Man Builds a Tropical Dream Home in Just Six Weeks at an Incredible Price
Have you ever yearned to retreat to your dream home every day? How about being able to escape in nature with your very own little dwelling surrounded by mango trees? This might sound like a dream with a hefty price tag, but Steve Areen made that a reality. Areen, a wandering and nature-loving adventurous soul, never quite pictured himself living in a conventional home with a white picket fence, but never in his wildest dreams did he think he’d be able to build his own dream home surrounded by vistas of an Asian tropical forest. Well, not until his friend offered him a piece of land on a mango grove in Thailand; then the dream quickly materialized into a reality. Read here to find out how Areen built his tropical dream home in just six weeks. You won’t believe how little it cost after you see the spectacular interior. You’ve been warned: this will definitely get you in the vacation mood.
1. How It All Began
In 2011, Steve Areen paid a visit to his good friend Hajjar Gibran at his home situated on a mango grove along the peaceful Mekong River in the picturesque region of the Khorat Plateau in Thailand where ancient ruins, rivers, and waterfalls pepper the land.
Areen was blown away by the tranquil and off-the-grid life Gibran and his wife established for themselves in the area. Little did Areen know, that soon he’d call this place home when Gibran made him an offer he just couldn’t refuse.
2. Gibran’s Innovation
Areen was always inspired by his friend’s creative and innovative ideas. At the time he was visiting, Gibran was in the process of building dome-shaped houses at his retreat center using unique and eco-friendly building materials, something Areen had never seen before.
That’s when Gibran and his wife turned to Areen with a special and even outrageous idea in the form of an incredibly generous offer. They told their dear friend they wanted to give him a piece of land on their mango farm to build his very own dome-shaped home.
3. A Special Gift
When Areen was first offered to live on the Gibran mango farm, he was admittedly quite hesitant. He had no idea how to work with eco-friendly building materials, let alone the knowledge to build his very own home from scratch.
Gibran had a plan, though. Not only was he generous enough to offer a piece of land on his mango grove; he also said he’d come up with the building and design plans along with his son-in-law Tao, a very talented stonework constructor with one-of-a-kind masonry skills.
4. An Empty Canvas
When Steve Areen first saw the empty piece of land, he couldn’t even imagine that a bare expanse of soil would soon transform into so much more. With the help of his dear friends, the dream would become reality in no time.
They surveyed the plot to measure the space and proportions of the area. Once the dimensions were determined, Areen wedged wooden posts in the ground to evenly map out the distance and skeleton of the infrastructure. Based on the calculations, the house would measure 500-square feet (46.5 meters). What looked like just a circle in the ground would soon be a tropical oasis.
5. It’s All In the Materials
The goal of this building project was to use cost-effective and eco-friendly construction materials to best mirror the natural surroundings, which was possible because of the low cost of raw materials in Thailand. The key was to keep things efficient.
Gibran decided to use cement blocks and clay bricks to build the outer layer of Areen’s home in order to achieve a natural and earthy facade. He believed these materials would complement a dome-shaped home. However, there was one slight issue they’d encounter.
6. Change of Plans
Gibran wanted to use compressed earth blocks made primarily from damp soil and compressed at a high pressure. These blocks simplify the construction process because they don’t need a lot of mortar, which in turn eliminates labor and material costs. The blocks are also long-lasting because of their stability and water-proof components.
Unfortunately, these blocks were not available at the time, so Gibran chose a material called AirCrete, which is a lightweight foam concrete made of recycled matter with excellent insulating properties. AirCrete is also easy to cut and shape, which is best when constructing a dome shape. Moreover, AirCrete is affordable, fireproof, and can endure the tropical climate of Thailand. Just wait until you see how it actually turned out. You won’t believe your eyes!
7. The Art of the Dome Shape
Building a dome-shaped house has many benefits. Also coined a geodesic dome home, dome houses are nature’s most efficient shape. Areen’s soon-to-be home would provide plenty of living space but only need to use a small amount of land, which in turn means lower heating and cooling bills.
What’s more, dome homes are cheaper to build. They’re disaster-proof because they can easily bend and twist in the event of an earthquake, and the design options are endless with open floor plans. And as you’ll soon see, the finished product of a dome home looks so unbelievably spectacular.
8. Taking Shape
Areen, Gibran, and Tao installed big wooden submarine-like porthole windows on both sides of the dome using only ladders and scaffolding equipment, letting the natural sunshine and moonlight stream through. The AirCrete bricks created little bubbles of air when mixed with aluminium powder, like a sponge, which accelerated the building process to just a matter of several weeks.
Seeing that AirCrete is so spongy, Areen used wooden posts to hold the bricks in place so that he could achieve the rounded shape of the dome. It didn’t look like much here, but the final result was something absolutely breathtaking.
9. No Back-Breaking Work
One of the most important factors of the construction process was the fact that the AirCrete bricks were lightweight. This meant that Areen and Gibran could carry all the building materials around themselves, without the need for bringing in heavy machinery.
This was the one huge advantage of the entire process, allowing the whole project to only take six weeks from start to finish. Just wait to see what everything looked like by the time Areen finished. It will blow your mind!
