When the back-to-the-earth movement first took hold in the 1960’s and 70’s, a great number of people abandoned their subdivisions and cities and set out to build their own homes. Today, as Americans grow more passionate about sustainability, home remodeling, and artisinal craft, it seems like the perfect moment to look back at the handmade house movement and also at the houses themselves. A new book, Handmade Houses, by Richard Olsen, does exactly that.
Olsen revisited first-wave handmade houses around the world, many of which are now thirty and forty years old. Built lovingly and exuberantly from timber, fieldstone, plaster, and sod, these aren’t the kinds of houses that adorn typical coffee table books. The book’s warm, personal narratives and sumptuous photographs are pleasing, and at the same time offer some powerful, countercultural propositions about lifestyle, aesthetics and design. These are houses that were built one-at-a-time without regard for conventional styles, with an eye to the character of the owner rather than the demands of the market.
Olsen recently shared his ideas with Planet about the origins of the handmade houses movement, its relevance today, and his own quest to build a handmade house.