I spent 40 years building home from rubbish – using dolls and students’ leftovers’

Richard Delbridge, 69, had a plan for the unusual house he wanted to build, with a philosophy that no materials would be wasted – and he’s certainly stuck to his guns

An eccentric artist who never lets anything go to waste has spent 40 years building his own house from recycled materials.

Self-titled hippy Richard Delbridge, 69, bought a piece of land in the countryside in Olahoma several decades ago.

Inspired by native American houses and earthships in the US state of New Mexico, Richard got to work on building his own home using primarily recycled materials.

“I spent the whole first summer digging with a shovel and collecting thousands of aluminium cans and bricks,” Richard told The Mirror.

“I did an original sketch of the underground part of the house with a level dining room and a second floor bedroom.”

For a few years, the house matched the sketch. But as time went on, Richard added a bathroom, a second bedroom, a greenhouse, and a third floor with a fireman’s pole running through the entire house.

While his vision for the house grew, Richard was constantly on the hunt for materials he could build with.

“Back in the late 1970s the university students would move in and out of town and they’d leave loads of cool stuff behind.

“I’d drive over with a pickup truck and get loads of things. Then I’d work with what I had.”

Richard added he’d also gather things from the side of the road that some people had littered – including some interesting items.

“Occasionally I’d find a discarded doll. They looked so forlorn and I thought it was sad that that doll had once meant something to somebody,” he explained.

So, just like he did with bottles, cans and gravel, Richard would pick up the dolls and build them into his house.

The artist, who also has a passion for mosaics, reckons he’s mixed up 1 million lbs of cement over the years as he’s put his incredible house together.

Overall, he thinks about 75 per cent of the house is made from recycled material.

As well as building the creative exterior of his house, Richard has also designed eco-friendly systems to keep the place running.

“I’ve made several pools for rainwater which I gather, and I also designed a compostable toilet.

“We’re basically on our own out here so we have our own water well and septic system,” he said.

A single dad for 20 years, Richard loved raising his kids at the house where they could roam around and play.

Now, he lives there with his new wife, and jokes it’s almost “too big” for the pair of them.

His advice to anyone looking to build their own house is to get out of urban areas, where there are more limits on how you can build.

He said: “You’d be amazed at what one person can do, I didn’t even have a saw when I started. But I learned by taking things apart and bringing them home.”