All about yurts
When Carolyn Low traveled from her Nova Scotia home last summer to attend her sister's wedding in Sudbury, Ont., she brought her accommodation with her -- not to mention the venue for holding the bridal shower party.
It came in the form of a yurt, a portable dwelling with a circular shape dating back to the 13th century, when it was home to nomadic people in Mongolia and elsewhere in Central Asia and Siberia.
Low's yurt was hauled to Ontario in a small trailer and set up in a few hours in her parents' backyard.
This summer, Low and partner River Tominuk's $10,000 yurt will become their full-time home as they build a house on their 9-acre property overlooking the Annapolis Valley.
"The yurt is so portable, and on a sunny morning, it's like waking up in a luxurious tent that has a kind of glow," Low says. That's because of the wood lattice-work walls and ceiling pole construction covered by cotton canvas. Light shines through, making intricate patterns on surfaces inside.
Low considers her yurt a "great investment. You can set it up in three hours, and there's very little maintenance." As well as a temporary home and travel lodge, Low's yurt will become a guest house for visitors once her permanent home is built.
Since yurts are portable, not permanent, dwellings, there are few restrictions on them when compared to the myriad rules and regulations governing cottage construction.
Wolfville yurt-builder Alex Cole constructed Low's 17-foot yurt using what he calls "ancient building techniques" like steam bending and ironmongery. His family-owned company, Little Foot Yurts, also practises a sustainable forestry method called coppicing.
"Every part of the tree is used, and in many cases, the wood is split instead of sawed, leaving the uncut fibres at maximum strength."
Yurtco, a company based in Burnaby, B.C., constructs yurts from 12 to 32 feet with prices ranging from $5,500 to $17,700, respectively. Materials are more 21st-century than its Wolfville counterpart, with stainless steel hardware and vinyl coverings.
With the right insulation and heat source, yurts are used year-round at ski lodges, conservation areas and yoga retreats.
What Cole calls "spiritual architecture" makes yurts especially appealing for weddings.
Halifax, N.S., groom Mike Kohler wrote to Cole after his wedding that the yurt was the centerpiece of the wedding. "It is a stunning structure that added to the special, spiritual feel of the ceremony." Despite pouring rain on the wedding day, "thanks to the yurt, we stayed dry and danced the night away in the glow of the Moroccan lanterns."
Cole's wedding yurt rentals range from $975 (which hold 80 people standing or 60 seated) to $1,375 for a model that accommodates up to 160 standing or 95 seated.
Comparable rates were quoted by a Toronto-area company for traditional wedding tents, but for special ambiance, yurt-renters say they can't compare.
"It's difficult to express how much the yurt added to our wedding," Nicole Arsenault wrote to Cole. "It is so beautiful that it needed virtually no decoration…just a few flowers here and there and we had an incredible space for our ceremony."
Vacation-rental yurts are available in most provinces at public parks and private camps but the types of dwellings and rates vary.
At Minaki Yurt Adventures in northern Ontario, yurts rent for $60 per night with discounts for week-long bookings. They come with a wood-burning stove and wood supply and sleep two people plus kitchen area.
Yurts in Algonquin Park, in Ontario, come with electric lighting, sleep up to six in bunk-bed style and rent for approximately $80 a night.
Diana McLaren is a writer living in Toronto.