West Virginia Artists Build a Glass House from Junk

Two American artists took a pile of glazed windows and doors, a stack of reclaimed timber, an old barn roof and an artist’s creative spirit and turned this pile of scrap into a unique glass house in the woods.

Like most crazy projects, the amazing structure came about almost by accident when Nick Olsen and Lila Horowitz visited Olsen’s family property in rural West Virginia, USA. A walk in the woods and a beautiful sunset sowed the idea of building a summer house where the changing light from dawn to dusk could be captured and utilized. The couple dreamed of building a unique glass dwelling that would put them closer to the elements.

They quit their jobs (him, a photographer, and her, an artist) hired a van and began touring the States hunting for old glazed windows and doors to make a whole wall of glass to create their vision. Their first find was a stack of old windows in an abandoned barn in Pennsylvania, which Horowitz recalls as “serendipitous”. They scavenged and collected enough glass to create a jigsaw of windows that reached 16 feet high.

Supported by giant posts, the finished building stands four feet off the ground and is impressively huge. Salvaged timber made up the remaining walls and an old barn roof was used to complete their cabin. Total cost was around $500, and a great deal of sweat and hard work. They believe that building the glass house was only possible because they are first artists and creators. Living on a diet of rice and beans, the couple created an architectural masterpiece which does indeed capture the changing light throughout the day.

Inside the unorthodox cabin is a light, bright living space that serves as bedroom, living area and artistic studio space. There’s currently no plumbing or electricity and the couple use their dream glass house as a rural escape. Horowitz admits that her favourite time of day is dusk, when everything seems to be on fire with the “nighttime sun”.

Olsen describes the amazing setting of the glass house at night. “The fireflies start at the ground and merge to the stars up above”, he says. “It’s really like you’re sleeping under the stars”. The glass house is surrounded by woodland and close to the New River Gorge National Park.

The Milwaukee couple use their dream glass house as a temporary retreat, but they have plans for the future. They hope to add an outdoor kitchen, solar power and a wood burning stove to make it a more practical year-round dwelling, but for now they are just sitting back and enjoying their amazing accomplishment.

Lila admits that building the house was scary and hard at times. “Looking at it now, it’s just totally insane”, she says. “I never thought I could build anything so big. So in a way it kind of calmed all my fears. When you build something like this, you're like wow, I can do anything!” Their project was featured on the web video series “Half Cut Tea” and has inspired others to see just what you can build from a pile of old junk when you dare to dream.

Photo credit: The Glass House - © Nick Olson


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