These hand-built Washington cabins are livable sculptures made of moss and salvaged materials

Pacific coast mornings are second to none. Sunbeams pierce the canopies of towering fir and hemlock just as that famous fog rolls down the mountains swallowing everything in its path with one gigantic gulp. This is the world Jacob Witzling rode his bike through on his way to the hidden spot in Washington state on which he’s building his fourth cabin.

Locally sourced lumber, a table saw, and bags of cement have already arrived and are waiting for him among sprouting ferns on the soft forest floor. Time to raise some walls.

photo by @justindkauffman

“Cabins have been part of my life since I was 16 years old,” shares Witzling now 34. “I lived in one during my last two years of high school in New Hampshire. It was built in the 1920s and was nestled way back in the woods. It was near my parents’ house where I’d do laundry, shower and have dinner before finding my way back to where I really lived. Inside was a wood stove that I fed and stoked through the harsh winter nights . . . I had my freedom and my fire. They were all I needed to be happy.”

A few years later, while studying to be a teacher at Evergreen State College in Olympia, he found himself dating a girl who, as fate would have it, lived in a cabin outside the city.

photos by @andrewtkearns

“Each time I would go out and visit her, the vision for my life only got more clear. I craved a life that was secluded, simple and fed my soul. Not to sound cheesy but it was during that relationship where I heard the call of the wild. I needed to exist in the woods, and even though I had never built anything other than a blanket fort, I knew that my passion to create would be sufficient. Here I am, 15 years later, and I’m not only building my fourth cabin, but I’m raising it on that very same property.”

His father is an architect and engineer whose facility with shapes and expertise in the functionality behind a design left an impression on Jacob.

photo by @justindkauffman

“I remember pouring over the pages of my dad’s favorite book, Handmade Houses: A Guide to the Woodbutcher’s Art. I would gaze at the pictures from inside my blanket fort and daydream about building one of my own. The uniqueness and zero restriction of the handmade homes is what inspires me to create these livable sculptures from sustainable and local materials.”

At 22, Jacob built his first cabin for $800 using recycled materials and scavenged scraps from job sites. He actually lived in it for the next three years.

photo by @jacobwitzling

Today, Jacob still utilizes architectural salvage shops, local lumber mills, and even Mother Nature herself to build his cabins! He sustainably harvests moss by the garbage bag to create living roofs on all his cabins. Because the moss is native to the area, it requires no upkeep and gives the cabin the appearance of an indigenous species of Pacific Northwest flora.

photo by @justindkauffman

“I enjoy making permanent structures that complement the environment rather than inserting something completely foreign into the surroundings. I want these cabins to look like they sprouted from the ground and have been watered like a plant. It’s a home in its home.”

If you feel the urge to build something, and don’t know how to get started, Jacob will tell you that the only way to begin is to simply begin.

LEFT: photo by @andrewtkearns RIGHT: photo by @justindkauffman

“If I waited to do something until I knew how to do it perfectly I would never have created this unique life for myself. Perhaps being a second-grade teacher and part-time cabin builder for so long has helped me keep a firm hold on optimism and wonder. I mean, here I am, untrained, in the deep woods, building a cabin alone out of a mud pit. No matter what, I’m always proud to step back and stand in appreciation of every piece of timber, the fiber of moss, and all 300 hours it took to create each cabin. Each one is authentic and honest and beautifully imperfect.”

To see more of Jacob Witzling’s cabins, follow @jacobwitzling on Instagram.

photo by @justindkauffman


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14 thoughts on “Jacob Witzling: Hand-made Homes”

    1. Kevin M.

      I have too agree 1000%, being a life long resident of Washington myself (56yrs) I think that anyone as creative and cares this much should keep on keep’ On !

  1. Michael Shoaf

    They appear as homes from a story book … cozy retreats with nature as your companion. I wish we could build these types of homes within California, but are encumbered with a plethora of restrictions. Are they for sale?

  2. Dan Walter

    We have a cabin off the grid in Colorado, just out side of Estes Park , Our land is bordered on 2 sides by Rocky Mountain national park. We have no electric, or running water . We run down to the creek 600 feet for water, and 2 years ago I put in solar panels, that I bought from Harbor Fright, so we have some light from 11 watt 12 volt CFL bulbs. Now that I’m retired, we spend a lot of time there from Rockford Illinois. Your show on TV is my favorite one, I love antiques, And my farther worked for the Arcade in Freeport Illinois in the 40s and 50s, so I had a lot of old toys, too bad I don’t have all of them, but fire crackers and cherry bombs were cheap at the neighborhood store. LOL. We have been to your store in Iowa. I don’t think there is a shortage of antiques, they are all in the buildings that you guys go to, to PICK.
    Dan and Darla Walter

  3. Robert Scott

    I bought a house above Pleasant Lake in New Hampshire with a stunning view and 10 acres of woods bounded by a thousand more.
    I often thought of how great it would be to build a fire tower in the woods higher up from the house.
    Maybe you should build a little guest accommodation out there where people who never got to do what you have, could come and stay to finance your next creation.? Just a thought!

  4. Susie

    I just watched, for the first time, Jacob and his scuplture houses in the pacific northwest on Create TV this morning. Awesome, fairytale turned reality. I can relate to his love of the area and it’s magical atmosphere. Good for you and your determination to create your dream.

  5. Jeannie Dionisio

    You know I am a loyal fan,love your show,I am also to old for cabin life,but love the idea! Life went by way to fast!

  6. Dennis Nunes

    I am so jelious of your dreams and being able to act on them because what your doing is what I have always wanted to do, (here comes the but) living in Califorina is sort of like living in a prison sometimes, dont get me wrong Califorina is a beutifull state but if even you want to build something on your own land it is not legal to do anything without someone telling you need permits and engineerd plans ,earthquake, flood, wind, snow,walking, breathing, and dont forget engineerd foundation,. I have been a iron worker welder fabriacator most of my life I built an open sided metal tractor barn dirt floor I was made to tear it down. be thank full and im sure you are to be some ware you can follow your free soul.

  7. David Pokrywka

    It is now possible to wire a home with direct current (D.C.) L.E.D. light emitting diodes give off a huge amount of light. Radios and other small appliances can also be used. Used in combination with Solar Panels and storage batteries.

  8. Darrin G

    I just watched an episode of the diy show and checked out the project gallery. Just wanted to say I really like the small footprint design and the use of original materials. I do however have a slight issue with the height of the structures. As anyone knows, heat rises. So, when you’re trying to heat a space with such a cavernous ceiling, you end up losing a lot of the heat. Unless there’s a system to move the air (ceiling fan) this can potentially waste valuable firewood. I would like to know if the projects include some accommodation for solar. Good ideas and will keep watching. thanx

  9. Christine Lefebvre

    Here it is almost 3 years since Jacob’s story was first told but after reading it I felt compelled to write. I had the privilege to live for five years on the Olympic Penninsula. We owned the best little home in Lake Cushman area. It was the perfect size at 964 sqft. I am seventy three years old and I would like to say follow your passion always. Please don’t put off doing what you love. I wish I had followed mine. Don’t make excuses just find a way. You will be a happy human for doing it.

  10. John Graver

    So glad that someone from Evergreen College has used that education for something positive. The cabins are awesome I have a vertical log cabin on the river in WA that was built in late 1800s we love it.

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