We’ve bought a piece of off grid land in the Western Cape, and we’re putting up a little wood cabin on it for us to live in. Now all I need to do is squeeze a bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, lounge, office, two humans, three dogs and a cat into a 3m x 6m (18m2) space. Aaaaaaaand go.

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End Goal

We have a rough plan of a house we would like to build on the land, with an open plan lounge/kitchen, a bathroom, office and bedroom.

Later, we hope to build another level upstairs in the same layout.

Upstairs would become our home, while downstairs would be converted – the lounge/kitchen to the yoga studio, art therapy and workshop space, while the bedroom would become a little shop housing produce from the farm and crystals.

Something To Start With

This is what we hope to end up with, but we need something to start with to get us onto the land as soon as possible.

We considered various options – including:

  • buying a used caravan with canvas tents attached for extra living space (the cheapest I could find was about R35,000 on Gumtree),
  • building a 3m x 3m lockable shed (not really a livable amount of space for two people + 2 dogs + a kitty + tools etc.), and
  • a shipping container (the transportation costs to get one to Suurbraak alone made this too pricey).

Finally, we settled on starting with a part of the bigger plan. We’ll build the shed / workshop and chicken coop roof to make a small but livable cabin home that should serve us for the next year to two years.

First building sketch
The workshop/shed and chicken coop roof as our initial living space

During our most recent visit to Suurbraak where we camped on our land for the first time, we met a local “Oor Die Rivier” neighbour, Werner, who very quickly became an amazing blessing to us!

He showed us a budget 3m x 6m wendy house he could get organized and installed for us – at far less cost than a caravan to boot! Much excite! Many yay!

We’ve changed the standard wendy specs a bit to make it more liveable and durable by swapping out a door for a glass sliding door, the thin aluminium roofing to zincalum 0.53mm, adding isotherm 145mm insulation and internal cladding.

We’ve cleared the area for the installation which should happen on the 15th (one week’s time!).

As well as cleared a drivable path down to the installation area for the builders to get the wendy in.

Werner is helping us with putting stilts in for the wendy’s foundation as well as putting up the first half of the property’s perimeter fence.

As you can see I’ve been doing a lot of plotting and sketching to visualize everything. The drawing on the right is marked out per meter so that we can show builders a clear diagram of where to put what.

Example of budget wendy house
The example budget wendy house Werner showed us
First camp on our land - more layout plans
Path to cabin installation

Figuring Out The Living Space Layout

With the cabin home locked in, I sat down to plan out how we would functionally live in 18m2. Unsurprisingly, this was harder than I’d anticipated.

The easiest part was deciding where to put the windows, and that start gave me some immediate structure.

I mean, not the most ideal way to design your house flow, but I’m working with what I’ve got!

Essentially I was trying to design something inside the narrow rectangle that included a bedroom, bathroom, kitchen and lounge. I quickly realized something would have to give. With every iteration, I’d run out of space for one of the elements.

I tried Google and Pinterest for inspiration, but it seems most tiny houses of a similar size utilize a loft space to lift the bedroom out of the floorspace equation. Our wendy’s walls are only 2.1m high, so that isn’t a realistic option for us (especially since Russ is a lofty 1.82m tall – it’s a bit hard to fold him into small spaces).

The obvious compromise was to move the toilet and shower outside as a separate outhouse, but I really didn’t want to face getting up my usual 2-3 times a night in potentially freezing cold rain and howling wind to use the loo. Not very appealing.

Every other idea I tried failed, so eventually I gave in, and shifted both toilet and shower to next to the outside roofed area. This actually ended up working pretty well, as it meant I could have the gas geyser and gas bottle storage both next to the shower and the kitchen area simultaneously. And I’d be under cover going to and from the loo, so no getting wet in pouring rain conditions.

This would be an additional structure to erect. I’m thinking of using latte (which we have freely available on our land with all the invasive black wattle) to wall the areas, and extend the existing roofing over the section.

I’ve numbered sections on the sketch to indicate the order in which we will tackle each part of the project.

Once I had a workable layout down I was so excited! I woke up the morning with a waking dream of Russ and I sitting on chairs under the outside roof, sipping cups of coffee and looking out at the misty morning mountains. Bliss.

Sketch of cabin setup

Next: Fixtures and Fittings

The next thing to sort out would be furnishings – like a kitchen counter, clothes cupboards, and storage shelving.

Furniture Goals:

Good lord! A LOT of tricky constraints all put together!

After days of searching (honestly I’d started to think we’d set the bar way too high), I finally hit gold.

A local Cape Town carpentry business making amazing free standing furniture pieces out of recycled wood pallets – solid, durable, made per order so sizing could be tweaked, SUPER AFFORDABLE – I couldn’t believe our luck!

Even more incredible is that they are currently building a home just past Suurbraak, so in terms of the delivery carbon footprint from Cape Town to Suurbraak, we were as green as we could get!

So far their customer service has been fantastic. They responded quickly and were so accommodating with my requests.

Check out their Facebook page – Die Plank Fabriek.

Insulation Thickens The Walls. (Facepalm)

Super stoked, I placed my order with my custom measurements and all was well with the world.

Until it (finally) occurred to me that adding 145mm (14.5cm) insulation and cladding to the internal walls will change the internal space available…

Considering the layout is literally down to 50cm and 40cm walking spaces, this was not a happy realization.

Back to the drawing board.

Another day later, I’d reworked the internal layout to make sure there was plenty of room for insulation and cladding. And by plenty of room I mean give or take a millimeter.

No dancing around the bed (or anywhere, frankly), but it’d do.

Cabin layout design with insulation r
No dancing around the bed, alas.

We’re only going to get a removal truck to move our bed and fridge (which are both too big to be taken by our small Corsa Utility) once we’ve got a big enough solar system to actually run the fridge. For now we’ll be using our small starter solar set up.

Solar is earmarked for May’s budget, if all goes according to plan (ha). Until then, Werner has graciously offered us use of a spare gas fridge he has in storage – we’ll just need to pay to get it repaired 🙂 And we’ll use our camping mattress until then too.

It’s All Happening!

I can’t wait til the 15th when our wendy gets installed and we officially have a cabin to live in! Will update you guys soon!