Half is a Tiny Self-Built Retreat That’s Supported by Nearby Trees

Dubbed Half, this timber-clad retreat is set among the woodland of Sullivan County, New York. The structure is isolated from roads, water and electricity.


The off-grid getaway was designed by local architecture firm, Jacobschang Architecture. The project was completed in 2016, by an amateur builder on a limited budget.



Half has a footprint of just 360-square-feet (33-square-meters). Due to the limited budget, the client opted to self-build, bringing in friends and family to help complete the project. As such, Jacobschang Architecture had to create a simple, cost-effective design to meet the client’s skill-level and financial constraints.



One of the most difficult aspects of the project, was the site topography. The retreat is set on a steep slope that made it difficult even to transport building materials, never mind construct the building. To avoid large concrete pads, or retaining walls, Half takes advantage of the surrounding trees, using them for support.


They then employed simple but effective Sonotube footings to anchor the building. According to the architects: “Half of the weight of the structure is distributed, via Garnier Limbs, to two existing trees.” Perhaps this is were the project’s name has been derived from.


Pine trees that were felled to make way for the structure were milled, kiln-dried, and then used to clad the interior and exterior. The exterior has been treated with Scandinavian pine-tar to help it withstand the wet winters. On the inside, the pine has been painted, with the floors protected with a clear matte sealant.


The interior is loosely divided up into four spaces: the kitchenette, stove, bed and entrance. There’s also a large chunk of the exterior that’s dedicated to storage.


For more retreats check out this once disused barn that was transformed into a contemporary getaway. Or, this old Chinese town which gets a series of traditionally-styled retreats added to it. See all retreats.

Photos © Noah Kalina

Niall Burke

Structural engineer by day, tiny house designer by night. Niall has a keen interest in small spaces, green design, and sustainability. He started developing Humble Homes while studying for his masters degree in engineering. He is the founder and managing editor of Humble Homes.

1 Comment
  1. Very nice, especially the large windows. But what happens if one of the supporting trees dies during the life of the building?