Amazing home transformations

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Amazing cabin makeover

See how one couple turned a remote Alaska cabin into the home of their dreams

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  • Jennifer and Noah Jenkins with baby Sadie and dog Flannery

    Call of the wild

    Thomas J. Story

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Noah later constructed a two-level deck, which meant towing a thousand pounds of lumber up the rocky beach. (Inevitably, the cable broke, the lumber slid into the bay, and Noah had to fish for it with a boat hook.) “We built this deck so Sadie can eventually ride a tricycle around it ― it’s a 1,000-square-foot playpen,” he says. “And it’s nice to have a big space outdoors when you have low ceilings and narrow rooms.”

Life in the cabin comes with a unique set of challenges. When Jennifer was seven months pregnant, a heavy storm forced her to trek the half-mile footpath in snow up to her knees. Most of the time, however, the everyday nature walk is “a great way to decompress,” Noah says. “It’s normal to us now to push our groceries home in a wheelbarrow.”

The biggest obstacle is the water supply. A quarter-mile line fills their cistern from the nearest city source; in the winter, their supply depends on the line’s being thawed. One February, they went without running water for a week and a half.

Still, both agree they wouldn’t trade any of it for a more conventional way of life. “There’s a strong sense of community here because we rely on one another,” Jennifer says. This kinship is obvious during a sunny get-together on the deck, over a feast of king salmon and crab.

Friends arrive by foot or by kayak, toting babies and pans of rhubarb crisp. Neighbors marvel at the photo of the original dilapidated cabin, which takes pride of place in a silver frame by the stairway.

“What we have is the life less ordinary. That’s always been appealing to me,” Jennifer says. “It’s not just a house ― it’s a whole lifestyle.”

Next: 4 lessons from this project



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