Tag Archives: cabin

A House Without Walls

We’re crazy.

We like novelty. We are lovers of originality. Curiosities. Art. We want an A-frame house. An impractical, odd-looking, Alpined-out, pokey-pointy, I-Hop looking A-frame house. We’re on more solid ground this year, and we’re starting to think – in a very tentative way – about home loans. Let’s put it this way – If we get our courage up in the next few months, we might visit a few loan specialists.

Anyhow. Back to the A-frame. We’ve actually wanted one all along. When tossing that idea around out loud, I got a lot of negatives back. “You’ll have no vertical walls … the space is inefficient … too expensive … roofs are the most costly part of a house.”

I don’t really think so. You know how it is when you’re talking houses. Suddenly everybody’s a designer. At any rate – I have a suspicion that the naysayers are just plain wrong. I’m finding way too many builders that say A-frames are hands-down, the most cost-efficient of all home styles. After all, the roof is the walls – no wall framing, sheathing, siding. And I’m thinking, easy to heat.

As far as design goes, the odd interior space doesn’t bother me. Part of the whole A-frame milieu. I know some folks might not take to it, but I think it’s pretty neat. I figure you’re either an A-frame person or you’re not. On the outside, the shape fits our building footprint perfectly.

Another big plus is the limited amount of maintenance. Seriously. With the triangular shape and roof lines reaching to the ground, heavy snow loads are no big deal. No painting. No need to wash vinyl siding or take care of wood. And I like the extra living space in the loft. Spiral staircase, most likely. Don’t want to be climbing up a ladder when I’m 70.

The homes pictured here are maybe a little small for our plans. I found a reputable  blueprints/plans company that have stock plans for a 22×33′ house, which is just about exactly the footprint we’d like to build on. Need to get a quote for customizing, speak to bank-type folks and see if we’d be permitted to change a few things … altering windows and finishes and such. Need to check the foundation specs and such with our Codes Supervisor. All this work, and the thing is only a distant consideration!

Below is the front elevation from the actual house plan I’ve been looking at. I’d want it to be a little more Alpine (like the photo at the top of the page) and a little less California 60s Mod. Easy enough though. That’s all just windows and finishes, change the railing, add some verge board.

Generally need to get a handle on it all. It’s a pretty good Winter project, right?

You have a great day too!



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Cottage Conceptions

For those that are coming to the story late, I asked all my blog friends and readers to send me their idea of an awesome cottage. (I’m thinking of building on my own.) Readers here at The Pines are a pretty neat group, so I suspect that we’re going to have a virtual mini-encyclopedia of cabin and cottage designs here!

And it’s good for our blogs! Keep the cottage pics, links, and comments coming! I’ll post the links here, we’ll have a bit of a chat about them, and we’ll have a right proper Link Fest. Not a blogger? Play along anyway! Pass it on! I’d love it if you’d mention it on your blog or to friends – the more pics and links, the better!

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Now, Tricollie, she’s a lady after my own heart. I could live in just about anything as long as I had one of these. Truth be told, when I was jotting a thing or two down, I actually bumped out the walls of the bathroom and took space from the bedroom, so I could accomodate a real tub. Had a link issue, but this is the sort of thing we were talking about.

Lynne at The Blue Door Blog (love that house of hers!) suggested Strawbale building. If you’re not familiar, it works like this – A foundation is built, straw bales are stacked as walls (and fortified/tied with rebar or otherwise), then plastered hard with a natural Earth plaster.

Strawbale is a relative of Cob – mud/clay building. There was a time, Awesome Lynne, when I had every book published on all this. Went to a workshop! But, with our visibility, short build season, and a potential codes battle, I decided I didn’t have it in me. Love ’em though.

Allie from over at Good Things Challenge sent me a wonderful link! (She has a neat gardening post up, currently.) They’re planning on doing the Owner/Builder thing too, and made me aware of their go-to site, Country Plans. Via the link, I’m sending you to a particular cottage – because the construction photos were so good, they made me feel better!

Kathy sent me the link to these little cottages in Oregon. They’re absolute gems – looking at the photos of these gorgeous little things is like walking through an art gallery. Makes me wish we had more decent salvage from tearing down the junky house last Summer. (There was really nothing except some logs and lumber I saved.)

