The Story Behind Our B&B Inn and Cottage Accommodations

Makanda Inn & Cottages is the prototype development site of Camp Zest – a business venture whose mission is to bring people together to create a network of small scale retreats featuring all forms of natural building materials and techniques. This business is owned by Greg and Shauna Wellman.

Greg Wellman, Owner/Developer

earthen plaster side and cedar shake back of Indigo and Sienna set against the bright blue skyGreg first visited the Southern Illinois woods in 1976 as part of an Outward Bound trip. He attended Southern Illinois University and spent weekends hiking and rock climbing in Giant City and surrounding woods. He graduated in 1983 with a degree in aviation management and flight. He has worked in the aviation field ever since, taking a break for a couple of years to attend the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business. Greg serves on the advisory board for the SIU aviation program. Over the years, he has developed interest and skills in natural building. The idea for Camp Zest emerged from attending natural building workshops where he met others who had an interest in natural building. He discovered that there were a lot of people who wanted to build something but did not have the full complement of skills, time and money to do it on their own. His hope is that Camp Zest will provide the catalyst to bring people together with the right resources to create an owner/builder network of these natural retreats.

THE DREAM  – his combined interests in aviation and sustainable building crossed paths in 2006, when he was teaching a course in the Aviation Department at SIU and stumbled on these breathtaking 18 acres for sale.  After hours and hours spent surveying the land, many of which included a lawn chair, a cooler and a notepad, Greg deemed this property to be the Makanda Inn. 

GREG DESIGNED this unique property using Eco-friendly techniques and sustainable supplies bearing a low carbon footprint.  Local and natural building materials such as straw bales for the walls, earthen plaster, recycled plastic roofing materials and reclaimed wood are integrated throughout the construction of both the Inn and the cottages. The Makanda Inn officially opened in 2009 as a Bed & Breakfast. The Cottage expansion was completed in 2012, and designed for those seeking the cabin type retreat so popular in the Shawnee National Forest. The property subsequently took on it’s new name and is now known as the Makanda Inn & Cottages. Presently, dreams & visions for the development of exciting, new building accommodations for this beautiful place are planned for the future! Stay tuned, sign up for our Newsletter to stay informed.

Loraine and Malcolm Leigh, Innkeepers

We were contacted by Owner, Greg Wellman in May of 2015 about his beautiful & unique Makanda Inn & Cottages, here in Makanda, IL.  We couldn’t believe it, we had been seeking just such a place and opportunity! It matched perfectly for Greg also, who was now looking for a team that would be more than Innkeeper employees, for his & wife, Shauna’s property. Growing up on the shore of Southern New Jersey, we will admit, Southern Illinois had never crossed our mind when we made our list of desired relocation areas, early in 2015.  We fell in love with this area when we traveled here to meet with Greg and see the property first hand, back in July of 2015!

Our previous occupations, business owner experiences and combined skill sets gave all of us the confidence that this collaboration of talents would be beneficial to all, especially for Greg’s vision for the property’s expansion into the future.  In August, we reached our decision to make this huge change in our lives. We closed our successful construction business in October 2015 and arrived here on December 1st, 2015. We hit the ground running from day one. We are very excited to be here and look forward to working with Greg & Shauna on their awesome property & the vision for its future!

We hope whoever reads this, will come experience all the beauty and natural solitude of this amazing retreat location for themselves.  We look forward to hosting your stay!

About the Inn

Towering stone chimney copper chandelier at the top sign says it all always something to be thankful forOur Inn run as a Bed & Breakfast, sits on 18 acres of lush woodland with the Drury Creek winding through it. The design and building techniques expressly fit the natural environment. The architectural concepts capture your imagination as you enter the building. Natural stone steps transitioning to natural wooden steps bring you onto the well-proportioned wrap-around porch with cedar log posts. As you enter through the custom handcrafted door onto the second-floor mezzanine you are taken by the vastness of the two-story space. The 32-foot stone chimney and knotty pine ceiling lead your eye to the large copper sun burst overhead, a light fixture.

What Makes Us Eco-friendly?

In addition to its beauty, the Inn is Southern Illinois’ most energy efficient small retreat of its kind, featuring both high and low-tech methods for minimizing its impact on the environment. Some of the features include:

  • Exterior straw bale walls above grade for great sound insulation and unparalleled energy efficiency.
  • The stone chimney is for the masonry mass heater that burns at very high heat to reduce emissions using the most renewable resource on the property – wood.
  • Many of the building materials are re-purposed, including roofing materials and doors.
  • The Sanyo ECO-i high-efficiency heat pump heating and cooling system includes thermostats for each suite so guests can maintain a temperature that is right for them.
  • A 5kw solar array is on standby for future use, we will keep you posted on updates for its installation.

The Inn is also proud to feature the work of fellow artisans, such as handcrafted furniture from Kyle Kinser, local wood pieces supplied by Nature’s Creations in Makanda, Enormous Copper Sun made by Dave Dardis, “The Rainmaker,” custom-crafted door and woodwork from Paul Frank and Kali, woodwork from Andy Kinser, photos from author “Mushroom” Joe McFarland and many more.

