Given that Kirsten Dirksen of Barcelona-based sustainable living website faircompanies has traveled the world — or a huge swath of Northern California, New York City, Spain and France, at least — documenting nontraditional, pint-sized domiciles and the folks who happily live in them, it’s not entirely surprising that she’d eventually wind up in Middle-earth. Or Unity, Maine, home to Wooden Wonders, a small, family owned company that holds the distinction of being the only business in the world officially licensed by Middle-earth Enterprises (the company that owns exclusive worldwide rights to anything and everything J.R.R.Tolkien-related) to build and sell replicas of the predominate housing stock found in the Shire: hobbit holes (or, if you want to get technical, smials).
Sure, they're not true hobbit holes (this guy, inadvertently, comes a lot closer), but the quaint and curvaceous aboveground shelters built and sold by Wooden Wonders do indeed resemble the type of abode that Frodo Baggins and the gang called home in Tolkien’s beloved fantasy tomes (and, of course, Peter Jackson’s film adaptations). Naturally, the domed roofs, circular entryways and porthole-style windows truly seal the deal.
Founded and operated by Tolkien-loving carpenter Rocy Pillsbury and his wife, Melissa, Wooden Wonders produces four types of fully customizable, hobbit hole-inspired dwellings for “both work and play.” There’s a rather lovely and spacious chicken coop ($995 to $1,595); a kid’s playhouse (prices start at $2,390 for the 10-foot model or $2,900 for the 12-foot model); a full-on garden shed with ample storage space (sizes vary with base prices ranging from $3,695 to $7,995); and a cottage that’s similar in layout to the garden shed but with a finished interior and the option for insulation (base prices range from $5,545 to $15,000) and all sorts of non-hobbitish amenities including plumbing, electrical wiring, etc.
The uses for the hobbit hole cottage, which can be as large as 16 feet in diameter, are numerous: Meditation/yoga/art studio, backyard office, sauna, and even guest quarters for visiting grannies. Although none of the Pillsbury's clients live year-round in their hand-built hobbit holes (that they know of at least), faircompanies has certainly profiled folks living full-time in spaces a lot smaller.
While there isn't too much to say on the downsized living front as the hobbit holes are primarily used a sheds and playhouses, Melissa does have some interesting points about the dreamy allure of small, curvy structures: "I think all of that [curved walls, round doors, etc.] is really appealing to people because we're used to seeing right angles in structures and everything is very square. To look at something that has all these beautiful curves is not only different and notable, but also very soft and welcoming." She adds: "Hobbits live very simple lives in beautiful surroundings — a very kind of idyllic, rural existence. It's something that maybe not everyone would choose for a lifestyle, but they like the idea of it at least and I think that the hobbit hole embodies that idyllic lifestyle that maybe we'd at the least like to try on. A hobbit hole in your landscape could give you that opportunity to escape from the craziness of everyday life ..."