Will and Helen and the house they built — with their own hands

Guest post by Morgan

This post originally appeared on morgantrinkerblog.com.

Since we’ve been living in Birmingham, we’ve been lucky to meet some really amazing people. Two people we’ve grown particularly close to are Will and Helen. They currently live in Birmingham in an apartment during the week while Helen attends school and Will teaches, but they’ve been making the commute to their house in Hartselle (about an hour north of Birmingham) on the weekends to spend time at their house and on their land. The absolutely crazy part? Will built this house… with his own two hands, and almost no help.

When he originally told us this, I had a hard time believing it. I mean, I can wrap my mind around people being book smart or artistically gifted, but man… someone not just designing and decorating their house, but actually building it, from scratch — just straight up manual labor? Whoa.

I was even more blown away when we actually drove up to Hartselle to see it for ourselves. As it turns out, Will and Helen really want to live full time in Birmingham, so they’ve decided to rent out their house to Will’s Aunt Sally, which works out well, because his parents live right down the road on their own amazing piece of land (with chickens and gardens and orchards and porches and the whole nine yards).

I was so impressed with not only the craftsmanship, but with the design and all the finishing touches, which were also chosen by Will and Helen. When we first walked in and I saw that spiral staircase leading up to a loft with skylights… I nearly died. Talk about a dream come true. See for yourself:

The polished concrete countertops, the butcher block island, the cabinets, and yes, even the beer… all made by hand.

Yeah, they’re really cute together.

Will and Helen, you guys are awesome. Thank-you so much for allowing us to barge in. We are so impressed by your mad skills!

Comments on Will and Helen and the house they built — with their own hands

  1. I think I just died a little! The house is just SO gorgeous! This is actually a huge inspiration for me, since one of my biggest dreams is building my own house with my own hands. (I want a tower, how else am I supposed to get that? :D)

  2. Seeing these pictures just solved a problem for me, we wanted to extend our house by putting another bedroom upstairs but i couldn’t work out what to do about stairs as they take up so much room & we don’t have much of that. Spiral staircase, that’s the answer! Why hadn’t we thought of that? Thank you!!!

    • Check out spiralstairsofamerica.com

      That’s where I purchased this one.

      They were great. They sell a full-welded staircase, not a bolt together kit.

    • I’m with Courtney, would love to know Will’s background or how he came about such awesome knowledge. I recently saw work ads for apprenticeships to cob builders in my area, but it’s the old fashioned basic carpentry I’m interested in.

      • Me too! I would love to learn how to build houses/furniture, the good old fashioned way.

        It’s my dream to build my own house, someday. My great-grandfather and grandfather built my grandparents’ house, and to this day it is one of the most beautiful houses (in my opinion) that I have ever laid eyes on. Something about building it yourself gives it a magical glow.

    • Yes, I want to know! My grandpa got his woodworking skills from his dad, a cabinetmaker, but I was never interested in learning until it was too late. Damn, now I want to build a house. Or SOMETHING.

  3. Hey Everyone!

    Thanks for all the great comments. My wife does makes me grin like the village idiot! Small price to pay for being happy I guess!

    I am a Civil Engineer by trade (now a school teacher), and I did learn some construction from by Dad and Brother.

    I read all the books first. Then I did a short apprenticeship with a timberframer (great experience but not necessary). Then I planned… ALOT.(Its fun though isn’t it?!)

    I’d love to answer any questions anybody has, so shoot me an email if you feel so inclined.

    [email protected]


  4. i am so completely in love with this. We are still leaning toward building a house in the “country” (mostly because its cheaper and we wont have so many restrictions on how our house has to look) and this post keeps reminding me how doable it really is. i can’t wait.

  5. Wow, GORG-juss house. I’m very impressed by not only his skill as a builder, but as a designer.

    This makes me think of my dad, who built our (former) family home with his own two hands. He had a little carpentry experience from high school shop, and has worked as a welder and machinist for his whole career, so he knew how to follow blue prints from his work. The rest he pretty much got from a book called “Building a House.”

    The house was built on a former poultry farm that was no longer in operation and had a bunch of empty barns. He and my mom tore down one of the barns, and he designed the house around rafters he salvaged from the barn to save on lumber and labor.

    I have one uncle who is an electrician for our local utility. Another uncle used to own a plumbing business, so they both helped with those portions. I believe it took about a year to design and plan and another 18 months or so to actually build. It had a huge wood burning stove in the basement that was connected to the house’s duct system, so in the winter he would go chop wood from our property and we would heat the house with it.

    Some of my best memories with my dad involve him teaching me to shingle our roof, use a power drill and a table saw and other “tool” stuff.

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