Lisa Starr calls herself a “drum medicine woman,” but she also can call herself an architect.
In an effort to live more sustainably, Lisa studied earthbag home design. As someone who enjoys living near the California coast, she purchased property in Joshua Tree, Calif., and built the series of structures she now calls “Bonita Domes.”
In a new YouTube interview with Dylan Magaster, Lisa admits she “made things up” as she went along. It worked.
“I wanted to be near the coast and near my kids and find somewhere I could purchase land and follow my passions, my beliefs and my values,” she said. “This led me to Joshua Tree … and all the pieces just kept falling into place.”
One of those pieces that fell into place: The earth at Joshua Tree suits earthbag home building without the addition of clay or sand. Her sprawling complex has an unworldly appearance when seen from an aerial view. The dwellings look like giant mustard-colored mushrooms emerging from the desert floor.
In the video, Lisa first points out the property’s “shower house,” which she intended to house a hot tub and showers where she and anyone helping her build could relax after a day of home building. She is still working on the hot tub operation, but showers are available there now. She lived in the small structure while her home was under construction.
After the shower house, Lisa shows viewers the outdoor kitchen gazebo, which features what she calls a “basic icebox and a propane cooktop.” She says her vision has been for her property to have a child-like appearance.
“Being outside is your room,” she says. “The celling is your sky and the sleep pod gives you a place to sleep.”
Lisa was “grandfathered in” under 2007 coding for her project, and she suggests that restrictions are tighter now for permits and building codes in the area. Her 1,000-square-foot home features two living spaces, each with its own bathroom, joined by a kitchen.
(Listen to Off The Grid Radio’s in-depth podcast on earthbag homes here.)
The home has light from the many small windows, and it appears cozy with the addition of brightly colored area rugs, tapestries and window treatments.
Out the back door, which receives substantial afternoon heat due to its western exposure, Lisa is planning a grape arbor to provide shade. She is building her separate studio structure on a berm, which will help protect it from the sun.
She recommends that others who are interested in sustainable living “be strong” and undertake their homebuilding “with as much love as you can.”
“We’re all making it up as we go along,” she says. “… Stay steadfast to yourself and stay true to yourself. Give yourself permission that you can do it.”
What advice would you add about earthbag homes? Share your thoughts in the section below: