Located just north of Joshua Tree National Park, two tiny cabins clad in weathered steel give off the impression that they’ve been abandoned in the beautiful desert landscape. But, in reality, the Folly Cabins‘ humble facades conceal a complex system that makes these tiny structures, created by architectural designer Malek Alqadi and customer experience representative Hillary Flur, powerhouses of off-grid design.
Alqadi says that he has been fascinated with creating sustainable systems since his days as an architectural student. After visiting the Joshua Tree area, he was inspired to convert his dream into reality by building a pair of tiny houses that operate completely off the grid. Alqadi and Flur bought an abandoned single-story home that dated back to 1954, then began bringing their sustainable vision to life. They built two tiny cabins on the site, keeping them strategically separated to create a void that helps the structures blend into the surrounding environment.
The architects salvaged the original building’s steel cladding for the project and raised the pitched roof to expand the interior space. The main cabin, which is just 460 square feet, includes a living and dining area, a kitchen, a bathroom and a spacious sleeping loft. Along with adding more space, the high ceilings enable hot air to pass through the tiny homes’ solar-powered skylights.
The smaller cabin has a ladder on its side that leads up to an open-air terrace, or “stargazing portal.” This beautiful little space is equipped with a heated queen-sized bed and is the perfect place to watch the stars in between sunset and sunrise. There is also a mini-fridge, a movie projector and bio-ethanol fireplace for guests to enjoy.
The tiny cabins are powered by a freestanding “solar tree” that Alqadi and Flur assembled by themselves. “We dug a seven-foot hole to reinforce the solar tree. There was no way we were climbing up twenty feet to put panels on the roof in the desert sun in the middle of summer,” said Alqadi. “We could have dug a well,” he added, “but there was no promise we’d find water. So I spent my money on something we could rely on—using the sun as our utility company.”
A open-air deck with a firepit juts out from the two tiny houses, providing an ideal space for guests to enjoy the spectacular night skies of Joshua Tree. The deck also has an outdoor rain shower and a soaking tub, which are both connected to the property’s greywater system.
The Folly cabins are available for rent for short-term stays throughout the year. Although they are meant to be a place to completely disconnect, the tiny homes do have some modern amenities guests can choose to use. Alqadi says that the cabin’s design is “about allowing people to experience sustainability” and that he “added amenities and technologies, like Wi-Fi, to stay connected, but you have the option to completely disconnect and enjoy nature.”