local tradesmen for all sitework, electrics and plumbing and enjoyed welcoming many curious visitors throughout the build.
As natural building is very labour intensive - the majority of the work is carried out by hand as opposed to using machinery - having so many willing and eager hands enabled the build to progress smoothly, in addition to providing a fun and enriching opportunity during one of the best Scottish summers we can remember!
The strawbale walls were coated with a clay plaster to protect them from damp and any gaps were filled using a light clay-straw mix. The outside wall was given an additional coating of lime-wash to enable greater weather resistance and protection from the likes of horizontal Scottish rain! The inside walls were painted white using a natural clay paint.
Due to the nature of the materials we used, the walls are able to breath, allowing air to flow gently through them. Moisture is dealt with naturally, being absorbed and released to create a healthy living environment. The large quantities of earth used in the floor, walls and cob-seat, provides a thermal mass. This is likened to a storage heater that stores and releases heat, enabling a constant temperature in the home all year round. Keeping it effortlessly warm in winter and cool in summer. Dogs love our floor!
Captured on film
Below is the story of the build, captured and produced beautifully into a short film by photographer & filmmaker Dewi Robert, who lived and worked onsite as part of the learning village. The film was made for Get Rugged who we support by allowing free access to the build for educational and research purposes. Get Rugged is now utilising Hobbit Hideaway to conduct research into the natural home and its effects on mental health and wellbeing.