Built in 2007, this Asian
craftsman house is the first
straw bale insulated residential
construction in Cuyahoga County.
It is also the owners’ third house to
be showcased on the Heights
Inspired by South African straw
bale houses and committed to
resource preservation, the owners
visited other straw bale construction.
They hired the Bedford architectural
firm of Doty and Miller for the
design, because these architects
“understood” their vision.
Construction of this beautiful
high-performance house combined
30 to 50 straw bales with the
generous help of friends, neighbors
and straw bale aficionados. This
occurred over two weekends in
The space abounds with green features inside and out. The lawnless
front yard is an Asian-inspired garden, watered with rainwater
diverted from downspouts. Composting bins are handy for kitchen
waste, and solar lights and signs decorate the front.
More Asian influence is in the front entryway where trelliswork
flanks the front door. Strawberry beds on stilts provide visual interest
and containment for happy plants. These beds can be tended on foot
or from a chair, and so are suited for physically challenged gardeners.
Of particular interest is the 100-year-old Amish carpenter’s bench,
which was bought in Holmes County and now functions as a kitchen
island. A close look at the bench reveals a number of interesting
details: each drawer is made of a different wood; tool holes have
been left intact; the vises are usable; one drawer is marked “1869.”
Kitchen cabinet doors are also repurposed, purchased at a local
antique store and installed to fit stock cabinets.
All straw bale houses include a “truth window” providing
evidence of authentic construction. These windows can be any shape
or size and can even be curtained. The truth window is found in the
wall near the dining area, given pride of place above the built in inset
shelf. It holds a pop of color in the balls of orange wool fiber.
Enter the study from the living area through a stunning Victorianera
door reclaimed from a house in Grand Rapids, Michigan and
purchased on EBay. The door was acquired before the plans were
finished, so its 4-foot width could be easily incorporated into the
One of the most distinctive features of the house is the walkway
between the study and the center hall – consisting of deeply curved
walls and ceiling, with the curves complemented by the starburst
pattern in the floor. This collection of curves can produce an echo
when the sound comes from just the right spot.
The first floor master bedroom can be darkened significantly to
meet the owners’ desire for a cave-like sleeping area. The brownishred
walls are finished with linseed oil, used to retain color and
produce a suede look.
The master bath is handicapped accessible, with its open shower
area decorated with tiles in Celtic knot and quatrefoil motifs made
by one of the owners. These shapes are also reflected in the stained
glass window. Marble in the bathroom is from the former Adelstien
Pharmacy, formerly located at East 79th and Cedar. Also reclaimed is
the beautiful cast iron antique pedestal sink.
Some of the more remarkable features of this house – produced
by its unique construction – center on its interior ambience. The
owners were delighted with the unexpected silence and stillness in
the house. The ambient street noise from Cedar Road is absent due
to the thick walls and insulation. They are also pleased to benefit
from the walls’ tendency to absorb humidity in the summer, which
is released in winter, providing extra warmth at no cost.
And, of course, the owners have incorporated as many green
aspects as possible:
• Ceiling fans in all main rooms provide cross ventilation with windows
• Pella Architect and Designer series windows and French doors
• Low VOC Sherwin Williams paint and natural plaster throughout
• Energy Star appliances and Toto dual flush toilets
• Lennox 96% efficient furnace, Bosch tankless water heater
- Reclaimed door to study dated April 22, 1891
- Deep window sills throughout the house
- Timbertec – organic and recycled plastic material – used for
- Exposed straw on walls – in foyer and in first floor bath featuring
navy blue mortar pigment.