Review & 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 they  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.

46 year  History in brief  with  David’s Yurt building  and Vital Designs DBA  California Yurts inc.

1969 Met Bil Coperthwaite at the Cox Farm in Haverall Mass. and attended his yurt workshop which was he start of my yurt building career.

1970   Built the New Hamshite Yurt Village with Bill Coperthwaite as the first capus of three for Dick Hiler’s Study Travel Community School.

1971   buildt over 60 yurt projects from 1970 to 1973 in New England working under Bill Coperthwait’es Yurt Designs Co. as Yurt builders with Marc Hansen 

1972   completed Yurt Village campus  in Bowdoiham Maine for the Study Travel Community School 

1973   Completed Glen Echo Park Green Crafts Village for the National Park in Washington DC.

1974   Set up sawmill in potter Vally Ca. Met with Jerry Brown and helped set up Unted Stand and created Class K  building code for  allowing creative recycled homes in Ca.1975   Moved off Greenfield  ranch and sold  my sawmill operation 

1976   Built first model home and shop built in Talmage, started  Vital Designs LTD.

1978   Licensed   Oregon Yurtworks  in Eugene,Oregon   Morgan Reiter 

1981   Licensed  Ca. Yurt Works  with shop at industrial park

1982   Licensed  Gaulburn Yurt Works in Australia to Maufacture in install Yurts 

1983   Built 1500 sq.ft. model home  office on 101  in Ukiah Ukiah

1984   Licensed and Incorporated Ca. Yurts inc,  as Private  Calif. Sub S Corp.

1986   Bought land in  Hopland , built 80' Shop & office Ca. Yurts inc.

1987   Built Nautilus model, Started New Zealand Yurt Co. licensed subdivision 

1988 -90  Subdivided and developed 3 parcels  and sold Hopland Yurt Village

1990    Liquidated Hopland Facility,  Moved Manufacturing toTalmage on River 

1991    Re-organization California Yurts  under Chapter 11 to Associate’s from Employee

1992    Licensed   Island Yurtworks  on Orcas Isl. in Washington

1993    Plan approved for re-organization release of stay to proceed plan completed

1994    Licensed sales with Terra Systems Ha.

1994    Completed $310,000 in yurt contracts with Associate contractors and clients 

            Wall Street Journal “Gimme Shelter” featured our California Yurts"

1995    Completed $360,000 in Yurt contracts

1996    Projected to Complete $  380,000 in Yurt Contracts

1997    Celebrated our 20 years in Australia in Australia 

1997    Under contract for  $300,000 in contracts for 1st Qtr.

1997    Licensed California Yurts Japan and built first Duplex Model there     

1998     Built huge yurt complex in Big Sur Designed Ptayeragon for the Japanpeace    project see our wb site Prayeragon 

1999    Completed over $600,000 in yurt  projects 

2000    Built the 2nd phase  in Mariposa outside Yosemete for the Birkners

2001    Built 5 yurts remote for Zen Monestary, 3rd yurtat Plumfield Academy School

2002-2004     Steady work load averaged 650,000 in gross sales over this time,earth plaster and cement plaster exteriors 

2005     Started 10 sided   series, split loft towers,   built first phase of Baja project 

2005    Signed Author Agreement with Becky Kemery  Yurts “Living in thr Round"

2006     Gross sales exceeded $1,000,000  4  crews  in 4 counties  built Demo Naut.1

3006     Festured in Becky’s go it alone Book Yurts   living in the round 

2007     Gross sales up over 1.2 million with over 10,000 square ft.of yurts under contract

2007    Annie Raitt Dies   co-founder California Yurts and Vital Designs 

2008    First six months sales carrying into end of ‘09 projected our biggest year ever.

2009    Built John Jevons Bi-intensive research center in Willits and Sonoma Ashram

2010     Completed  new home cluster design foe Jim Shaw, launched Nomad 2 in Baja

2011     Upgraded designs to meet Urban Wildfire Clarions codes, sprinklers,Cement 

             sidings, Steel Anchor Panel deck skirts, Built  4 way Nautilus for Batz Family

2012     Built the Sonoma Ashram meditation yurt and 13’ model ,greenhouse  at wellmar 

2012     Becky Kemery Dies  founder of  

2012     Marc Hansen Dies Yurt Builder co-foiunder Vital designs                     

2013     Prefab Pinelli tower in willits ship our Richter yurt to Neada City 

2013     Bill Coperthwaite Dies  founder of the yurt foundation

2014     Install Pinelli yurt and prefab Crozier yurt  

2015     Install crozier, build new nomad 2 model at Wellmar, Marshall prefab

As of 2014, Vital Designs and associated  have completed  90  million in sales of this  frame panel building system on five  continents over this 46 year history.  Of that  over $30,000,000 in contracts maintaining an A+BBB rating  in California over our 30 year California Yurts inc. history.  We have completed over $20,000,000 in Australia over the past 30 years. and never have been in a lawsuit. settled 3 claims over the 40 years and have used over 1,000,000’  of lumber, installed over 25,000’ of sustainable bamboo flooring in our homes. An estimated 40,000,000 in completed sales from Oregon yurtworks since 1981. Oregon Yurtworks dba Mindful Living Homes closed it;s door in 2007.Baja Yurtwrks was licensed in 2013 where new product development is underway wit 3D panel foam core with 1/2” hand plater on each side with 6”x6” vertical cages with rebar caisons every seam amd perimeters. Stay tuned for a  new page on this building system.

Rest assured as you grow with us, we will be there to re-roof or roof over, replace your skylights, or to complete the next growth phase of your home.   We also move yurts to other properties. Moving an existing yurt can cost 1/2 as much as building  a new yurt and in the process we can upgade the windows and insulation roofing ,foundation , siding and decks to meet the current code for another 25%.  Take your home with you.

Most of our Associate contractors are trained in the art of Yurt building. Most are in their late 30’s early 40’s. I am in my early 60’s  and  Brian in his late 40’s. 

Happy Yurting……..david 

Annie Raitt    Co-Foiunder  Vital Designs and California Yurts left us a few years back and has left a wonderful legacy of amazing designs.