Animal house: Silicon Valley expat builds tiny retreat inside of old barn
For computer programmer Loren Amelang, happiness equals a small wood stove, an assortment of dried foods, a Tandy Model 100 notebook computer and an old sheep barn in the California backcountry.
What I dig most about the video tours produced by Barcelona-based sustainable living website faircompanies is that they manage to beautifully capture inventive and often unconventional eco-housing solutions in environments both rural (a cow shed-turned-minimalist retreat in Spanish countryside; a cozy cave home in France’s Loire Valley, etc.) and super-urban (tiny prefab apartment developments in San Francisco; studios with space-saving transformative cabinetry on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, etc.).
The latest residence featured by faircompanies decidedly falls into the bucolic category. It’s a short one — apparently, a longer, more comprehensive video is in the works but more on that in a bit — but no less intriguing. In the video, filmmaker Kirsten Dirksen catches up with Silicon Valley expat Loren Amelang, a solace-seeking computer programmer who built himself a 96-square-foot hideaway inside of a century-old sheep barn in the backcountry of Mendocino County, Calif. Explains faircompanies: “A small cast iron stove heated the place in a very short time with very little firewood (chopped tiny to fit the appliance, of course). All of his possessions — books, dishes, condiments, and electronics — were within arms reach."
Like many projects featured by faircompanies, Amelang’s handmade-cabin-within-a-decrepit-barn living situation isn’t for everyone. Personally, I don’t think I could do it although I certainly admire his dried food/spice organization skills. But that’s not really the point. It’s about simple, downsized living and the joy that many folks find within it. Says Amelang: "Most people, they get a house and they look around and they know what they want it to look like and if they want it to look just like everybody else's house. You have to be willing to give that up if you're willing to explore what else can be done. I was wonderfully happy out in my eight by twelve cabin out in the barn."
Again, this video is on the shorter side so I’m not going to give away too many spoilers aside from saying that fans of both off-the-grid living arrangements and old school tech will get a kick out of it (yes, that’s a Tandy Model 100). And I should also point out that Amelang no longer resides in his hand-built sheep barn shack but in a larger, newer home on his property. The reason Amelang upsized and moved into a larger home outside of the barn? “My main reason for building the house was to hang all my solar panels on,” Amelang explains. I’ll be sure to share the video tour of Amelang’s solar-powered main house when it’s been released.
Video screenshot: faircompanies/YouTube
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