nomad shelter alaskan yurt portable structure in the forest

About Us

Nomad Shelter is comprised of a dedicated group of independent craftspeople cooperating to make the best possible yurt. Each component has its own team that works together to give each piece the care and attention it deserves, and we are connected personally to every project.

Nomad Shelter has been in operation since 1995, starting as a small family business that now ships hand-crafted yurts across the world for a staggering array of environments and uses.

The Alaskan Nomad Shelter yurt is inspired by the traditional Ger or yurt design of the central Asian steppe nomadic herding people. The design includes a circular lattice frame and rafters supported by a central compression ring at the top. This design is ages old and very well proven. The central Asian people have used yurts for thousands of years as primary residences due to their wind resistance and excellent snow strength while providing a light, warm, circular interior. Nomad Shelter founders Lee and Jess Tenhoff have flawlessly incorporated these enduring traditions, living and working through extreme Alaskan conditions in a yurt of their own design since 1987. 

meet the team

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Lee and Jess Tenhoff

Jess and Lee made their first yurt out of necessity back in 1987, when they came home with their newborn son, Zeke, in the dead of winter to find their cabin outside Fairbanks, AK engulfed in flames. With everything gone, they had to act fast. Using nothing but hand tools, Lee cut spruce on the property to craft poles and lash tools and they spent $250 on canvas and hardware. Within a month, they had a new dwelling for their family and the Nomad Shelter yurt was born! Over the coming years, they travelled across the state with their unique portable home and word spread, until they started getting requests and officially began Nomad Shelter Yurts in 1995.

Throughout the years that Nomad Shelter has been in business, Jess and Lee have found living in the round to be a wonderful way to connect with community and empower people from all walks of life to live a low-impact and sustainable lifestyle without sacrificing comfort or beauty.

Founders, Owners, Yurt Masterminds

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Richard Rose

Woodshop Lattice and Ring Technician

Richie started working for Nomad Shelter in 2016. Before joining our team, he had
worked in food service for several years and had no previous experience in
carpentry. He got an opportunity to work in the woodshop and has proven to be an
asset to the team through diligence and hard work. Richie now resides in his own
20-foot yurt. He loves how the versatility and affordability of Nomad Shelter Yurts
have given him the ability to own a home. Other than carpentry, Richie loves
photography and videography.

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Jadin Mann

Woodshop Technician

Jadin was born and raised in our beautiful hometown of Homer, Alaska. After spending a few years working in food service, Jadin was looking for something
more. He was lucky enough to have a friend working in the woodshop at Nomad
Shelter and quickly joined the team. Besides building yurt frames in the woodshop, Jadin likes hanging out with friends and his girlfriend and camping during the beautiful summer season in Alaska.

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Rebekah Christenson

Insulation Shop Sewer

Rebekah was raised at a cabin homestead in the mountains of Fairbanks, where her
mom owned a team of sled dogs. After graduating high school in 2020, Rebekah decided to move to Homer and began working at Nomad Shelter soon after. While she had no previous experience sewing, she remembers being crafty all of her life, and also loves to paint. When the art program was defunded at her high
school, Rebekah taught art classes to her classmates for her senior project.

During the long Alaskan winter months, you can find Rebekah snowboarding and spending time with her Alaskan Malamute/Italian Sheepdog, Klark.

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Shawna Ashlock

Shawna grew up near the temperate rainforests of Mount Hood National Forest in Oregon. After earning her Bachelors of Science degree in Sociology with an Environmental Studies concentration from Portland State University, she was eager to leave the city and was given an opportunity to work in Denali National Park for a summer season. What originally was meant to be one season, turned into many and now Alaska is her permanent home.

Shawna joins us with over 10 years of experience in Customer Service and is eager to help Nomad Shelter sustainably grow and develop so that we can continue to provide people all over the US with access to affordable, alternative living structures. In her free time, Shawna also loves growing plants, floral arranging, learning astrology, and watching old horror movies.

