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In 1603, English courts decided in the famed Semayne’s Case that every homeowner had the right to protect his house against illegal entry, making a home truly one’s castle. I’ve walked the damp, winding stairways of English and Scottish castles and got little besides chills and shin splints. If you don’t have servants to tend to dozens of rooms, a castle could get dusty in a hurry.

Still, every year, British, Irish, French and even American castles go on the market with a flourish of bugles and, lately, a price cut. Do you still wax romantic about living in a castle? Grab your checkbooks!

Knight Templar house exteriors

Photo by CNBC

Photo by CNBC

Clan Houston built this classic example of Scottish-Norman architecture in the 12th century. It can be yours today for a mere $1.12 million. It stands on six acres with four bedrooms, four baths, and a crenelated tower. Read more about it at CNBC.

Designs from the other continent

Photo by Castles for Sale

Photo by Castles for Sale

Only a half-hour from Durban, the South African “Stradford Castle” sits on a fish-stocked lake and Par 72 golf course…all for sale at of $365 000. It’s a spear’s-throw away from the local game preserve.

Not your usual Jeffersonian

Photo by Castles for Sale

Photo by Castles for Sale

Why buy a Colonial home when you can have this West Virginia castle in Berkeley Springs? For $1.8 million you can command all you see from this 20-room estate with tower room and wine cellar. The home is a registered national historical landmark.

Get out your Capri Pants

Photo by Medievalists

Photo by Medievalists

You get more than alliteration when you own the 12,000-square-foot Castiglione Castle on Capri. Dating back to the first century A.D. – long before the invention of vinyl siding — this complex of villas overlooking the sea was a sturdy fortress against the elements of nature and war. It’s a steal today for $46 million.

Straw, from wheat, oats, rice and rye, may have been a flimsy construction material in the past. But today, straw bale homes are growing in popularity. The first American homes built from bales clad with mud were built during the 1890s in Louisiana. Bales are highly fire resistant and excellent insulators. The only natural enemy is moisture.

Green walls, classic designs

Photo by Michelle Kaufmann

Photo by Michelle Kaufmann

The walls for straw bale homes can go up quickly and have fewer energy requirements than conventional framing homes, with estimates of 75 percent reductions in utility costs. You’ll find a lot of straw bale construction in Canada, Australia, Europe and sprinkled from coast to coast in this country.

Sturdier than you think

Photo by Inhabitat

Photo by Inhabitat

Bale walls that are raised on a curb off the foundation are protected from damage caused by seeping water. The CO2 Insanity blog reports that a two-story bale house in Bath, England, faced 120 MPH winds and swayed but a 16th of an inch.

Straw is what you make of it

Photo by Strohhaus

Photo by Strohhaus

The Stoh Haus in Switzerland is made from bales that were covered with a composite translucent siding. It’s set on a raised platform over the damp, snowy ground. The project featured highly compressed straw bales.

Getting started

Photo by MCH

Photo by MCH

For insurers, the key requirement is that bale homes meet all building codes. Lenders, on the other hand, may be tougher to convince that building a bale home is a sound idea. You can prep for your arguments by visiting Strawbale.com, the be-all resource for people considering a straw bale project. The site has an excellent FAQ section and offers classes.

Looking good

Photo by Mother Earth News

Photo by Mother Earth News

The interiors are entirely up to you with a bale house. You can plan for clad windows, hearths, and beamed ceilings. Mother Earth News has published an online guide on building costs, dealing with moisture, and resale values for straw bale houses.

Don’t build around forests known to harbor wolves. That would be a baleful experience.

Recent Comments

  • Kid's stuff:Bedroom furniture for dreamers

    Hey Woodrow,

    You've put together a great post here. Hardwearing and long-lasting bedroom furniture is so important when you have young children, and choosing pieces which can handle the rough-and-tumble that comes with having little ones is key!

    Best wishes, Alex.

  • Awesomely Oddball Lawn and Garden Accessories

    I plan to do this. What was your process in painting the bottom...outside portion of the tub?

  • Poor staging can crush your home sale

    Woodrow, you have once again 'nailed' the essence of the issue of staging your home for sale with easy to understand pics and words. These are definitely rules to live by, oh wise one! I know I"m soaking up the knowledge you share--- now excuse me while I wring myself out. Can't wait for the next issue.

  • To everyone, a room of one's own

    We've recently bought a house which needs A LOT of work and I'm trying to convince my other half to let me build a "room of my own" for the house, one where I can put my games console and beer fridge. She's not gone for it yet though. The most I've managed to get is an office I can work out of ... not quite the same ... LoL.

    Mine would certainly be like the car boot room in the first image :)

    Ben

  • Home designs you haven’t seen before

    I wonder how far the folks in the Rock House are able to drive in their car? Maybe down to their boat? It's so true that home is where you are at the moment.