Natural living: Yurts on the North Shore

By March 13, 2018Uncategorized

Yurts, traditional dwellings originating in Central Asia, are trending, eco-friendly housing options within the lush hills of Oahu’s North Shore thanks to the company Ohana Yurts.

Ohana Yurts was founded by Nathan Toler and Jenny Useldinger in 2009, reported the Huffington Post. The business was partly inspired by the Positive Energetics Foundation Inc., which specializes in the holistic treatment and prevention of disease, according to

Useldinger said, “At Ohana Yurts, we are trying to take the hippyishness out of the yurt and marry it with all of the modern things that people love; theirWi-Fi, their big screen TVs, full-size appliances.” In addition to that, she also said yurts can help fill the yearning people have to get back to their roots and have meaning in their lives.

Useldinger and Toler said they wanted to provide practical housing to the Oahu community that doesn’t isolate its occupiers from nature. Rather than pay expensive shipping fees to transport building materials from the U.S. Mainland to Hawaii, residents can order locally made yurts, says

“It’s a movement that we were never intending to happen on a large scale,” said Useldinger. “People were seeing Nathan due to cancer and stress…that was the precursor to pretty much all of it. This is a great escape from all of that,” she explained.

Yurt-living can appeal to those who appreciate nature, the outdoors, and simple living. Gerald Ericksen, a senior from Utah majoring in university studies, said, “I think living in a yurt would be a good way to live a little closer to the land and be able to get somewhat ‘off the grid’ while still having a stable and decent place to live. Also, it seems a bit more eco-friendly and would make it so you’d have to be more conscious of the way you are living.”

The company’s website reads, “Our location on the North Shore has also grown Ohana Yurts into an advocate for a more sustainable Hawai‘i. Yurts are inherently environmentally friendly, and our dedication to promoting a healthy island environment is pushing yurts to the next level.” Toler has been invited to speak at the Hawaiian Congress about sustainable living and alternative eco-housing this month, according to Useldinger.

Last year, Ordinance 15-Bill 20 was passed in the City and County of Honolulu for the purpose of establishing “accessory dwelling unites as a permitted use in all residential zoning districts, to encourage and accommodate the construction of accessory dwelling unites, increase the number of affordable rental unites and alleviate the housing shortage in the City, and to establish land use standards for those accessory dwelling units,” according to governmental website.

The passing of has made yurts a more practical and legally viable housing option for people in search of housing on Oahu.

Cameron Tidwell, a senior from Arizona majoring in international cultural studies and co-founder of CT Decorative Finishes, has been recruited by Ohana Yurts to decorate the interior of a yurt. That yurt will be revealed through 6 episodes on the DIY Network TV series “Love Yurts,” which premiers Fall 2016.

Tidwell began his work in Gilbert, Ariz., where one of his best friends got him on a team to do decorative designs in the Gilbert temple. After his work in Arizona, he was invited to work on temples across the nation including temples in Fort Lauderdale, Flor., and Ogden, Utah then eventually spread his talents to the southern hemisphere where he was a part of the decorative designs team for temples in Buenos Aires and Córodoba, Argentina. Tidwell served as the project manager for his work in the Trujillo, Peru temple.

“After completing the job in Peru, one of the largest contractors in South America and the representative from the church sat me down and invited me to start my own company,” Tidwell stated. Because of the recommendations he received, his company is now one of about six companies in the world that are approved to do decorative work on LDS temples.

“They invited me to do a Moroccan- or Balinese-inspired design on the centerpiece of the yurt,” said Tidwell. “It’s kind of in the middle of the building. I searched Moroccan mandalas and looked through a bunch of shapes and types of styles that are used in those designs, and from that we created a design that could go around the center of the ceiling.”

Ohana Yurts has already been featured in season 2, episode 1 of HGTV’s series “Tiny House, Big Living.”

For more information about Ohana Yurts, visit

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About Ohana Yurts

Ohana Yurts was founded on the dream of building an eco-village for the Positive Energetics Foundation on Oahu’s North Shore. At the time, there were no Hawai’i based yurt manufacturers to purchase from, forcing Positive Energetics to source yurts off of the mainland.