Thursday, May 2, 2019

Little Desert Cabin

I've had a couple people ask me about the little desert cabin we have listed on Airbnb. Well, you don't have to twist my arm too hard... I enjoy talking about it. But make yourself comfortable, it's going to be a long, strange post!

My wife and I bought the cabin (or what was left of the cabin) on five acres about six years ago, spent a couple years fixing it up, and then tried to figure out what to do with it. Both the property and the cabin were such a huge mess, we didn't think much beyond just cleaning and fixing. We never had a goal of renting it out, probably because we never thought the property would be remotely nice enough to rent out!
Built sometime in the 1950's as a homestead cabin (meaning you get the 5 acres for free if you "improve" the property by building a simple structure on it), this cabin had seen better days. It had no indoor plumbing, the ceiling was caved in, windows broken, etc., etc. There was an extremely crude outhouse with a pit toilet in the back yard. Yuck. A realtor friend of mine had bought it to fix up, decided it was too big of a project, and called me one day to ask if I was interested. Since it's property line is adjacent to our desert home, my wife and I were very interested. And it was priced to sell. A real bargain. Or was it?? Once we started working on it, I really started to wonder about the bargain part and what we had gotten ourselves into!
There were two brothers living here for many years prior to my realtor friend buying it, and evidently one of them enjoyed a drink on a regular occasion. Any and every occasion! There was a huge collection of empty wine and whisky bottles all over the property.
Evidently the brothers didn't have any regular trash collection and just used their 5 acres as a trash dump. There was trash like this all over the lot. Some of it was buried and still rises to the surface from time to time.
There was an old trailer left on the property. In bad condition, but a possible fixer-upper?? Anyway, kind of cool looking and definitely some potential.
Oh, and a couple of these old water tanks were on the property. If you don't have access to city water, you either have to drill a well or have water delivered (and stored in these tanks). There are still many properties in the high desert that rely on wells or delivered water, although this area now has city water.

Fast forward a year or so after buying the place. We've spent who knows how many hours fixing it up, and still a long way to go!

August 2013. New windows, doors, roof, electrical. Most of the interior walls and cabinets have been ripped out (and thrown in the front yard). I would later break it down and throw it in a dumpster. This is how we spent many of our weekends!

My Mom was curious to see how we were spending our weekends, so we brought her out for a visit. My wife in the background is trying to remove all the crazy fencing that was all over this property!

I need to mention Charles, my hired hand. He was my roofer, plumber, drywaller, electrician, framer. A handyman who could do it all, and worked with me start to finish on the project. Things never would have been completed without him!

Fast forward to late 2015... before and after photo... the cabin is done!! The old gross outhouse has been removed. We've installed a septic tank. There's no room in the original homestead cabin for a bathroom, so here's our solution.
Build another cabin! This way, we maintain the integrity and the old homestead vibe (vs. adding on to the original). So now we have a "sleeping" cabin and a "bathroom" cabin. Kind of funky, and a pain if you have to get up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom, but my guests seem to like the novelty of it!

And what to do with those old water tanks??
How about we build a platform and get a crane to place them on top? It would be just like the vintage water tanks that are elevated to take advantage of gravity flow. Heck, we could even name the property "Twin Tanks"!

Which is what we ended up doing. I've always liked the name Twin Tanks, because it also happens to be one of my favorite hiking areas in Joshua Tree National Park.

And what about the old trailer, you ask??
The trailer sits next to the tanks in the back yard. It's got electrical and plumbing, but still needs a lot of work with interior finishing (floors, walls, ceiling). These days, I'd rather be hiking, so not much progress being made on the trailer. Since the above photo was taken we've added a deck adjacent to the trailer.

Photo credit: Twin Tanks guest A. Newmark
The back yard: Trailer with deck, fire pit area, and water tank platform. It's a great place to relax and enjoy the desert!

Twin Tanks as it looks today. Under dark skies, as viewed from Sullivan Road (aka, "Bootlegger's Highway!").


The view' inside the "sleeping" cabin. My wife did a great job decorating, including finding old license plates, furniture and paintings at local thrift stores.

View inside the "bathroom" cabin. Rustic, simple, but functional!

A guest enjoying some quiet desert solitude out on the patio.
Twin Tanks sunrise
We even have an old flatbed GMC pickup as yard art and a fun photo prop...
...which my granddaughter Lilly likes to take out for a spin from time to time!

Thanks for sticking with me on this long post. Our little desert cabins have been on Airbnb for about 3 1/2 years with hundreds of guests. I'm still amazed that people like it as much as they do! For more photos and details of Twin Tanks Desert Homestead Cabins, here's the Airbnb link: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/9810259

Linking with Skywatch Friday.
Thanks for stopping by!!

50 comments:

  1. That is really cool.It would be a total getaway for sure.

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  2. Dang that is a lot of work.

    I guess that I won’t be the first to suggest stenciling “Hot” and “Cold” on the tanks?

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    1. Ha ha, actually, you are the first! A fun idea, Alan.

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  3. If I lived nearer I'd be there. As it is I'll just enjoy your wonderful account and count myself lucky that I've never had a project like that!

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  4. You really have done a lot of work!

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  5. So cool, it's no wonder so many peole want to stay there!

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  6. You've done a great job with it, it looks very attractive.

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  7. It really is a perfect getaway! I clicked on the link and did everything except check in! lol It would be a long trip but it's the kind of place I would love! And then I would HIKE!!! Amazing photos of the rainbow!

