Off-The-Grid Cabin Tour: A Visit With My Friend Steve

I sometimes think that kids and dogs can sense an essential truth about people before adults have time to shake hands. My dogs, and especially my daughter, are crazy for my friend Steve Chopp, and I’m convinced it’s because they can see the kind and gentle nature that I think of as his defining characteristic.

Steve lives in Halibut Cove, Alaska, where my parents have a summer cabin. In the years that I spent summers there running the small local ferry, Steve and I were co-presidents of HCRC – the Halibut Cove Running Club. We were also HCRC’s only members, and even though we only ran together a few times per summer, we tied for many awards.  Ever the civil servant, Steve has also appointed himself Director of Homeland Security for Halibut Cove, and alerts residents when the threat level goes from Classic Navy to Burnt Umber.

Fireweed blooming along the path to Steve's.

Fireweed blooming along the path to Steve’s.

When I asked Steve if I could do a cabin tour for the blog he shrugged, “sure.”  I told him don’t worry about cleaning up or anything, which in blogger speak means remove 90% of your personal belongings from sight and clean until your fingers are bloody nubbins and then put out a bowl of cherries with a few scattered on the counter (don’t let your finger stumps bleed on them!).  Steve promised he wouldn’t fret about it, and when my sister and I hiked up to his cabin the next day I was glad for reconfirmation that he is a man true to his word. Red House West | Cabin Tour Steve built his home mostly out of salvaged and scrap materials.  The house is one room – only about 500 square feet – but everywhere you look there are small, deliberate details.  The best part is that every tiny, beautiful detail you discover comes with a story, and Steve is a great storyteller.

Cabin tour | Red House West

A tree grows through the porch, in the company of tentacle-like metal rods.

The house is completely off-the-grid.  Perched on a high cliff, it gets pretty battered by wind especially in winter but the materials Steve chose make for virtually maintenance-free living.

Photo courtesy of Steve Chopp.

The cabin as seen from Kachemak Bay.  Photo courtesy of Steve Chopp.

Cabin Tour || Red House West

Cabin Tour || Red House West

The entryway

The entryway

Steve made these cabinets out of salvaged wood.  I've never seen anything like them, and my photo does not do them justice.

Steve made these cabinets out of salvaged wood. I’ve never seen anything like them elsewhere:  my photo does not do them justice.

Looking through an open cabinet door to the rest of the cabin.  That's my sister in the corner, exploring a collection.

Looking through an open cabinet door to the rest of the cabin. That’s my sister in the corner, exploring a collection.

Steve is pure artist.  He’s never read Red House West (though he promises he will now) and decorating and styling aren’t his bag.  His materials are things that he has found and collected, mostly on the rocky tidal swept beaches near his home.  He’ll collect, for example, sea-bleached vertebrae of various animals for years, keeping them in a cardboard box in his living room, while loose ideas for sculptures or light fixtures solidify in his mind. Red House West || Cabin Tour

Steve salvaged these lights from an old cannery.

Steve salvaged these lights from an old cannery.

Ceiling detail.  Photo courtesy of Steve Chopp.

Ceiling detail. Photo courtesy of Steve Chopp.

Steve was a commercial fisherman in Bristol Bay for years, and during down time he would go ashore to sandy beaches where he would take his shoes off and feel for Japanese glass fishing floats buried under the sand.  He’s given away a lot of his collection, but he’s also turned some into sculptures for his own home. Cabin Tour || Red House West

Steve fished in Bristol Bay for years, and during down time he would go ashore, take of his shoes, and feel for Japanese floats under the sand.  He made this sculpture from his collection.

Red House West || Cabin Tour This art above the cabinet (which Steve also made) is clam shells that he sanded down into squares and rectangles and then glued directly to the wall. The effect in person is subtle but stunning. Red House West || Cabin Tour

Detail from the clam shell sculpture in the setting sun.  Photo courtesy of Steve Chopp.

Detail from the clam shell sculpture in the setting sun. Photo courtesy of Steve Chopp.

And then of course there’s the view, which my photos really didn’t capture. Cabin Tour || Red House West

Red House West|| Cabin Tour Huge thanks to Steve for letting me share his amazing home here on Red House West, and thanks to you for reading along!  Check back in on Friday for our monthly DIY roundup!

29 responses on “Off-The-Grid Cabin Tour: A Visit With My Friend Steve

  1. Carol Crump Bryner

    I’m now officially in love with this little “cabin.” It seems totally unique to me – both the setting and the artistic quality of it. The collage made of shells is just fantastic. Thanks for this lovely post, Mera.

    1. meramatthews

      Thanks Carol! I’ve been seeing a lot of capiz shells in home furnishings lately, and Steve’s cabin made me realize the simple clam shell is too often overlooked.

  2. y2knina

    WOW. Just wow.

    I really love this post. Very evocative of your summer memories in an idyllic location and your love for your longtime friend. Also so funny! Toss up between threat level going from classic navy to burnt umber and the admonishment not to bleed on the bloggily (its a word) arranged cherries with your finger stumps as to which made me snort harder.

    I love Steve, too! His place is just amazing, so simple yet so artistically stunning. You can see his soul in his space. Again, I say, wow.

    And so true about dogs and people! They always know.

    1. meramatthews

      There are a lot of reasons that I love writing this blog, and reading your comments is definitely high on the list–thank you!

    1. meramatthews

      Awww, Halibut Cove memories! Did you know that the 30th anniversary of the Saltry is coming up next week?! Thanks Kori!

  3. minnnat

    Steve’s home, the site, the contents—-so astonishingly beautiful. I wish this guy had a blog so I could read more about his life off the grid. Thank you to Steve and you Mera for sharing this with us!

    1. meramatthews

      The idea of Steve writing a blog gave me a chuckle. I really only scratched the surface of all the wonderful treasures in his home, I should do a Cabin Tour Part 2! Thanks!

  4. Marlene Miller

    This is a truly wonderful post, Mera, highlighting Steve’s artistic soul, told in the most loving way. His cabin is an artistic gem – thanks to both of you for highlighting it so well.

  5. Susan Glassow

    I love this post too. Terry and I are looking at plans for building a studio/guest house and what good ideas we can glean (open spaces, the light, windows….) from your showing us iHalibut Cove’s beauty and the artistry of Steve’s life and home. The clam shell mosaic is brilliant.

  6. papict

    Wow! Wow! Wow! What a breath-taking home. The hand-crafted nature of it makes it unique and special. I especially love the clam shell piece and the wooden cabinets. Your friend has serious talent.

    1. meramatthews

      Even in Halibut Cove, where most of the homes are art-filled beautiful spaces, Steve’s is a real stand-out. Thanks for commenting!

    1. Krista Scully

      This post brought tears to my eyes. Steve’s home and how he’s filled the space is so soulful. Its poetry personified by space. So beautiful.

      1. meramatthews

        Speaking of poetry Krista, what a great comment! Steve’s home really is magical. Thanks for reading and for commenting!

    1. meramatthews

      The feeling is definitely mutual–I was just checking out The Happy Space Project yesterday (we follow you on Instagram)! So glad to see you here, thanks for stopping by! 🙂

  7. Tim Gaynor

    You rock Chopp Stix!! Beautiful cabin built by the hands of a beautiful human being. Thanks Mera for bringing the story to life. Steve seldom brings these stories or pictures home. Perhaps all he really wants is for all his friends and family to come up and stay with him at his home? Stay for the summer? Maybe for thirty years or maybe just his brother in law, just once more? Ttmyghmmmmm
    T

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *