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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. Donna Smith says:

    I live in NC and building codes preclude the use of used materials for structural components, but I was able to use crown molding, drawer pulls, hinges, paint, tar paper, vents and pipe for the dryer and exhaust fans, shower doors and some of the closet doors from a Habitat for Humanity Home Store. They have loads of such goods donated from contractors. You may need to go several times to collect what you need as they sell things quickly. I rarely went home without SOMETHING I could use.
    A relative, who is a licensed contractor, donated the labor to lay the block for the basement and a crew was hired to paint the exterior. (I'm afraid of heights so wouldn't paint the exterior of the second floor.)
    My home is finished now, after 3 years. It's 2,074 square feet, plus has a full unfinished basement and is accessed at $200,000.00…It cost less than $100,000.00 to build!

  2. Laurel says:

    My husband and I donate every thing. We have too much and I wont throw out anything that can be repurposed or recycled or reused. I agree with all the "extra" that is being tossed when there are millions who could use some help. Check your local areas for that help. Ours is giving discounts on utilities and some home upgrades such as paint is free. ASk neighbors and friends, you might be surprised what help there is. Now on the other hand, I saw 6 beautiful brand new homes with boarded up windows, sitting empty. THAT makes me ill…why cant those be used to help familys without? The builders have already lost thier money.
    I love HGTV. I learned how to do many clever things and have recently "staged" our home for sale. Everyone is so impressed with how I decorated previously, and how I "staged" it now. Thank you.

  3. JAN BAKER says:

    good morning, would very much to win the dream home in st.lucie, we live in an eighty foot mobile home.in maine. in the summertime, in the winter, we come to florida to a 30ft trailer in zephyrhill,would like to live in florida all the time. but need a bigger place to entertain and able to have my three children and 7grandchildren at christmastime. janbaker

  4. Linda Webber says:

    We discovered when the kids were little and my husband was out of work there were even places that we couldn't even afford to buy from like the salvation army or good will so now years later ,if we have items that could be used by others, we put it in our drive way with the word FREE and it is usually gone by morning.We have had families with children come up to the house and knock to ask if we really mean FREE? When we say yep,we sure do, the happiness on their faces is enough to make me cry.

  5. MARY says:

    Isn't it amazing that our culture has gotten to the point that people suspect that free has a tag on it of some kind?

  6. Val says:

    We major remodeled our kitchen and 2 bathrooms – Home Depot had a fee for taking away the old things – we contacted Habitat for Humanity who came and took everything saving us a bundle and it either gets sold to raise money for their good works – or – goes into building a new home for someone.

    This deserves more publicity.

    Recycling is cost effective at both ends.

  7. Linda Webber says:

    Yes Mary,it is the side of human nature that can bring with it some sadness when others suspect that FREE has a hidden price tag.As good as capitalism is perhaps it may bring with it a not so pleasant side affect at times?

  8. TEE ZEE says:

    I like L. Webber have been on hard times when even the salvation army was to high to buy from. And they do charge to much for donated stuff. I went to Habitat for Humanity for help.That really was a joke.But I hear their store sells building stuff at a good price.I also think the makeover shows should recycle their building materials.

  9. Sheila says:

    This home is awesome. I like the idea of salvaging materials instead of cutting them up or busting them up with a sledge hammer as I see on HGTV all the time. I also think they should have a show like this maybe called "Salvaged Homes" building from salvaged materials, on a budget! Not all of us have the kind of $$$$ that they spend on most of the shows on HGTV, nor would we want to throw away just for new and better. A show about how to live simply with easy do it yourself projects would be great. Help, HGTV We NEED something different and simple for those of us trying to downsize and live simply!!

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