Customer Support and
Development

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Agnieszka Smerecka

Cover Shop Manager and Production Coordinator

Agnieszka, originally from Poland, moved to New York after earning her Masters
degree in Political Science & History. While in New York, she began working in real estate, which lead her to spending summers all over Alaska with her husband. While expecting her first child, Agnieszka and her husband decided they wanted to
permanently relocate to Alaska.

As a child, she saw her grandmother and mom sew but never imagined that she would become a professional sewer herself. Agnieszka has now been the Cover Shop Manager at Nomad Shelter for over 10 years and recently took on the role of Production Coordinator for all three shops. She is very crafty and loves freelance sewing projects such as creating women's bags out of used bicycles tire tubes and custom furniture upholstery. She also loves baking and creating Paleo recipes, hiking, and spending time with her husband and two kids.

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Dillon Sundmark

Woodshop Technician

Dillon was born and raised in our beautiful hometown of Homer, Alaska. He first
learned carpentry while on the big island of Hawaii, where he spent 6 months
traveling, hitchhiking, and working odd jobs. After his time in Hawaii, Dillon
continued traveling through Canada before returning to his hometown.

For the last 4 years, Dillon has been a member of Nomad Shelter's woodshop team. When he isn't building yurts or traveling, Dillon can be found teaching beatboxing online to kids, building his alternative technology company, or playing guitar in his reggae band, Uplift.

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Matt Brockman

Woodshop Technician

As a military kid, Matt spent his childhood passing through several places including
Texas and Fairbanks, AK. During this time, Matt and his family experienced
homelessness and experienced many other hardships. Eager to start a better life for himself, Matt ran away from home and joined the Army at the young age of 15. He served in the Army for 4 years outside of El Paso, Texas, and looks back on this time fondly. In 2015, Matt found himself in Homer to pursue a job opportunity, working several years in concrete before finding himself building wood frames at Nomad Shelter.

Other than carpentry, Matt loves playing the piano. He discovered at 2 years old that he had perfect pitch when he began playing along to the Lion King, to the
surprise of his mother. His major influences include Bach, Chopin, and Elton John.

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Anna Torzillo

Cover Shop Sewer

When Anna was 5 years old, her family decided to relocate from Wyoming to the small village of Naknek in the Bristol Bay Borough of Alaska, and then Anchorage to attend high school. After high school, she spent several years traveling and train-hopping before finding her way to us at Nomad Shelter back in 2013.

Anna is drawn to yurts for their versatility and adaptability. She feels that Nomad Shelter yurts give people a blank canvas to bring their unique ideas to life. Besides sewing yurt covers, Anna commercial fishes in Bristol Bay during the summer season. She loves being in nature, paddle boarding, or any excuse to be near or on the water. She also loves painting, sketching, hand sewing her clothes, and growing plants.

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Raven Liss

Raven grew up in Homer as a close family friend of the Tenhoffs, and has always appreciated yurt life. After earning his Bachelors degree in product design from Lehigh University, he spent some years in Portland, OR pursuing various creative endeavors including his music career with lifelong friend Sam Tenhoff. In the spring of 2020, he moved back to Homer to reconnect with the wonderful community of his home and take a break from city life. 

Raven lends his experience to Nomad Shelter in a variety of forms as needed, including website design, marketing, and video/photo content development. He enjoys art and design projects, playing bass and guitar for his band, Ayla Ray, and spending time with his girlfriend Cass, and their dog, Pigmy. 

Website Manager

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Anita Christie

Insulation Shop Manager

Anita began sewing when her grandmother taught her to sew Barbie doll dresses at
the age of 4. Since then, she has acquired over 30 years of experience as an industrial seamstress. Anita has been leading the insulation sew shop at Nomad Shelter for the past 8 years. Anita relocated to Homer from Missouri to live near her sister and fell in love with the community. Now, she lives in her very own 24-foot yurt with her German Shepherd, Logan.

When Anita isn't sewing for Nomad Shelter, she can be found crafting custom drum bags for the Grandmother Drum Project of Alaska and Hawaii.

You can find out more about the Grandmother Drum Project by visiting
whirlingrainbow.com.

