StrawBale’s Applegate Residence

I am excited to introduce a brand new small house straw bale plan. I have been involved with Gabriella Morrison wife of Andrew Morrison of Strawbale.com to design a straw bale home for the Tiny House Blog readership. The new home has been named The Applegate Residence. These plans are fresh and hot off the drawing board and I have had the privilege of looking at them first hand and they are excellent. The home has not been built yet but the Morrison’s are hoping to have one built sometime in the next six months. The plan is to build one through their workshops. If you buy the plans and would like to have it built please let me know and I will get the word to them.

The Applegate Residence was meticulously designed by Chris Keefe of OrganicFormsDesign.com and every nook and cranny has a function and purpose. There is 770 sqft of living area which includes a great loft space and a downstairs bedroom and can comfortably house a couple and perhaps even a small family. All of the comforts we are accustomed to in the western world are included so it’s really not about lowering the quality of living but rather, adjusting the size to be more in line with what is really necessary and sustainable not only for the planet but also for the pocketbook.

The Applegate Residence has been designed to be affordable to build so that you can live debt free in as short amount of time as possible. The $20,000 estimate to build the Applegate includes the cost of the foundation, walls, bales, mesh, plaster, roof, interior walls, so everything that makes up the structure. It also includes $2,000 as an initial budget for finish flooring, cabinetry, appliances, wiring, plumbing, fixtures, and finish materials. In our experience, it is possible to find these items at very low cost or salvaged, depending on how motivated you are to find the best deals on those items.

This beautiful bungalow style home is perfect for those looking to get out of the rat race by downsizing into something that is super efficient and cost effective. This is a perfect example of space-smart design in which every space has a use and is essential to the overall flow of the home.

The plans are available in two different designs. The 770 square foot with the downstairs bedroom or the 570 square foot without the downstairs bedroom. You decide what is best for you.

Included with the plans are three free DVD’s which include the following:

  • Post and Beam Straw Bale Instructional Double DVD set (nearly 3 hrs of step-by-step instruction)
  • How To Plaster With Natural Hydraulic Lime
  • How To Pour A Monolithic Concrete Slab Foundation

Strawbale.com is offering the Tiny House Blog readers an introductory discount for four days starting at 7:00 A.M. PST Friday and ending on Tuesday July 12th at 7:00 A.M. PST. So I would like to invite you to jump in and purchase these plans right away by clicking this link Here!

(Note all strawbale.com plans and DVD’s bought through the Tiny House Blogs links and ads help keep this site running.)

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kevinsmicrohomestead - July 8, 2011 Reply

I think the plan is great for several reasons.First it will be pleasing to the eye and also very well insulated.
Living in about 300 sq ft now I think peace of mind for having no mortgage to speak of will be the biggest benefit for people and size the biggest benefit for the planet.

I find myself quite liberated from the monster mortgage culture we live in .

Bob H - July 8, 2011 Reply

Cheaper than most new cars. I think this is a great size for most couples or a small family. Anyone with a good job could build one of these out of pocket. Low cost per sq. ft. Added bonus, its not on an 8 foot wide trailer.

David Reed - July 8, 2011 Reply

Andrew Morrison is a genius straw bale builder, he has put in the time and has paid his dues as a builder, he knows what a home requires and his designs proves it!! Stellar person and builder!!

Edwin Dearborn - July 8, 2011 Reply

Great stuff. He should have a FB page so we can folllow him easily.

    marci357 - July 8, 2011 Reply

    PS – it is a darling house tho 🙂 I would put the couch in the middle of the room tho starting at a place between the door and the window seat… would open up that living room a bit more 🙂 And also give more of a dining room, study area, or play room for kids feeling to the space between the door and the kitchen.

Risa Mae - July 8, 2011 Reply

I am thrilled by the new trend toward smaller homes. However, with an aging population, the idea of climbing a ladder is not attractive to me. Although there is a lower bedroom, it is not large enough to be practical for a king size bed and two people. I’d love to see more plans with an aging population in mind. Thanks.

    Bob H - July 8, 2011 Reply

    I agree a larger bedroom with an entrance to the bathroom or maybe a additional master bath. Ladders are not good for those of us that are getting older. Also ladders no dot meet code inspections.

    Carolyn MVaussies - July 12, 2011 Reply

    Fairly easy to “AGE” that plan some. You could bump out that lower bedroom’s back wall a few feet no problem (but sorry, a king size bed is not an option for Tiny houses!). Drop the closet, put a “doorway” into bath there. Change out both doors to Pocket doors to be able to use the space behind bedroom one for a niche clothes storage, & bath just to get rid of it. Drop the tub & put in a 4′ shower stall, move the washer dryer over & put a small clothes closet there.
    The upstairs is than for kids or younger guests.

