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tiny cabin

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I got an email from a reader named Betsy (Thanks Again Betsy!) the other day after she had read about my upcoming nine tiny free project. Along with her note she sent a link to a movie about a man named Dick Proenneke. You may already know his story but I’ll summarize it below for those, like me, who had never heard of him before. But first watch this short version of the movie Alone in the Wilderness (2005). It’s about 9 minutes.

In his 50′s Dick Proenneke decided to spend some of his retirement in the wilderness. He chose a place called Twin Lakes in Alaska and in 1968 built a log cabin using nothing but hand tools. It was about 11′ by 15′. It had glass windows, hand-made wood door hinges, and hand-made furniture including a desk, chairs, bunk, and tables. He even built a stone and mortar fireplace to make it through the cold Alaskan winters.

Initially he planned to stay only a year or so but ended up staying 30 years. From time to time he’d travel back to civilization to spend time with family but continued to call his remote cabin home. In 1995 at age 82 he decided that the -50 °F winters were just too much and decided to live out the rest of his life with his brother in California. Dick Proenneke died on April 28, 2003 and left his cabin to the park service who now maintains it as a historic site and popular visitor attraction.

He also documented his life in film, photography, and writings. When filming himself he’d place the camera in a secure spot while he performed the task he wanted to record. This meant he also captured clips of himself walking and canoeing to and from the camera.

I realize this post is a bit off topic, except for the cabin and lifestyle, but I thought I’d share it with you on this first weekend in November. It’s a really inspiring story and stories like these can really help when times seem like they are getting tough. Don’t you think?

Photo credit to the Park Service.

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I recently ran across a website called Our Small Cabin. If you’re a do-it-yourself cabin builder or want to be, this is definitely a website to spend some time reading. It’s filled with good information about lessons learned while building a tiny off-the-grid cabin. The website includes everything you’d want to know from finding and buying the land to building the cabin, to setting up the off-the-grid power system. Photo credit Our Small Cabin.

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This is my 100th post on Tiny House Design and I wanted it to be on a good story. It’s the story of a family in north central Washington living in a tiny house on 15 off-the-grid acres. The story begins in 2003 when Jan, Sonja, and Bjørn buy their land and begin construction of their 16′ by 16′ cabin. The total interior space is 400 square feet including the loft. The house took about 6 months and just over $6000 to build.

The entire construction story is online on their website coyotecottage.com and they have posted dozens of great photos and provide a lot of information about living off-the-grid to building their tiny house. They even describe what it’s like happily living with a humanure toilet and a solar well.

Not everyone would choose to live the way this family does, but it’s stories like this that help us all imagine what’s possible. I think it also shows us how our dreams really are within reach if we simply make the required choices and stay positive and proactive. If you’re considering a lifestyle change like this one, or simply want to imagine one, you could spend hours on their website and have an excellent idea of what it takes, how hard it is, and how rewarding it can be.

In the years since settling in they have added on a little, about 200 square feet and have built a workshop for their little boat building shop. But for the most part they still live just as simply. This is an incredibly inspiring story… visit coyotecottage.com.

Photo credit Jan, Sonja, and Bjørn.

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I really enjoy Kent’s Tiny House Blog. He’s got so many posts to a lot of really hard to find tiny house resources. One of them is a post on a 400 square foot, 14′ by 14′ cabin in Utah built by a fellow named LaMar.

LaMar has taken his project one step farther and written a book on his experience and house. Included is a bunch of different ways of building stuff cheap. For example he explains how to build a solar cabin for less than $2000 and a solar panel and generator system for less than $1000. Great Stuff.

The Ebook is only $5.00 or you can buy a print copy via lulu.com for about $15.00 plus shipping. I plan to buy it and when I’m done reading it I’ll post a short review here. For more information check out the Simple Solar Homesteading website. Photo credit to LaMar at Simple Solar Homesteading.

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If you’ve ever driven past or stayed in a KOA Kampground you might have seen one of these log cabins by Prairie Kraft Specialties. This company is an approved supplier to KOA Kampgrounds and maker of the Kamping Kabins.

They sell a variety of cabin kits starting at about $15,000 for a simple 12′ x 12′ cabin without plumbing. They also have larger cabins with bathrooms and kitchens. Unlike some manufactured homes and kits these really have log walls. Some of the larger models have insulation packages as an option for more extreme climates. If you have special lot considerations their engineering and drafting department may be able to help you alter the design to meet your needs. If you’re a campground owner they can even help you with financing.

If the log cabin aesthetic is your thing this may be a great way to get a log home of your own. Prairie Kraft Specialties definitely has a lot of experience building these kits so one would assume they have refined the construction and assembly process to make them easy to buy and build. They also seem to be one of the more popular log cabin kits on the market. I bet with a little digging online you could even find people, like campground owners, that have assembled these kits themselves and get some first hand opinions before you buy one yourself. Photo credit Prairie Kraft Specialties.

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Here’s a nice little turn key (manufactured) tiny house option. It’s a tiny cabin made by a company that builds park model homes and campground cabins. They have a wide variety of designs to choose from too: 175+ park models, 50+ cabins, and 25+ lofts. Pictured below is the floor plan for one of the smallest cabins with a bathroom and kitchen. It looks like it’s about 130 square feet.

Cavco Cabins come in a variety of finish levels from fully insulated and plumbed units just like a real house to a line of basic cabins with built-in bunk beds and no plumbing. I first spotted these on Kent’s Tiny House Blog where a guest blogger, Christina Nellemann, wrote about a short stay in on of these cabins at a campground McArthur-Burney Falls in northern California.

In fact it looks like on the Cavco Cabins website you can find retailers and campgrounds in many states. I did a quick search on ‘California’ and found dozens of campgrounds that have these little cabins for rent. So if you’d like to experience tiny house living you might try spending a weekend in one of these little cabins. In fact it might be the easiest and least expensive way to give it a try.

You might even want to bring a mental list of all your stuff and then go through the exercise of imagining your stuff in the tiny space. Who knows by the time you get home you might be motivated enough to have that big yard sale and lighten your load. Sometimes it takes getting away from your stuff to help you realize what it does for you and to your peace of mind, kind of like taking a vacation from your stuff to gain perspective. Photo credit Cavco Park Homes & Cabins.

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If you’re looking for a simple tiny house that you can build yourself you might find the Mini-Cabin to be the right fit. It’s a 120 square foot cabin constructed from 9 separate panels that are easily built off-site and assembled at the building site. The plans cost about $20 (plans + shipping cost) and it’s estimated that it can be build with a $2000 budget for materials.

Window material & hardware: $65.61
Framing wood, plywood, & piers: $1,121.16
Entry door, window, z-flashing: $348.09
Fasttap screws: $21.98
Vents & vent paint (optional): $53.59
Redwood stain: $119.84
Hardware & caulk: $76.30
Roofing material: $154.56
Total: $1,961.13

The plans are printed on 11″ x 17″ paper and specifying the materials you’ll need, cut sheets, a detail page for each panel, and assembly instructions for a do-it-yourselfer. These plans also include details on all exterior construction including roof decking and an interior loft and ladder.

What I like most about this design and approach is the panel construction and simple shed roof because most people with basic skills could build the mini-cabin. There doesn’t seem to be anything complicated about the mini-cabin and with a little imagination and detail work it could be turned into a very cute little tiny house. In fact I’m not sure what would stop you from joining a couple of them together to make a simple gable design. Photo credit minicabinplans.com.