The Strawbale Studio, a beautiful thatched roof cottage in rural Oxford Michigan, was conceived in 1996 by friends Fran Lee, Deanne Bednar, and Carolyn Koch. None of these women are professionals, yet they were able with help, guidance, and intuition to build this beautiful natural structure, which today offers tours, workshops, and hands-on experience with natural building materials. Deanne had taken a natural building course from the Cob Cottage Company, and Fran had been inspired by Christopher Day’s book Places of the Soul: Architecture and Environmental Design as a Healing Art. The Strawbale Studio’s design was guided by Christopher Alexander’s books A Pattern Language and The Timeless Way of Building.
Fran Lee, the original owner wanted a special structure that would be able to provide a welcoming place for workshops and events. Ground was broken for the foundation in 1996. The 1997 season included construction of the stone foundation, procuring local logs, de-barking them and hiring a crew who created the basic wood frame from our round poles. Reed collection took place all that winter by the team as well as hired folks. In 1998 Flemming Abrahamsson taught us how to thatch the roof, the strawbale walls, window & door frames and base plasters went up and Detroit Edison donated a solar electric system installed by Jim Bates with support from Bob Pratt of DTE. In 1999 benches and sculptures and other details were added to the Strawbale Studio.
In 2003 Fran moved, and Deanne Bednar became the current owner of the land and Main Teacher & Coordinator of the Strawbale Studio Program.
In 2004 & 2005 the State of Michigan Energy Office helped to fund the educational work of this project (publicity, exhibits, presentations, workshops, tours and hands-on training). This “Community Energy Grant” (Green Building Category) also partially funded the Kensington Kid’s Cottage in 2006. Visit the Strawbale Studio Case Study (PDF) by the State of Michigan Energy Office.