Michael Buck, a 59-year-old retired art teacher from Oxfordshire, England, managed to build a gorgeous cob house in his garden for a mere £150 (USD $250). Buck adhered to some basic principles to keep costs down—he used only materials that he could find himself, and he made sure that no power tools were used in the home's construction. The rock-bottom price is an inspiration for anyone who feels that home ownership is an unattainable goal.
Buck initially designed the home on the back of an envelope, and then spent over two years collecting local materials that he foraged or salvaged himself. The floorboards were from a neighbor’s derelict boat, while the glass for the windows was salvaged from a scrapped truck. Even the straw used to thatch the rooftop was collected from fields in the surrounding area.
The house has no electricity and no running water, but a nearby creek provides an ample source of fresh water. Buck keeps the house warm with a woodstove, which provides more than enough to heat the house thanks to its insulated cob walls. An artfully crafted spherical pile of stacked wood outside provides fuel for the stove, a chicken coop offers up free food, while a nearby well serves as a refrigerator. And no house would be complete without a composting toilet—this sits in a separate outhouse.
Buck wanted to set an example for others, and only had to pay the $250 when he ran out of straw and nails during construction. As he puts it: “A house doesn’t have to cost the earth, you only need the earth to build it. I wanted to show that houses don’t have to cost anything. We live in a society where we spend our lives paying our mortgages, which many people don’t enjoy.”
Images by Michael Buck