Design & DIY

This designer and builder created her dream cabin for $20,000

“If you can build a shed, you can build this,” says architectural technologist Crystal Bueckert, who designed her “Laneshed,” an eight-by-twelve cabin on wheels, to be completely DIY. “The plans tell you what to do.” Though she devised it as a “backyard room,” Crystal saw a grander use for the structure—as a little bunkie to perch on her aunt’s waterfront lot, located in Thickwood Hills, Sask. “My aunt has half the lake to herself, so she likes having me around,” she says. Affordability was key to Crystal’s vision of the Laneshed; the base model costs $10,000. But she spent another $10,000 on a composting toilet, a kitchen, and solar panels, to create a fully self-sufficient escape. “Life here is simple. Especially because there’s no cell reception.”

“I was raised on a self-sustaining farm where we made all our own everything, so I have a design allergy to anything fake,” says Crystal. “I didn’t want anything unnatural in here.” And so she chose her materials with care. The interior walls are clad in pine plywood, “whitewashed to knock back the yellow a bit,” and bolted through to the exterior. “I’m going to see those bolts so they are going to be nice bolts,” she says. The roof is low-VOC powder-coated corrugated metal, and “sounds like a symphony in the rain.” Her mom made the mattress for the daybed from old wool blankets. The two windows are made from long-lasting, commercial-grade anodized aluminum. They aren’t insulated, but they don’t need to be in a three-season getaway.

Crystal brings very little to the cabin. “I love the simplicity of this place,” she says. “You realize what you need. I use 12 litres of water a day. Three solar panels cover my energy needs. Storage is limited, so I bring little clothing. After a while, you don’t care what you smell like.” 

“The kitchen is like the mechanical room that I happen to cook in,” says Crystal. The bottom cabinets house the fridge, the water tank, the heater, and the pump. The upper cabinet holds the inverter for her solar system. “It gets hot, so I had to vent the cabinet.” Her solution? Routered holes in the shape of star formations—Orion, the Big and Little Dippers, and the Seven Sisters. The countertop is simple plywood covered with a few layers of wood stain. “To install the sink, I had to cut a hole in the plywood,” she says. “So I turned that piece into a cutting board by treating it with tung oil. It’s handy for counter space.” After customizing her own cabin, she now urges her clients to personalize their own spaces too. “Don’t do what other people do,” she says. “Design for what you need.”

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