CAL­I­FOR­NIA DREAM­ING

A cabin near Joshua Tree Na­tional Park gets a dose of funky per­son­al­ity thanks to the home­own­ers’ roll-up-your-sleeves ap­proach to ren­o­vat­ing.

Do It Yourself - - CONTENTS - WORDS CARO­LINE MCKEN­ZIE PHO­TO­GRAPHS KIM CORNELISON STYLING LIZ STRONG

A com­plete ren­o­va­tion for un­der $50k? You’ll have to see it to be­lieve it in this in­spir­ing cabin near Joshua Tree Na­tional Park.

KATHRIN AND BRIAN SMIRKE BE­LIEVE IN DI­A­MONDS IN THE ROUGH. EM­PHA­SIS ON ROUGH. WHEN THEY PUR­CHASED THEIR CAL­I­FOR­NIA DESERT CABIN, IT WAS BE­YOND FIXERUPPER STA­TUS IN MOST PEO­PLE’S EYES.

“There were bro­ken win­dows, bro­ken pipes, and no sep­tic sys­tem,” Brian says. “The word dis­as­ter comes to mind.” But with the cabin a mere 10 min­utes from the en­trance to Joshua Tree Na­tional Park and a list price of $33,000, they stub­bornly saw po­ten­tial. Not just as a week­end get­away for them­selves (they call Los An­ge­les home), but also as an in­come prop­erty by way of Airbnb.

As soon as they said “sold,” they be­gan a 10-month whole-house ren­o­va­tion where they tack­led ev­ery project them­selves. Along the way they re­placed plumb­ing, patched walls, and re­habbed ap­pli­ances, spend­ing nearly 120 nights on site. When the house was once again in work­ing or­der, they be­gan phase two—craft­ing cus­tom furniture and ac­ces­sories to fill the newly re­freshed rooms. While their DIY cam­paign started as a way to save money (they set—and stuck to!—a firm budget of $45,000), it soon be­came a com­pelling creative out­let. As Kathrin says: “After you make your own stuff, ev­ery­thing starts to look a lit­tle bit generic.” Here’s the low­down on the projects that helped the am­bi­tious first-time home ren­o­va­tors turn a house no one wanted into a hip rental where ev­ery­one wants to stay. COL­LECTED ENVIRONMEN­T Brian’s “scrappy” style is best on display in the liv­ing room, below, where he uti­lized a stock­pile of wood rem­nants col­lected dur­ing the demo phase. Small projects like the wall sconce were a process of trial and er­ror. “It prob­a­bly would have gone faster if I’d sketched some­thing be­fore­hand, but where’s the fun in that?” he says.

“I ‘CAUGHT’ THE DIN­ING ROOM TUM­BLE­WEED IN L.A. AND SAVED IT FOR A PROJECT DOWN THE ROAD. LIT­TLE DID I KNOW THAT I’D LIT­ER­ALLY ENCOUNTER HUN­DREDS OF THEM HERE IN JOSHUA TREE!” KATHRIN SMIRKE, HOME­OWNER

IN & OUT Over the course of 10 months, Brian and Kathrin Smirke, above, over­hauled ev­ery inch of their onebed­room desert cabin. Prac­ti­cal up­grades (the plumb­ing and roof­ing are prime ex­am­ples) were ac­com­pa­nied by many stylish up­dates. The ex­te­rior of the home fea­tures a hand­some hor­i­zon­tal plank fence, above, hand-painted planters, op­po­site, and a chevron ac­cent wall, page 50— all fab­ri­cated by Brian us­ing wood scraps re­cov­ered dur­ing the ren­o­va­tion. Even the street num­ber sign fea­tures his cus­tom wood de­tail­ing.

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SUNNY SPOT The sun­room, left, fea­tures some of the cou­ple’s small­est but most art­ful projects. Case in point: the colorful Ojo de Dios— Span­ish for “God’s eye”— string art, bot­tom left, Kathrin wove with wool yarn after at­ten­tive YouTube view­ing. The green, or­ange, and gold yarn in­spired the home’s earth tone palette. Brian fash­ioned the com­pact cof­fee ta­ble from re­claimed wood he got for free off Craigslist. The squared “legs” are his own mod­ern spin on a rus­tic tres­tle ta­ble.

