The Story Behind the Natural Retreat Development

The Makanda Inn is owned by Greg and Shauna Wellman. Greg Wellman is the  Owner/Developer.  Greg first visited the Shawnee Forest 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 also served on the advisory board for the SIU aviation program for many years.  He developed his interest and skills in natural building and sustainable development over the past 25 years.

THE DREAM  – his combined interests in aviation and sustainable development crossed paths in 2006 when he was teaching a course in the Aviation Department at SIU and stumbled upon 18 acres for sale in what seemed to be Giant City State Park.  After a thorough exploration of the property, Greg and Shauna purchased the property in 2007.

Makanda Inn was built using eco-friendly techniques and sustainable materials 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.

The Makanda Inn opened in 2009. 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 its new name and is now known as the Makanda Inn & Cottages. 

About Makanda Inn 

Towering stone chimney copper chandelier at the top sign says it all always something to be thankful forMakanda Inn 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 immediately swept away by the vastness of the two-story space. The 32-foot stone chimney and knotty pine ceiling lead your eye to the large copper sunburst light fixture overhead.

What Makes Makanda Inn an Eco-friendly Sustainable Development?

Makanda Inn is Southern Illinois’ most energy efficient small retreat of its kind. Both high and low-tech methods for minimizing its impact on the environment were used in construction and are still maintained today. 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 include thermostats for each suite so guests can maintain a temperature that is right for them.

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.

Much of the material used in this project 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 bales 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.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can our children come with us?

Makanda Inn is a natural retreat property built for couples and is not suitable for children under 13. 

Our West End Cottage is a spacious two bedroom, 2 bath cottage which sleeps guests.  This is a good option for parents traveling with adult or teenaged children. 

Can I bring my pet?

We do allow dogs in our West End cottage and the Loft.  Additional fees apply and a signed pet agreement is required.

Is breakfast included?

Breakfast is available to all guest. When making your reservation, it can be added for an additional $15 per person (tax and gratuity not included). Advance reservation is required.

Is Wi-Fi available in the cottages?

Wi-Fi is not currently available in the cottages; however, cottage guests are welcome to visit the common area in the Inn where Wi-Fi is available.

Will my room be serviced during my stay?

We do not service the rooms or cottages during your stay. If you are staying more than two or three days, you can request we freshen your room while you are out or deliver fresh towels or other items you might require. 

Is firewood available for cottage guests?

Firewood is available for purchase at $5 per bundle. 

How many beds are in each room?

All of our accommodations have a king-size bed in each room. We currently have 9 king-size beds in total on the property. Our maximum occupancy is two adults per room.  

Can Guests use the kitchen at the Inn?

The kitchen is not available for use by guests. The kitchen is subject to the Board of Health Codes for food preparation and is only for staff member use only.