About the Cottages

The Cottages were completed in 2012, after a fifteen-month building process. The goal was to build small cottages that showcase the beauty, functionality and simplicity of natural materials – including clay, straw, sand and wood.  These materials are in abundance throughout much of this country and particularly in Southern Illinois.  While they are readily available, they are much more time-consuming to construct with, than the seemingly “readily available” dimensional lumber and other conventional building products that you find in the local home improvement stores.  Society’s “get-it-done faster and cheaper” mentality has required many compromises along the way of progress.  We did not want to make those compromises with these cottages.

These cottages were built with care by some of the best craftsman and artists in Southern Illinois. They are not the typical cabin you find here in the area. Much of the material is local and sustainable.  Here are some of our favorite features:

  • Living roof – the living roof on this cottage is an extensive design – meaning it has a rather thin layer of growing material (approximately 6-8”).  The roof structure is composed of: (1) 2×6 tongue and groove decking that you see from the inside as it also serves as the interior ceiling upstairs, (2) one-inch rigid foam insulation, (3) ¾ inch plywood, (4) 60 mil EPDM waterproof membrane, (5) Platon membrane (for drainage and root barrier), (6) recycled carpet padding, (7) growing medium which is made up of mulch, mushroom compost, topsoil and perlite.  We are currently letting it go wild and intend to begin planting appropriate native species next spring.
  • Stairs – have you ever seen stairs like this before?  The stairs are truly one-of-a-kind.  They are designed simply as a stack of wooden blocks supported only by the blocks below with a metal rod threaded through each to maintain the proper alignment.  Some of the steps are locked-in to the adjacent walls.  Each step is composed of two solid timbers bolted together.  The timber is locally reclaimed pine from Nature’s Creation (Makanda).  Kali Soukup was the local artist who built the stairs in both the Indigo and Sienna cottages.
  • The Bed – as with the suites in the main lodge, the Indigo & Sienna Cottages were designed from the bed outward.  The primary objective was to create a bedroom where the guest could enjoy the fabulous view of the woods while sitting comfortably in bed, so we put the foot of the bed right up against the eight-foot picture window.  The headboard was designed to make it aesthetically pleasing from either side and the bench provides stability for the large Black Walnut slab while also serving as a convenient sitting place.
  • Sassafras Paneling – this beautiful wood came from across the river in Missouri.  It was planed sanded and installed with the careful guidance of Paul Frank of Front Porch Construction.  The planks are 1-inch thick with widths ranging from four to twelve inches.
  • Mosaic Tile Backsplash – this artwork found in the Indigo & Sienna Cottages is a great addition to an otherwise simple kitchenette. Shauna Wellman created this wonderful piece of art using scrap tile, old broken dishes and whatever else she found for inspiration.
  • Straw bale Walls with Earthen Plaster Finish – yes, two of the outside walls upstairs are made of straw bale with an earthen plaster finish.  These are full size (approximately 36x18x20) bales stacked, pinned and fastened together.  The bales are covered in an earthen plaster made from clay, sand, straw and mica.  These walls provide both excellent insulation as well as thermal mass.
  • The Size – we wanted to demonstrate that it is possible to make a small space both functional and beautiful.  I don’t think we wasted any room in this cottage.  Each floor is about 15-feet by 15-feet – approximately 450 square feet in total.

All of this can only be fully appreciated after a stay in one of our amazing cottages.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Wi-Fi available in the cottages?

Wi-Fi is not available in the cottages; however, cottage guests are welcome to use the common area in the inn where Wi-Fi is available. A password will be provided.

Will my room be serviced during my stay?

Typically, with respect to your privacy we do not service the rooms or cottages while they are occupied. If you are staying longer than two days, you can request we freshen your room while you are out or deliver fresh towels or other items you might require. We want to make your stay at Makanda Inn & Cottages is as comfortable as possible, so don’t hesitate to ask what we can do to ensure your stay goes beyond your expectations.

Can I bring my pet?

Even though we are big dog lovers, we unfortunately do not allow pets of any type.

Is breakfast included with my Cottage stay?

We do not include breakfast for cottage guests. Much like the many cabin rentals in the area, you have all the amenities to prepare your own meals. You may purchase breakfast on a limited basis based on inn occupancy (please call in advance for availability). If available, breakfast for cottage guests is $12.00 per person.

Is firewood available for cottage guests?

Firewood is available for purchase at $5 per bundle see our packages for details. 

Can our children come with us?

Makanda Inn & Cottages is not appropriate lodging for small children. If you are comfortable with your teen aged child staying in another room, then you can purchase a room for them. In some cases, a single teen aged child may stay in your room for a $25.00 nightly fee, you will need to bring your own air mattress or cot and linens.

How many beds are in each room?

All of our accommodations have a king-size bed in each room. We currently have eight king-size beds in total on the property. Our maximum occupancy is two adults per room. Exceptions are stated above.

Can we use the kitchen in the Inn?

The Inn kitchen is for the use of the Inn Keepers for the preparation of breakfast for our guests. The kitchen is subject to the Board of Health codes for food preparation and is not open to those without food preparation certifications. Kitchen “privileges” are available under certain circumstances when a group has booked all the suites in the Inn or the entire property. This is determined on a case by case basis so give us a call to discuss details and policies.