Guest blogger Monica Riehl tours a unique straw bale home on Nova Scotia’s South Shore.
The first time I read about straw bale houses was just a couple of months ago (Okay, it was actually the second time, but it was the first time outside of a children’s story). The online article focused on the energy efficiency of straw bale homes. But I wondered how nice a house built of straw would look.
Homeowners Jody Conrad and Kathleen Naylor recently gave me a tour of their straw bale home in Chester Basin, Nova Scotia so I could draw my own conclusion. After a bumpy drive down the gravel road that bends around Millett Lake, I found the short lane that leads to the couple’s home.
What struck me first about their house is how much it complements its setting. The exterior is unassuming, with deep-set porches shielded by a green, steel roof that blends in with the canopy of trees. Naylor says they live on these porches in the summer, where glimpses of Millett Lake, a short walk away, peek out between the trees. The couple built the home using a hybrid design (a combination of load-bearing and framing techniques) with help from volunteers and professionals, including friend and straw bale expert Kim Thompson (for more details, check out this report Kim wrote for CMHC about straw bale design in Atlantic Canada.
As I toured the house, I noticed many extra touches that give the space its charming beauty. The smooth walls, with soft, rounded corners, add flow to the main living space. Repurposed doors, each with its own character, make notable entrances to bedrooms and bathrooms. Small niches in the wall display décor pieces, like this vase with sprigs of straw (below).
Above the dining room window, colourful beach stones picked by Naylor’s father are set into a cattails design (below). Adjacent to it is a truth window, a traditional feature in most straw bale structures that reveals the actual materials (straw) used in the home’s construction (bottom).
Jody and Kathleen receive many calls and visits from people interested in their home. No doubt, many arrive like me—skeptical about how aesthetically pleasing a straw bale house might be. But I’m sure they too leave thoroughly impressed. What do you think about straw bale homes? Is this a material you might try for your next home?