Collection of Tiny Homes, Off-Grid Cabins, and Shipping Container Houses

Posted on Dec 14, 2012 in Alternative Energy & Architecture, Blog, Editorials, & Thoughts, Featured Articles, Urban Gardening, Farming & Homesteading

One of my biggest passions is alternative architecture and radical self-reliance.  I try to showcase it regularly here on, but it’s been awhile since I have posted a good collection of projects.  So, without further ado, here are a few abodes that have caught my eye recently!

The story of a young couple building a modern cabin off the grid in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

We are Caleb and Marci Larsen. We met in art school and got married in 2003. In the past eight years we’ve lived in Kalamazoo, MI, Portland, ME, Seattle, WA, Providence, RI, Tulum, Mexico, Hancock, MI, and now, Calumet, MI. This nomadic lifestyle has mostly been for fun, to experience different cities and parts of the world.

We’ve decided to build a cabin (‘camp’ in local parlance) and will be blogging about the experience. From our inspirations, plans, triumphs, to our failures, frustrations, and utter devastations – this is our return to Bootjack.

Read about their adventures here -> Bootjack Cabin

Design by Vandervort Architects

Hayden’s Note: 

I couldn’t find much information regarding this particular cabin, other than basic dimensions and such from Vandervort Architects.  This little cabin is gorgeous on the interior, with pocket doors for the bathroom entry and a nice little stone area surrounding the place.

Obviously, this is a bit more classical in the sense of using cedar shingles as siding, and a gabled roof allowing for lofted space up top. Quaint, cozy, and simple.

About the architects:

A design oriented firm seeking environmentally responsible solutions to unique projects with a specialty in custom homes, both new and remodel. Our focus is on carefully responding to our clients’ needs, integrating architecture and site, and using appropriate materials and new technology to achieve high-quality construction and optimum use of the earth’s resources.

See more of the Orca Island Cabin here ->Houzz

We do small in a big way.

Our philosophy is that small is beautiful – small homes in particular can offer big advantages, lots of choices, and a simpler lifestyle. We believe that high-tech housing can be affordable, sustainable, and packaged into a small space that remains practical and comfortable.

Cubes are micro houses that can be set up in conjunction with a primary household on an existing residential lot. These are sometimes called Carriage Houses. Our Cubes can also be used as guesthouses or rentals that serve as revenue generators, or alternatively as studios for all types of creative work. Your Cube home is simple, convenient, and stylish.

With over 1700 cubic feet of space – enough for two people to live in comfortably – Twelve3’s Cube features a general living area, a kitchen, a bedroom, a bathroom, and plenty of natural light.

See more of Twelve3’s Cube Houses at their website ->

Trevor and Jennifer Seip are the owners of the Ark Haus Initiative, and it’s something that I can really get behind and understand because I’m working on a similar-minded project at the Elysian Fields.  The recently married couple moved to the middle of nowhere with a few shipping containers, an old military truck, and a Mercedes Benz that runs on used vegetable oil and started building their dreams!

I’ve been watching their progress since they first published their website,, but have just recently caught up on all of the new progress they’ve made! It’s definitely worth it to go back to the beginning of their blog and read it in order to experience the hardships they endured and the innovative paths they found.

The couple purchased two 20 foot shipping containers on eBay for $1,500 and set off to become radically self-reliant!  What looks like coastal storage from the outside, stepping into the connex-turned-home, one finds a cozy abode – insulated, sheetrocked, wired, plumbed, and heated – with a new addition in the works!

“You need to use every inch you can when you’re dealing with 160 square feet” of floor space, Jennifer said. “This whole thing has been done on a shoestring budget,” she added. “We want to build our own village up here.”

Good luck, and might I add, your progress has prompted me to get back to work on my own container at the Elysian Fields Project!

During the week, Scott Newkirk, a fashion stylist and interior designer, leads the usual hectic city life. Some days, he’s working at Coach or on John Varvatos’s spring show; other days, he’s consulting at a client’s Park Avenue apartment or mulling over plans for another house he’s building upstate.

Come spring, there is one constant on his schedule. He spends every weekend living off the grid at his 300-square-foot house in Yulan, New York. There’s no electricity or running water, no TV, no computer. There he can slow down, sleep late, and take his daily bath in the nearby brook (weather permitting).

Newkirk had been living close to the land on the property already, in a wood-frame tent, but it burned down. Not long after, he came across the 1973 classic eco-architecture book Handmade Houses: A Guide to the Woodbutcher’s Art, which celebrated small, handcrafted houses constructed out of recovered and scavenged materials. That got him thinking about building a house on his property with the same innocence and integrity he was reading about. -continue reading at NY

Michelle de la Vega, a performance and visual artist, decided to convert a 250 square foot garage into a tiny home after going through a divorce.  In order to save money where she can, de la Vega sets out as her own general contractor and utilizes reclaimed materials where she can.  As you can see, Michelle did an excellent job at turning an old garage into a peaceful, beautiful tiny home.

“At that time I was coming out of the ashes,” she said, “and knew I needed to come up with a good survival strategy for starting over as a single person.”

In the small but efficient kitchen, the industrial sink, ceiling lamp and wooden wine crates are all salvaged items; the metal shelves and countertop are new. A raw-food enthusiast, Ms. de la Vega needs only a blender to prepare food and a camping stove to boil water.

The slate-floored bathroom was added on to the original garage. It is furnished with a combination of salvaged, fabricated and new fixtures, including a red metal locker and a recessed metal shelf above the sink that Ms. de la Vega recently designed, welded and installed herself.

For more, Read Converting a Seattle Garage Into a Tiny Home at the New York Times website.
Photos: Ira Lippke

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About Paul Simard

I was born in 1955. I discovered my first personal computer in 1977 while in the U.S.A.F. I was hooked, but loved them too much to turn them into a job at the time. Now, it seems a good time to do that, but on my terms. So, here we are. I'll be writing about computer builds, OS and software installations, configurations on all, as well as commenting about the obstacles met and how I overcome them.
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