Mike Harris and Jo Lewis



We were interested in 'the good life' and had grown vegetables in London but knew we could never afford land in that part of the world - hence arriving in Leitrim! From reading Permaculture magazine had become interested in alternative building methods and we were both very taken by the straw bale buildings in Athena and Bill Steen's 'The Straw Bale House' book. Before leaving London, Mike completed a straw bale course with Barbara Jones of Amazon Nails - one of the pioneers of straw bale building in Europe. The initial thought was for a new build near the existing cottage - probably timber frame with straw bale infill, but the site occupied by the cottage was the nicest on the land and was tucked under the hillside to protect it from the prevailing winds. We briefly considered knocking down the cottage but couldn't face destroying the heritage and history of the place so we opted for the lengthier and costlier route of extending the cottage via sustainable methods.

We were fortunate to find Colin Bell to be our architect and he was excellent at working with our needs and the ideas we had already come up with and finding ways of solving the intricasies of construction. He was also the main inspiration for the form of the kitchen and living room which constitute the main activity area of the house.


Traditional three-roomed cottage with hybrid timber frame and straw bale extension.



  • Locally sourced materials
  • Minimal use of concrete and oil based products
  • Green roof
  • Humanure compost toilet
  • Wood heating
  • Vegatable garden and polytunnel
  • Soft fruit area and top fruit trees

Forbo flooring systems


    Good creative cooperation between Mike and Jo and Colin Bell brought individual touches to the design. Curved wall and stepped windows gives the kitchen an unusual array of natural light. 
    Natutal lime render gives continuation of finish from existing stone cottage to new straw bale walls. 


    Colin Bell


    Self build


    Irish timber

    Irish straw

    Irish Limestone

    French and German Hydraulic lime

    Reclaimed Welsh slates

    Aglaia and Aura German eco paints

    Marmoleum natural linseed floor covering

    Irish wood double glazing units


    Heating and water from wood burning gasification boiler and large buffer tank.


    Water from bore-hole - though rainwater is on a seperate collection system in case of future need.


    All humanure resouces are composted and returned to the land


    Vegetable plot and polytunnel.

    Fruit trees and soft fruit.

    5 acres coppice planted for future fuel use


    Mike, Jo and their three boys are delighted with their home - though there are always more jobs to be completed!

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