How Many Choices Does it Take to Get to a Yurt?

I have been reading, comparing, exploring, calling, and emailing like a mad woman, trying to get the most information as possible about our future yurt.  I discovered that there are an endless amount of possibilities.

Which company should we purchase from? What diameter should we chose? Which type of
insulation? Which type of warranty? Which type of platform to place the yurt on? Which type of windows and how many? French doors?yurt-exterior-with-view Full-light doors? Half-light doors? Colors? Should we get a water catchment system? The list goes on and on.

All these decisions have to be made before we even purchase the yurt.  The crazy part is that from what we’ve gathered, the best, most reputable companies, with the most options are all too far to take a drive to see a showroom, all residing in Colorado, Montana, Washington, and Oregon. That means that we can either scrape together some time and money (from our yurt budget) to take a road trip out there, or we have to decide from pictures, videos, and phone calls alone.

A friend informed us that there is a yurt on a public property in the town where we want to live. This was good news for a few reasons. The most important reason being that the hardest part of this process is getting building permits, and getting the town to approve such a structure. Since it is out the box, the codes are simply not written for such structures. Some towns have no interest in having anything other than stick-built houses, not wanting to mess up the look of their neighborhoods. Then if a town would be okay with the appearance of a yurt, there are still many hurdles to jump in order to use one as a permanent residence.

When we found out that a yurt was built in our town, even though it wasn’t built to be a permanent residence, we were hopeful! This shows that the town is not against the look of these structures, that some building permits might have been approved, and that they might already have some clue as to what a yurt is when we go talk to them.  It will be much more simple for us, “Yeah, we want to build a yurt like that one over there!”.

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A 20 year old yurt in our chosen town.

Another reason this yurt’s public existence was good news, was that we could go see it in person, and make sure that we really like the feeling of being in that space. So we popped by, and as soon as I saw it, butterflies fluttered in my stomach. It was beautiful! It certainly did not look like it was 20 years old, and when we walked inside, it was toasty warm, and felt so nice and peaceful. We looked at each other with smiles from ear to ear. Chris began walking all around the perimeter, looking underneath it, pulling at the seams, checking out the structure and how they have it put together. I started measuring out how big our bedroom would be, where the kitchen would be, and so on.

Prior to coming, we found that most companies make yurts up to 30 feet wide, and only a few make them larger. We had originally thought that a 30 foot (706 square feet) would suffice for our needs, at least for the near future (you can always add another yurt with a connector onto your property…definitely something to think about for the future). But after watching a few video tours of 30 footers, we thought that they looked a little too small.  When we saw this 30 foot yurt in town, our suspicions were confirmed. After a little more research, we found a yurt company, Shelter Designs, that has larger sizes and just as much quality. We decided on a diameter of either 35 feet (962 square feet) or 40 feet (1256 square feet), but we are leaning heavily towards 40 feet. Those extra square feet for not much extra money seems worth it.yurt-layoutthealoha-960x300

Then there’s the interior, where we have only begun to scratch the surface.  At first, we
put together some rough sketches of layout options showing where we’d want our kitchen, living room, bedroom, and bathroom to be. We discovered that one of the websites, Rainier Yurts,  offers countless layout designs.  After talking to the woman who drew them, she said that while they do not offer any interior work in their business, they provide those drawings to show how to put a square world into a round one.

yurt-layout-applegateShe thought of layouts that were perfect for us, and I honestly don’t think we would have gotten there on our own. We were still thinking in square terms; divide the space up into varying degrees of quarters, squares, and lines. Yet, she pointed out with her sketches, that you are not limited to that type of thinking in the round. You can concoct a zig-zag pattern, place a single square or a circle in the dead center, make the kitchen round by hugging the wall, oh the possibilities!yurt-layout-boca-raton

Luckily, there is no rush when it comes to designing the interior. It has to be done last, so however short or long this process will take, it’s the last thing to have to plan.

