Gallery: Tiny Off-Grid Cabin in Maine is Completely Self-Sustaining


A project 30 years in the making, this tiny off-grid retreat on a coastal island in Maine is almost entirely self-sufficient. Designed and built by Alex Porter for her father, the project features a shed roof and is wrapped in a distinctive blue-grey corrugated skin. Dwell recently profiled the home, which is the only solar-powered retreat on the isolated island – its sustainable power source actually makes life a lot more leisurely, as the family does not need to schlep in fuel to run a noisy generator. They didn’t give anything up, as they have all the conveniences of a regular home — but with a view you don’t get in an everyday residence.

The house is situated on a tiny sleeve of rock tucked close to the water. The sturdy steel cladding was chosen for a good reason: the northern squall can be relentless. The cabin has a series of rolling storm panels that ward off the elements. When the sun shines, a small solar-electric panel mounted to the southern facing roof feeds 12v DC to the batteries, which in turn powers lights, a super efficient Sunfrost Refrigerator, and a small water pump. A large rainwater catchment tank provides more than enough water for the home, and a small on-demand water heater supplies an outdoor shower and the sink.

Photos by Eirick Johnson

Given the remote location of the property and the site’s lack of power, the design made careful use of all materials so that everything is spaced on 24-inch centers. Most of the finishing materials were sourced locally and floated in. One big question remains — what to do when you need to use the loo? A Sun-Mar composting toilet does the job, transforming the waste into fertilizer. While none of the systems are ground-breaking, the design is a transparent example of how well off-grid living can work, and how we can live in nature without polluting it.

+ Alex Scott Porter Design

Via Dwell

Photos by Eirick Johnson


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  1. mollydahma January 29, 2015 at 7:51 am

    I really need to consider this as a real choice!

  2. How to Find the Perfect... September 9, 2014 at 4:17 pm

    […] Wish List — Divide your wish list into must-haves and nice-to-haves so you know where you are willing to compromise. Are you looking for a luxury home on a lake or an off-the-grid cabin in the woods? […]

  3. Jana Thornton-Hussey September 6, 2014 at 11:20 pm

    How can we get the plans? How much money does it cost to build the home?

  4. Amy Roy September 6, 2014 at 6:23 pm

    I’ve been in this home, as well as several others on the island. The majority of homes are solar powered, and at least seven of them do not need a generator (though they may have one for back-up purposes.) There are a couple of homes which don’t have generator back-up, and rely entirely on solar energy. It’s a wonderful place … a world unto itself!

  5. JeffreyGMaguire September 6, 2014 at 3:19 pm

    How much did this cost to build?

  6. freehandrune June 1, 2014 at 4:19 pm

    How do we acquire a set of plans for this home?

  7. hamster May 21, 2014 at 6:50 pm

    How big is the water catchment tank?

  8. MarkmBha April 16, 2014 at 2:29 pm

    Good job!

  9. xavier lynch March 20, 2014 at 5:32 pm


  10. reikiladystacy January 11, 2014 at 10:48 am

    I do enjoy viewing small homes with reusable energy> I would love to see more ideas for
    grid prof living for all seasons. Great job on this set up and design.

  11. Rick Finn December 23, 2013 at 5:51 pm

    Great 3 season design. I would love to see more like this here in the Adirondacks.

  12. Fireboat52 November 23, 2013 at 6:42 pm

    The toilet looks like a Sunmar composting toilet. Look at the BoonJon System by C-Head. It is a much better composting toilet for this application.

  13. Jimmy Vick August 19, 2013 at 6:06 am

    I have been searching for a lofted small home floor plan… this is the BEST! Do you think this structure or one very similar to it could be built with structural insulated panels?

  14. Lily Messerhuber July 17, 2013 at 4:52 pm

    Love this tiny cabin: how to get in touch with Alex Porter for floor plan??

  15. Lenisa June 1, 2013 at 9:54 am

    I love this but the winters can be brutal in Maine….how comfortable will they be then???

  16. Morrison Luke Smith May 22, 2013 at 1:21 am

    How is it in the winter?

  17. Tafline Laylin February 24, 2013 at 9:55 am

    Thanks for your astute eye Marandah. We’ve made the corrections.

  18. Marandah Franke February 23, 2013 at 9:38 pm

    To the author or editor of this site – This is perhaps the first post that I have come across on and, pardon me for saying, I am completely surprised by the amount of typos in this short post! It looks like there is some great content here, but this is the sort of thing that drives me away from media outlets! Thank you for bringing great things in the world to the public eye. I hope a bit more attention is given to future posts on this site.

