How This Artist Built a Portable Micro Cabin for Just $2,300
Illustrator and woodworker Andrew Groves of Miscellaneous Adventures reflects on his efforts to create a mini sanctuary outside the city
Miscellaneous Adventures is a design studio and hands-on outdoor skills workshop based in the south England. Run by husband and wife Andrew and Emma Groves, the modest operation has long inspired us at Field Mag—check our past Q&A with Andrew for the full rundown on all things MA. And their latest project is no different. Driven to find a quiet place to work on personal projects away from his everyday client work, MA workshops, and groundskeeping duties on their woodland property (and their 3-year-old son), Andrew set about building a micro cabin work studio.
Unlike many black box style micro cabins we feature in our ever evolving Architectural Inspiration column, this truly micro cabin takes on a more rustic look, with hand finished detailing—and wheels. The couple wanted something lightweight and portable, should they ever move, so an Ebay acquired trailer became the foundation. As for the aesthetic style, “I wanted a traditional look and took inspiration from wilderness shelters and cabins we’ve seen or stayed in whilst hiking in Sweden and Norway, something that would look at home here in the woods,” Andrew explains.
"The amount of energy and effort is not necessarily proportionate to the size of the building."
The floor plan is 8x4ft, which is a standard sized sheet of plywood, which made it easy to put all the pieces together without too much cutting. If you’re thinking that’s not much room, you’re be right. “This makes the cabin genuinely micro, but we kind of liked the idea that its minuscule proportions would encourage focus and calm.”
The basic construction is standard timber frame stud work, with plywood sheathing—how most modern wooden buildings and interior rooms are made. “It’s not elegant, nor does it require a lot of craftsmanship, but it sure is a quick way to get walls up.” When budget and time are both extremely limited, such techniques are welcomed. Insulation from recycled water bottles will provide warmth in the winter, with a wood stove by Glastonbury Burners picking up the slack.
The exterior is clad in European larch, which Andrew felled at home, then had collected and milled into planks at their local saw mill. Larch can be used freshly cut and will last outside for many years without being treated or stained, which aside from its beautiful color, made it the perfect choice for the cabin. It provides life, character, and warmth to an otherwise tiny shed.
A couple handmade, single pane windows fill the modest space with natural light, and a corrugated metal roofing keeps things water tight, and makes a nice noise when weather kicks up.
“All the final details were important—these were the bits that I hoped would elevate the structure from shed to cabin. The door latches and handles were hand made from oak, and the steps from pine offcuts,” Andrew explains. “I made the folding desk from solid ash slabs from a tree cut last winter and the small shelves from leftover bits of larch. The very last of the offcuts were made into a log storage box and what we couldn’t use ended up as kindling.”
With a total budget of around £1,800 (about $2,300 USD) and build time of two months worth of spare time, the cabin came together beautifully, even if a bit over budget.
Read on below for lessons learned from the project, and check out the Miscellaneous Adventures Logbook for more on this build and other inspiring projects by Andrew and Emma Groves.
7 Lessons Learned from Building a Portable Micro Cabin Studio, By Andrew Groves
Everything takes longer and costs more than you will think. If I did it again I would spend more time working out a detailed budget plan.
Although I like the micro scale, I could of made it twice the size and it wouldn’t of taken twice as long.
Building a structure is harder than we thought, and that the amount of energy and effort is not necessarily proportionate to the size of the building.
Get help! I did this mostly on my own (although with help and advice from my Dad, cheers Dad!) but with a solid crew of helpers I could of built this in about 2 weeks rather than 2 months.
Don’t assume that store bought lumber is going to be planed or cut accurately, check the dimensions of the timber BEFORE you start screwing it all together.
Make a good plan and drawings—I made some rough sketches and measurements but a better plan would of helped me foresee potential problems and costs rather than discovering them along the way.
And, counter to the last one, allowing for a bit of flexibility in the design is probably still a good thing—if you’ve never built anything before, it’s hard to imagine how things are going to look and feel until you get started.