When building contractor Guy Baker set out to build a weekend cabin for his wife and three boys in Wedowee, Alabama, his goals were quite simple. He wanted to build it using the scraps and salvage that he had collected over the years, and he wanted to teach his sons—none of whom had any construction experience—how to build. “I wasn’t about to raise three boys who wouldn’t know how to work and get really tired and sweat and bleed,” Guy says. “This project turned them into three fine young men. It taught them values and character, respect and responsibility.”
Guy and his sons spent five years building the 1,100-square-foot, two-bedroom, two-bath house from old wood, tin and other materials that he had collected from 75 Alabama counties. “I got wood from old barns and sheds; some pieces I just found in a field somewhere,” Guy says. “My company also did a whole lot of work on a church from the 1850s that people claimed was the oldest in the county. I got all the windowpanes, some trim and a few pieces of lumber from that.”
Aside from the wiring, plumbing, lights and some store-bought rocks for the indoor fireplace, the home is built almost entirely from salvaged materials—which Guy much prefers. “A hundred years ago, they used bigger, older trees. It was heart pine—a harder pine, and a better cut of tree,” he says.
The Baker family built the house without plans or blueprints, following only a vision in Guy’s head. When it was finished, the family loved it so much that they made it their permanent home—despite its relatively small size for a family of five.
“If it had been up to me, this place would have been twice the size,” Kay admits. “Goodness, did I try to persuade Guy! We had 100 arguments about it. But he won out because he could always come up with a construction-based reason why we couldn’t make it bigger. The truth was, he didn’t want it any bigger, period. And now I’m so glad he didn’t listen to me!”
Kay has learned to love the little home more than she could have believed. “It’s the most comfortable place I’ve ever been in my life,” she says.
At just 1,100 square feet, the Bakers’ weekend cabin became their main residence after the family spent years building it together. Photo by Michael Shopenn
The Bakers at home (left to right): Jeffery, Adam, Kay, Guy and Kyle. Adam is in college, but Jeffery and Kyle now work for Guy. “This project gave them a passion for the construction industry,” he says. Photo by Michael Shopenn
The hinges and doorknobs were the only things the Bakers bought for the kitchen; everything else is salvaged. “I think we spent $20 in there, total,” Guy says. Photo by Michael Shopenn
The enormous fireplace is one of Guy’s unique designs, built for function as well as form. Because the family lost everything in a fire 18 years ago, he wanted every part of this fireplace to be visible. It easily heats the entire house. Photo by Michael Shopenn
The porch is ideal for sitting and drinking sweet tea. Photo by Michael Shopenn
This bathtub cost $90: $50 for the cattle trough and $40 to have a fiberglass lining installed. Photo by Michael Shopenn
Kyle found the old Native American grinding stone that adorns the outdoor grill just a few feet from where the cabin stands. w
The Bakers' sons built this fireplace by hand. Photo by Michael Shopenn
A small "shed" houses a storage closet for the outdoor kitchen. Photo by Michael Shopenn
The next step in Guy’s vision is a working waterwheel; the home is ripe for microhydro power. Photo by Michael Shopenn
Salvaged wood, windows and doors give the home an old-fashioned, cozy charm. The home has no “finished” ceilings. “I wanted the lumber to be exposed, so it would look like I’d remodeled an old mill,” Guy says. Photo by Michael Shopenn