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Alabama Home
In these penny-pinching days, the idea of building, rebuilding or just renovating your house yourself sounds mighty appealing — and finding ways to save on materials is even better. Last year, I met Robyn Griggs Lawrence, the editor of Natural Home Magazine, at a video shoot, and she told me all about this home she’d discovered in rural Alabama.

The family, the Bakers, had hand built their 1,100-square-foot, cabin-style abode almost entirely from salvaged materials. Now, I don’t mean old mismatched shingles or carpet scraps. But rather, the homeowners took five years to collect leftover tin, wood and other materials from at least 75 different sources (it helps that the husband was a contractor). The home has elements from old barns, sheds and even an old church — plus some locally sourced slate.

I thought it sounded too incredible so I begged for photos. When she forwarded them along, I was floored. This place definitely didn’t look like trash or a hodgepodge mess. It was quite a work of craftsmanship — with unusual lines and texture and cozy, rustic character. I would think 1,100 square feet would be kind of small for a family of five (we Americans do like our expansive domains), but they pack a lot in a little space. Even better, the husband-and-wife duo drafted their three kids into the project and everyone had a hand in building their home.

I’ve been eager to read the final piece after seeing the pictures, and now in this month’s issue, this re-creative space gets a full spread. If you can’t find the magazine on the racks, you can check out the story online here. The Bakers also have some interesting tips for how to build (or rather, survive building) a house in your spare time with only family as crew. (I’m sending them to my mom right now — my stepdad is building their new home all by himself. The process has been three years and counting…)

Be sure to click the “Image Gallery” link under the Article Tools to get the full effect.

Have you gotten re-creative with old materials? I’m curious to hear others’ stories of resourcefulness.


Green Living

23 Responses

  1. cathy irvin says:

    hi my name is cathy irvin .I have been in our home for 4 years. it was put togather in the 1900. I'm looking for some one to help me find a grant or something this old house it needs doors and windows. my husband and I don't make much money.so how do you find materials you need to fix up things. I see people on the tv just throwing things away.when there are people like me that can use those thing to fix there house. If anyone can help me .please cathy irvin. kcirc@hotmail.com

  2. Dovie Gribble says:

    I opened this page on my computer hoping to read the article on the home made from salvaged items. Unfortunately, on one side there are three columns of "stuff" about HGTV, such as,"Archives",etc. and I am UNABLE TO READ THE ARTICLE AND UNABLE TO GET THE DARN STUFF out from in front of it so that I can!!!!!

  3. dovie says:

    I'm with cathy , i watch all the makeover shows and watch them toss cabinets and doors and bathroom fixtures and all kinds of things us poor folks could use to fix up our homes not everybody feels they have all the latest of everything. If that stuff was available for free through some organization that would distribute it to people who just needs things to fix their homes and would be thrilled to have them. In this economy renovations are to expensive for alot of us. I used to live in an area where churches could go to places and pick up used or overstock or one of a kind housing items windows, doors, wallcoverings, blinds, just all kinds of things. then you could go to the church and get things you needed but, you had to prove you were low income so as to make sure the stuff went where it was most needed. I have moved from that area of the country and have not found a service like that since. there are salvage places but, some of us don't even have money for that, but with just alittle help we could have better places to live too. Hgtv is all about going green and recycling so maybe they could find a way to get scrap building products and other things from all the makeover shows in to the hands of people who would donate it for free to people who could really use it, that would be awesome. someone elses old cabinets could be anothers new kitchen cause, you can always paint them. they could be used for storage in bathrooms, or kitchens, or whatever the person needed them for, surely some charity would distribute these items around the country in the lower income areas or where disasters have wiped people out and they dont have enough money to totally buy new. Just a thought to help low income people like myself and others who are on disability who just get enough to live on but dont have extra for home repairs etc. Also, some people have to buy fixer-uppers because they cant afford a house move-in ready. But, the proof of income is a must because you get those that are greedy or just plain to cheap to use their own money and dont mind taking advantage of programs set up to help low income people. See if people could get paint they could paint the outside of their homwe and improve the look of the neighborhood they live in or maybe they could get siding in different colors but, enough to cover their house then they could paint it all one color and it would look great!!

  4. Gloria Sims says:

    I was very pleased to see this home. We have been building with used materials. I also do most of my landscaping with found rocks, limestone and recycled bricks. I have a large yard and it really gives one a sense of accomplishment when you can create for free.

  5. Betty Smith says:

    I really admire the home built by this family with salvaged items. As an artist, I'm always on the look for something that can be created into something else. I would like to add to the comment made by Cathy Irwin: I agree with her that a lot of what looks like reusable things, are demolished in the restoring of homes on TV. Why can't cabinets and other items be dismantled and offered to some recycling place for othet people to use rather than thrown away? A good way to save another tree.

    • Julie says:

      I know that Habitat for Humanity has Re-stores. The items they have aren't free…but they are significantly reduced in price. A lot of their stuff seems to be donated from older homes or slightly damaged pieces etc. I agree as well tho…they are just throwing away items that could truly make someone a home! Our country seems to be quite wasteful…hopefully, out of this economic crisis we can at least learn to use what we have and appreciate it. :)

  6. barbara says:

    i am glad to see something that isn't top dollar on your sight. i work on my home and have built beds and couches and tables. my kitchen cabinets don't match. i don't know why there aren't shows on the t.v. to help people like me, who need comfortable living spaces but can't spend thousands on decorating. i would like to see a house built for under 100,000

  7. gary says:

    I guess we are not the only ones concerned about all the waste tht you show during a make-over. Good and very usable items and materials just seem to be wasted. Stop this practice. We (my wife and myself) live in an area of the states that precludes us from finding "waste". However, during a church remodel a few years back, I was able to talk the contractor out of the "old" insulation, which was just enough to finally insulate our garage. Single car. Do spread the word around that there are low income families, or individuals that can really use those items that,,, just get thrown away… Thank you

  8. It makes me feel so bad and angry when I see all the things torn up and broken such as sinks, toilets, tile, kitchen cabinets. I even saw some idiot take a hammer to a beautiful piece of stain glass. If nothing else take them to the Salvation Army. They are an organization that will get them into the hands of people who need them.

  9. Mandy Cat says:

    I agree that if still-usable building materials could be salvaged and repurposed, we'd all be better off: lower costs to home remodelers and fewer things put into the landfill.

    The problem is that collecting, storing and distributing such materials is a pretty expensive operation. It's far from a money-maker for anyone and has to be subsidized in some fashion — either private donations or public moneys.

  10. Judy Bonds says:

    I agree that there seems to be a lot of waste in the remodeling shows(not just on your channel). I also think you don't have enough shows about fixing up modest housing. Most people don't have homes like the ones you often make-over. Show some small houses and some manufactured homes,please. There are plenty of people with modest incomes who care about how their homes look.

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