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5 Dream Cabins Made of Repurposed Junk

Cabins made with repurposed materials

I've been known to peruse real estate websites in my free time, but these cabins alone may give me enough daydream material for the rest of my life. Each dwelling is almost entirely constructed out of repurposed materials, from the wooden frames to the chairs within. High-tech or old-fashioned, spacious or small, all have sustainability in mind. Which will be your next desktop background?

Dancing Fox Cabin
Image by Dancing Fox Cabin



1. A rustic retreat. Located in Bellevue, Ohio, Dancing Fox Cabin prides itself on being primitive. Made from at least 95% “reclaimed, repurposed, reimagined, and recycled” materials -- there are chalkboard kitchen counters, handmade cabinetry, and barn beam framing -- the cabin is the owner’s interpretation of what an early settler may have built, when one would have lived in a simple cabin before erecting a permanent home.

“We’re trying to show people what you can do using someone’s discarded waste to make something beautiful,” said owner Janell Davenport.

Hobbitat Spaces, cabin number 7
Image by Karlo Photography

 2. A teensy cabin. Hobbitat founders Bill and Sue Thomas have been making custom homes for years. In 2012, they partnered with Blue Moon Rising to build 13 cabins for an ecotourism retreat on Deep Creek Lake in Maryland. Each of the small “Hobs,” as they like to call their structures, uses reclaimed, recycled, and local materials. Hobbitat also equips buildings with modern, energy-efficient technologies.

Cabin #7 (left) features old German siding from a general store in Pennsylvania, metal from a barn roof, and an old pouncer (an English tool for laundry) upcycled into a light. Its door, like every Hob's, once belonged to a different structure. 

Cabin made of repurposed windows
Image by Jordan Long and Matt Glass

3. A glassy getaway. Photographer Nick Olson took designer Lilah Horwitz out to a spot in the West Virginia mountains for their first date, a spot that became one of the couple's favorites. While watching one of many sunsets here, they threw out the idea of building a cabin with a wall made entirely of glass, “because then you would never have to fit the sunset into a small space,” Horwitz said in a video made by Half Cut Tea. Less than a year later, in June 2012, they both quit their jobs to build the cabin.

The wall of glass is made of windows they found at second-hand stores and salvage yards. The mismatched front gives the structure a whimsical, simple feel. Just about everything else that Olson and Horwitz used in constructing and furnishing their cabin was upcycled too. Even the handles and hinges were found at yard sales and flea markets.

The Rock Bottom
Image by Derek Diedricksen

4. A mini abode. “The Rock Bottom” is a small cabin that Derek “Deek” Diedricksen of RelaxShacks built in northern Vermont. At only 8' by 8', with a building cost of about $300, the minimalist structure was built to be a “backwoods library of sorts.”

This small space was so cheap to build because it's made mostly from repurposed materials. The window in the front door is actually a dome made for pets to see outside of fenced-in yards. Diedricksen made a multicolored chair out of random boards of wood. The entire front deck came from a lumber company that was throwing it away.

“I just love the feel that vintage items can add -- a look, vibe, and attitude you wouldn't get with run of the mill store-bought items," Diedricksen said. One of his biggest reasons for repurposing items is “knowing that you're giving materials a second life, and keeping them from the already-overflowing waste stream.”

Sassafras Cottage
Image by Portland Garden Cottages

5. A creative cottage. The Sassafras Cottage, one of three small homes built by Portland Garden Cottages in Portland, Oregon, is truly a work of art in repurposing materials. Jeff Gantert and Brad Bloom, the self-taught builders behind the company, had to think creatively in building this 364-square-foot home.

A video tour of the exterior and interior of the cottage shows just how inspired the concept is. Gantert and Bloom used tomato sauce cans from a local pizza shop to create a fire-resistant wall. The porch swing (pictured) was fashioned out of an old Dairy Queen bench.

The inside features thoughtful pieces like a folding table and hidden wine cellar that maximize space in the small home. For wallpaper, the builders used sacks that once held pinto beans or flour, and Trader Joe’s bags.

--Top image by Nick Olson

Jessica ZischkeJessica Zischke is an editorial intern at Sierra. She is currently studying environmental studies at Dartmouth College, where she also works as a staff writer for The Dartmouth newspaper.



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