Photos by Tristan S.
When Tristan S. and his young family moved from Houston, Texas, to the mountains of western North Carolina, he was looking for a new project. Something that checked a couple boxes — a hands-on way to further his interest in construction (Tristan is a residential structural engineer by day) as well as create an extra income stream on the side. Enter: the backyard cabin rental. Armed with his professional engineering background and a healthy curiosity, Tristan decided to build the structure from scratch.
“One of the main aspects of my interest in it stems from engineering. I wanted to do the other side — the construction side,” explains Tristan. “I always had that motivation, that interest to learn, so this project has been extremely fulfilling. When I go in the cabin and I look around, I think, ‘This is amazing. I built this — and by myself!’ It’s a very rewarding process, even though it’s difficult.”
Tristan certainly doesn’t shy away from sharing those difficult parts, like trying to balance the project with other time commitments, weather issues, permitting and the challenges of working alone. Currently about halfway through, Tristan has tackled every step of the process independently. According to his records, he has spent a year on the project and expects roughly another year to complete it at his current rate of four to eight hours of working on it per week, since he must also balance full-time work and family life. On top of that, Tristan films, edits and posts YouTube videos capturing every step of the process. With some of his family back in France, Tristan says the channel keeps them connected from afar.
“I know my dad and brother are watching it, so it’s also a great way to share what I’m doing and stay in touch. Even though they can’t visit very often, it’s a way for them to feel like they’re a part of my projects, and they know what I’ve been up to.”
But he also hopes the channel inspires like-minded cabin enthusiasts. On his website, Tristan offers a free copy of the floor plan, elevations and stud plan for curious viewers. Otherwise, fans can follow along as Tristan documents his backyard cabin building adventure on his YouTube channel, @TheDIYCabinGuy.