Nomad Shelter Security

Logan the dog

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Alex Miller

Woodshop Door Frame Technician and Cover Shop Welder

Alex learned a lot about building while working for his dad, who owns a commercial roofing company back home in Louisiana. He first discovered Homer while vacationing in Alaska for his 21st birthday and fell in love. At that point, he knew he would someday make Homer, Alaska his home.

After spending 5 years in the Marine Corps, Alex made the move to Homer and started working for Nomad Shelter, where he specializes in lattice and rafters and also does all the welding for the cover shop. He also started his own company, Miller Roofing and Sheet Metal, working on residential properties locally. Alex also enjoys experimental and bush craft building on his property.

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Jon Seneff

Woodshop Technician

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Paul Clayton

Sales and Database Manager

Paul grew up next to the Puget Sound in the rural town of Bainbridge Island, WA. When he was 8 years old, his parents gifted him a small rowboat, and he found himself on the water often. So when he was offered a commercial fishing gig on a small two-person vessel out of Port Moller, Alaska, it felt like a natural choice. During his 10 years fishing, he spent his winters up and down the West Coast, enjoying the 90's music scene in Seattle, skiing in the Cascade Mountains, and working his way to a Bachelor's Degree in Economics from the University of Washington. After graduating, he landed a job in tech and eventually became the Database Manager for the Alaska Salmon Data Project at UW.

 

Eventually, Paul decided to relocate to Alaska permanently and, because of his interest in alternative living structures, found his way to Nomad Shelter Yurts. Nowadays, in his free time, Paul enjoys sailing, boat building, and spending time with his wife and two dogs.

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Will Gallagher

Woodshop Manager

Will grew up in Southern California. His love of yurts began when he saw the set up of five 50-foot yurts taking place in Maryland that captured his imagination. Will relocated to Homer in 2014 to join his brother Georgie at Nomad Shelter, who began three years earlier. Previously, Will had been working construction in New York, starting with hard floors and tile, then moving to marble countertops.

At Nomad Shelter, Will began as a lattice specialist and now works very hard as the woodshop lead. He possesses a talent for building positive and productive team
relationships that are essential to the success of Nomad Shelter. Will is also an avid gardener and enjoys property development.

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Mikey Whaley

Woodshop Skylight Technician

Mikey found his way to Homer, Alaska from Wisconsin seven years ago by fate. One
day during a drive, he and his Dad picked up a hitchhiker, who convinced them to
make the trip. Soon after, Mikey's family made the move and he fell in love with it.
Mikey began spending his summers camping and processing fish on the Homer Spit before starting in the Nomad Shelter woodshop. He also loves to make delicious food and learned to make his favorite dish, tikka masala, after taking a cooking class in Thailand.

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Anna Van Buskirk

Insulation Shop Sewer

Originally from New Mexico, Anna found her way to Homer, Alaska on a total whim.
Together with her best friend and their two dogs, they drove north without a job or
a place to live. Soon after their arrival, they moved into a bus and decided to stay
permanently.

Anna never planned to make yurts, and only had experience sewing with small
home projects. But after working in restaurants for 15 years, she was more than ready for something new when COVID-19 lay-offs swept through our small town. Her plan for the future is to start a yurt Air BnB with her partner, Mikey, and two dogs, Frankee, an English Bulldog, and Vader, an Alaskan Husky/Karelian Bear dog
mix. Besides sewing, Anna loves baking, hiking, camping, and downhill skiing in her
free time.

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Alex Bird

Office, Shipping, and Logistics Manager

As a child, Alex grew up primarily in Martha's Vineyard, MA but has lived all over
the US and Europe, including London and Germany. She came back to the States to
pursue her dream of working in radio, TV, and movies and earned her Bachelors
Degree in Communication with a concentration in Public Relations.

Life took Alex in a different direction, however, and she ended up leaving her career to move north to Homer, AK and begin a family. Now, Alex is the proud mother of two special-needs children and has over 20 years of experience in customer service. Alex has many passions including story-telling, herbal medicine, photography, and traveling. However, her favorite way to spend time is with her children- who love going on beach walks, swimming, and going to karate practice.