Whether you consider the tiny-house movement
, the work of The Minimalists
, Shannon Hayes’ Radical Homemaker
website or Marie Kondo’s bestseller The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up
, it’s clear that we are experiencing a cultural shift that prizes sustainability and simplicity. But the idea of getting back to basics is nothing new. In the late 1970s, Forest Gregory left his home in downtown Denver in search of a simpler life and some acreage. He landed in the wilds of eastern Oregon in 1977 and set about building his own home from the ground up. “I have always felt the call of the natural world, and feel most alive in nature,” Gregory says. “I felt caged and out of place in the city, so it was an easy choice to make.”
Houzz at a Glance
Who lives here:
Forest and Ruai Gregory
1,400 square feet (130 square meters); two bedrooms, two bathrooms
Forest and his wife, Ruai, reside in a decagonal cabin tucked into the side of a pine-covered mountain just outside of Halfway, Oregon. Forest was inspired by an article in Mother Earth News about a 10-sided, nearly circular owner-built home. “The fact that I had little carpentry experience added to the challenge,” Forest says. “But I doubt I would have ever chosen to build a complex unconventional home design with virtually no 90-degree angles had I known what I was getting into!”
Luckily, Forest had some help from new neighbors and friends during the early stages of building his home. “After constructing the foundation, consisting of concrete piers, and building the floor, we assembled the log walls around the floor’s perimeter,” he says. The result was a 450-square-foot one-room cabin topped with a flat deck.”
The front door is tucked under a covered walkway, and a separate entrance to the master bedroom can be found at the top of an outdoor staircase. Forest created a rough sketch for the home’s design, but says he had no formal building plans. “Building this house was like putting together a puzzle without knowing what it is supposed to look like,” he says.
The completed house consists of a large communal room on the first floor with a pop-out kitchen and second bedroom. The second floor houses the master bedroom, and the third floor is a small open-air tower from which to view the surrounding mountains.
A circular living room is the heart of the home. A massive wheel of beams was created with fallen logs found on the Gregory property, and the walls are made of knotty pine. A wood-burning stove anchors the seating area, and the dining space is situated in front of two large south-facing windows.
Forest and Ruai are nature-loving artists who frequently craft decorative installations for their home. Wreaths of pine cones and green lichen fill some of the not-so-snug joints where the log ceiling beams meet the walls.
The staircase features a rustic railing made from fallen branches. The photo on the wall was taken during one of Forest and Ruai’s hikes in the nearby Eagle Cap Wilderness area.
“I agree with the expression ‘home is where the heart is,’” Forest says. “Home is ideally a place to feel secure and happy while nourishing love, inspiration and creativity.”
“During the colder months, we eat most of our meals next to south-facing sunny windows to enjoy the sun’s warmth and the valley and mountain views,” Forest says. Four welcoming mismatched chairs are paired with a wood pedestal table.
The second floor, which was built during the second year of construction, features south-facing picture windows that look out over the property. The windows also create a warm sun bath on sunny but frigid winter days.
An observation tower protrudes from the center of the second-floor room, accessed by a ladder and a trapdoor. Forest loves to show visitors the tower room as, he says, “it is the jewel of the house and my favorite room.”
The tower is the smallest room in the house. It was the last part of the house to be built, and Forest says it was the most challenging and the most fun to create. “I was rewarded with five beautiful views framed by glassless windows,” he says. “Every time I stand in the tower and view the beauty of nature all around me, I am filled with awe and gratitude that I am so fortunate to call this beautiful spot on Earth home.”
The Gregory homestead sits on 12 acres and includes a variety of landscapes, such as hillsides, a level creek bottom, forest, brush and grassy clearings. “We have a young orchard of over 60 fruit and nut trees and a quarter-acre garden, all grown organically,” Ruai says. “We follow a vegan diet, as we feel it is healthier than a meat-based diet and has a much lower impact on the environment.”
In addition to the orchard and garden, the couple makes extensive use of a greenhouse. “We place a high value on growing and knowing the source of our food supply,” Forest says. “It is a true joy to see a tiny seed sprout, grow and mature, be harvested, and reach our dinner table. Gardening enriches both the body and the spirit. Most of what we can’t grow, we purchase through a food-ordering club.”
A few paces from the house, visitors will find a handmade hammock strung between two towering pine trees. The Gregorys call their homestead Harmony Home.
“After all, we are but recent and temporary visitors,” Forest says. “We feel it is only right to honor and live in harmony with the fellow creatures that we share our home with. They were here long before we came, and we want them to be here long after we are gone.”
Ruai is pictured here on a walk in the woods beyond the cabin. She is always aware of the area’s Native American heritage. “We have a great respect for Native Americans, the true keepers of the earth,” she says. “They possessed great wisdom. We feel that connection too, seeing ourselves not as landowners but as caretakers of this place.”
Each summer for the past 17 years, Forest and Ruai have hosted a two-week nature day camp for children in the area.
Forest is pictured here showing a newt to a recent group of campers. “We engage in fun activities that bring out the natural love and fascination for nature that most young children have,” he says. “Hopefully this experience will encourage them to feel connected with nature throughout their lives and have a loving and respectful relationship with the natural world. Indeed the very survival of the human race depends on whether we choose to become caretakers of the earth rather than consumers of the earth.”
The Gregory property is a Certified Wildlife Habitat
, and Forest and Ruai take their role as caretakers of the land very seriously. “The earth and nature need to be loved, respected and cherished just as much as our loved ones, for we are part of an intimate relationship with the family of life,” Forest says. The Gregorys remind us that while our houses and dwellings are important, the earth is our true home.
via My Houzz: Nature Takes Center Stage in an Eastern Oregon Home