Mother Earth Living


Kiva Style: Former Tipi Residents Build a Rammed-Earth Home

Working with earth, wood, glass and crystals, Tom and Flame Lutes have created a truly sacred space in the Colorado high country.



The home is built using fourteen-inch rammed earth bricks and finished with Elastomeric stucco. Twenty-four photovoltaic panels provide for all the Luteses’ power needs.
Photo By Laurie Dickson
Skylights are designed and configured so that winter sun pours through and heats the south-facing adobe walls and bancos. As the home cools off in the evening, heat is drawn back out. The living area’s circular shape stems from Tom and Flame’s previous living quarters: a tipi. Rough-cut slabs of wood frame each window, creating a textural relief to the smooth plaster walls and adding depth of field to the panoramic room. This gives the house a sense of the profound. “When you look at nature, nothing’s flat; the eye has to constantly focus and refocus,” Tom says. “In our house, all these different surfaces fade into each other, and the eye catches a lot of movement because of that depth. That has a lot to do with why people come in and say, 'Wow, this feels so amazing.’”
Photo By Laurie Dickson
Glass doors open onto a 1,400-square-foot Trex deck, which ­greatly expands the Luteses’ living and entertaining area. Tom and Flame spend a lot of time basking in the Colorado sunshine, taking in mountain and pine forest views, and listening to the birds. “So much of what we need to live our lives is outside,” Tom says.
Photo By Laurie Dickson
Tom liked the rough edges of the exposed adobe bricks. Flame craved the sleek, smooth feel of hand-troweled plaster. Their compromise? Most of the walls are plastered with satiny Struct-o-lite plaster tinted with earth pigments, but the bricks remain exposed in select areas of the hallway. This solution not only satisfies both husband and wife, but also adds a unique, sculptural element to otherwise plain-jane walls.
Photo By Laurie Dickson
For about fifteen years Tom and Flame had been carrying around a burled piece of redwood that they'd found in Northern California, simply because they liked the shape of it. When it came time to find a support for the breakfast bar, they slid the redwood underneath, and it fit like a glove. "It required no cutting at all," Tom marvels.
Photo By Laurie Dickson
In this Russian stove, evolved from an age-old European design, bricks surround a cast-iron stove to hold the heat inside seven interior chambers. By the time it leaves through the chimney, the heat from the fire has been reduced from 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit to 200 degrees Fahrenheit, and all of that warmth has spread inside the home. “This is a very efficient use of wood,” Tom explains. “One fire a day, and the thing keeps cranking with radiant heat.” Tom and Flame had planned to plaster the fireplace, but while they waited for that to get done, they grew to like the rustic look of the exposed bricks.
Photo By Laurie Dickson
In the mountains, where the snow is deep and the spring muck even deeper, a “mud room” is essential. Tom and Flame opted for an easy-to-clean tile floor in their entryway and placed a bench near the door for removal of boots.
Photo By Laurie Dickson
Flame embellished the couple’s fake fur bedspread with silk ­flowers, a whimsical touch that turns the ordinary extraordinary. To make the bedspread, simply find fabric you like; because you need only a couple yards, you can even look for remnants. Stitch on the decorative element of your choice, be it silk flowers or beads.
Photo By Laurie Dickson
In the bathroom, Tom and Flame worked side by side with a con­tractor, adorning a free-form bathtub with tiles and stones collected from the property and during their travels in San Diego, Santa Fe, Mexico, and Greece. They cemented crystals into the mix to act as towel and robe holders.
Photo By Laurie Dickson
In the kitchen, Flame broke dinner plates to create a one-of-a-kind custom backsplash. Tom watched in semi-horror as she cracked the thirty-dollar plates and in true horror when the initial design looked awful. “But it’s like a puzzle,” says Flame, who eventually did find the configuration that works. “You just keep trying until you get it right.” Flame chose a matched set of dishes for her backsplash, but remnants or singles will also work. To make the backsplash, break the plates using a rubber-tipped hammer and experiment with arranging them against the wall until you find a design that pleases you. Then apply mastic and adhere the plates to the wall. Fill in cracks and crevices with grout, which adds to the plates’ staying power.
Photo By Laurie Dickson
Tom and Flame chose crystals as a spiritual alternative to store-bought towel hooks. “Whether or not you believe in the energy of crystals—we do—is irrelevant, really,” Tom says. “They’re very practical, beautiful towel holders.” Whether you’re doing the tiling yourself or have hired a professional, incorporating crystals or other natural, symbolic elements into your design is easy. Attach the crystal to the mastic as you would a tile, then continue to tile around it. Once grouted, the crystal remains firmly in place.
Photo By Laurie Dickson
Not ones to settle for off-the-shelf fixtures, Tom and Flame formed wall sconces with chicken wire, then extended the wall plaster (Structo-Lite) around the wire for a seamless look. They “dressed up” the sconces by embedding bits of turquoise in the wet plaster.
Photo By Laurie Dickson
“I cut down two ponderosa pines purely for the sake of view and because I didn’t think they were very ­pretty,” Tom says. “I went through a lot of agonizing about it—‘what gives me the right to do this?’ But I cut them down. And then we were looking for a way of framing up the bedroom in a natural way and holding the roof up, and I thought, ‘What about those trees lying down out there?’ I hauled them in, and they became structural supports for the roof—and they’re gorgeous. They’re a headboard, and they’re bearing the whole roof. It was a good life lesson—what I had pushed away as ugly, later I had to bring back into my life and embrace as absolutely beautiful.”
Photo By Laurie Dickson
In their bedroom, Tom and Flame display a collection of sacred items, each embodying a reminder of their spiritual path. The home is too small for a designated shrine or meditation room, but placing this altar in the corner of the bedroom creates a spot that reminds the couple of their dedication to spiritual wakefulness first thing in the morning and as they go to sleep at night.
Photo By Laurie Dickson
During his sojourns in the woods, Tom gathered tree roots misshapen by growing through rock cracks. This collection turned out to be the perfect hardware for the couple’s cabinets—another tribute to the land that adds texture and depth to their home. Tom had a picture in his mind of exactly the twig he wanted to use as a handle for the refrigerator—and when he took a walk in the woods near the house, nature delivered. To make the handles, Tom trimmed the edges to make them flat, then glued the roots into place on the doors. When replacing a refrigerator handle, you must utilize the same screw holes for the new handle as used for the old. Otherwise, you will create holes in the insulation of the refrigerator door that make it less efficient.
Photo By Laurie Dickson
During his sojourns in the woods, Tom gathered tree roots misshapen by growing through rock cracks. This collection turned out to be the perfect hardware for the couple’s cabinets—another tribute to the land that adds texture and depth to their home. Tom had a picture in his mind of exactly the twig he wanted to use as a handle for the refrigerator—and when he took a walk in the woods near the house, nature delivered. To make the handles, Tom trimmed the edges to make them flat, then glued the roots into place on the doors. When replacing a refrigerator handle, you must utilize the same screw holes for the new handle as used for the old. Otherwise, you will create holes in the insulation of the refrigerator door that make it less efficient.
Photo By Laurie Dickson
Married for twenty-three years, Tom and Flame represent the union of two very diverse cultures. Flame grew up in South Central Los Angeles, and her mother, Virgie Nash, was involved in the first Watts Riot in the summer of 1965. Tom grew up in San Diego with a family heritage that includes two mayors of San Diego and a U. S. ­Secretary of the Treasury.
Photo By Laurie Dickson