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  8. Great to read. Beautiful pics.

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  9. Wow.. I am in love with that little cabin. I am also crazy about the lights on the truck.As always wonderful photos!

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  10. Thanks for the information. It would be cool if I get to stay there.

    Worth a Thousand Words

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  11. Very cool! Your hard work has paid off. Here in Sweden, most summer cottages have separate bathroom cabins (and maybe even a separate sauna cabin) - so your solution is very familiar!

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  12. All wise choices. But do I spy swamp coolers? Oooooog. The more I see your posts, the more I think life is good for the three of you! (including Lilly)

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    1. You do indeed see swamp coolers. I have a love/hate relationship with them. Seems like they constantly need to be repaired. Broken fan belts, broken bearings, leaks, shut down and seal off for the winter, then get them up and running for the summer. I may be switching over to window mounted AC units soon. I'm tired of spending so much time on the roof doing repairs!

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  13. Hello, I love your little cabin. It was fun seeing the progress and the before and after photos. It looks beautiful now, well done. Happy Friday, enjoy your day. Have a great weekend!

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  14. I can understand why people like your little cabin - out in the desert with gorgeous sunsets in a "tiny house" (all the rage now" with an interesting history. I know you love hiking but I hope you finish with the old trailer too. That would be great fun. Decorate ala 1950s!

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  15. What an amazing transformation. Well done young entrepreneur.

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  16. This is so cool and I read through your listing. Will be showing it to my husband later. Right now I'm on the opposite coast but we've only been to California once and your blog has been an ad for the beauty of this area. An idea for a retirement trip once I retire? I don't mind the "outhouse" at all - husband and I lived with one ( a true outhouse) for four years back in our 30's.

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  17. It's good to have a hobby :]

    Great place for some solitude, it seems.

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  18. Wow! It looks great after the upgrade

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  19. Wow! What energy and hard work for all ~ Grand daughter is a sweetie ~ Beautiful cabin and bathroom cabin and fantastic photo ~ You are all so creative!

    Happy Day to you,
    A ShutterBug Explores,
    aka (A Creative Harbor)

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  20. I can see why it's popular on AirBnB. That was a lot of work, but it seems to have been well worth it. At least it wasn't a hard commute when you were working on it (if your actual desert home is on the adjacent property.

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  21. I am totally impressed! From decrepitude to livability---what a great restoration/renovation project!

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  22. What a fun post. You guys did a lot of hard work and the results are amazing. Kudos to you all.
    MB

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  23. Wow, my hat off to all that hard work (how long did this take you?)! Had no idea, especially not because you have a house in a big city!! The nice thing is you have five acres - who know what comes to mind, after you have removed all the things you can't use!

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  24. Wow. y'all really fixed it up nice! Great job. Have a lovely weekend.

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  25. What a great place to stay, I would love to myself but it's a little way away from me to go there for a weekend.. You did an amazing job there though it was the one I thought you spend your weekends at.

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  26. Wow ! What a work ! Congratulations it came out wonderful ! Now a real holiday retreat and the skies look beautiful !

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  27. Hard work indeed, and the result is very good. Beautiful cabin, very nice sky pictures, the rainbow photo is amazing!

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  28. What a grand transition after a whole lot of hard work. Truly well done and beautiful.

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  29. Wow! Kudos to you, your wife, and the rest of your team.

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  30. Great job done on the cabin. Love the before and after photos. Beautiful interior too.

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  31. wow it looks totally different, you've both done a great job on it. Sounds like the old fellas use to enjoy more than a drop of whiskey lol

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  32. Hi SP&P, This is down right COOL! Gotta show all this to my Micro Manager. I won't be a bit surprised if we end up staying at Twin Tanks for a few days. Great post ... thanks so much for sharing AND for the Link! :-) Have a great weekend and take care. John PS Lilly is cute as she can be! :-)

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  33. Oh my gosh this would be my husband's idea of the perfect holiday SPP, hiking during the day with a cosy cabin to come back to. You guys did an excellent job of fixing it up and yet keeping the feel of a desert adventure real! Nice work 💛

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  34. What a work, an amazing transformation !

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  35. What an incredible transformation, you did an amazing job.

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  36. What a project but so lovely the way it turned out. No mystery at all to me about why guests like it so much! Those sunsets alone are to die for.

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  37. Should I live into my 80s, this is just what I would like to live in. You did a fabulous job and no wonder business is booming. I know exactly how much this will mean for a stressed-out city dweller.

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  38. This was such a fun post! You did a great job. It really seems like a fun property - lights, deck and twin tanks. We almost always stay in air b&b properties. Who knows, maybe we'll visit your funky property someday.

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  39. Great post detailing much effort over the years which has paid off. How lucky to have bought the property, if only to have control over who might otherwise have settled there, but so much value added!

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  40. I loved reading about this adventure in restoration. Great job with what you did. I bet it is a wonderful place to spend a few days of peace and quiet in this crazy world of ours.

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  41. Great vision and well-executed! Thanks so much for sharing this fascinating and inspiring story!

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  42. WOW!! That was a lot of work but the results are fantastic! Something certainly to be proud of and I hope you get many renters that will enjoy it going forward.

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  43. I loved learning all of this ... remember bits and pieces about the cabin from earlier posts, but missed that you’d turned it into an air b&b.... it is so well done! Thank you for the update.

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  44. Cactas flowers are really beautiful

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