Joe: Making Space For Minimalist Living

Joe: Making Space For Minimalist Living

Around eight hours from the lush, famously rainy city of Portland is the Alvord Desert. It’s the driest place in Oregon, popular for dramatic scenery and for the small hot spring that’s been developed into a natural hot tub. As I pulled into the parking lot of the Alvord Hot Springs, I immediately noticed a striking small home I had to learn more about. It turned out to belong to Joe, the current host of the hot springs and campground, who made the home himself. He was kind enough to show me through the space, share some of his story, and let me share some photos of his amazing creation.

Sleeping loft and exterior

Joe sleeps in a crow’s nest loft at the front of the space.

Joe had owned a conventional home before, but told me, “I see no benefit in having a house anymore.” While it has wheels and a steering wheel (visible under a blanket, below the sleeping loft) he doesn’t see his home as an RV. He just calls it “minimalist living.”

Tiny home kitchen and window to the desert

The kitchen and porthole window to the Alvord Desert

Joe built his home after completing another house. He said he had always been fascinated by building and construction techniques, and loved creating a unique design. “I don’t have to hang much art, because the house is art,” he said. With his home’s mixture of metal, wood and glass, this would be true anywhere, but it was especially evident in the desert landscape where he’s settled for the moment.

Joe Weissbeck's minimalist tiny home

Joe built the home a few hours away and had it towed to the Alvord Desert to begin his stint as the camp host of the hot springs. He dug depressions into the ground for the wheels to create a low profile and a feeling of permanence while he’s settled there. The Alvord Desert is a wild landscape. It’s part of Oregon’s largest county, but the county population is under 10,000, with a population density of about one person per square mile. Portland’s, for reference, is about 4,000 people per square mile. Most towns in the area aren’t much more than a combined general store and gas station, separated by an hour or two of public lands and private ranch operations. Joe seems to enjoy living in the remote area. He smiled knowingly as he told me, “I’ve lived in Portland. I like the country better.”

Alvord Desert Hot Springs

For the moment, Joe’s backyard and office.

Joe was extremely friendly and welcoming, even letting me hold Herman, his African Gray Parrot, who he’s had for years. He’s had many excited visitors that come to use the hot springs and can’t help but ask about his unique home. He also seemed open to building for others, so if you’re interested, you can send compliments and inquiries his way at josephweissbeck at

Home interior and exterior

Me and Herman, Joe’s African Gray Parrot

While I only had a few minutes with Joe, I knew that his impressive creation would be exciting to a lot of the same people interested in my ebook Life in a Tiny House: Ten Inspiring Stories About How Your Home Can Change Your Life.  You can also sign up for my mailing list for more stories about people who make unlikely choices to improve their lives.


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  1. Awesome. Love how he designed the natural light to come through between the sections.

  2. Oh my gosh! Just when I thought I had seen the epitome of cleverness in Tiny Houses, in rolls Joe. What an amazing structure! Are those white looking bands that go up and over the roof actually windows? The colors and mix of materials are absolutely beautiful and so relaxing. Does that front part actually roll down the road like that? Where are the lights? Sorry for so many questions, but I am utterly fascinated by this tiny house. Thanks for sharing!

    • Hi Marsha! The clear/whiteish gaps between sections are glass, yes. Joe tried to explain their construction to me a little, but I couldn’t keep up with him. And the two story front seems fixed, so I imagine it travels that way. And that’s an excellent question about lights! There’s one blue light bulb visible behind me and Herman the parrot, right above the keyboard, but that’s the only one I can spot in the photos. Maybe there was a hanging fixture in the center of the house, above where I was standing and shooting from.

  3. This looks like a space station or something from another planet. I love it!!! Just looking at it you can see his personality. Not everyone could live in something like this, but that’s the whole point! You make something to reflect who you are and what matters most to you. Thanks so much for sharing this!!!

  4. First—I love the photo of you staring down the parrot. Second–this is amazing! So many questions–did he start with a bus or rv and build it out? Thanks for sharing this!

    • Hey Joan, you have another great question I don’t have the answer to. We didn’t talk much about the actual construction process. That’s why it’s nice to prepare for these conversations in advance – I can actually keep track of what I want to know!

  5. Somebody ought to do a full story on Joe and his minimal house construction. With existing photos along the way. Its a wanna see progression.

  6. As a former Airstream owner, I am awed! FANTASTIC!

  7. This house is amazing!
    Love looking at the creative spirit of others!

  8. So much to “awe” about! : the light! The color! The ambiance! The beautiful Gray! The design! Please, Please someone give us more. How was it built? When? Over / on what? Don’t suppose the answers to all the questions! Get them!

  9. Wow, what a delightful home, reflecting the owner’s unique perspective on life. It’s probably the best tiny home I’ve seen yet.

    I’ve had the honor of spending time in the Alvord Desert; it’s a beautiful, solitary place. Perfect environment for those of us who seek a simpler, more basic way of living. Even though I live on the Oregon Coast, which has a few tiny things in its favor — 🙂 — I was in awe of the Alvord’s incredible beauty when I visited. The desert is most assuredly not lifeless; it contains a multitude of qualities worth honoring. If ever I left my beloved Coast, the Alvord is where I’d head. Bravo, Joe; you’ve created a unique refuge with minimal impact on our precious Mother Earth!

  10. Thank you for what you have shared here.
    I have known Joe for a couple of years, and never seen his extraordinary home. I am very impressed with what you show here, but an not at all surprised. He is a beautiful, humble spirit, whose presence will affect you. If you ever get the opportunity, spend some time with Joe. I am inspired to go visit him in the desert at Alvord.



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