The name of this squared-off cabin on the Big Island of Hawaii seems more appropriate than ever, with nearby Kilauea destroying homes and forcing evacuations: “Phoenix House is a minimalist tiny home compound born from the lava and in reverence to the temporal nature of our lives.”

Temporal, indeed.

“We built this house with deep respect for Mother Earth,” said designer Will Beilharz, of ArtisTree, which is known primarily for its treehouses. “For that reason, you will find the design minimalist, the development footprint light, and the result is one with its surroundings.”


Phoenix is located in an off-grid community near Kanapala, on the southeast coast of Hawaii. Although no structure is likely to blend in on a plain of bare lava, Beilharz built the cabin to mimic the tones and sensibilities of it. The exterior wood is charred using the Japanese technique known as shou sugi ban, in which a blow torch, often an ice-melting torch, is used to blacken the material, highlighting its texture and rendering it waterproof. (See the process here.)

It was not an easy build, writes ArtisTree.

“To start, this is not the normal construction site,” the company describes. “The lava is an extremely uneven surface, with human-sized crevasses, sharp jetting lava boulders, and porous glass-like shards of lava strewn about the place. We had no road leading to the build, we would park about 100 yards from the actual site and walk all materials out to the location from the truck through this treacherous scene. With no shade out on this exposed landscape, the sun was intense and harsh. The wind whipped past our faces like a slap to the cheek.”

One day, lead builder Jeff Buss was carrying plywood to the site when a gust caught him. “He almost flew away until he realized he was just going to have to let it go. This became a major theme for us out there, letting go,” they write.

When the volcanic eruption settles down, if you want to see those dynamic forces of nature up close and for yourself, and if Phoenix survives, you can rent it at Airbnb from $181 a night.

Photos by Smiling Tree

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