A quiet retreat is all anyone hopes to go home to at the end of a long day, a place to escape the fast-paced lifestyle of monotonous work and same ol’-same-ol’ scenery. Unfortunately, creating a true retreat — a place to relax — usually costs an arm and a leg, right?

Well, maybe not! Wanderlust traveler and musician Steve Areen was given the greatest gift and opportunity by a friend in Thailand: a chance to build a tranquil home for cheap. When you see the finished product — and just how little he spent — you’ll be tempted to follow in his footsteps!

Steve Areen has been described by the people closest to him as having quite the creative soul. He’s shared his travels — from Iceland and to the Pacific Islands — through a digital portfolio with his friends.

Steve Areen

Of course, all that traveling had a monumental impact on his life. His first digital album, “A Bird of Passage,” chronicled his wanderings around the world and all the friends he made along the way.

Steve Areen

One of those friends was Hajjar Gibran, who lived in a home made of earth on a mango farm situated along the Mekong River in Thailand. Steve was enamored by the life that Hajjar and his wife created — tranquil and remote.

Dome Gaia

To Steve’s delight, Hajjar offered him a piece of his mango farm where he could build his own tranquil home. Humbled by the offer, Steve had a big decision to make. Did he really want to settle down?

Steve Areen

Steve — a musician, remember — had no idea how to build a home from scratch (and didn’t exactly have piles of money to pour into the project). Hajjar reassured him he would help him through the process and that his son-in-law, a talented stone worker, would come up with the building design. Steve liked that.

Dome Gaia

Unsure but excited, Steve agreed to take Hajjar up on his offer. In a surreal moment, Steve, standing on his new plot of land and staring at the bare soil, projected his imagination on the empty space. 

Together, they decided to build a dome home. A structure of this shape has many benefits, one being that it’s a natural shape and as such can better survive natural disasters. It also offers the best open concept floor plan for a small living space. But would it be cost effective?

First things first, they surveyed the land to measure out the proportions of the house and placed wooden stakes in the ground to begin laying out the foundation. If all went to plan, when finished, Steve would have a new 500-square-foot home.

Hajjar advised Steve use a material called AirCrete, which is a lightweight, foam concrete great for regulating temperatures; it’s also malleable making it easier to form the dome shape. On top of that, it’s inexpensive, durable, and fireproof — a good material for those looking to save some money.

Trend Chaser

The aerated concrete accelerated the building process, and, within several weeks, the outer layer of the dome was complete. Hajjar and Steve then built porthole-like windows to allow natural light to enter his home.

Trend Chaser

For the finishing touch, they capped the top of his roof with a beautiful diamond-shaped window, which created rainbow illusions that cascaded down the sides of the walls. They also attached an elevated gazebo — a sala — using bent steel and custom wooden stairs that led to the roof. A costly flourish, but worth it.

Trench Chaser

After only six short weeks, the tangerine-colored home sitting within a grove of mangoes was finished and move-in ready. Steve walked up to the custom mahogany front door and opened it, leading to a zen oasis. Want to see inside?

Steve Areen

An open and airy living space is one of the first things you see. There’s comfortable seating nestled in the porthole window with cushioned floor seats and a small table where Steve can enjoy his morning coffee as he gazes out the window at his waterlily pond.

Steve Areen

The space accommodates a small kitchen adorned with shelving that holds local and cultural pottery he’s collected. The wooden dining table and stools were hand carved and light fixtures were made from wicker baskets.

Steve Areen

Oh, and the kitchen’s more than just a pretty face — it’s functional, too. The refrigerator and stove sit beneath the counter to save space, so when Steve wants to cook, his stove burner, which sits on a hinge, swings out to countertop level.

Steve Areen

Continuing through his fluid home, the next area is probably the most tranquil space — the bathroom. Above the plywood, waterfall sink is a mirror made from pottery and bamboo. The walls and floors are delicately decorated with various stones and pebbles.

Steve Areen

The real highlight of the space is definitely the shower, though. Surrounded by a jungle-like atmosphere, loose river rocks create a shower floor where water mimics the gentle flow of a stream. It actually feels like you’re showering in the middle of the jungle.

Steve Areen

Off in a separate space is Steve’s bedroom. His bed rocks traditional Thai patterns that match the mango-colored walls. On both sides of his bed are multi-functional porthole windows where he can relax and write music while looking out over the mango orchard.

Steve Areen

To top it all off, located on the roof above his bedroom is a table-like deck with a hammock that boasts a remarkable view. Just follow the floating wooden stairs up to the private veranda and soak in the endless terrain. But luxuries like these don’t come without some damage to the wallet.

Steve Areen

Still, all together Steve built this eco-friendly dream home for just $9,000! It cost him $6,000 to purchase the materials and build his house; it cost another $3,000 to finish the landscaping, gazebo, and interior design. But you can’t put a price tag on peace and happiness.

Steve Areen