Archive for the ‘Build Your Own’ Category

Westonbury bottle dome

The glass bottle domed fernery by the old mill stream at Westonbury Mill, Herefordshire

The further you get into the darkest researches of the English countryside, the more likely you are to encounter the sort of enterprising  Englishman with the imagination and the land to build himself a modern folly.

Richard Pim is just such a fully fledged English eccentric. At the Westonbury Mill Water gardens near the village of Pembridge in the Welsh Marches, he has laid out  the 3 ½ acre garden, around the tangle of streams and ponds behind the old corn mill, with exuberant plants and a range of follies to delight and amuse his visitors.


Westonbury domeInside

Sunlight streams through the glass inside the Fernery

The follies include a Dome fernery made from wine bottles – nicknamed the blotto-grotto – and a castellated Stone Tower, which spurts jets of water from its three gargoyles. (Water is pulled up the tower from the mill stream by a water wheel to a tank and then on reaching the set level, ‘flushes’ out of the gargoyle’s mouth.)

Westonbury stoneTower1


There is also a thatched African Summer House and a Spiral Mound. Spiral Mound began as a muddy mini-mountain built from the spoil from the canal. It now forms a focal point of the Wild Flower Meadow, climbed by a grass path and gives a splendid view over the meadows.


Westonbury oakTower3


Mr Pim’s latest folly is the Oaken Tower, built by a local half-timbering specialist which overlooks the garden and has a first floor viewing platform and is nearing completion.

The tower has a watery theme, with a broad shaft up the centre displaying the mechanism of the water powered clock and singing bird – in effect a huge cuckoo clock!

In an update on his website Mr Pim reports “I am now working on parts of the water powered clock and singing bird mechanism. The musical part is being made by a friend who restored the Renaissance singing birds at the Villa d’Este – it should be fun! “

And that is of course the whole point of a folly – above all it should be fun.

Get along there and visit them this summer. The Westonbury Mill Water Gardens are open every day until the end of September. http://www.westonburymillwatergardens.com/index.html

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Follies have been a bit thin on the ground lately but now comes news of one designed to cheer up folly builders everywhere. Forget the euro and feast your eyes on this:




Heinz Schönewolf, a retired bricklayer and his wife Hildegard from Dudweiler, Germany, have spent the last 37 years building a 350 square-foot fairy tale castle, right in their own backyard. The 15-meter-high and 15-meter-wide Schönewolf Castle features towers, battlements, narrow pathways, a charming Rapunzel room and even an 18,000 litre aquarium in the basement. Note too the many gnomes scattered liberally around the ramparts.

Like all the best follies, it started small but then took on a life of its own. Schönewolf told German newspaper Bild that his beautiful backyard castle started out as a simple retaining wall that he simply kept embellishing over the years. The German couple estimate they’ve spent about €50,000 on the castle so far

Ever since he started work on it, in 1975, Heinz has spent every single day making his castle better, and his wife Hildegard says they never even went on a holiday, only to visit her husband’s mother, in Hessen. Well a man needs a hobby after all.

Although he says the backyard castle will never really be finished, because he always wants to add new things, Heinz has already opened it up for public visits, free of charge.

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Just put up for sale is a very modern prehistoric monument. Carhenge in Nebraska, according to a recent report by Reuters. In the shape of Stonehenge in England, this one is a tribute to the automobile.

Carhenge near Alliance in Western Nebraska contains 38 vintage automobiles and can be yours for just $300,000.

The Carhenge autos mimic the Stonehenge stones in size, dimension and northeast orientation to the sunrise. The attraction consists of 38 gray-painted autos in a 96-foot circle. Some are buried five feet deep, trunk end down. Some jut from the ground at odd angles. Nine vehicles welded atop some of the half-buried autos form the arches.

Vehicles include a 1943 Plymouth Savoy, 1945 Jeep Willys, 1956 Buick Roadmaster Deluxe, 1957 Cadillac Eldorado, 1965 Ford Thunderbird, 1971 Chevrolet Nova, and a 1976 American Motors Gremlin.

A 1962 Cadillac depicts the Stonehenge heel stone, which is outside the main entrance and leans inward toward the circle.

Carhenge was built by Jim Reinders in 1987 as a tribute to his late father, who farmed the site two miles north of Alliance, a city of 8,600 people on the western Nebraska plains.

Reinders worked in England for a time and visited Stonehenge. More than 80,000 tourists from around the world have visited the site annually. It is a stop for tour buses and some visitors come before dawn to experience the sunrise. Admission to the 10-acre grounds is free.



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NY cabin01-popup


We take a very liberal view about what makes a modern folly here at the Folly Fancier. If turning the interior of your New York apartment into a fake log cabin is the nearest you can get to realising your own personal fantasy, why not?

And that is just what New Yorker Rob Schleifer has done in a one room fifth floor walk up near 14th Street in Manhattan.

Mr Schliefer was interviewed recently by the NYT which also ran an interactive active photo spread of the apartment http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2010/02/22/nyregion/22cabin-panorama.html?ref=nyregion which is truly astonishing.

All of the interior and fixtures and fittings are painted brown or veneered or painted to look like wood and the apartment is filled with a truly extraordinary collection of objects. The bathroom steam pipe has been painted to resemble a tree, complete with curling serpent. If you have ever played one of those computer “hidden object” games you would be right at home although it might take months to identify everything hidden in this room. This is after all the result of 30 years compulsive collecting.

The apartment is stuffed with found treasures: a stuffed cat, a zither bought at auction for 45 cents. an ox yoke turned into lighting.,  a horse skull picked up in the woods in Florida, a World War II radiation detector,  handcuffs. brass knuckles, two sets.  