Vicki at Havenwood sent me this wonderful link. If you’re a follower of natural building methods or interesting cottages, you’ve probably seen this house. Friends and I have always called it The Hobbit House. I had somehow forgotten about it! I couldn’t do something like this around here, but it’s enough for me just to look at the thing. It’s amazing. Also, an awesome debunking on Vicki’s part – this photo circulates pretty frequently, but no one ever gives the link or location. Thanks!

Joanna at Boonedocks Wilcox is tugging at my heart strings! Oh, how I would love to build a cordwood house. I want one bad! You can likely tell from my favorite photo – they’re stacked and mortared hardwood. Two big issues for me though – I’ve never known a cordwood house that didn’t leak, and you really have to stay on top of tuck pointing the joints. There’s constant shrinking and expanding of the wood, so there’s constant pointing work. But I want one! It would be pretty safe to say that a cordwood house is my heart’s desire. I’ve studied them pretty hard, for several months last year actually. Maybe Joanna has convinced me to take another look.

To Sandy, I have to just plain say, “Thanks.” Hers are the kind of comments that make me feel like I’m not alone in all this. Sandy and her husband built their own house (over three years), and left a really lovely comment about the this-that-and-the-other thing when building for yourself. Thanks again, Sandy.

The Mac is a neighbor, they built their own home, and we share a Zodiac Sign. So it didn’t surprise me when the nicities she said I needed were exactly the things I have discovered it would be nice to have – 2×6 exterior wall, mud room, metal roof so the snow sheds itself, lots of windows! Mac also points us to the ultimate clearing house for those interested in building smaller – The Tiny House Design Blog. It wonderful. The author collects information in all types of tiny houses, and posts them for our edification on the blog.

John over at Adirondack Almanack suggests a great book (I love this stuff) called “How to Build Cabins, Lodges, and Bungalows,” a “straightforward manual details the construction process from foundation to roof, including chapters on porches, fireplaces, and furnishings.” Might be able to inter-library this one to check it out before I order one. Pretty neat – It’s been constantly reprinted. Awesome.

OldLadyMac sent me an awesome link – Shelter Kit. This is the sort of thing I love – I wouldn’t buy a kit house, mostly because … well, I don’t know why. I just wouldn’t. However, these kit house websites usually offer tons of information, and this one is a whopper. Lots of great photos, floorplans, photos. Awesome site.

Blessing the Elements send me word of a site I had never seen before – Natural Home Magazine. I think of it as more of an “inspiration site,” and frankly, I think that’s one of the most valuable components of this whole building-your-own-home enterprise. I always like to say – Take tons of time planning and dreaming, and enjoy yourself! This is a great site for that. Good reading here! Fun. Reads like a magazine. I found information here on Tiny Houses, Cob Houses, and all sorts of neat stuff. Read a great article about the 280 square foot cottage pictured.

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So, where does this put me? Maybe a few soft decisions have been made. I now know that we will be either building a standard construction framed cottage, or a cordwood cottage. I know both methods. I understand them. It’s important that I feel comfortable. I’m going to go back to look at my cordwood reading again.

After looking at more photos, I know that I positively need to do a simple “Alpine” or “English Country” thing. They feel right. I tried real hard to look at other styles, but I can’t wrap my mind around putting a non-rustic cottage amidst my spruces and pines.  I really believe that in the best of worlds, the home is part of the landscaping, part of a whole. I believe that ideally, the property is one piece, not several varied components.

At the mention of all this, my mind naturally wandering towards tree and perennial planting this Spring. There’s going to be a lot of that going on soon! I do a lot of planting around here – counteracting whoever stripped the lot clean 100 years ago. I have an endless supply of free White Pines and Lupins. Wouldn’t a little cordwood cottage look awesome among a property filled with those?

While we’re in a stream-of-conciousness mood –  I found a cottage name at natural Home Magazine that I really like. “Quietude.” Isn’t that cool?


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Design The Pines

(We’ve had some new friends coming to visit and offer links on the cabin/cottage topic, so I’ve brought this post back up to the top. Thanks, Friends and Visitors!)

When I checked out a book at the library today, the librarian saw my info on the computer screen and told me I carry my age very well. Isn’t that the kind of librarian we all hope for?!

I ran across a gem today. Perhaps a life-changing one. Long-time readers probably know that I’ve looked at everything concerning building your own cottage or cabin. Last year, I finally decided that a solid walkthrough of the whole building process, from soup to nuts, simply didn’t exist. Not one that I like and understand, anyway.

