| Jillian Sullivan’s Straw Bale House Building Adventure in Central OtagoJillian Sullivan

Jillian Sullivan’s Straw Bale House Building Adventure in Central Otago

New Zealand author Jillian Sullivan has built her own straw bale home in Central Otago. She had long dreamed about building her own home. When her situation changed dramatically a couple of years ago – her marriage ended, the last of her five children left home – Jillian decided the time was right to find somewhere new to live.  After living for 30 years in Motueka, New Zealand author Jillian Sullivan moved to Central Otago and built a straw bale house.

Kathryn Ryan, Radio NZ

Jillian was interviewed recently on Radio NZ National on building the straw bale house, and how to carry on when all things fall apart.

“Since the interview I’ve heard from strangers who want to build a straw bale house or who recognized the poignancy in that moment of your life when all your children have left home and a new way begins.”

Listen to the full podcast below:

A summer building a straw bale house: here’s the piece I wrote for The Dominion Post in Wellington for their Memorable Summer series. Maybe a reader out there will follow the path. http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/capital-life/9599010/A-labour-of-love

The short video clips, made by Declan Wong, are:

Beginning of house and straw

2nd stage with mud

Teaching clip with Sven Johnston showing us how it’s done (mudding)

Images of the house and the building stages

jillian sullivan straw bale house

The nearly finished house baking in the Ida Valley sun

Special thanks to my son-in-law Sam Deavoll

jillian and sam

Sam and Jillian Sullivan after they finished building the trusses. Photo by Brian Turner.

Pat and Sam giving a pep talk to the team

sam deavoll pat shuker

Sam and Pat Shuker give the pep talk to the crew on straw bale-raising day.

Jillian working on her house

jillian working on her house

Jillian working on the pad for the house. Photo by Sam Deavoll

The house with bales in the walls

The house with bales in the walls

The house with bales in the walls

Family mud plastering day

Family Mud plastering day

Family mud plastering day

The house survived the Winter!

straw bale house in winter

The house in the big snow last winter. Photo by Declan Wong


For media inquiries and to connect with Jillian Sullivan, please email jillian@jilliansullivan.co.nz or connect with her on Facebook – Jillian Sullivan – NZ Author


About Jillian

Jillian is an award-winning author for children, young adults, and adults. A mother of 5, a Grandma of 9, a teacher of the 'Hero's Journey', a cyclist and a builder of strawbale houses.

13 Responses to Jillian Sullivan’s Straw Bale House Building Adventure in Central Otago

  1. Hana January 29, 2014 at 8:30 am #

    Nice work!

    • Jillian January 29, 2014 at 8:38 am #


  2. Lachlan May 11, 2014 at 9:21 pm #

    Love it! I’d be very interested in what the total cost for your house was. My partner and I are looking at building with straw bales near Auckland.

  3. Gemma Yates March 24, 2015 at 10:16 pm #


    My inspired poem from staying with Jillian in the straw-bale house 😀

  4. allan grant July 6, 2015 at 10:02 pm #

    hi I was wondering who did you get to draw your plans ? . I am building a house just outside of gore and need someone .

  5. Jerry Young December 19, 2016 at 10:21 pm #

    Just learned about your DIY green house and felt an instant kinship since I am two years plus into DIYing our energy neutral home near St Louis, MO. We were inspired early on by a visit to a straw bale house near Spokane, WA that featured the same passive solar design that we are using to eliminate conventional HVAC, called Annualized GeoSolar. Unlike the typical solar gain through windows in the winter, AGS captures the energy from the summer sun for both winter heating and summer cooling.

  6. Mx Downey August 9, 2017 at 11:20 am #

    I have just ordered your beautifully written book from Potton about your strawbale house and read it practically cover to cover. It is a brilliant piece of wordsmithing. Thank you for giving me renewed hope in the fabric of New Zealand. I have just returned to New Zealand from 20 years abroad…

  7. daver September 20, 2017 at 7:21 am #

    nice work, guys

  8. Lily October 21, 2017 at 4:33 am #

    Your love, love of beauty, simplicity, divinity with your humbled heart knowing nothing but a great trust in wisdom and always facing the light even when it’s dark.

    Just like a child’s joys of golden era, simply divine..


  1. Jillian Sullivan built her own straw house | Workshops for Children's Authors & Illustrators | Highlights Foundation - March 25, 2014

    […] Jillian writes about her building adventure here. […]

  2. Oturehua Strawbale House - Deavoll Construction | Queenstown Builders - July 12, 2016

    […] Builders Sam and Jillian. Video Links on website HERE. […]

  3. There is A Way Home | Jillian Sullivan - November 8, 2016

    […] is what Jillian did, and her book, which began as a book for would be strawbale builders, has become a record of one person’s way of finding a new life and a new […]

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