I’ve always dreamed of having an off-grid cottage. Having a cottage built can be very expensive. With so many she shed ideas out there, I came up with my very own escape by converting a shed into a small cottage. It’s now, what we call, ‘The Love Shack’.
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I live in Tucson, Arizona and there’s a little town that’s nearby that I love so much and that is Sonoita. Sonoita, Arizona is a lovely place with rolling hills of grass. Not the grass you have in your backyard that you step in barefoot, but the long, high grass, that blows in the wind for acres and acres type. I own five acres of land in Sonoita, which I purchased right after my late husband, Brad, passed away. I needed something to keep my mind occupied and stay busy during the darkest days of my grieving. It helped tremendously.
It’s mostly desert here in Arizona, but God decided He wanted to change it up a bit. A place of tranquility and beauty. Sonoita is also wine country. The Sonoita AVA is the first federally recognized wine-growing region in the state of Arizona. To read more about it, go to Sonoita, Arizona – The Ultimate Visitors Guide.
I had nothing here before, just small hills and grass too high to walk on.
THEN, THE COWS CAME IN
A rancher, who also happens to be a landscape grader, gave me a call and asked if he could graze his cows on my land. Perfect!
Not only did they eat up the grass, but they also left me with some fertilizer. Cows are awesome!
HOW WE GOT OUR WATER SUPPLY
You can do without a lot of things, but you can’t do without water.
I had a well drilled then put in a solar pump.
I was thrilled when I turned on the faucet and water came out!
ORDERING THE SHED
I had to have french doors on my cottage, so I had to custom order my shed. Mr. Shed in Huachuca City, Arizona, will do the basics like, add extra windows, doors, electrical wire, that sort of thing.
I was going to get a Tuff Shed from Home Depot but after all the upgrades I wanted, it was going to cost me over $10,000. Plus, ordering online for my little cottage just didn’t sit right with me. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve heard good things about Tuff Shed but I was on a budget and I wanted to actually speak to a person who can throw in some suggestions and keep the price down.
Mr. Shed has a good reputation and, Karen, the sales lady was very helpful. I also saved about $3,000!
If you want to save even more money and build your own cottage, Jamaica Cottage company is the one to go with. Their kits are easy to assemble and the prices are very reasonable. Below is a video of a family ordering and building one on their farm.
ROAD AND PAD PREPARATION
Remember the cows I let graze on my property? Their owner, whom I mentioned was also a landscape grader, cut in a road and small pad for me, for free! I wanted to pay him but he refused. He asked me if I knew how much it costs to feed cows, a lot, he said. I’m sure we didn’t come out even. I figure cutting a road and leveling a pad costs more than feeding cows grass you already have. Thank you, Mr. Lorta!
HERE COMES THE SHED
When I saw that shed coming up the road, I knew my dreams were about to come true. It took the driver about forty-five minutes to place it exactly where I wanted it and to level it out.
This is a 10 x 20 shed. Just the size I need so I don’t need a permit. It’s portable so it can be moved if needed. However, because I don’t have a permit, I can’t put any concrete, electricity or plumbing in it.
Don’t worry, I’ve found solutions for necessities which I’ll tell you about later.
This is what it looks like inside the day of delivery.
DON’T MAKE THE SAME MISTAKE!
I like a lot of light but I got just a bit window happy. I have the two french doors in the front, one window on each side, and three windows opposite the french doors. I could’ve done without the three windows opposite the french doors. They face west and the sun is blinding as it shines through. Making it very warm. When you order your shed, make sure you know where you’re putting it. Consider the sun’s rays and the view. Plus, you’ll lose wall space for decorations.
I solved this issue by getting some thermal blackout curtains. They definitely do the job!
Click on the picture to get your own.
I watched You-Tube to learn how to put in insulation. It seemed easy enough. So off I go to Home Depot and buy what I need. A little extra, for mistakes.
Okay, okay, it doesn’t look that great of a job but, like my daddy used to say, ‘Close enough for government work.’ And hey, it insulates. I know because we spent the night out there last night and we didn’t freeze!
Because I did a pretty bad job of putting in the insulation, I didn’t trust myself to hang the drywall. For this, I hired a carpenter and he did an AMAZING job! He even rounded the window edges.
With the carpenter’s advice, I applied two coats of primer before painting. I guess new drywall will suck up a lot of paint if you don’t prime it first. Even if the paint has primer in it.