First, we need to find out if we can even get building permits in the town we desire. Then if that’s a possibility, we need to find out if one of the few properties available will be a good investment, and if one is, we will buy it. Then however long this takes, we will be able to order our yurt. Meanwhile, we will have at the very least the whole winter to tweak our interior design.

Our heads are buzzing with loads of information so much that both of us were lying awake last night for hours thinking about everything.  I wasn’t even upset about the lost sleep, it felt like I was watching a good movie as my mind floated over insulation, diameters, and interiors. All we know is that we are on the right path, and the research part of it is half the fun!

What is a Yurt?

Since our decision to move into a yurt, we have been telling people about our plans, and have gotten an array of responses.  Most say, “what is a yurt?”. A small portion have heard of yurts, but don’t really know anything about them, as was the case for both myself and my husband. Then there have been a select few who have known exactly what a yurt entails, and how awesome the idea of us moving into one really is.

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So after a lot of research, here is what I have discovered a yurt to be. A yurt can be a home. A yurt can be a sanctuary, meditation room, or a man-cave on someone’s property in addition to their home.  A yurt can be a vacation home, vacation rental, or a retreat center.  A yurt can be a wedding venue, a restaurant, or a ski house. A yurt can be really anything that four walls can be. A yurt for us will be a permanent residence.

  • But can it be heated? Yes.
  • Can you put electricity or plumbing in it? Yes, or it can be off the grid.
  • Can you put multiple rooms in it? Yes.
  • Can it have windows? Can it have doors? Yes and yes.
  • Is it as safe and strong as square houses? Yes, and it can be even safer and stronger.
  • Can it withstand a snowstorm? Yes, yurts originated in Mongolia where frigid temperatures, wind, and snow is common, and many yurts exist in very cold, very snowy areas.

Okay so after all of that, why get a yurt? What makes it special? What sets it apart? Well, with conventional square, or ‘stick-built’ homes, you are both protected from the elements and separated from them.  With many houses, the moment you walk in the door, you can be very separated from the earth. With yurts, you are protected from weather, but you are still a part of nature. The sounds of birds singing in the morning, or crickets chirping in the evening are all around you. Yet you and your belongings are still kept dry from rain, and kept bug and critter free thanks to good engineering. You can lie in bed and look at the stars through the dome in the ceiling.

Living off the grid is a popular and easy option with this type of space if that is something you desire. Your environmental footprint can be much smaller than stick-built homes. Being mortgage free is not just a dream, it can easily be a reality without being financially wealthy, especially since the nicest possible yurt is only about $40,000. yurt-interior-with-fireplace

We are people who love the outdoors.  We love a good hike on the weekend and practically spend every waking minute outside when the weather’s nice. We love to go camping, but the idea of living permanently outdoors is a little outside of our daily desires.  We still very much enjoy and appreciate the luxuries we have, like running water, hot showers, and a cozy couch to curl up on with a good movie. While we enjoy sleeping in tents and ‘roughing it’ when camping, it is always a relief to come back to our nice apartment and be in comforting, modern surroundings.

When the idea of living in a yurt came on our radar, it was like everything shifted into place. We could have it all.  We could be immersed in the peace and wonder that nature has to offer, while still enjoying those daily amenities that stick-built houses offer. Believe it or not, we are not the first people to think this way.  After about two minutes into our research, we discovered that it is not only an accepted concept to live full time in a yurt, but a common one all over the country, and all over the world.

Yurt Lifestyle: A Crazy, Yet Seemingly Right Dream

My husband, Chris, and I have been married for about a year and a half and live in a small, but nice apartment. Our rent is cheap, we have granite counter tops, hardwood floors, stainless steal appliances, a washer and dryer, and to top it all off, our apartment is in the perfect location, giving both of us very short commutes for work. Yet, we have been getting increasingly restless with this space.