Margaret O'Callaghan - July 8, 2011 Reply

Love the small houses. Do you have any information on any states that do not allow this small a structure? Florida has a major problem with insurance companies refusing to insure homes of less than the big ticket buildings unless you can afford lots of $ for a small place. They love to claim it is because of hurricanes, but having lived in SWFl for 25 years, I have yet to have any hurricane near us. Also are their builders for these small houses. At 68 yrs. I am not exactly a DIY candidate. Thanks.

    Joe3 - July 8, 2011 Reply

    I’m living in St. Pete and understand the insurance problem, and it is a HUGE problem. I did live in Gulf Breeze and went thru Ivan, lost a roof , but the insurance rates skyrockteted after that.
    I’m 65 and would consider a DIY…these are built with a group of people as helpers/or as a workshop. I’d volunteer to come help for the experience. I wonder if the code here in Pinellas would allow strawbale?

alice - July 8, 2011 Reply

I like that layout, especially the kitchen, though I might prefer a fridge where the pantry is in favour of more open counter space next to the sink. I wonder if the bedroom could be tweaked a bit for those who need more room? If the breakfast nook had a door going to an outdoor covered eating area it would be perfect.

marci357 - July 8, 2011 Reply

This size makes more sense to me for retirement and family visiting over. Now living in an 864 sq ft home with 2 bedrooms, Single level, I am wondering if the dimensions are for the inside actual living space or outside footprint?

Agree that I would like to see more tiny homes for older folks – ie, adaptable to handicap accessible. I for one am not able to struggle with making a bed with one side up against the wall – too many aches and pains to attempt it – so agree that a little larger bedroom would be nice. Mine is 10×10 and fits a queen nicely in the middle, with dressers on one side and at the foot end.

Victoria - Ozarks Crescent Mural - July 8, 2011 Reply

Impressive price for 770 sq. ft. Looks nice too. I like the layout.

ET - July 8, 2011 Reply

Pocket doors would make more useable space in bedroom & bathroom

If the door was hinged on the other side access to coat rack would be better

Where does the water heater go?

$2,000 as an initial budget for finish flooring, cabinetry, appliances, wiring, plumbing, fixtures, and finish materials is very, very optimistic unless you work where used is abundantly available.

    Chris Keefe - July 12, 2011 Reply

    Great idea on the pocket doors! I may just have to make those changes soon..

    As for the water heater, there is a propane tankless water heater in the bathroom, I just forgot to label it.

    Thanks!

Amanda - July 8, 2011 Reply

I love this plan. I’m actually looking for something similar. I would likely make the house just a little deeper for more room in the kitchen (for dishwasher and counter space as I do a lot of canning, etc.) and living room, and also to make the loft big enough for 2 windows so we scould put a partition down the middle of the loft ot sperate the girls form the boys sleeping area. I would also put a booth in the eating nook like what the Tumbleweed small houses have I think? I would also put a pocket door in the bathroom.

I don’t see why two people need a king size bed? My husband and I are both kind of ummmm “chubby?” and we fit in a queen even with our 90 lb dog and several kids in there with us. I agree though that seniors might need room for a bed that could be accessed from both sides to get in and out.

One of the reasons we’ve had difficulty finding a plan is because my husband keeps looking for something with all the plumbing in one wall as he says it will reduce costs. In this case, we could just reorient the bathroom along the same wall as the kitchen (move the sink/dw to the inside wall). Does anyone know how significant the cost savings on something like that would be? In a somewhat colder climate it seems like it would be better for the plumbing to be in an interior wall too (less chance of frozen pipes?). Pardon my ignorance please, I’m just curious.

Amanda - July 8, 2011 Reply

I love this plan. I would likely make the house just a little deeper for more room in the kitchen (for dishwasher and counter space as I do a lot of canning, etc.) and living room, and also to make the loft big enough for 2 windows so we scould put a partition down the middle of the loft ot sperate the girls form the boys sleeping area. I would also put a booth in the eating nook like what the Tumbleweed small houses have I think? I would also put a pocket door in the bathroom.

I don’t see why two people need a king size bed? My husband and I are both kind of ummmm “chubby?” and we fit in a queen even with our 90 lb dog and several kids in there with us. I agree though that seniors might need room for a bed that could be accessed from both sides to get in and out.

One of the reasons we’ve had difficulty finding a plan is because my husband keeps looking for something with all the plumbing in one wall as he says it will reduce costs. In this case, we could just reorient the bathroom along the same wall as the kitchen (move the sink/dw to the inside wall). Does anyone know how significant the cost savings on something like that would be? In a somewhat colder climate it seems like it would be better for the plumbing to be in an interior wall too (less chance of frozen pipes?). Pardon my ignorance please, I’m just curious.