10. Coming Together
Areen’s paradise abode was taking shape at a rapid rate. With Tao’s masonry skills, the dome molded into the most beautiful shape. He covered all the spaces and holes of the sponge-like bricks until it had a smooth finished texture.
His home took on somewhat of an igloo shape, which was the design Gibran envisioned from the start. The flooring of the interior was also made from AirCrete, which helped insulate the dwelling, keeping it at the ideal temperature at all times.
11. Bringing the Outdoors In
Once the outer structure was completed with its glowing tangerine hue, Areen installed a diamond-shaped skylight to let natural light stream through the entire home. With the unique windows and the gorgeous skylight, it felt like the beautiful surroundings were inside Areen’s home.
The diamond shape refracts light with its cutout spheres, creating beautiful rainbow illusions on the walls. The design of the skylight is also practical as it insulates the heat in and around it. It just keeps getting better, so read on to see the finished product.
12. Areen’s Hut
Next, Tao carved out a hacienda-like windows adjacent to the main doorway to offer yet another spectacular view of the mango grove and a small lily pond they opposite the dwelling. It was hard to envision at this point, but the result was sure to be spectacular.
While they were building the house, they also decided to attach a gazebo, which Areen called his “sala”, onto the top of his bedroom dome using lightweight bent steel with wooden stairs leading up the side of the house to the roof.
13. Move-In Day
After six short weeks of round-the-clock work, move-in day came and Steve Areen’s new tropical mango grove home was ready to live in. Hajjar Gibran and Areen thought of every architectural detail with the way they used recycled and natural materials to reduce costs. One example was with the front door, made out of reclaimed mahogany wood.
Areen was excited to move in and it’s clear to see why. What made it all even more incredible was how much it all cost from start to finish. You’ll have to read on to find out how much, but first let’s take a look inside.
14. Bathing in Paradise
Areen wanted to start and end each day in his own little zen enclave, so he used the bathroom to create complete tranquility and beauty. With some local pottery, textiles, and bamboo, he installed a tilted mirror and built a magnificent sink. The sink is made from cut-out plywood, glass, and a bamboo waterfall faucet.
He loves craft projects, so designing each room was a total delight for him, so for his bathroom door he cut out plywood, covered it with woven bamboo and trimmed fabric, and then added glass. Who wouldn’t want to unwind in such a peaceful ambiance? Wait until you see the shower!
15. A Shower Fit for a King
Even the smallest of details of Areen’s home create the vacation vibe, such as with his incredible shower in the center of his bathroom made from round stones. To create that jungle resort atmosphere, he placed loose river rocks in the shower basin so that water flows through them into the drain.
Most people would think the shower cost a great deal of money, but in reality, he just used simple, natural materials he found. Decorated with a stone seating area, a pebbled floor, and greenery and orchids, the shower also has a retractable hose assembled together with beads. Continue reading to see how the other rooms turned out.
16. Cooking Up a Storm
Steve Areen loves to play with natural and earthy elements and materials to mirror the gorgeously leafy surroundings right outside the door of his beloved home. The kitchen in Areen’s dome-shaped home is just as creative and beautiful, but also very practical.
Behind the mat under the countertop are Areen’s refrigerator and stove, the latter of which sits on a hinged swing-out mechanism to save counter space. The stove is only big enough to heat one pot at a time, but seeing that only he lives there, it’s just fine!
17. Creating Something Out of Nothing
To tie in the kitchen’s facade, Areen added shelving which holds beautiful local handmade pottery. He also carved his own dining table and connecting bench stools out of one large piece of wood to add to the rest of the natural elements.
Perhaps one of the interesting aspects of the house are the one-of-a-kind light fixtures, made from actual baskets. Each one projects a unique pattern of light onto the walls and floor. The light in his bedroom is the best of all, which you’re about to see.
18. Psychedelic Lighting
Apart from the moonlight which enters the house by way of the diamond skylight, the porthole windows, and the giant living room window, Areen thought of another innovative way to make even the lighting creative in his beautiful dream home.
Areen created his very own textured basket light fixtures which hang from each room’s ceiling, but the best one of all is the lamp that suspends from the bedroom ceiling. He made the light from a basket that’s usually used to place over food to ward off bugs. Next, he attached paper with leaves to the bottom part. In his own words, the light fills the “main dome with a psychedelic web of trippiness.”
19. Paradise Isn’t Just a Dream
Lucky for Areen, he gets to wake up in paradise every day. Just look at his peaceful bedroom, a perfect retreat after a day of relaxing out in the sun. His innovative porthole windows are multi-functional: not only does natural light flood in from outside, Areen padded them with soft cushions to be used as seats.
Areen loves sitting in his window enclaves playing guitar while soaking up the scenic view. His bed is covered in Thai-printed sheets that pick up on the mango-colored brush stroke colors on the walls. Just when you thought the view couldn’t get any better, look at the vista from his living room.
20. Living Rooms Are For Living
Have you ever seen such a beautiful entertainment and lounge area? The living room overlooks the exquisite waterlily pond which doubles as Areen’s mini swimming pool. What makes the living room so open and airy is the large and epic window, definitely the nicest one of the house.