Collecting on this scale seems to be a chap sort of thing, and there is no Mrs Schleifer to complain about the clutter or the dust. Now however his landlord is buying him out and Mr Schleifer is moving on. Before he does look on his works and wonder. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/22/nyregion/22cabin.html

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bottle house in sultana ca by Matt (mister goletas) flickr


At first glance I thought this must be in North Africa and the top was a small minaret. However it turns out it is in Sultana in California and is believed to resemble a moonshine jug. There is also an asian perfume called Sultana. So the resonances are considerable.

Apparently the fact that it is a bottle shaped house built out of bottles means it has self similarity in mathematical terms, the individual components (in this case bottles) assemble to create the same shape, a larger bottle, like fractals

It is wonderful wherever it is and whatever it is meant to resemble.  I like the banded design and it must be dazzling when the sunlight streams in.

It is in a private garden and first surfaced on Matt mr goleta’s Flickrstream.

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bamboo version birds nest

1:20 replica of the Bird’s Nest Stadium in bamboo

Most of you will be familiar with the “Bird’s Nest” stadium where the Olympics were staged in China in summer 2008. The quirky stadium (designed by Herzog and de Meuron)  was certainly an interesting and eclectic structure but it could not really be called a folly.

Now however I have come across a replica of the stadium, which certainly could. It seems that a group of Chinese peasants near Hangzhou in the south east of China, decided that the real thing was just too far away, and so built their own version locally in bamboo. Bamboo is a versatile material which I have long admired, and had the advantage of being a good deal cheaper and more accessible that the concrete and steel original.

bamboo birds nest under construction

Bamboo copy under construction outside Hangzhou.

It seems it took ten bamboo sculptors roughly two weeks to put together the 1:20 scale copy which the villagers claim the plan to use for local sports events. The completed structure is a tribute to the ingenuity and resourcefulness of the Chinese.

And just to remind you, here is the original.

birds nest stadium china 2008 olympics

Seems like a case of Instead of the mountain coming to Mohammed, the stadium has come to Confucius!

Story found at http://www.gizmodo.com.au/2008/08/chinese_farmers_build_birds_nest_stadium_out_of_bamboo-2.html

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Park in a Skip









The young London based artist Oliver Bishop-Young has had the brilliant idea of creating mini landscapes in that most prosaic of urban artefacts, the builder’s skip. Seen here is one of his most popular and successful designs, a park in a skip, featuring a park bench and a tree.

Other of Olly’s designs have included a water garden in a skip, a skateboard park in a skip, a swimming pool in a skip and a sitting room in a skip. You can find out more about Olly and his work at his web site www.oliverbishopyoung.co.uk  email:olly@oliverbishopyoung.co.uk

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Shed on top of Whistler Mountain in Canada

image by hyperfocusing.jpg

This shed, perched precariously on a ridge on Whistler Mountain, in British Columbia in Canada recently caught our eye. More information has been hard to find. If anyone knows anything about who built it and how it got there, indeed why it has been put there, please let us know.

Folly Fancier

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Goat tower selby Illinois

Goat tower in Illinois (those are real goats)

Farmer David Johnson of Findlay, Illinois built this magnificent structure for his 11 Swiss mountain goats, who unfortunately didn’t have a peak worth climbing within hundreds of miles. The tower contains 5,000 handmade bricks, 276 concrete steps, a copper turret and is 31 feet tall. “There are only two other goat towers in the world, and mine is the tallest,” Johnson says proudly.

Find this and hundreds of other unusual buildings at www.ohiobarns.com where site owner Mike MacCarter has collected a veritable Aladdin’s cave of unusual buildings.


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shed folly 2

Shed-tower-folly by Jayne Tarasun, 2007

What better way to start 2008 than with a new folly design by a new folly builder, the self styled folly-smith, Jayne Tarasun of Cornwall? 

Artist Jayne has brought the concept of the folly tower into the 21st century, reviving this unique and celebrated slice of British eccentricity and fusing it with contemporary design principals and traditional, sustainable materials. Using cedar, oak, copper and glass, each structure is a tower of tranquillity, designed to engage the senses, enliven the spirit and offer a platform from which we can establish a reconnection between our landscape, our skyscape and ourselves.

Each folly follows a particular design, 5ft square by 10ft high, and has a mezzanine level where owners can sit and relax and read or just look out of the window into the branches of a neighbouring tree.

  • Materials include chestnut frame, cedar shingles, copper roof and laminated safety glass in French doors and windows
  • Design includes secure 5 lever locked front door, ladder to mezzanine-level platform. Fully lined and insulated
  • Planning permission not usually required

Design templates can be adapted to individual requirements. Price on application, includes initial site visit (to assess positioning), delivery and erection. A bespoke design service is also available for function and site specific space.

But what to call it – I suggest a she-tower – a combination of shed and tower -which also reflects the female identity of its designer.

About Jayne: After starting her career in furniture making, constructing bespoke commissions, Jayne Tarasun went on to study Fine Art at Cheltenham College of Art, where she specialized in printmaking. In 1995 she won the Gane Travel Scholarship, which allowed her to study in Barcelona. Jayne has exhibited extensively throughout the UK and she currently works from her studio in Cornwall.

In 2006, Jayne embarked on an MA course in design at UCF, where the seeds of her Folly business were starting to germinate. One year later she decided to focus her energy into `Folly-Smith’ designing, manufacturing and exhibiting her first prototype in Autumn 2007. This has been viewed by thousands of people and is on display at the Trevarno Gardens in Cornwall.

Jayne also designs bespoke, site specific follies tailored to her clients needs.

Contact details:

Jayne Tarasun, 2 Post Office Row, Gweek, Nr Helston, Cornwall TR12 6TU tel: 01326 221750 emailjayne@tarasun.co.uk


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