Reviews & History

Reviews and about

The Frame Panel Yurt 

“There can be no power in a square”, Black Elk said “ You will notice that everything and Indian does so in a circle, and that is because the power of the world always works in circles, and everything tries to be round.” Nature creates in circles and move in circles, atoms and galaxies are circular, and most organic things in between. The earth is round.  The wind Whirls. the womb is no shoe box.  "where are the corners of the egg and the sky?”  - Tom Robbins 

The Comen Family yurt story 

    In 1985, Richard and Presilla Comen decided to take an early retirement and move to land they had purchased in lovely Mendocino County, California. At a home show in San Fransisco, they came across David Raitt and hid company California Yurts.

   “ We liked the concept of a round structure,  ”says Richard. “It would give us 360-degree views of our redwood-studded surroundings from each room, and the yurt design solved some of the challenges of our sloping piece of land. By raising the yurt off the ground on multiple engineered pilings , and constructing it on multiple levels , we could avoid recontouring the land and removing extra redwood trees. The Piling system would also anchor the yurt against the heavy rains that occur during the Mendocino winter season.”

   “We also realized that we could have a custom home without incurring high architectural fees because California Yurts had a group of existing plans that we could combine to accommodate our site needs, rather than starting from a blank sheet of paper.”

   “Our flexible yurt is cozy and comfortable the us as well can accomodate up to 60 guests in our 31’ living room without feeling crowded”

“The daytime living are in the 31’ yurt which includes the living room, and Kitchen. No space is wated om partitions between rooms as in a conventional house all centrally lit by the tinted skylight above.”

"Another factor influencing our choice,” Richard continues, “was the fact that the yurt was constructed off-site and arrived in sections by truck. It would be assembled on-site in in a matter of days. This meant that the house could be livable within a very short time compared to conventional construction.  Our yurt contractor also was amenable to the owners doing whatever our expenses  woud allow, and I was capable of doing the electrical, plumbing,and interior finish work myself.”

 “We built the house in 1986. We were very involved in the planning stage, and the whole process happened rapidly and easily. Now, tewnty years later, we woud do the same thing again. We have loved our home all these years.” 

  “For those contemplating yurt construction.”says Richard, “our main piece of advise would be to utilize the circle concept to its fullest and enjoy the open space;  don’t place partitions. If you want partitions, you might as well build a conventional square-room house.”

  The Comens’ children are grown and living their own lives. “it is now just the two of us,”  says Richard, “andwe are very pleased with our yurthome. It is easy to maintain, easy to clean, and is all on one level for our main living, which becomes importand in one’s older years.” 

  The Comens’ son Craig purchased land close to his parents in Ft. Bargg,California. Planning to design a dream home with a magnificent ocean view, he started working with an architect. Gradually he realized how much the project would cost and that his vision might not be a good fit for his site. Craig had been visiting his parents in their yurt home for many years and have always the spacious feelof the yurts, their intimate conection to their surroundings, and their flexibility.

   Craig met with David Raitt, his parents designer,manufacture and installer contractor and came away with models that he could cut and paste away into his own custom design. He decided on the Nautilus, a design based on the shape of a spiral, with two smaller rooms extending off of a twentysix-foot great room.  Thid fit Craig’s budget, but he wanted more space so David added a loft to the design, covering a little less than  half of the great room and giving him a total of 1,100 Sq.Ft

Based on a Nautilus 

  Craif Comen’s father, Richard, designed and buit the spiral staircase.The lighting fixtures were made by a friend. “Havig CaliforniaYurts contractors do everything wouldnt have been as enjoyable,”says Craig.” Buiding it this way has made it a combination of many talents, with input from both my family and friends and surfing buddies.

  After two visits to California Yurts, Craig felt the design was ready to proceed. “I wanted to live in my house, not be a slave to it,”says Craig, “so I kept it as simple as possible.  I helped David’s crew build the foundation and subfloor.  Then a truck pulled in with the walls and we put them up in one day. David brought in a crane and we set all the roof panels on another day. The panels come with the interior with the  sheathing  and insulation blown into the pine covered resawn ceiling  completed off site at their factory. 

“Altogether it was a streamlined process, a real pleasure.”

  “I had the advantage of being able to rely on my dad’s knowledge and his attention to detail. We worked together on the electrical. plumbing and septic, and he taught me a lot. Members of my surfing brotherhood also pitched in with lots of expertise in plumbing and sheet rock and other trades. We had a flexible work schedule. The understanding was “ if the surf was good, we’ll go surfing”

 "My home ia a combination of many talents, with lots of input from family and friends.” 

   Craig appreciated the overall process. "Calling it prefab isn’t entirely accurate.” he says. “It’s really a custom home. The walls and roofs are prefabricated.   I enjoyed being able to finish it myself, despite some of the frustrations I experienced dealing with the odd angles of a circular structure.” 

  David aded exrra height to the walls to accomodate the loft.

  ”Interior decorating has been a challenge since most furniture is designed to fit into a square space. My space is more a challenge than my parents place because it’s smaller.” 

  “Creativity and allowing it to evolve has been key”

 Note”   Many current Frame panel customers were fabric yurt dwellers who wanted something more permanent. They were ready to settle down and take advantage of the comforts and amenities that an inheritance, great crop,  savings or even a mortgage would allow, but but they surely did not want to return to living in boxes.

David Raitt of California Yurts has devised a means of providing custom wooden yurts for clients at a reasonable price using the advantages of off site prefabrication and that of the labors of the active owner builders seeking to be apart of this wonderful process.

The possibilties are endless and the design potential unlimited. Clients can also decide if they want their yurt completed by a trained yurt contractor installer or do some of the work themselves as the Comens did on their projects.

Susanna, a retired Quaker woman, sustainably cut 3 out of 5 redwood 2nd growth trees to finish her yurt home in Pt. Arena California to pay for adds she wanted during install of her home

Marc and his wife Erin finished their home in Redwood Valley and worked in our shop during the fabrication.   

Sod roofed home in Mill Creek Canyon model home and offices  outside of Ukiah California. This was the first phase of 4  over a 35 year history of adapting to the changes of a blended family.

4th phase just completed last year on above  3rd phase above 

 Original  officers and owners of California Yurts in front of their model home and offices  in Ukiah California. Bob, David,Annie & Peter

Same model home above sold to Ann Winks off the Boonville Road in Ukiah and reconfigured as a creek side home when California Yurtsmoved their operations to Hopland in 1984

        1984 to 1997  Hopland shop and models and subdivision 

  Present day 6  parcel  green sustainable subdivision in Hopland on in the 100 year flood plane with 41’ 3  bedrooms 2 baths upstairs over 4 car garages underneath.

   Site Contractors, Clint, Justin, Berto, Dylan, Larry,Dan Ely,Tad ,David

13’ model studio at Wellmar 

     Greenhouse,  Nomad 2 and Nomad 3 at  Wellmar  Ukiah Factory 

  Inside a rare open  4,000 Sq.Ft. cleared shop awaiting next order

       Wellmar 2 acres with pad in back planned for new 8,000 shop

              Mike and David N.S.W. 2008

      Off Grid Yurt Home in N.S.W. Australia 

       60’ tricentric yurt in Clearlake, Ca. 

    Clearlake home now completed with Metal Roof 

Entrance to 26’ yurt cluster home above Ukiah Ca. first phase done.

Drafting Annie

Annie Raitt    Co-Foiunder  Vital Designs and California Yurts