The House that an Industrious Couple with $500 Built


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Nick Olson and Lilah Horowitz built a cabin in West Virginia out of repurposed windows and found objects. Photo: Nick Olson

Nick Olson and Lilah Horwitz built a cabin in West Virginia out of repurposed windows and found objects. Photo: Nick Olson

When Nick Olson and Lilah Horwitz decided to build a new home, they didn’t meet with architects and designers; instead, they visited antique shops and estate sales — or just looked around the area for discarded items. And over a period of a few months, the couple didn’t just watch their dream house take shape; they built it with their own hands.

The home, which they created for a total of about $500 on a piece of property in West Virginia owned by Olson’s family, is made entirely of repurposed windows and salvaged materials. Although it doesn’t have electricity or running water, it has everything the couple needs to watch the breathtaking West Virginia sunsets they so love.

They found their first window in Pennsylvania at the site of an abandoned barn just two days before they moved to West Virginia to begin their project.

“So that kind of started it for us and we collected them on the way,” Olson says.

Olson, a photographer who uses an antiquated technique called the wet plate collodion process to create his work, and Horwitz, a clothing designer who hand-sews everything she designs, left their jobs in Wisconsin to build their home. They refer to themselves as “makers” rather than “artists,” and the painstaking hands-on approach they apply to their artistry is the same technique they used to build their home. They decided to create one wall made completely of windows, stopping at antique sales and even foraging through abandoned properties to complete their design.

“Each [window] has a bit of a story to it,” Olson says.  “As an artist, I’ve learned over time that if you have an idea, you can find a way to make it.”

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Watch a short documentary on how the glass cabin was built.