We are very cut off from nature, and we are definitely nature people.  Our apartment happens to be above a truck garage, in a truck yard.  The river is right behind us, so housatonic-rivermany come here and think how lucky we are having that beauty outside our door, but really it’s just a tease.  The peaceful river is almost a daily taunt, showing us what we can’t have. We are several stories above the earth, making us feel very disconnected once inside.  And while I have tried to set up a chair on the little landing outside our door to enjoy the river, I can’t find solace there from the constant activity.

We can’t entertain in our outdoor space, because we don’t have one.  It is a parking lot. We have a close group of friends we’d love to invite over for a cookout and a fire, and be able to offer them a comfortable place to rest their heads; but we just don’t have these amenities.

With all of that said, I often wonder if we actually had these things, would we still want to stay here? My gut tells me no. We’re ready to move on in our lives and have a place to call our own. We want to be able to put work into a space and know that we will reap the benefits.  We want to come home and feel motivated to add to, mold, and shape our space because its ours and we can.  Simply put, we are ready.

Back in February, we found the house of our dreams, and until that moment, we had been thinking of taking any house we could get our hands on when the time was right.  This house changed everything for us.  It made our hearts sing. The land it was on instantly gave us peace. It was an incredible opportunity that just could not be passed up, so we put together an offer to buy the house.  Long story short, it was taken before we really ever had a chance of buying it.  We were heartbroken, but we were still changed.  Through this experience, we learned to never settle or just take what we could get.  Waiting for the right house would be worth the waiting.

Ever since, Chris looks online almost daily at the local house listings in hopes to gain as much knowledge for when we are ready to purchase. Recently, he found a piece of land in the town we want, for the size we want, and for a price that just may be achievable. We discussed the prospect of building a house.  We decided to take a drive and go see this piece of land before we got ahead of ourselves.

We pulled up and saw there was a little path where we could walk through.  It was magical. There was a giant rock  in the front, surrounded by a small cluster of tall trees.  Beyond that, there was a clearing amid a full forest that was overgrown, but visible just the same. I instantly felt at peace. My mind took off as if it were a fortune teller showing me our future.

I pictured the privacy that cluster of trees offered. Lovely little gardens filled with historic_log_cabin-61wildflowers, fruits, and veggies. A patio filled with the laughter of our friends and a fire crackling in the background.  A porch where I could sip my morning coffee. I pictured our home. When we walked back to the car, I felt that the vision was slipping away with every step.  Every step reminded me that building a house is really out of the question at the moment. I saw our life together, exactly how we wanted it.  But I knew that we couldn’t have it, not yet anyway.

After a while of Chris sharing his own fantasies about the space (pretty much mirroring mine), he asked why I was so sad.  I told him that I wanted that land.  Bad.  But I knew we couldn’t have it, and I was frustrated that it wasn’t the time.  My heart couldn’t take the jerking around. He told me that at that price, with everything else, it wasn’t completely out of the question.

What if we bought it now, and then used it almost as a campsite for the next year or two, while slowly transforming and getting to know the land? What if we did that until we could get a construction loan to build our own house exactly how we want it?

The fact has always been that we don’t want for much when it comes to a house.  We have simple dreams.  A space to call our own mainly.  A peaceful yard.  We have no need for a large, shiny house.  Even if we were loaded, we would build a small house, just with finer details.

The rest of the day, we entertained the idea of buying this land and building a house on it someday.  We thought of putting up temporary housing for the years we would wait.  We thought of a trailer, but dismissed it because it would just be a waste. We thought of a camper, but figured we wouldn’t want to live in it during the winter.  Then Chris said as a joke, “Do you want to live in a yurt?”.  I jokingly responded, “nah”.  But then, we looked at each other, gears spinning.  Hmmmm.  Let’s do some research.  So we did, and what we found made our hearts sing.

This is the documentation, research, and story of our journey towards living in a yurt. Every stage, every discovery, every idea will be written here in hopes to keep a log for us to cherish, but also to help others in our same boat. This new dream feels crazy, but exciting and scary, and the more we think about it, the more right it feels. vn-medium-merle-yurt-amoungst-woods-and-fells