The first step for the interiors of the roundhouses was to cover the bags of rice husks with several layers of mud, sand and rice husks mixed with some water into a paste. Large gaps between the bags have straw added to the mixture.
After several layers were applied, and the shape of the walls defined, we were ready for the final smooth layer of plaster. We experimented with various plasters and finishes.
We decided to use lime as an ingredient for all finishes as it is a good protector from both water and insects. Although it is not water-proof, it is water resistant, meaning that it can take a certain amount of water without disintegrating. For the interiors this is ideal.
Added to the lime is earth and sand. Both are sifted through wire mosquito netting, which has very fine holes. We knew from our experience with the rough plaster of the first few layers that the earth needed double the amount of sand added to it to form a good finish, so that it would dry without too many cracks.
The dry lime powder was also sifted through the mosquito net sieve, and then soaked for a few days in water. Apparently the longer you can soak the lime the better, but we found with ordinary Thai lime that a few days was sufficient to get rid of all the tiny lumps that can make the plaster look spotted when dry.
Next we experimented with proportions of lime to the earth and sand, to find the colour that we liked. We also tried different colours of earth, and a number of combinations of everything.
Once the samples had dried we made our decisions. Small batches were mixed in buckets, and a large spoonful of flour cooked with water to make a paste was added to each bucket of mix.
Finally, the mix was spread on to the wall. First water was sprinkled on to the wall to help the plaster to stick well. Then the mixture was spread either with hands, or different kinds of spatulas. Again, we experimented to find what was best. It took a while for us to work out how to spread the plaster so that it would dry with the least amount of cracking, and also to match it in colour from batch to batch. We found that different people had different results, and so some of the domes look as if they have different types of plaster.
The final roundhouse, the Breakfast Dome, was the most successful plaster finish made by two of our Thai team who had by that time become experts, and the finish was beautiful and smooth with next to no cracking.
On one of the domes we decided to experiment with making some murals from mud paint, different earth giving us different colours. However, with five people painting in five different styles it all looked too much and we decided to cover the walls with a plain plaster after all. But in the future we may take up this idea again, perhaps one person only decorating a small amount of wall. Or we could add a plain lime wash and make the whole dome white inside; or apply a mosaic; or we could try different ideas at different times! Actually the limit is only the limit to imagination, so watch this space for future wall art!
Our second-hand teak doors and windows and old furniture have also been sanded down and polished with some kind of oil which is used locally and looks good, and seems to protect the wood well. I have not yet been able to find out what kind of oil it is!
We made some beds out of second-hand wood and covered the wood frame with bamboo. They look really good!
The floors are cement mixed with sand and various pigments, mostly red oxide, to give a warm glow, and mosaics of broken tiles and small stones have been made on steps and in bathrooms. We can always add more in the future. These buildings are living, breathing (through the rice husks and mud walls) and changing over time!
As the bathrooms are partially open air, there wasn’t much interior to work on. The glass bottle wall is cement block as it is open to the monsoon weather.
We plan to hold a workshop in the new year, end of February 2015, for people who would like to learn how to build one of our unique rice-husk-bag and earth domes. The workshop will last about 10 days and will be limited to 10 people. If you are interested and would like more details, email me at email@example.com.
And the best news of all: the B&B is OPEN for business! Come and stay!