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Chris Martin, Bloomington, Limestone, Indiana, Baby Creek Road, DIY, owner build, home construction, mosaic, natural lighting, septic, balloon framing, turrets, witches hat, circular homes, passive design, solar, plaster, slow building, slow food movement

Bear in mind that Chris started working on his home back in the 1980s, which may seem like the dark ages to our younger readers, but puts into perspective the fact that he had access to a completely different set of materials and methodologies, and subscribed to a radically independent philosophy that most contemporary designers lack. He wanted a home that would reflect his family’s values and he wasn’t afraid to do the hard work necessary to make it so – the way our ancestors would have – by hand. Take, just as one very small example, the fact that Chris uses a solar kiln to dry his own lumber, and developed a tool for tuckpointing the nine tons of limestone he acquired from a local source to clad the circular addition. Amazingly, after all these years of tinkering, he isn’t hunched over and miserable, but rather breezes around his home and garden with a remarkably light step.

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Chris used balloon framing to the build the round turrets, but he said the additional effort required to do so was worth it. “It’s an easy to way to make curves,” he said, “and round shapes have an organic feel.” He bought most of his own equipment rather than renting it or paying someone to do it, (we like to believe that if Chris were to restart this mammoth project today, he would take advantage of the shared economy.) In any case, he used plaster, instead of dry wall, to cover the framing and insulation, which can be tricky but certainly adds character to the already colorful interior, and double glazed south-facing windows offer extra insulation. He built the entryway and kitchen around a salvaged church window frame that he loved, and used various kinds of salvaged wood throughout the rest of the home.

His use of limestone we found most fascinating. Chris said that the limestone he purchased locally is some of the finest in the world, and because it’s soft, it’s easy to work with. It came in unusually long slabs, so he opted to leave it that way – resulting in very unique cladding for a home. Bloomington summers can get really humid, so Chris used borax insulation to fight mold, and he has an octagonal vent in his daughter’s room to help promote natural ventilation. There are so many other details to share, but suffice to say that Chris and his family have created a special, unique home that meshes with their personal values.

He says in parting about the time it has taken to build his life’s masterpiece: “For me, it’s another way for people to take control of their lives and keep from building too big when you know exactly how much work goes into every square foot.”

Images via Tafline Laylin