I got white paint for the ceiling and Graceful Gray for the walls. You’re going to laugh at me, I made a mistake. I wasn’t done priming yet when I ran out of primer. So without looking, I started using the White paint to finish the priming. It wasn’t until I was ready to paint that I realized my mistake. I was so mad at myself but what am I going to do? I just bought another gallon of paint. So it all worked out in the end and it looks great 🙂
VINYL PLANK FLOORING
I’m on a tight budget and I need a floor that looks great, strong, sturdy, waterproof and mostly, easy to install. This is something I have to do myself to cut on costs. I chose Vinyl Plank Flooring. It’s just like linoleum but thicker. They come in strips like wood laminate flooring, where you just click them into place. No glue needed. It’s a floating floor. The best part is since I don’t have electricity for power tools, all you need is a box cutter to score and bend it to cut them.
The hardest part for me was cutting it lengthwise. It took me about five tries for the very last piece. This is probably where a table saw would’ve been nice to have.
Also, when you click them together, make sure to use a rubber mallet and not your palm. By the end of this project, my palms were blue and very sore. But I finished it all in one day!
As soon as the flooring was complete I had the carpenter put up trim and baseboards. I was just too exhausted after the flooring and I was anxious to decorate.
The first piece of furniture I bought for this off-grid cottage is a sectional. I wanted something durable, clean looking and without too much cloth like your regular sectionals have. I chose an outdoor patio sectional and I absolutely love it! I thought at first that it would take up too much space but it didn’t, it’s just right.
It came in five boxes and it was so easy to put together. What I also love about this sectional is you can store stuff under it. With limited space, storage is much needed.
Click on the picture below to get your own.
Capri Outdoor 5 Piece Chat Set with Cream Water Resistant Cushions
Most of the furniture I got second hand except the bed frame and the sectional, I mention above. Every piece just fits perfectly and I’m in love!
This is the bed frame I purchased and I can tell you, it’s a great buy. Very sturdy and easy to put together. No box spring needed. I’m using my son’s old queen mattress since he moved out.
Zinus 12 Inch Deluxe Wood Platform Bed / No Boxspring Needed / Wood Slat Support / Rustic Pine Finish
I also like the fact that I can store stuff under the bed.
Before we can stay out here we need a small fence to keep our dogs in. I have a 120 lb American Bulldog, Lulu and a 20 lb Boston Terrier, Molly. The whole five acres is fenced in but my little Molly would slip right through and I didn’t want them getting lost.
I searched for different alternatives but everything seemed like a lot of work and money. I thought maybe a four-foot chain-link fence would work, but when I called for an estimate for 90 feet of fencing, I was quoted $1600! That’s just too much!
I searched and searched until I found the perfect fence. It’s affordable, easy to install and sturdy enough for Lulu. I ordered three sets which we strung together and fortified with T-posts and wire. I also, don’t want anything too permanent as I might want to build my real house and this would be easy enough to dismantle.
Go Pet Club GH Heavy Duty Pet Play and Exercise Pen with 8 Panels
Comes with a gate. Since we bought three sets, we have three gates!
It’s very easy to install. Just hook them together, drive a T-Post in-between panels with a sledgehammer and secure with wire.
It’s sturdy and high enough for 120 lb Lulu 🙂
HOW WE MANAGE PLUMBING AND ELECTRICAL NEEDS
Obviously, you’ll need to go potty. Since I don’t have a sewer system and can’t have plumbing, I purchased a portable toilet. It works just fine. I hide it in the corner by the bed. I use chemical pods to keep it smelling good. It holds a lot! We will only urinate in it and if we have to go number 2 then, we would line it with a plastic bag and dispose of it when we’re done.
Zimmer Comfort Portable Toilet 5 Gallon Capacity, RV Toilet With Detachable Tanks, Durable Leak Proof Flushable Easy To Use, Compact Porta Potty up to 70 Flushes Perfect for Camping Toilet or Travel
If you have the money and are inclined to have something better, try this. You can use batteries to power the vent.
Nature’s Head Dry Composting Toilet with Standard Crank Handle
HOW WE WASH OUR HANDS AND BRUSH OUR TEETH
This is what I did. I bought an old sewing machine cabinet from a second-hand store for $40 bucks. Then I drilled a hole in the middle big enough to fit the pipe that goes with the Vessel Sink I purchased. I used a doorknob bit with a drill I borrowed from my brother-in-law. That wood was so hard, it must be oak or something. I had to call my brother-in-law several times because I didn’t know how to operate the drill. I know, I know…I’m very creative but I’m no handyman. But I got the job done. I then bought a ceramic water jug and also a milking stool at the antique shop for cheap. It all looks so great together 🙂
I put a Home Depot bucket under the sink to catch the water we use. When it’s almost full, I’ll throw it out and water my plants. I also got a tension rod to hang a towel to cover up the bucket.
Here’s where you can get what you need if you want the same setup. Click on the pictures.
