< back

Do It Yurtself

2019


I’ve always been fascinated by the structures we call home. The evolution of these buildings throughout history have helped define various cultures and have had an enormous impact on who we are as individuals. Our relationship to our homes and their construction has been personal area of interest and a topic that I try to explore in many different ways.

Every couple of years I get an itch to build something in the world using a completely different set of skills than the creative muscles I flex in my filmmaking work. In 2019, I designed and built a modern yurt on an island just outside of Portland, Oregon with the help of my girlfriend, Nicole.

The yurt would become our construction laboratory—the humble hammer acting as our microscope, and a pair of overalls as our lab coat. Our successes and failures would be documented and later shared with others as a dissertation of sorts.

With the help of some friends, I documented the entire build and created a free online guide called Do It Yurtself. I created videos, photos, 3D models and a custom website to share our process.

The Yurt

We set out with the goal to make the most beautiful and functional yurt that has ever been built. With the help of our friends and family, we constructed the exterior structure in a single long weekend. Over the following five months, Nicole and I built out the interior.

We wanted to bring this traditional nomadic home into the 21st century by introducing contemporary styling and modern conveniences. It was our first time building anything of this scale and we were presented many opportunities to experiment with different aspects of the construction process.


Design

Since most yurt structures are part of a kit (like the Rainier Outdoor kit we used), the interior is where we could differentiate our yurt from everything that came before it. I modeled an interior room in 3D which would help divide the yurt into distinct spaces.

The interior would house a full kitchen, living room with guest bed, office, bathroom and a sleeping loft surrounded on almost all sides by 45+ plants.


The Website

The Do It Yurtself website would be the follow-up to the extremely popular van build website I previously created: The Vanual. After several years of collecting feedback, I decided to create version 2.0 of my online build guides. I would refine the user interface, introduce video and downloadable resources.

To allow new functionality and easier maintenance, I moved the site from a static website built with Jekyll to a built-from-scratch Wordpress website. Overall, I’m quite happy with the transition.


The Videos

I wanted to challenge myself with this new project by making instructional videos of the build process. I gave myself a shoestring budget of about $3.5k to produce all the content. Since there was little money left over after production, I did all the post-production myself—from editing to color.

With some help from my ragtag group of camera operators, I produced a glossy 2 minute promo (shot on RED) and four highly-detailed episodes where I got to pretend to be a third rate tv host. While I wanted these videos to be entertaining and engaging, the most important aspect was that this content was accurate and useful.


The Deconstruction

When it comes to creating and building things, I often enjoy the process more than the end result. That’s why, after a summer of living in and enjoying the yurt we built, I deconstructed our home so we could move on to our next adventure.

The yurt was packed into a truck and moved to North Carolina where the new owners of the yurt will reconstruct the yurt and hopefully enjoy it for years to come. In the meantime, I’ll be on the lookout for the new unique home to build.


BONUS: Viral Video :)

As part of my marketing plan for Do It Yurtself (which also included a feature in Dwell), we were featured on the extremely popular Youtube series, Living Big in a Tiny House.

It was a fun opportunity for Nicole and I to be our own weird, geeky selves and share the home we built. In the end, this video became the most viewed yurt video on Youtube with 2+ million views.