Architect and builder Ken Meffan lives in Rough and Ready, California, a tiny town in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains. “Rough and ready” also describes his take on domestic bliss: Meffan, 56, is known for his rugged, modern houses in the High Sierra. But when it came to creating his own homestead, he, his wife, Sue, and their four kids roughed it for over a decade (two years in a tent and nine in a workshop) while he built his family’s home by hand.
The showers are made from stock-watering tanks from the Ideal Stock Tank Co. and have waterproof canvas curtains. Less expensive than prefab shower-tub units, stock tanks are built of weatherproof galvanized steel and are sturdy enough for cows to drink from—–and, ergo, for you to bathe in.
The floorboards are lumberyard “culls” that had turned gray or cracked from being exposed to weather. Meffan had them re-milled into pristine planks with an old-world feel. Contractors typically pass up culls to get to the “good” wood below. Ask at your local home center, and you may be able to get them at a steep discount, or even for free.
A media storage unit is made from a steel pivot welded to a heavy-duty tractor bearing by Sierra Metal Fabricators. The massive, smooth-spinning unit also serves as a room
divider, to screen a desk and computer station from the main living area.
As Meffan was hand-troweling the concrete floor, his daughter ran in with different leaf specimens from the property, like ferns and bamboo. Meffan pressed the leaves into the drying concrete and later swept the crumbling leaves away, leaving “fossil” impressions in the floor. The floor was then sealed with a nontoxic acrylic.
The young Meffans relish playing in the creek’s adjustable dam, made from poured concrete. The nutrient-rich silt that collects over the summer is dumped on the vegetable garden in the winter, when the creek flows freely.