These Tiny, Off-the-Grid Cabins Near Joshua Tree Look Totally Apocalypse-Proof

Add to
Like
Share
By Kelly Vencill Sanchez
Plus, the high-desert outpost is available to rent.

Surrounded by boulders and twisted yuccas, two cabins in the Mojave Desert stand like Monopoly houses, their steel siding weathered to a tawny finish. But behind the simple gabled forms lies a complex network that enables them to operate wholly off the grid. 

Naturally rusted steel sheathes the cabins that Malek Alqadi built on a 1954 homestead outside Joshua Tree National Park. "I loved the idea of stitching the existing structure back together, reinforcing it, and giving it life again without compromising the beautiful setting it’s in," he says.

Naturally rusted steel sheathes the cabins that Malek Alqadi built on a 1954 homestead outside Joshua Tree National Park. "I loved the idea of stitching the existing structure back together, reinforcing it, and giving it life again without compromising the beautiful setting it’s in," he says.

Their creator, architectural designer Malek Alqadi, has been fascinated with sustainable living since his days as an undergraduate architecture student. Later, while working on high-end homes for a small firm in Los Angeles, the idea of an "off-grid architectural experiment" began nagging at him. 

Raw plywood contrasts with dark plaster in the 460-square-foot main cabin, whose communal space encompasses an efficient living/dining area and kitchen.

Raw plywood contrasts with dark plaster in the 460-square-foot main cabin, whose communal space encompasses an efficient living/dining area and kitchen.

Alqadi’s concept for a green getaway took shape when he and Hillary Flur, his childhood best friend from Florida, visited Joshua Tree, about two hours east of Los Angeles, and were taken with the area.

Shop the Look
IKEA MARTIN Chair
IKEA MARTIN Chair
You can stack the chairs, so they take less space when you're not using them. The self-adjusting plastic feet adds stability to the chair.
Menu Snaregade Rectangular Table
Menu Snaregade Rectangular Table
Thoroughly tested by founder and creative management. Originally Norm Architects designed a table especially for Bjarne Hansen – the creative director and founder at Menu. The table was meant for Bjarne's living room at home. While at it, Norm also manufactured some tables for their own studio.
Menu Willmann Vase
Menu Willmann Vase
Meet Willmann Vase. Aka little miss look-who’s-here! Forget all about doing things ‘as usual’, she expects new thoughts, energy and courage! And you can almost hear her yawning from the windowsill when you prepare your eggs juuuust as you always do. No, bring something new to the table, some...
The sofa and dining chairs are from IKEA. The solar refrigerator is from EcoSolarCool. A ladder leads to the loft, where a solar-powered skylight from Velux is fitted with a rain sensor.

The sofa and dining chairs are from IKEA. The solar refrigerator is from EcoSolarCool. A ladder leads to the loft, where a solar-powered skylight from Velux is fitted with a rain sensor.

Just north of the nearly 800,000-acre Joshua Tree National Park, they bought a ramshackle, single-story house built in 1954—a vestige of the 1938 Small Tract Act, which deeded parcels of federal land in the California desert.

 The washroom features a sink from Kraus and a faucet by Delta Faucet.

 The washroom features a sink from Kraus and a faucet by Delta Faucet.

"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." Malek Alqadi, architectural designer

Alqadi topped the second cabin, which houses a water tank and the site’s mechanicals, with a north-facing deck for sunbathing and sleeping under the stars. In addition to a heated bed, it includes a bio-ethanol fireplace and a projector for watching movies on the back wall. A custom cover fits over the opening when rain is expected. 

Alqadi topped the second cabin, which houses a water tank and the site’s mechanicals, with a north-facing deck for sunbathing and sleeping under the stars. In addition to a heated bed, it includes a bio-ethanol fireplace and a projector for watching movies on the back wall. A custom cover fits over the opening when rain is expected. 

Amid the stark terrain, Alqadi conceived a modern-day folly with a purpose. "It’s about allowing people to experience sustainability," he explains. "I added amenities and technologies, like Wi-Fi, to stay connected, but you have the option to completely disconnect and enjoy nature." 

The void between the cabins was an integral part of Alqadi’s vision for a retreat that fosters communion with the environment. A ladder affixed to the side of the smaller cabin leads to the stargazing portal. Electromagnetic shutters are operated via an iPad.

The void between the cabins was an integral part of Alqadi’s vision for a retreat that fosters communion with the environment. A ladder affixed to the side of the smaller cabin leads to the stargazing portal. Electromagnetic shutters are operated via an iPad.

Alqadi salvaged the building’s slab and skeleton and incorporated them into a new structure that raises the original roofline to accommodate a living/dining area and kitchen, a sleeping loft, and a bathroom and wet room. The pitched roof does more than increase livable space; it enables hot air to vent through solar-powered skylights. 

The deck connecting the two buildings has an outdoor rain shower and a soaking tub, both part of the property’s gray-water system.

The deck connecting the two buildings has an outdoor rain shower and a soaking tub, both part of the property’s gray-water system.

"We could have dug a well," explains Alqadi, "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." 

Instead of installing rooftop solar panels, Alqadi and his friend and partner in the venture, Hillary Flur, built a "solar tree" to provide energy.

Instead of installing rooftop solar panels, Alqadi and his friend and partner in the venture, Hillary Flur, built a "solar tree" to provide energy.

Thanks to the freestanding photovoltaic power generator, or "solar tree," which Alqadi and Flur assembled mostly themselves, the sun keeps things running. At night, the main attraction is the open-air portal perched atop the equipment cabin, where visitors can watch movies or gaze at the stars, warmed by a bio-ethanol fireplace and a heated bed. 

The house has smart locks by August, Caséta wireless controls by Lutron, a hub security system by Scout, and a solar energy monitor by Magnum Energy, controlled via iPads.

The house has smart locks by August, Caséta wireless controls by Lutron, a hub security system by Scout, and a solar energy monitor by Magnum Energy, controlled via iPads.

Flur and Alqadi, who is now developing an off-grid "village" of structures for his new firm, Cohesion Studio, rent out Folly for short-term stays when they’re not there. "People don’t know that off-grid places have bathrooms or that there’s enough electricity without being connected," Alqadi says. "It’s a real eye-opener." 

The dining area features a Snaregade table by Norm Architects for Menu from Edit Collective.

The dining area features a Snaregade table by Norm Architects for Menu from Edit Collective.

A large boulder from the property provides seating in the shower.

A large boulder from the property provides seating in the shower.

Evenings around the firepit are particularly magical.

Evenings around the firepit are particularly magical.


These Tiny, Off-the-Grid Cabins Near Joshua Tree Look Totally Apocalypse-Proof - Photo 13 of 13 -