    Joe3 - July 8, 2011 Reply

    Amanda…your comment about the king sized bed made me laugh…(in a nice way)…I’m living in 500 ft2 and have a king sized bed for myself. I love it, there’s room to roll over without shifting my body…I also sleep in it from all 4 directions, there a headboard and footboard, but I don’t care where on it I sleep. For me one of those little pleasures I really enjoy…my girlfriend is more structured about where to sleep, but most of the time she’s not here.

Margaret - July 8, 2011 Reply

I really like this design. I can think of a few things I would change but nothing that would change the exterior. I think this is a very attractive design and the cost saving is amazing. I love built-in bookshelves as well. It was nice to see those.

I do sort of agree that ladders are sucky for older people and the idea of putting two bedrooms where that one resides is a very tempting thought. How much would that change costs though?

Norm - July 9, 2011 Reply

The layout of this design is clever, space efficient and very well conceived.

The comments seem to encourage a “little more” room here and there for real world reasons.

There is a very simple solution. GET RID OF THE STRAW BALE WALLS AND REPLACE WITH STUDS!

I have yet to understand the logic of straw bale walls, especially when the footprint is intentionally small.

The walls are the LEAST important for insulation purposes–you want to maximize your insulation in the floor and ceilings. Plus, walls are inevitably broken up by windows and doors anyway!

Can any builder give me practical reasons to use straw bales other than for trendy, stylish ones?

    Carolyn - July 9, 2011 Reply

    There are many good reasons for straw bale walls.

    Not only are they energy efficient, they are also fire resistant. The straw is compressed so tightly there is little room for oxygen (which is needed for a fire to burn), unlike conventional houses with all the spaces between the framing. Even more so once you get the plaster coating the bales.

    They are also earthquake resistant, for those of you in earthquake-prone areas. The straw bale walls tend to absorb the energy, rather than sending it up to where the roof meets the walls, like in a conventional house.

    They are also very insulating for noise, which is great for building a woodworking or metal shop when you have close neighbors, or a highway nearby.

    Straw bales are also a very forgiving kind of material, so houses can be built with a lot of volunteer labor. Parties similar to an old-fashioned barn raising can be held, which reduces the costs, and gets the walls and roof built quickly (important since the straw bales must be kept dry, starting while they are in the field). Many hands make light work!

    If they are built using passive solar techniques, you will rarely need to use a back-up heater, making your utility bills small for the life of the house.

    In addition to all this, straw is a waste agricultural by-product. In many places it is burned off just to get rid of it (it doesn’t decompose readily), creating air pollution and respiratory diseases for the surrounding people. Think of how many houses we could build with all that straw instead!

      Carolyn - July 9, 2011 Reply

      Incidentally, rats and mice are not interested in the straw bales either, since the grain is harvested off the stems before the straw is baled, so there is little food value to them either. That is, if they can even get to the straw once the plaster is on. (There is a difference between hay and straw.)

    Chris Keefe - July 12, 2011 Reply

    I hear you Norm and thanks for all your comments, but practically speaking, especially in regards to insulation, studs are not very practical. Exterior stud walls act as thermal bridges for heat loss. Check out this image: (http://www.enertekgreen.com/images/thermal_wood_frame.jpg)

    I will agree with you that the roof and the floor are more important than the walls but that doesn’t mean that you just completely disregard the walls. R-values are usually calculated by averages. You average the wall area including the values for the windows, doors and walls. Straw bale walls will always beat stud walls out.

    Carolyn mentioned many “practical” reasons in my mind but that is just our opinion, and I understand if you don’t feel the same way.

    In regards to using straw bale walls when you are intentionally trying to go small, I have to agree with you. I have been designing straw bale homes for almost 10 years now and that has been the most difficult thing to deal with. It creates a larger footprint, and the smaller the house, the more that it’s apparent. What I tell myself is, straw bale is not the end all be all of construction, nothing is. But when I weigh all of the “practical” pros and cons, (Carolyn named but a few), I choose straw bale. But like I said, that’s just my opinion.

    Thanks again Norm for your feedback, I couldn’t improve what I do without it.

    Cheers,

    Chris

Julie - July 10, 2011 Reply

Norm, from their website:

Then welcome! A little about it… Straw bale construction is three times more efficient than a conventionally framed wall, three times more fire resistant, and uses a ‘waste’ material that is typically burned in the fields, creating an environmentally friendly solution. It is a construction technology which has been tried and true (there are homes built out of straw bales well over 100 years old) and which is building code compliant in nearly all areas. Straw bale construction is easy to learn (think stacking giant lego blocks), cost effective, and environmentally pretty much as friendly as it gets. Electrical wiring runs through the straw bale walls safely and plumbing is designed to stay out of the bales by building isolations within the walls to ensure that should there be a water leak in the plumbing it doesn’t ruin the inner bales.

