The Hand-Sculpted House


A Practical and Philosophical Guide to Building a Cob Cottage

by Ianto Evans, Michael G. Smith, and Linda Smiley

Cover of The Hand-Sculpted HouseThis is one of the two books I’d definitely recommend to anyone thinking about building a cob house, for a whole bunch of reasons:

  • It covers so many aspects of building and planning a house.
  • It has loads of lovely drawings that illustrate the concepts very well.
  • It also has quite a few beautiful and inspiring photographs.
  • It encourages you to go out and try it all yourself.
  • It lets you dream, and believe in your dreams.

A little about the actual contents

The Hand-Sculpted House is made up of three parts:

  1. A conceptual, visionary part: Philosophy, background, and design, by Ianto Evans.
  2. A practical, how-to part: Building the cob cottage, by Michael G. Smith.
  3. A spiritual, empathic part: Bridging the inner and outer worlds, by Linda Smiley.

Ianto’s is all about passive solar design, the owner-builder concept, about self-empowerment and who and where and why. About building with little or no money, and rethinking our concepts of what and how a house is. I like this part a lot because I get the feeling that Ianto is a radical dreamer, and so am I. :-) I must say this, though, that when he says it’s best not to get any official people involved and “just do it without a permit, if possible”, it does make my nose wrinkle a little. I like the approach, personally, but it’s quite impossible to do around these parts. Permits in Germany are all too often a fact of life.

Michael’s part is very hands-on, about all the details of actually building with cob: materials, tools, preparation, foundations, drainage, how to make cob, sculpting, inserting windows and doors, proper roofing, flooring options, plasters and finishes. Everything. After I’d read all that (that was a little while before I went to Kate''s workshop in 2012), I felt I knew what to do. A daunting task, surely, building a whole house, but something I could tackle. Then again, dear readers: I truly believe I can do anything I really want to. I know fully well that most people are different that way. Still… it’s a good book to help you believe in yourself.

I liked reading Linda’s onword too, but it wasn’t quite as full of revelations to me as the other two. Probably because I’d already been to Cae Mabon and stayed in a little cob cottage myself for five days (that was where I discovered this book), so I had already experienced the profound difference of a cob house for myself. They do have a huge spiritual impact, as does the whole owner-builder concept.


Go read it. I do believe there must be something in there for everyone.