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Off-the-grid Bungalow in Southern California

Literally in the shadow of 230-kilovolt power lines, this 850-square-foot bungalow is completely off the grid.  15 solar panels and 16 big batteries supply all the power needed to run the house and the detached 350-square-foot woodshop.  No wires or pipes come to the property.

Living on the site in my 16-foot vintage travel trailer (once featured in the Tiny House Newsletter), I designed the buildings, supervised construction, and did some of the finish work.

Being a retired guy, I named the place Sábado – Spanish for Saturday – because Saturday is the happiest day of the week, and retirement is the Saturday of life.  You work all week, and when you get to Saturday, you get to do whatever you like!

Solar power, well water, and a septic system make Sábado self-sufficient (with a little help from a propane tank and satellite internet… )

Sixteen deep-cycle batteries keep the lights on at night. The sun shines most days here in San Diego County, but a rarely-needed generator provides backup.

Yes, that’s a wheelbarrow in the corner.  A trick I learned from the contractors, a wheelbarrow makes a great “redneck recliner.” Had to have one.  It will get painted a bright color with varnished “legs” and custom-made cushions.  It’s on the to-do list…

Primary heat comes from the wood stove, but I also have a heat-pump “mini-split,” that provides both auxiliary heat and air conditioning, and it’s very kind to my batteries. Bonus for a solar house: when it’s hot outside, the sun is usually shining…

Guest bedroom/study

Barn-door closet in the master bedroom

All of the doors in the house will get this shellac-and-gel-stain finish. The next thing on the list of things I signed up to do.

Retro bathroom


Even an attic in the rear half of the house. (That’s Molly supervising from the bedroom.)

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{ 50 comments… add one }
  • Brian April 8, 2017, 3:31 pm

    Wow, really nice. Beautiful wood working and cabinet making too. Well done, sir.

  • Beth Grant DeRoos April 8, 2017, 3:45 pm

    WOW!!! That is beautiful and amazing!!

  • Cate April 8, 2017, 3:46 pm

    Absolutely stunning! You, sir, did a wonderful job and it being off grid is the icing on the cake! And Molly looks just like my Teddy 🙂

    • Sabado April 10, 2017, 4:29 pm

      Molly’s my best girl! And yes, my favorite day of the month is the day the electric bill DOESN’T come! 🙂

  • Lara April 8, 2017, 4:33 pm

    Really love it !! WELL DONE! How great to have such handy skills!!

    • Sabado April 10, 2017, 4:30 pm

      Thanks Lara. I’ve been piddling around with wood for about 50 years.

      • Lara April 10, 2017, 6:18 pm


        How did you learn to make bread in a cast iron dutch oven?

        Your house/cottage is a shining example of how nice living more simply and modestly can be !! It is a gem!!

        Thanks for sharing all the pics and the floor plans as well !!

        • Sabado April 10, 2017, 7:25 pm

          Oh my gosh Lara, it’s so simple… there are several articles on the web about what they call “5-minute artisan bread.” You just mix up flour, salt, and yeast with some water and let it sit overnight, then just shape it into a ball and drop it into a pre-heated dutch oven and cook for about an hour. That’s it! And it’s so good… Here’s one of the variations:

        • Natalie C. McKee Natalie C. McKee April 11, 2017, 7:13 am

          Yum! I love making homemade bread 🙂

        • Lara April 11, 2017, 10:33 pm


          Thanks for sending me the link for making bread in a dutch oven! So appreciated…it sounds yummy and relatively easy!!

          Best of luck–and enjoy your gorgeous cottage !!

  • Margaret E Lome April 8, 2017, 5:03 pm

    Just wonderful! It is just what I want when I can finally retire!

    • Natalie C. McKee Natalie C. McKee April 10, 2017, 5:15 am

      Yay! Glad you found inspiration!

    • Sabado April 10, 2017, 4:31 pm

      I wish the best for you Margaret. A happy retirement is one of the great joys of life.

  • Diana April 8, 2017, 5:07 pm

    Ok, did they build an off grid home next to EMF power lines? If so, WHY???? Beautiful build. Not a tiny home.

  • Annette April 8, 2017, 5:46 pm

    Hats off to you – this is gorgeous!

  • Lara Concepcion April 8, 2017, 6:02 pm

    How many square feet is it? I love it!!

    • Sabado April 10, 2017, 4:35 pm

      Lara, the county measures from the outside of the walls, so for permit purposes, it was 888 square feet. Actual living area is closer to 850, not counting the attic, which is unfinished storage space.