MY COMMUNITY
no image
valerykenery
8/29/2014 12:04:10 AM
no image
HarvestRight
8/21/2014 5:22:39 PM
no image
NatureHillsNursery
8/20/2014 10:03:07 AM
no image
NatureHillsNursery
8/20/2014 9:59:22 AM
no image
NatureHillsNursery
8/20/2014 9:30:07 AM
no image
melisastarr
8/19/2014 12:57:22 PM






Subscribe today and save 58%

First Name: *
Last Name: *
Address: *
City: *
State/Province: *
Zip/Postal Code:*
Country:
Email:*
(* indicates a required item)
Canadian subs: 1 year, (includes postage & GST). Foreign subs: 1 year, . U.S. funds.
Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
Non US and Canadian Subscribers - Click Here

Subscribe to Mother Earth Living!

Welcome to Mother Earth Living, the authority on green lifestyle and design. Each issue of Mother Earth Living features advice to create naturally healthy and nontoxic homes for yourself and your loved ones. With Mother Earth Living by your side, you’ll discover all the best and latest information you want on choosing natural remedies and practicing preventive medicine; cooking with a nutritious and whole-food focus; creating a nontoxic home; and gardening for food, wellness and enjoyment. Subscribe to Mother Earth Living today to get inspired on the art of living wisely and living well.

Save Money & a Few Trees!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. You’ll save an additional $5 and get six issues of Mother Earth Living for just $14.95! (Offer valid only in the U.S.)

Or, choose Bill Me and pay just $19.95.