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Photo: The Handbuilt Home, by Ana White (Pottercraft, 2012)
Six years ago Ana White, now 32, was pregnant and living with her electrician husband in a one-room structure on their property in Delta Junction, Alaska. White faced a dilemma: "I wanted my daughter to have a home," she says, "but we couldn't afford to buy one." So over the course of a single year, while consulting how-to books and making countless 100-mile trips to the nearest Home Depot, White and her husband built a three-bedroom, two-bath home—paycheck by paycheck, and completely from scratch.

But White didn't stop there: "I thought, 'If I can build a house, I can build furniture,'" she says. So with leftover wood, she designed and constructed a king-size bed—"We still sleep on it today," she says—and kept building until her rooms were furnished. Soon White was inspired to build something else: a furniture design site, Ana-White.com, which she launched in 2009. The blog sees more than a million visitors a month, each drawn to White's instructions for creating everything from bookshelves to bunk beds. The blog led to White's first book, The Handbuilt Home, which features simple furniture plans to help readers take a crack at construction. The key to getting started? Don't be intimidated. "We're more capable than we think," White says. "Whatever your situation, if you want something bad enough, you can make extraordinary things happen."

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