Unplugged: A Couple’s DIY, Totally Off-the-Grid Cabin in the New Hampshire Woods
Imagine a place so off-the-grid that, if you wanted to make a phone call, you’d have to amble down to a pond, pull a canoe from the muddy bank, row quietly across the surface, and float in the middle of it—oars pulled in—to get enough service.
It’s true for Alice Saunders and her partner, Greg Ralich, who bought a bare-bones, no-electricity, no-running-water cabin on a one-acre parcel of land down a class IV road in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire, that also turned out to have no cell service. (The road, Saunders says, “is mostly used for horseback riding and hunting and is not plowed in the winter;” their only neighbors are across the pond.) Saunders, who founded and runs Forestbound Bag Co., spotted the cabin on Craigslist after eight years of looking, “on and off,” for “something small with interesting build and design elements, private, and within a two-hour drive of our home in Boston. When I saw this cabin pop up on Craigslist I knew immediately that it was special. We went up to see it the next day and I put in an offer almost immediately.”
Among the draws were the cabin’s quiet, truly unplugged location, just a half hour from where Saunders grew up—and that the structure itself was in good shape. “I could tell that the renovations I wanted to do wouldn’t be so significant that Greg and I couldn’t tackle them ourselves,” she says.
The couple set about rehabbing the cabin together (with the occasional help of Greg’s brother, who has his own off-the-grid cabin in Maine). They kept the budget low, investing in a few essential elements (“a new metal roof, which only ended up being around $2,500 since our cabin is so small and simple, and a system of Goal Zero batteries, the rechargeable lithium ion batteries that we use to power the cabin”), installing a few systems to account for the lack of electricity and water, and upgrading the interiors with simple, rustic finds. Now, with this weekend marking two years since they bought the place, they’re almost done. The final tally? “About $4,000, which includes the cost of all the tools we needed.”
We’ve been tracking the DIY renovations unfold on Instagram; join us for a first look at the (nearly) finished cabin.
Photography by Alice Saunders.
Saunders’ inspiration for the interiors started with one piece of furniture: “an old cabinet I found buried in someone’s garage during an estate sale,” she says. (You can see it four photos down; it’s the green cabinet in the living room, close to the window.) “The color of that cabinet inspired the color of the kitchen floor and a lot of other color choices throughout the cabin. It’s also very basic and utilitarian but interesting and beautiful, which is what I hope to accomplish with the cabin.”