Nathalie and Greg Kupfer’s micro-cabin is built from repurposed waste findings and secondhand furnishings, outfitted with rainwater collection sites and solar systems for off-grid living.

We each have our own budget shopping tricks. Some of us hit up department store sale racks, some hoard coupons and bring them out just in time for the holidays, and then a rare few know just the right dumpster where they’ll find the perfect lamp or photo frame to clean up and decorate the living room for free. Two select DIYers of that rare few found most of the structural and interior design elements for their new off-grid, micro-home in sidewalk waste piles and handoffs from friendly neighbors.

Retired industrial designer and former paramedic, Nathalie and Greg Kupfer began work on their off-grid micro-cabin in Canmore, Alberta after receiving a plot of ranch land and a decrepit shed from two neighbors. Following the cabin’s fortuitous beginnings, the Kupfer’s conceived a layout for their snug, solar-powered, 97-square-foot micro cabin built from recycled and repurposed outfittings, amounting to a total net cost of only $50.

During a summer spent collecting building material and constructing their new micro-home, the Kupfer’s found all they needed from neighborly help. Finding new purpose in discarded steel, the Kupfer’s cast the micro cabins siding in steel for an all-season, durable finish. Receiving a seemingly down-and-out garden shed from a neighbor, Nathalie and Greg scored insulation material and glazed windows to keep the home warm during colder months and to bring sweeping views inside the cabin’s domed 14-foot ceiling. Finally, by relocating gravel from the cabin’s driveway to the kitchen, the Kupfer’s designed and built a gabion wall behind the kitchen’s wood stove.

Before selling the materials that weren’t used for the cabin’s construction, the forested retreat cost the couple $2,109. Included in the project’s net cost, Nathalie and Greg put out an additional $20 to build and furnish an outhouse on the property. Once the cabin’s build reached completion, the DIYers got back almost all of the $2,109 they spent on construction by selling unneeded building material they bought through bartering.

Designers: Nathalie and Greg Kupfer

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