desert cabin
Julie Hambleton
Julie Hambleton
August 24, 2020 ·  3 min read

A Couple Buy a Collapsing Cabin For $7K in Joshua Tree and Revamp it Into a Desert Oasis

Converting an old, dilapidated cabin in the middle of a desert is no small feat. This couple took on that project, and now they have the beautiful Joshua Tree cabin that they always wanted. This was their process.

The Beautiful Joshua Tree Cabin

Looking at their little desert oasis, it’s hard to imagine what this tiny Joshua Tree cabin looked like before it was renovated. (1)

Joshua creek home

In June 2015, Kathrin and Brian Smirke purchased a property for $7,000 at a tax auction in San Bernardino County. The property had been abandoned since 1957. (1) The cabin itself was hardly livable – it was so forgone, in fact, that the couple knew they would have to tear it down all the way to the studs and rebuild. This, of course, was a massive project. (1)

“We spent over a year planning, demolishing, building, planning again, building, and then finally decorating this little gem,” Kathrin said. (1)

Naturally, there were many challenges.

Joshua creek home

Obstacles to Overcome

The Smirkes wanted to have the smallest ecological footprint possible while remodeling the home. On top of that, there were several other difficulties due to the restrictive building codes on buildings like the Joshua Tree Cabin. (1)

One of these was square footage: They were not allowed to build any additions to the original structure to make it bigger. The couple took it in stride, however, and put their minds together to come up with creative solutions to work with the space that they had. (1)

Joshua creek home entrance

The Shack Attack

The cabin, which the couple refers to as “The Shack Attack”, was officially completed in December 2017. Now the Smirkes live half of the time in the Joshua Cabin and the rest in their home on the Mendocino Coast. When they’re not staying in the cabin, they rent it out to tourists. (1)

“What makes this home special is that we did a lot of the work ourselves, including the design, complete demolition, framing, plumbing, trim electrical, and we even built a lot of the interior fixtures and art.” Kathrin explained. (1)

Joshua creek home living area

Read: Would You Live in One of These Candy-Colored Tiny Homes?

The Small Space Was a Blessing

As it turns out, the small space was actually beneficial because it was relatively inexpensive to renovate. The Shack Attack is more of a vacation home for them rather than a permanent residence, so they don’t feel like having a lot of space was necessary. (1)

On top of an inexpensive rehab, the costs for hydro and electricity are also relatively low. It doesn’t take much to power a 480-square foot cabin. (1)

Joshua creek home kitchen

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

The couple did their best to reuse as many materials from the old building as possible. Brian repurposed the wood from the original structure to make all of the wooden artwork and frames. They have an adorable indoor cactus garden positioned by the beautiful glass front door where it receives hours of natural light. (1)

Thanks to the size and design of the cabin, the couple feels as though they can really escape the confines of traditional city and suburban life while they are there. (1)

Joshua creek home bedroom

“…because the space is small, it encouraged us to create a deeper connection to the outdoors—one that is particularly welcomed on starry evenings, completely free of the “light pollution” you get in the city.” she says. (1)

Other details of the cabin include (1):

  • A vintage leather horsefly blanket on the wall
  • Sliding glass doors to open up the space and bring the outdoors closer to the inside.
  • Plenty of windows for natural lighting all day long
  • Full bathroom and kitchen
  • Living room
  • Storage space
  • Bedroom big enough for a king-sized bed

If you are interested in renting Shack Attack for your next vacation, click here to inquire about pricing and availability.

Joshua creek home outdoor bath tub

Keep Reading: This shipping container design is now being built as a home in the California desert