The Minimalist Cabin Project

I’ve been on the road for 16 months, living out of a bag.  I’ve thought about what the next phase of my journey would be.  While hiking in Nepal, I saw a cabin that made me stutter.  It was so simple, but so elegant.  It spoke to my minimalist heart.  I took a photo of it, and here it is:

Cabin Inspiration

Ever since then, I’ve been slowly planning to build my own cabin.  I’ve built a cabin before, in the bush of Alaska.  It was a beautiful and life-changing experience.  I was 18 and with the help of my friend Sarah, we built most of the structure in about four weeks.  It was wiped out by an iceberg in one of those “this can’t be a real story” stories.  What remains is a dream.  A dream to build my own minimalist-inspired cabin.

So I’ve been researching and learning as much as I can.  Can I make this an entirely green project, with everything being recycled, hand-worked and repurposed?  I’ve helped others build cabins, cut down beetle-killed trees and mill logs.  What are building codes in Boulder, Colorado?   I’ve met with the city and looked into all the things I need to do to get a design approved.  I’ve read every book I can find on homesteading, minimal cabin design and log cabin construction.

Minimal Log Cabin Plans

So I’ve been planning.  Looking at proporties.  I’ve even made a few offers on land.  Nothing has connected so far, but I’ve also been pretty silent about the project.

I realized something.  Everything positive that has happened in my life has been because I was open and prepared to say yes to chance opportunities.

So friends, and friends of friends, I have a life goal of building my own log cabin.  I love Boulder, and it still feels like home after all this traveling.  If you ever run into a friend with a small piece of land for sale to a person looking to do a project like this, please contact me.  I have a budget from years of saving, but it is just not enough (especially looking at the market where too many purchased too much for what they needed and are left with debts that far exceed with this project would be — a home, not a flip).

So far I’ve found the raw materials (Colorado beetle kill, by logging them I’m helping with the fire danger in the area).  I’m ready for a project in the next six months as I return from travel, and I just have a feeling that this is going to work out somehow.  I’ve spent years acting in the community’s best interests over my own financial interests.  I have no regrets with that, but buying a house on the hill is in not a short-term reality.

North Boulder, Colorado

I floated this idea around the coffeeshop I’m writing at, and their first two questions were:

  • Are you building a guest room?
  • Can I come over for dinner?

I answered yes to both.  Travelers are welcome, and I would be thrilled to cook you dinner.  A community project, or community help, would be matched as such.

Looking for about an acre of land, ideally within biking distance (20 miles) of Boulder.  Completely open to chance ideas.  [email protected] is my email.

Now, my minimalist cabin project is not just alive in the notes of my journals. An adventure is where the outcome is unknown, and this feels like a match for that.


UPDATE Jan 2012.

I spent over three months working on the design and negotiating for a specific property  only to have negotiations fail. It is hard if not impossible to get a building loan (and buying the land has to be done with cash) making the project a bit more difficult.

The land I was looking at just sold so I’m back to square one with what to look at. The good news is I have been able to save a sizable down payment and am feeling great in my patience.  The bad? Well, I’m still looking for land!

Financially, it is a bit of an interesting project. Land / well / septic runs around $100k for the cheapest thing I can find. $150k for something I’d be proud to invite friends over to. That is the cost, in cash, to break ground on a cabin in 2013. That buys you a nice condo in a lot of places, so the thought of going minimal with construction on that type of base just doesn’t make that much sense. If the project will take $230k for a one bedroom and $235k for a two bedroom, well, you build a two bedroom.  Not as minimal of a project as I first expected, but it is evolving with reality.

This might take a few years, and I’m comfortable with that. It will be beautiful.







24 responses to “The Minimalist Cabin Project”

  1. Shelli Johnson Avatar

    I wish you the best of luck and admire you for pursuing this!

  2. Deliciously Organic Avatar
    Deliciously Organic

    This is fantastic! I can’t wait to hear how the whole story unfolds. If we have any  leads, we will be sure to let you know!

  3. C.C. Chapman Avatar

    Love this on so many levels!

  4. elizabeth swartz Avatar

    I look forward to the photos from this new venture/adventure – good luck!

  5. Chelsea Avatar

    Yes! Check out my friend Phil Campbell’s project, The Living Ark. He’s doing something similar in the UK.

    Can’t wait to see the cabin.

  6. Devin Reams Avatar

    Good luck. It’s been interesting to watch this unfold and I hope the tipping point is near. If you need any help with construction just let me know!

  7. Eduardo Rott Avatar
    Eduardo Rott

    Thoureau reader ?

    Greetings from Brasil…

  8. Michael Sawiel Avatar
    Michael Sawiel

    I’ve always wanted to do something very similar. The more I’m in and around architecture the more I seek out the simple and necessary. One of my favorite architects, Tom Kundig, has done a lot of small cabin designs you might want to take a look at for inspiration. 

    If you ever need help brainstorming, drawing or anything else, let me know. 

  9. NULL Avatar

    Good luck, hyde!! i can’t wait to see the finished project!!!! this is just amazing!

  10. Haymon Ried Avatar
    Haymon Ried

    Hi, Google for Garbage Warriors. It gives insight in building with waste materials and the legal implications. Maybe also a next destination for you 🙂

  11. NULL Avatar

    Thank you.  If nothing more, it has been a great exercise in learning about something new and planning on steps to achieve a dream.  

  12. NULL Avatar

    Thank you so much Carrie!  

  13. NULL Avatar

    We should talk!  Also, Grant Blakeman and I decked out an office one time:

  14. NULL Avatar

    I will keep everyone updated!

  15. NULL Avatar

    Beautiful project!

  16. NULL Avatar

    Yes!  Hello from Colorado! 

  17. NULL Avatar

    Blast from the past.  Thanks for your offer, would love to show you some sketches and designs I had in mind.  

  18. NULL Avatar

    Thanks so much!  Would love to have you over for some wine on the porch when it is built! 

  19. NULL Avatar

    I’m amazed in the creativity they show.  Thank you!

  20. NULL Avatar

    If you need someone to share land with, let me know. I have a similar dream.

  21. NULL Avatar

    God bless you,, you enjoy your life, i hope i can do like you even for one month

  22. Sawiel Avatar

    I would love to see some of your sketches! Feel free to send them whenever. Hopefully you’ll find your perfect piece of land. Good luck!

  23. Cameron Denali Avatar
    Cameron Denali

    First of all, i just recently stumbled across your blog and i wanted to say kudos for living the minimalist dream.  I’ve been slowly working my way to a similar point over the past couple of years (weaning instead of going cold turkey) and it’s awesome to see other people rocking it.

    Second, i wanted to comment on your cabin project.  I don’t know about Colorado, but i know that a lot of states don’t apply normal building codes to structures of a certain size or “mobile” homes.  With that in mind, would you consider building on a trailer bed?  I’ve been torn between the idea of building a 90-120 sq. ft. home on a trailer bed or just gutting an old school bus.  Either way, it’s a relatively small and mobile way to live.

    – Cam

    P.S. Last thought, i swear.  You should look into find dumped or scrapped trailers. You can nab fixtures and appliances that are usually still perfectly usable and that would otherwise just sit there and rust.

  24. Greg Tidwell Avatar

    Have you considered an adobe/clay brick home? I recently visited Pun Pun ( and saw their amazing, beautiful adobe homes. Minimalist. Sustainable. DIY. It’s definitely on my radar. I’m interested in knowing the reasons for your cabin preference…

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