  • vee rae April 8, 2017, 7:27 pm

    Very charming and wonderful modern touches…….how very nice!!!

    • Natalie C. McKee Natalie C. McKee April 10, 2017, 5:08 am

      I agree!

    • Sabado April 10, 2017, 4:39 pm

      Thanks Vee, when you design it yourself you get what you want – a bit of the old, a bit of the new… It’s great to be living now, when we can combine 1910 charm with a dishwasher!

  • Canyon Man April 8, 2017, 7:43 pm

    Very nice. This is a true home. Tiny or not, it has dignity.

    • Sabado April 10, 2017, 4:42 pm

      Thanks Canyon Man. The nice thing about Tiny House Talk is that they celebrate “small houses” as well as “tiny houses.” Both are sensible alternatives to the McMansion and the crippling mortgage.

  • lesa April 9, 2017, 12:11 pm

    This is exactly what I am looking to !
    I commend your marvelous work and inspiration. I wondered
    where it was in the county; Descanso, Dulzura, maybe even Warner Springs – before reading Campo. Beautiful work and thank you for sharing.

    • Natalie C. McKee Natalie C. McKee April 10, 2017, 4:56 am

      I’m so glad you liked it 🙂

    • Sabado April 10, 2017, 4:45 pm

      Thanks Lesa, I’m glad you liked it too. And yes, Campo – 3000 feet elevation with hundreds of oak trees. Great area.

  • kristina nadreau April 9, 2017, 2:38 pm

    Perfect for you. all the woodworking is spectacular. color choices also pleasant.

    • Natalie C. McKee Natalie C. McKee April 10, 2017, 4:55 am

      Yes I also enjoyed the color choices!

    • Sabado April 10, 2017, 4:51 pm

      Thanks Kristina and Natalie. The main color is called “Arts and Crafts Gold.” Because the house is small, most of the rooms are the same color, to avoid making it look choppy. The kitchen and bath share a different color called “Sonoma Chardonnay” and the ceilings are “Creamed Butter.” Sometimes you gotta choose colors just based on the cool names! 🙂

    • Sabado April 10, 2017, 10:15 pm

      Oh, and the idea of the dark green exterior was to blend in with all the oak trees. There are many on this 5-acre property. The name of the color is Olive-something, but I call it Forest Service Cabin Green…!

  • Nanny M April 9, 2017, 6:49 pm

    One of the nicest I’ve seen. Don’t know that I would change anything.

    • Sabado April 10, 2017, 4:54 pm

      Thanks, Nanny M. There’s only one thing I would change: painting the baseboards and door trim in a velvet (almost flat) sheen… big mistake. Huge. A real pain to keep clean. Other’n that.. I’m pretty content!

  • Sandi B April 10, 2017, 2:59 am

    Beautiful home and workshop. Great woodworking! The only thing I would change would be to swap the size of the kitchen and the living room.
    Beautiful hideaway. May God Bless you with many wonderful years here!

    • Natalie C. McKee Natalie C. McKee April 10, 2017, 4:42 am

      That’s a great idea!

    • Sabado April 10, 2017, 4:57 pm

      You must really like to cook! I’m trying to learn. You may have noticed I don’t have a microwave. Lately I’ve been baking artisan bread in a cast iron dutch oven. Not that difficult, but definitely yummy.

      • Sandi B April 12, 2017, 8:32 am

        Yes, I do really like to cook/bake — it is and has always been my passion. Home baked bread is always yummie — well, unless you burn it.

  • ZACHARY E MOHRMANN April 10, 2017, 7:09 am

    I love this guys house,…! I love it’s ability to be a stand alone structure, powered through solar power and heated and cooled with the efficiency of a mini split system … The house exterior is just beautiful, and to carry that style over to his detached shop was a cherry on top of his Saturday, ” LoL…! ” sorry I just couldn’t help my self… But really it is a beautiful build a well thought out design, and I only wish I had done something like this years ago when I had opportunity…! Bravo…!

  • Patricia April 22, 2017, 7:59 am

    Sabado, this is an absolutely perfect small home and my husband and I love it. Except for a few tweaks, because I am disabled (like a walk-in bathtub), there is nothing we would change if this were our home—except build it out here in our beautiful Colorado. We so appreciate that it is off-the-grid but has all the modern appliances and the woodwork in the kitchen is beautiful. We especially like the screened-in porch off the Master Bedroom and Dining Room.

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful labor of love with all of us.

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