For those unawares, Ianto and Linda are two very influential cob building pioneers in North America, and authors of The Hand-Sculpted House, the number one go-to book for cob construction. They have been a huge inspiration for me during my house design process, and reading their book sealed the deal for building my home out of cob. Ianto and Linda have many years of experience building with mud. It was an honor to be able to meet them and spend several nights at their place. It was a great experience, and I took plenty of photos to share here on my own website.
The above slideshow should give you a sense of the Cob Cottage Company. My first afternoon at their place, I was blown away by the amount of cob building, and the lay of the land. I likened my initial experience to stepping into a cob playground.
Buildings at Cob Cottage Company
There are at least a dozen individual structures, mostly cottages of varying sizes, and some other buildings including a library, and a kitchen (currently under construction). Many are in various states of completion. Ianto and Linda host dozens of apprentices and students per year, and at least one new structure gets built from the ground up during the apprenticeships.
It felt great to be in a place that was very aesthetically united. Every structure was built out of cob, and the styles of these buildings were all very similar – most had living roofs, arched doorways, earthen plasters and floors, etc. They all featured similar construction techniques. It felt like a very defined cob village.
Something else I want to note about the building aesthetic at Cob Cottage Company is their very handmade and low-tech style. Few buildings had opening windows, and all were single pane. Foundations were all dry-stacked urbanite, roofs were all covered in moss, roof framing was all roundwood, and floors earthen. Their style is what I idealize — the avoidance of synthetic building materials, the human power approach to building, and the use of what is actually available.
Defining space with cob walls
Connecting many of the structures together (physically, and otherwise) are cob walls. You literally cannot walk anywhere without passing through a cob arch or two in one of the cob walls. Ianto and Linda are all about human scale construction, and these cob walls are a fantastic example of that. There is zero vehicle access on their land (all building supplies must be carted in by wheelbarrow over a creek, and up a fairly steep hill – not for the faint of heart!) What they have built is for humans — walking humans. The cob walls define space – they create it (in the form of gathering places), separate it (in the form of barriers between walking paths, and ultimately, make the place incredibly beautiful and unique. I’ve gotta say that I’m simply a huge fan of what they’ve done with cob walls.
It’s also notable to say that unless you’re 5’6″ or shorter, you’re going to be ducking through most of these arched doorways (in the walls, and in most of the buildings). I’m going to claim that making most people bend their head slightly to pass through a space creates a very interesting environment. It makes you more conscious of your surroundings, and passing in and out of different spaces. Something about having to slightly duck through entryways made the experience feel somewhat sacred, in a way.
Having spent those few days at the Cob Cottage Company, I have felt my desire to continue building with cob strengthened. I love the idea of building a sheltered cob seating area at Dancing Rabbit, or building a couple of very small cob cabins for visitors, guests, etc. I also adore the idea of building cob walls, and trying to make that work at Dancing Rabbit to create and define space. I also have some ideas of teaching cob building, and hosting actual workshops.
We shall see. But I can definitely say my visit to Ianto and Linda’s land has been very motivational.