CommunityMontana Made


Montana Made: Shelter Designs Yurts

Posted at 4:44 PM, Dec 04, 2018

MISSOULA – In an era of skyrocketing home prices and a lack of housing some people are getting creative when it comes to buying and building a place to live. Shelter Designs Yurts is a Missoula company that’s offering up something different: yurts.

You may have seen them at ski resorts or while planning that “glamping” vacation at some exotic location. But yurts have been around for centuries.

Essentially it’s a portable, round tent traditionally used as dwellings in Central Asia. But now, with some modern upgrades, “yurt living” is catching on across the globe as well as right here in Montana.

The owners of Shelter Designs in Missoula, Vince Godby and Hays Daniel, are in the thick of this growing “sustainable and affordable” living trend.

”We’ve definitely seen yurts go from being on the fringe and misunderstood,” Daniel said. “Maybe you saw one at a ski area and are not really sure about it. And now (yurts are) more towards the mainstream of being accepted.”

Daniel and Godby started building yurts 10 years ago out of necessity. They simply needed a place to live, but then they started building them for friends and it grew from there.

“We have them as far away as up above the Arctic Circle and Norway for a kayaking camp. We have them in Tasmania, Alaska, all over North America and Europe,” Godby said.

Shelter Designs produces up to 80 yurts a year and half of those are for full-time residences.

“It’s not as easy as it was to get $300,000 for a house. So people can instead really – without getting into a mortgage for 20 or 30 years – they can just pay for it and be done and be comfortable,” Godby told MTN News.

The other half of the yurts sold by Shelter Designs are for commercial businesses or maybe resorts looking to create a unique experience for guests.

“They are hot. They get rented all the time. They are always booked and they cost a fraction of what building cabins would,” Godby said.

“People look at a cabin, they go to a resort and they look at the cabin, and they live in a house so they know what that is. But what is that? Then they want to rent the yurt,” he continued.

Whatever the use, Shelter Designs can accommodate.

“The yurt can become whatever you want. It’s very common for most of the people – once the yurt is up – to frame interior walls to make bedrooms and kitchens and bathrooms and wire and plumb everything like a traditional home,” Daniel said.

Almost all of the products used to create the yurts are from the Inter-Mountain Northwest and right here in Montana.

“The unique thing about the eco-yurt model is that we do use small diameter lodgepole pine rafters are sourced right around the Missoula area here,” Daniel said.

Once the yurts are made they are then shipped off to clients in the form of a kit with detailed instructions on how to put it together.

“It is a project, even the smallest yurt. It’s not quite like pitching a tent,” Daniel said.

But it seems to be something most customers and their neighbors are embracing.

“One thing that the yurts do that used to be kind of common in our culture that maybe isn’t anymore is the idea of a barn raising where everyone in the community can come together,” Godby said.

“And you don’t have to be a good carpenter necessarily or a plumber or electrician. You don’t have to know the trades,” he added. “If you can lend a hand you are useful. It’s all the strongest shapes in nature so they are pretty cool structures like that.”

Click here to visit the Shelter Designs website.

Reported by Justine Stewart