  19. Ralph LeMaster January 14, 2013 at 1:24 am

    Hi, Your home looks intweresting and would like more information.

  20. Don Stewart January 12, 2013 at 1:35 pm

    where can i find the floor plan with dimesnions for that house above? I would love to build it on hunting land or on a small lot at the lake with waterfront view.

  21. ronwagn November 19, 2012 at 5:11 pm

    Very nice, but it is using wood for most of the fuel.
    I like wood, and it is very nice to use if you don’t
    have asthma, and are capable of cutting it. Otherwise
    natural gas or propane would be just as green IMHO.

  22. Patsy Green November 19, 2012 at 4:50 am

    I assume that is a composting toilet. Do they make one that doesnt require a stepladder and the balance of a Wallenda?

  23. Carin Knight November 14, 2012 at 1:45 pm

    PS next visit to Fundy Bay I will search for your cabin:)

  24. Carin Knight November 14, 2012 at 1:41 pm

    You are living the dream of principal, Carin Knight. Your story makes my day! The future is bright with accomplishments like what you facilitated. Thanks…

  25. cordwood larry October 19, 2012 at 8:31 pm

    In our off grid cordwood cabin in upstate New York we use a hula hoop with two Dollar Store shower curtains on it, the ones with magnets in the hem, an old metal wash tub, and a backpacker shower in the winter. Just leave it up for the night and it will be dry in the morning. Snow melt is most of our water. Drinking water is from a spring. Wood heat of course and solar electric (12v) using cfls and LED lights that I have built. People seem to be interested in cost. Ours cost $10/sq ft. Today it would cost about $12. Search for “cordwood cabin in Harrisville NY.” to see some pics.

  26. martha_c September 27, 2012 at 10:12 am

    I’d love to get a floor plan drawing

  27. highknob September 20, 2012 at 11:25 pm

    I love seeing fertile minds creating wonderful, useful, low impact items. Am quite interested in solar, wind and reusable energy.

  28. mogman September 17, 2012 at 12:06 pm

    This is a cool solution to a cabin in only one place. On youtube the video name is showing a 40 foot, totally solar, shallow 18 inch draft and capable of being rolled up on shore.

  29. infoimp September 13, 2012 at 11:42 am

    Wait a sec. “Outdoor shower?” Aren’t we in Maine?!?!?

  30. fantasmagore September 12, 2012 at 3:03 pm

    Newbeak, a spiral staircase would have provided slightly more floor space (maybe), but would have completely made the space underneath it unusable. Don’t think in terms of maximizing floor space, think in terms of maximizing usable floor space. Anyways Spiral stairs are annoying sometimes.

  31. Judy Blume September 11, 2012 at 11:33 am

    Does anyone ever answer any of the questions on these forums? It always seems as though people have a lot of interesting or relevant questions that might start a discussion.

    As a suggestion to the moderators of this forum, perhaps if there were someone from inhbitat who followed up on any of these stories from time to time, these comment sections would be more valuable and therefore more used. you know, building a community of ideas and all that.

  32. frankpadams September 10, 2012 at 9:45 am

    that’s remarkable! do you have an estimated cost to build? How many times have you smacked your head on that lightbulb at the top of the stairs?

  33. washingmachine September 1, 2012 at 5:06 pm

    This cabin is charming and amazing.

    Where do they get the gas for the gas stove in the kitchen? The kitchen stove and oven are hard items to make self sustaining, does anyone have an suggestions, we want to build an off grid cabin, but do not know a good option either.

  34. August 29, 2012 at 1:09 pm

    Great cabin, I lived in a place with sliding door covers and they work great.

  35. jo21121 August 15, 2012 at 8:26 am

    Could you provide any details about the workings of the exterior sliding window cover? We’d like to do a similar thing inside a music studio. Thanks. Its beautiful!

  36. JoJoFox August 14, 2012 at 1:04 am

    I would be curious to know how much it cost to build this home.

  37. susanketchin August 11, 2012 at 7:16 pm

    This looks beautiful as well as efficient. Indoor shower in winter is a necessity in Maine, though.

  38. Newbeak August 4, 2012 at 6:04 pm

    Just curious why a spiral staircase to the upper level wasn’t used-it would maximize floor space.Otherwise,it is a fantastic cabin!

  39. marprts April 25, 2012 at 4:01 am

    This is truly fanstastic. This is what I want to do myself.

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