GRAN­U­LAR PRE­CI­SION The liv­ing room cof­fee ta­ble, right, re­quired pre­cise mea­sure­ments, saw­ing a 4×4 red­wood fence post into cubes to create the design. Brian placed each block to create an eye-pleas­ing flow among the ex­posed wood grain and se­cured them in place us­ing wood glue and finishing nails.

THE RIGHT ANGLES Brian built the liv­ing room’s state­ment-mak­ing tri­an­gle shelf, this photo, not once, but twice. After cut­ting each piece at a per­fect 30-de­gree an­gle, he as­sem­bled the 6-foot-tall book­case only to dis­cover it was too large to fit through the room’s door­way. Kathrin re-cov­ered a mid­cen­tury chair with a linen rem­nant, and Brian cre­ated a sconce us­ing re­claimed wood and a light kit.

STOCKED UP Though small, the kitchen flexes plenty of DIY mus­cle, left. The cou­ple as­sem­bled and in­stalled the stock cab­i­netry and coun­ter­tops. (They were painted and stained, re­spec­tively, after in­stal­la­tion.) For ad­di­tional stor­age, Brian con­structed a display ledge from cast-off wood fea­tur­ing a weath­ered green paint that per­fectly complement­s the circa 1970s fridge. TO EN­SURE A SEAM­LESS FIT, CAB­I­NETS WERE AT­TACHED TO EACH OTHER AND THEN AFFIXED TO THE WALL AS A SIN­GLE UNIT.

RUS­TIC CHARM The house’s bright­est idea may be the din­ing room chan­de­lier, above, made from a tum­ble­weed. To rig it, Kathrin pur­chased a ba­sic light kit and at­tached it to the tum­ble­weed with a zip tie. A mid­cen­tury break­fast ta­ble keeps com­pany with a mot­ley crew of spray-painted chairs.

PRE­VI­OUSLY A CLOSET, THE SUNNY SIT­TING ROOM WAS CARVED OUT OF THE BED­ROOM AS AD­DI­TIONAL LIV­ING SPACE.

TUCKED IN Have tiny bed­room; will con­struct cus­tom bed to fit the space, below. The bed was built from new ply­wood and 2×4s, then trimmed with sal­vaged wood for a rough-hewn look. In another space-saving project, they cre­ated a float­ing clothes rack by simply sus­pend­ing an old wood scrap from a fence post from the ceil­ing with jute string.

EASY LIVIN’ With the ren­o­va­tion com­plete, the Smirkes rent the 900-square-foot abode on Airbnb. The cou­ples’ rus­tic decor makes it a pop­u­lar choice for trav­el­ers looking to get away from it all in scenic Joshua Tree Na­tional Park. “We still save a few nights for our­selves, of course. It’s our la­bor of love!” Kathrin says.

BRIAN CRE­ATED A CHEVRON PAT­TERN WITH WOOD SCRAPS, THEN CON­TRASTED THEM WITH REC­TAN­GLES. TINY CUTS Us­ing a cir­cu­lar saw, Brian cut close to a hun­dred angled wood “chips,” which he used to em­bel­lish his var­i­ous projects. “No two sec­tions of trim­work are ex­actly the same; I like it that way,” Brian says. For the light, right, he started with a ba­sic light kit (it cost a mere $5 at a lo­cal store) then added rugged style with wood scraps (all free from the demo of the house).

MAKE A SPLASH The back­yard oa­sis is equal parts Kathrin’s style and Brian’s know-how, this photo. The space stands out thanks to the an­tique claw-foot tub, which Kathrin scooped up on L.A.’s Craigslist and re­vived with vi­brant or­ange paint. (Porch paint will fare best against the el­e­ments.) Brian used wood scraps to con­ceal the plumb­ing for the tub. He made con­crete pavers us­ing bags of fast-set­ting con­crete mix and a mold he con­structed from 2×4s. KATHRIN TOOK HER PAINT­BRUSH TO DIS­CARDED WOOD PLANKS, IN­COR­PO­RAT­ING A MIX OF TRI­AN­GLE MO­TIFS.

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