When Kathrin and Brian Smirke decided to buy an abandoned property in the desert landscape of Joshua Tree for $7,000, they knew that they had a massive undertaking on their hands. The old cabin, which dated back to 1957, had been left rotting in the desert for years. But with a lot of vision and hard work, the ambitious duo converted the 480-square-foot homestead into a beautiful desert oasis.
The couple chronicled the massive renovation project they lovingly call “The Shack Attack” on their blog, We Are in Our Element. The poor state of the structure meant gutting the interior down to the base boards to start fresh. Over a period of two years, the couple revamped the cabin into a beautiful desert home. “We spent over a year planning, demolishing, building, planning again, building, and then finally decorating this little gem,” Kathrin explains. “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.”
The process was quite detailed, with the Smirkes focused on reducing the project’s footprint at every turn. They also had to deal with several building restrictions included in the sale of the property, namely not being allowed to increase the square footage of the structure. Nevertheless, they were determined to fit a comfortable living room, kitchen, full bathroom, and bedroom that would accommodate a king-size bed into the compact space.
Using various reclaimed materials, they converted the space into a light-filled home. Large sliding glass doors in the entrance and the bedroom open the interior up to incredible views as well as an abundance of natural light. Additionally, they managed to salvage some materials from the original building – Brian created a few decorative pieces by repurposing timber from the original structure.
In the kitchen, Kathrin and Brian formed and poured the concrete countertops themselves and made the floating shelves out of leftover clear pine and plywood. At the back of the home is a compact sleeping area that fits a comfortable king-size platform bed. Again, multiple windows in the room add a light and airy touch to the small space.
To take full advantage of the desert landscape, the couple put a lot of work into creating a seamless connection between the interior and the exterior. A large covered porch offers stunning views. But, without a doubt, the heart of the project is the outdoor bathtub, an old water trough painted white. Surrounded by a wooden deck, this is the ultimate space for relaxing while the desert sun sets.
The Shack Attack is available to rent via Airbnb throughout the year.