Two Friends Bought Utah Land as College Grads. Now They’ve Built an Off-Grid Retreat for Retirement

Full of youthful energy and optimism, two college buddies embarked on a unique adventure after recently graduating from college. Pooling their resources, they scraped together just enough money to purchase a breathtaking plot of land cradled on three sides by the vast expanse of Utah’s Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Years passed, marked by camping trips, shared cocktails, and fond memories. As retirement loomed on the horizon, the friends, now firmly bonded, decided to elevate their cherished slice of heaven to a new level. Enlisting the expertise of Imbue Design, they sought to bring their decades-old vision to life, resulting in a modest yet remarkable off-grid desert retreat surrounded by the epic beauty of the national monument.

The primary goal was clear from the outset – the retreat had to honor the essence of the unique landscape while promoting a simple and harmonious way of life within it. The structure was meticulously placed near the base of a bluff, minimizing its visual impact from a distance while preserving stunning views from within. Crafted from rugged materials such as Cor-Ten steel, split-face concrete block, and cedar, the residence seamlessly blends into its surroundings, aging gracefully with the passage of time.

Comprising two volumes capped by shed roofs, connected by clerestory windows, the understated yet striking design prioritizes views, light, and breezes from the expansive desert panorama. Outdoor spaces flank every side, with living areas extending onto observation decks and patios, offering immersive experiences in the profound stillness of the desert landscape. Located miles away from utilities, the cabin is entirely off-grid, relying on a detached photovoltaic array for energy, a well for water, and a septic field for sanitation. To withstand the harsh desert climate, the retreat incorporates passive energy strategies, including calculated overhangs, thermal mass, and strategically placed operable windows, all encapsulated within a super-tight, super-insulated thermal envelope with high-performing windows.

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