Straw Bale in Black Mountain: Four Years Planning for a Dream Come True


Where: 6 miles south of Black Mountain

Designer/Builder: Bobby Mchugh, Old School Design/Build (now McHugh-Designs)

Square Footage: 1350 sq. ft. interior/1500+ sq. ft. exterior

Construction Type: Straw bale mixed with conventional stick frame

Bobby and Lisa met for the first time on Valentine’s Day in 1998 in Mt. Airy, NC. That first night they sat around a moonlit bonfire together, sharing their dreams and discussing their passions. And what did they talk about?

“Straw bale houses,” says Lisa. “That was a connection we had from the very first night. One wedding and six years later, we’re still sitting around a moonlit bonfire, but now it’s outside our own straw bale home. It’s a dream come true for both of us.”


Located on a wooded slope south of Black Mountain, the house features straw bale filled walls on a partial timber frame, mixed with conventional stick framed walls. The two-bedroom house is only 1350 square feet of interior space, but the eighteen inch girth of the straw bale walls and the open floor plan make it seem a bit bigger. Bobby spent four years dreaming and designing their new home.

“It took four years to imagine all the special details,” says Bobby. “We have traditional lime-sand stucco siding, painted metal roofing with half-round guttering, and woodwork in the arts and crafts style. Up the welded steel spiral staircase, a master suite looks west out onto the Broad River valley. An office balcony looks out over the first floor on the way to the guest bedroom. From the circular drive and the 350 square foot covered stone patio, to the live-in kitchen and the sleeping porch, it was four years well spent.”

The live-in kitchen is a first floor, open-floor plan that seamlessly flows from kitchen to living room to dining room. The screened sleeping porch faces the sunset and has a sleeping area, complete with queen-sized bed, perfect for hanging out and afternoon naps.

Bobby says, “We really had a great time building the house, especially during our work parties. A keg of beer and a plate of sandwiches were all our friends needed! We had great work parties for site clearing, straw stacking and stucco. The most popular party was the laying of the granite floor.”

“People love the recycled granite mosaic floor, which is a feature that adorns other straw bale houses in the area”, says Lisa. “Our mosaic includes 5,000 pieces of discarded granite weighing some six tons. Many people get a different image in their mind when they hear the house is made of straw” continues Lisa, “and then they’re surprised at how much they like it once they see it. This house truly works for us. We finally got our dream straw home!”

Top Green Points:

Efficiency: super-insulating straw walls; cellulose insulation used for roof and some walls; radiant floor heating, super efficient water heater; passive solar design

Low Toxicity: Low toxicity AFM natural oil, AFM acrylic and polyurethane used on interior and exterior wood features

Environmental: Kept the forestry to a minimum and used every useable piece of lumber; permeable surface driveway; rainwater drainage; recycled redwood from an older deck and locally-milled black locust for exterior trim; recycled granite from local countertop fabricators used in mosaic on ground level; milled all lumber cut from home site for use as structure and trim; lots of recycled materials including windows, interior doors, trim, etc.; natural lime stucco used inside and out.

To contact Bobby McHugh at Old School Design/Build, call (828) 712–8451 or email him at:

For more information visit McHugh-Designs

Copyright© 2006 by New Life Journal. All rights reserved. For permission to reprint contact Tena Moore.

Copyright © 2018, Tena Moore. All rights reserved. For citation information or permission to reprint contact Tena Moore.