Sculpting a Life: An Oregon Cob Cottage

Ianto Evans and Linda Smiley have crafted a beautiful home and garden out of Oregon mud. But there’s more—so much more—lurking behind these cob walls.

| September/October 2002

  • The sculptural possibilities of cob are evident in this fireplace, which warms the patio just outside Linda and Ianto’s cottage.
    Photo By Susan Seubert
  • Rustic beams are perfect for drying herbs in the garden shed.
    Photo By Susan Seubert
  • A fire warms the garden shed, where Ianto and Linda store produce.
    Photo By Susan Seubert
  • Curves and circular rooms are one of Ianto’s trademarks, giving the cottage a romantic, almost medieval feel.
    Photo By Susan Seubert
  • Ianto and Linda’s cob cottage is one large room, with a loft bedroom and built-in benches that save space.
    Photo By Susan Seubert
  • Cob construction allows the builders to mold arched windows and nooks. The window is salvaged.
    Photo By Susan Seubert
  • A cob wall snakes around the property, creating a courtyard atmosphere.
    Photo By Susan Seubert
  • Students attending one of Ianto and Linda’s cob workshops crafted these “butterfly” windows in the garden shed.
    Photo By Susan Seubert
  • An outdoor cob bread oven bakes perfect loaves.
    Photo By Susan Seubert
  • Linda Smiley and Ianto Evans live a simple, yet visionary, life in Oregon.
    Photo By Susan Seubert
  • Linda and Ianto are able to eat from their garden all year-round.
    Photo By Susan Seubert

The morning mist hangs low over Ianto Evans’s and Linda Smiley’s cob cottage retreat in the rolling countryside of Cottage Grove, Oregon. A fire crackles in the outdoor fireplace; another warms the bread oven. Ianto and I sit on a cob bench facing the garden, a bountiful plot rich with kohlrabi, leeks, parsnips, rutabaga, broccoli, and fava beans, all frost-hearty vegetables that keep the cob cottage residents in fresh produce year-round. There are flowers bursting with bright colors; purple snails; yellowjackets; bright-winged butterflies; and a handful of Steller’s jays, one of which has appointed itself Ianto’s personal alarm clock and hiking companion. And all around us, cob structures—a cottage, a greenhouse, an oven, a fireplace—are tucked behind a rambling cob wall.

“How much does it cost to build a cob cottage?” I ask.

“How long is a piece of string?” Ianto counters.

We share a laugh as I realize that if I am to understand life behind these cob walls, I’ll need to abandon my usual way of thinking.

Building of necessity

It has been twelve years since Ianto, born in Liverpool and trained as an architect, and Linda, a native Californian and recreation therapist, built their first cob structure, an experiment that grew both out of need and curiosity. That first venture was an L-shaped addition to a wood cabin.

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