Where Are They Now? See What's New With Homes From Past Issues of Natural Home

Natural Home returns to past homes to ask natural homeowners what they’d change and if they’d build the same way again.


| May/June 2003



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Jan Johnson’s cast earth home has a distinctive creative edge as well as an energy efficient design. The front door to the left has attached copper plates; some oxidized and some retained their original color.


Photos By Terrence Moore

Ever wonder what happens to the houses featured in Natural Home after the writers close their notebooks and the photographers pack up their gear? Are the dwellers still smiling? Did the earthen houses dissolve in the rain? What’s working—and what’s not? We’ve wondered, too. So to celebrate our fourth year of publishing Natural Home, we picked several homes from past issues and contacted the owners.

Snug in the straw

Joy and George Matthews are still smiling in the Charlottesville, Virginia, straw bale home they built in 1999 (“Shelter and Serenity,” March/April 2001). “It’s peaceful, quiet,” says Joy. The ambient temperature is always pleasant. It’s a gentle house to live in.”

“The massive walls make me feel protected,” adds George.

In Charlottesville’s cold, snowy winters, the straw bale walls, well-insulated roof, and solar-assisted, hydronic radiant floor heat keep this home snug and warm. “There’s nothing more delightful than getting up in the morning when it’s ten degrees outside and putting your feet down on a warm tile floor,” says Joy. “Part of that’s the radiant heat, and part of it’s the lack of drafts.” In previous homes, forced air gave Joy sinus problems and wood heat triggered George’s asthma; neither has any unpleasant reactions to this heating system.

In the hot, muggy summers Joy and George can sometimes keep the house cool all day by opening it up at night and closing it in the morning. But on nights when the temperature and humidity stay unbearably high, they turn on the air conditioner—less often than their neighbors do, however.





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