Areen built a comfortable seating area with cushioned floor seats surrounded by lots of pottery. Imagine watching the sunrise and sunset from this magnificent nook while munching on some delicious snacks? We’re definitely in! He also built a couch that turns into a bed when laid flat.
21. Some R&R
Areen’s gazebo is equipped with a hammock overlooking the entire mango grove. They also installed a table-like deck so that other people can join him in enjoying the breathtaking view. What makes the hut so beautiful are the hardwood stairs leading up to the structure.
Areen used wood pieces from an old temple and shaped it into stairs. He also opted for bent steel poles instead of bamboo stalks for the gazebo, as they are easier to construct and secure owing to their lightweight properties.
22. Just Hammocking Around
Just look at this view from the hammock in the gazebo that pokes through the surrounding mango trees. We can just picture Areen lounging about in his hut eating tropical Thai mangoes while stargazing and strumming on his guitar. We seriously wish we could do the same.
This is precisely why Areen installed a hammock, which hangs from his grass rooftop hut. After Tao spiraled the rooftop into shape, Areen made sure to secure a waterproof basket over his domed bedroom structure anchored by the steel poles.
23. Stepping Stones
To make the climb up to the rooftop gazebo safe and practical, Areen carved his own steps from wood and built some stone steps at the top in order to avoid a slippery surface. The craftsmanship is second to none with the impressive color of the wood and rocks popping out and contrasting against the burnt orange hue of the dome structure.
Literally every detail was carefully thought out, as the orange color of the house looks natural and stands out during the day and at night. Who needs a hotel when beautiful escape retreats like this exist?! If only Areen rented his home out as a hotel!
24. I Get By With a Little Help from My Friends
“I probably wouldn’t have built if it was a long process. The low cost and time-efficiency of using blocks is what enticed me into building,” Areen wrote on his website. Seeing that he loves wandering around the world in search of adventure, he knew this home would offer him the freedom his heart yearned for.
It only took six weeks to complete the entire project with Areen and his friends working around the clock. After that, it was all fun and games with Areen enjoying his beautiful and relaxing abode with his friends. Pictured here is Areen’s sister Leslie, her husband Carl, and Carl’s brother — none other than Gibran himself. So, how much did it actually cost to build this dream home?
25. Getting Down to Basics
Now that you saw how quick it took to build this masterpiece of a house, surely you want to know how much money it all cost. With homes costing millions of dollars nowadays, the cost it took Steve Areen to build his beautiful Thai home would shock most.
Building the basic structure of the house cost $6,000 while the furnishings, doors, screens, gazebo, stonework, landscaping, pond, and interior design only cost $3,000. That must be because of all Areen’s innovate DIY projects and ideas. We imagined this whole dream home to be worth so much more than that, but Thailand is a cost-friendly country.
When Areen leaves his awesome dome-shaped dream home retreat for long periods of time, he seals up the bedroom dome and the other sections with special enclosures and safely stores his cushions and all his other belongings inside the house.
But where could Areen possibly want to go for such a long time when he has such a perfect home in Thailand? Well, being quite the traveling vagabond that he is, you won’t believe where his other tranquil dwelling is located.
27. Steve’s Unity Wagon
When Areen isn’t relaxing in his Thai dream home, he spends his days living part time on Yandoit Farm near Melbourne, Australia owned by his friends Michael and Lisa. The couple have transformed this once- dried-up ranch into a sustainable organic farm.
Areen’s creativity got the better of him and he decided to build something fun for his stays on the farm. He created his own version of a wagon that he had never seen before, which uses a pulley system to roll a canvas sheet all the way up and down to cover and uncover the wagon.
28. Some Reservations
Thanks to this project, Hajjar Gibran has learned how to improve the construction process with AirCrete bricks. However, Steve Areen has said that if he could do anything differently, he would have built the house using more sustainable compressed earth blocks. However, they weren’t available at the time.
He has plans to build another property in Oregon using those blocks. Aside from construction, Areen has a variety of other talents and interests, some of which were inspired by his carefree, wandering lifestyle. Read on to learn about his other life passion!
29. A Musician at Heart
Besides for building dream homes fit for any wanderlust soul, Areen composes music. He first digital album, called A Bird of Passage, is about the wanderings of a traveler. Areen describes his inspiration: “My life has been blessed with many adventurous journeys. Along the way, the wondrous places and beautiful people I met filled my heart and were the inspiration for this collection of music.”
Areen arranged and performed all the music on this album with the help of some other guest musicians. We can just picture him playing this soundtrack in his carefully-constructed dream home hidden in the mango groves of the Thai tropics. How perfect!
30. A Creative Soul
Turns out Areen is quit the creative soul. Well, that comes at no surprise. His website also includes all his photography from his adventures around the world namely: Iceland, Morocco, Nepal, Mongolia, Bhutan, Myanmar, Vietnam, Laos, and the Pacific Islands.
It’s safe to say that Areen’s dream home is just an extension of his adventure-seeking personality, which is why Gibran was only too happy to offer him a spot on his mango grove. We’re definitely inspired to go out and build our very own dream homes now.
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