KINGO HOME Above Counter White Porcelain Ceramic Bathroom Vessel Sink
Yodel Vessel Sink Pop up Drain Without Overflow,Brushed Nickel
Porcelain Water Dispenser Crock – 2.5 Gallons
Ceramic Water Crock Lid
Now you’re probably wondering how I was able to use the drill to drill the hole for my sink, aren’t you? How do we operate the microwave, coffee maker, TV or anything else we might need out there?
We have a solar generator.
Goal Zero Yeti 1400 Lithium Portable Power Station 1425Wh Silent Gas Free Generator Alternative with 1500 Watt (3000 Watt Surge) AC inverter, USB, 12V Outputs
For more information read The Best Electric Power Banks For Emergencies Or Off-Gridding
I love this thing. I was thrilled when I found out that there’s such a thing as this. I didn’t want a gas generator as it can sometimes be very noisy and it’s bad for the environment.
I plug this in the wall at home and when I need to go out to my off-grid cottage, I bring it with me for my electrical needs.
Yesterday we used it to for the microwave several times, watched TV for hours, charged our phones and made coffee. All it used was 20% of it.
You can also buy solar panels for it if you want to keep it out there and these solar panels will keep it charged. You can use it while it’s being charged.
Goal Zero Boulder 100 Watt Monocrystalline Solar Panel
Buy a few of these and you’re in business!
HOW WE WATCH TV
My fiance, Jeremy, is a sports fanatic and we must be able to watch TV out there. I also like to watch Netflix and other TV shows. Our solution?
I use my Samsung Galaxy 8 smartphone and mirror it to my television using the
Actiontec ScreenBeam Mini2 Wireless Display Receiver(SBWD60A01)
This works like a charm. It’ll mirror exactly what’s on your phone. So whatever app you use on your phone, you can see it on your TV.
Click on the picture for more information. It’s very easy to use and set up.
Make sure you get a TV that has an HDMI slot and USB slot, That’s side by side because this needs to be plugged in. It comes with a plug but you can pull off the plug and just plug the USB right into the TV.
This is the TV I have except in the 24″ size. This TV has the HDMI and USB ports side by side on the side of the TV, which also makes the ports easy access for mounting on the wall.
Samsung Electronics UN28M4500A 28-Inch 720p Smart LED TV
I use these battery operated switches that I hang on the wall. They’re really bright and gives me all the lighting I need.
4-Pack Dimmable Battery Included COB LED Cordless Switch Light, Adjustable Brightness, Tap Light, Battery Operated LED Night Light, Battery & Adhesive Strip (Included)
There are a few more things I need to complete this off grid cottage, but little by little, I’ll make it complete.
Thanks for reading and I hope I inspired you to create your own special she-shed, cabin, man cave or cottage. If I can do it, so can you!
Very impressive. I hope Jeremy knows how lucky he is. Your project looks great.
Thank you, Paul. I remind Jeremy everyday how lucky he is…LOL
absolutely gorgeous! what is the size of your cottage and what is it standing on?
Hi Nelda, the size is 10×20 and it sits on skids.
Amazing! ❤️ Your post and explaining it all. Great work.
What about heating/ac? Does that run on your generator as well?
I’m afraid that the Goal Zero Yeti pack won’t be able to handle an AC unit. We use an oscillating fan and open up the windows to cool things off. For heating, maybe a small space heater can be plugged into the yeti but you’ll probably need a bigger one.
Your information has been so helpful! My husband and I are getting ready to set our shed in the next few weeks. It is a 12 x 22 barn-type shed and we are very excited. I have collected some great vintage appliances and furniture, but your ideas about power and solar power is fantastic. Thanks
I’m excited for you,I’m sure it’ll be amazing!
Thank you so much for the information and inspiration. I’ve been daydreaming about a bunkhouse for guests here on our ranch and I was thinking about offgrid and what alternatives might be available. Your little cottage is adorable and now I
know it can be done.
You’re very welcome. And yes, it can be done! I’m so excited for you because the possibilities are endless 🙂
This is awesome! This is the first day I am researching Tuff Shed studios/offices and yours is the first site I have visited that has such well laid out plans. My son has been using our unfinished garage as a music studio, yet we have a 7 X 7 Tuff Shed in the backyard literally filled with junk. In your opinion, would 7 X 7 be too small to do this? A keyboard, recording equipment and seat. It seems doable, but maybe I am delusional.
Hi Jackie, the shed that we have next to the “cottage” in this post is 8×8 and while it’s small, I can fit a whole bunch of gardening supplies and walk around in it. Yours is a little smaller so I think it’s doable but it also depends on how big your son is. I say remove the junk and have him go in it, move around and he’ll know if it’ll work.