I love this design! I hate looking at designs that don’t include space for a washer/dryer, or closets.

Chris Keefe - July 11, 2011 Reply

Hey all,

I’m Chris Keefe, the guy who designed the Applegate Residence. THANKS for all of the great comments including the praise, the suggestions, and the critiques. The Applegate Residence is one single design that I created to hopefully help fill this niche of tiny house fever that is thankfully catching on. Also, just as this blog is so striving to do, I did it to bring awareness and questioning to people about how much space we need to hold our bodies, families and stuff. I have to hand it to Gabriella Morrison for initiating the dialog about this design with me one day not to long ago. Cheers Gabs!

I also design a lot of larger houses too (2000-3000 sq. ft.), but as you would see even with those larger houses, there is very little wasted space.

I know that the Applegate Residence is precisely what many have been looking for in a home that they can build and live in for a VERY reasonable price, AND I realize that it will not be for everyone, but hopefully it will help folks to start thinking smaller.

Ciao for now,

Chris

Leslie - July 12, 2011 Reply

Love this size. I agree that first floor bedroom is essential for a number of reasons – aging parents who might visit, aging selves, unexpected disiability, etc. 10×10 is plenty with Queen sized bed and dressers underneath. The loft is for kids and visitors who can climb up there!

Greg - July 12, 2011 Reply

I’ve never really seen anything that addresses whether these straw bale homes can endure a climate like the Northeast US. I’m talking Northern Maine conditions.

Can this home handle those conditions and if not, are there exterior sheathing options to enable it to do so?

    Chris Keefe - July 12, 2011 Reply

    Hey Greg,

    Yeah straw bale is great in the Northeast. I have designed a few in New York state and I have seen one outside of Camden. It is also very prolific all over Canada, especially Ontario. It is a great insulator both in the extreme winter months and regulates the home nicely in the summer warmth. For heavy snow loads, provide large overhangs or porches to protect the exterior walls.

    I also just recently designed a straw bale garage in Northern Ireland. The client didn’t want exterior plaster so we cladded the outside with wood siding. As long as you allow for air flow and venting you will be fine.

    Hope this helps!

    Chris

Keni - July 12, 2011 Reply

I think this is a great design especially for a small family. It is a little too large for my circumstances since I’ll be building in a backyard and it will be just me and the cats with an occasional visitor. I would probably halve the living room and make that a ‘bedroom’. I like the idea of pocket doors. All and all a very well thought out design

Chris Keefe - July 12, 2011 Reply

Again, I have to say, I love all of the feedback! As most of you probably know, this house is flexible, i.e. changing a door here, moving a closet there, stretching this room a little bigger and so on. Reasonable modifications can be accommodated fairly economically.

Thanks again and keep the feedback coming,

Chris

Greg Z - July 12, 2011 Reply

Does anyone know how a strawbale house will do in the Northeast?
I can see it would be great in a dry hot weather location….but how would it hold up in icy snowy winters….hot humid times in the summer…rainy spring weather? How does the exterior hold up with those conditions?

Shelley Lenz - July 12, 2011 Reply

How is this house heated other than passive heat from walls? Is it a wood stove in the corner? Would it withstand minus 60 degree winters? Or perhaps a heated floor is best?

Cathy Inzer - July 13, 2011 Reply

HI,
How much natural light is there? We tend to have overcast days here in N. California and would like to have windows as large as possible to let the light in. How do straw bale houses hold up to rainy conditions here in the N. CA area? Great design!

Ken - July 3, 2012 Reply

Thank for the great design. We are relocating back to Iowa from the Philippines and due to the very tight housing market, this may be our next house. my wife wants 4′ added to kitchen/living room wall as I bake lots of sourdough bread. She also wants a bathroom in the loft. Don’t know if that is practical but it would be nice.

Jessica - January 10, 2013 Reply

I tried contacting Chris Keefe through a website selling the building plans but to no avail. My little family is rather desperate to get something built this summer as our current 200 sq ft cabin is just too small for our soon-arriving fourth member of the family in addition to us.
Our budget is Very limited but we live around an abundance of used so hooray! Is the $20,000 estimate for the 770 sq ft plan or the 570? If it’s for the latter what is the difference in price? Is it load bearing? We have been told two different stories about if this is allowed here so we’ll just need to investigate further. Finally, what kind of building material is used for interior walls? Actually I also am curious about having the plumbing on interior walls to prevent freezing. We live in a pretty extreme climate in Colorado. Hope to hear from someon soon!

Mary Balthrop - August 25, 2013 Reply

I like this little house. Keep up the good work! It gives a lot of people hope for a home all of their lives.i

miguel - May 22, 2014 Reply

wow wow this small house plan is amazing,for my small family.my only concern is there enough windows for natural light.and how tall and wide are the window seats.i assume that there is some windows in the kitchen.

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