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

  • 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
  • A tiny space, Jay Shafer’s Tumbleweed fits his needs and feels good to him. Since the original Natural Home article about his home was published, he has started a business to share one-person dwellings with others.
    Photography By Povy Kendal Atchison
  • The hallway, below, was created with drywall, soaked and molded into a curve, then faced with cast earth.
    Photos By Terrence Moore
  • Joy and George Matthews were intimately involved in creating and building their home in Charlottesville, Virginia. This window faces southeast, permits the entrance of cheery morning light, and is indicative of the importance of light and passive solar gain in this home.
  • This straw-clay home in New Mexico taught Paula Baker and Robert Laporte a few lessons. They now repair their home with wood siding or other finishes but still appreciate the “groundedness, serenity, and appreciation of nature” this home brings them.
    Photography By Laurie Dickson
  • Joy and George Matthews were intimately involved in creating and building their home in Charlottesville, Virginia. This window faces southeast, permits the entrance of cheery morning light, and is indicative of the importance of light and passive solar gain in this home.
  • Rich Messer and Ann Douden, say they are even happier than they expected with it.
    Photos By Povy Kendal Atchison
  • Recycled and original, this home is built from plastic and paper bales, and the owners,
    Photos By Povy Kendal Atchison
  • Joy and George Matthews were intimately involved in creating and building their home in Charlottesville, Virginia. This window faces southeast, permits the entrance of cheery morning light, and is indicative of the importance of light and passive solar gain in this home.
  • Joy and George Matthews were intimately involved in creating and building their home in Charlottesville, Virginia. This window faces southeast, permits the entrance of cheery morning light, and is indicative of the importance of light and passive solar gain in this home.
  • Joy and George Matthews were intimately involved in creating and building their home in Charlottesville, Virginia. This window faces southeast, permits the entrance of cheery morning light, and is indicative of the importance of light and passive solar gain in this home.
  • Joy and George Matthews were intimately involved in creating and building their home in Charlottesville, Virginia. This window faces southeast, permits the entrance of cheery morning light, and is indicative of the importance of light and passive solar gain in this home.
  • Joy and George Matthews were intimately involved in creating and building their home in Charlottesville, Virginia. This window faces southeast, permits the entrance of cheery morning light, and is indicative of the importance of light and passive solar gain in this home.
  • George and Joy Matthews (standing) with their daughter-in-law, Kelly, granddaughter, Maggie, and son, Doug.
  • Joy and George Matthews were intimately involved in creating and building their home in Charlottesville, Virginia. This window faces southeast, permits the entrance of cheery morning light, and is indicative of the importance of light and passive solar gain in this home.
  • The paradigm change in the non-square home of Tom and Flame Lutes has been a distinctive and satisfying experience. They now draw electricity off the grid, however, on occasions when their batteries need recharging.
    Photography By Laurie Dickson
  • Joy and George Matthews were intimately involved in creating and building their home in Charlottesville, Virginia. This window faces southeast, permits the entrance of cheery morning light, and is indicative of the importance of light and passive solar gain in this home.
    Photos By Philip Beaurline

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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