This is why I love our library. It wouldn’t be unusual to stumble upon a fascinating tome printed in the 1930s or so. This morning, I stumbled on “How to Build a Vacation or Retirement House” (1968). I took a look, and I got it. I understand every word. As they say, it spoke to me.

This book takes you through every single step of building a small home, in order, with drawings. I still needed to test it. “Foundations are tricky,” I thought. So, I read the chapter about foundations. I looked at the diagrams. Huh. Perfectly clear.

Change of plans. As if you’re surprised, I’m going to build the house myself. I kind of forgot I could do that. (Duh.) It’s perfect. Don’t care how many seasons it takes, and this way, we can do it a little at a time, on our own schedule. Foundation one season, framing the next, finish the next. That sort of thing. It’s permissible with our local codes, so heck. Why not?

Best part – a bank slate. No blueprints, no prefabs. Just an idea that I’d like it to be old-fashioned-like.

So, Friends, I’d like your help. Let’s Design The Pines together. Seriously. I’d like to look at as many gorgeous cottages as possible. Wanna help me look? What do you find beautiful in an old-fashioned way? I hope you’ll look around and send me some cottage images/links that you really love. Please post links in the comments section here. There are only three requirements – small, gorgeous, and old-fashioned.

Alpine style? Bring it on. Rustic? Awesome. English countryside? Um … perfect.

As long as pics and links are coming in, I’ll post them for us to comment on and chat about, along with a link to your blog. If you send me a bunch of them? Repeatedly? I’ll link to you repeatedly. Let’s up each other’s blog participation during these dark days, and have some fun. No blog? Play along anyway! Pass it on! I’d love it if you’d mention it on your blog or to friends – the more pics and links, the better!

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Little Houses I Have Known

As you know, friends, we’re on the tiny-house-hunt. Next Spring? Maybe. We hope so. We still have a model to go see at a local modular company, and I need to speak to a builder friend about the cost of a small frame house; but in the time being, I thought I would turn in my report on the other possibility, an Amish-built tiny house.

I really would like something that fits the character of the area. Woodsy. It’s become a bit of an “if it’s at all possible” priority. Funny thing being, we’d be the only woodsy ones in the neighborhood.

Below are some photos I took while visiting the builders. These are all a bit smaller than we would likely go with, but you get the idea. They’re completely custom, which I like. You can add, take-away, or change whatever you like. They are built to code, fully insulated, wired, and come with thermal windows and doors. (Those are all options, but of course, options we’d want.)

Pretty neat though. They can be put down on gravel, a slab, a raised wall foundation, whatever. I’ll be talking to our local codes guy in the next few months. A local friend had a slab poured (plumbing and all) and sited hers that way. We’ll see what Code Man has to say.

Take a look!

Above is the Side porch version – I think I like this layout better. The end porch style bugs me a little. Also, this version would be nice with the porch backwards – facing the yard. That is, the back of the house would be on the road. This one looks a little small. Looks like about 10′ wide by maybe 22′ long. Ours would likely be closer to 14′ x 36′.

End porch style. Still, nice. But I’d have to do away with those wavy corner pieces and the fake shutters. Faux touches drive me nuts.

Inside the door of the model above. Cedar walls and ceiling, electrical fixtures included. I’d have to do away with that standard-issue ceiling lamp though. I figure, if I get to choose, might as well be picky. Right?

Looking back toward the front door, same model.

Side porch model from a different builder. Built on-site with a taller roof, there would be space for a loft. However, with limited living room space, I don’t know if I would want a ladder coming down in the middle of it. Don’t really need it for sleeping because there would be a bedroom, but nice storage or guest space.

The next report will involve small modular/manufactured homes. My neat friend in the ‘Burgh told us that they now have a few pretty affordable versions with half-log siding and metal roofs. Hmmm.


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Hooked Up, Adirondack Style

I don’t know if I can adequately describe how happy I am to be hooked-up in the cabin – everything sorted out, no lumber to dodge, no pieces of the ceiling in the middle of the floor, no furniture stacked on top of furniture. I don’t even have to stumble over five things and sandwich myself behind a piece of insulation to sit at the piano. And the wood stove … aah, the woodstove. Nice to have the holiday decorations up too. You think I’m the first person to ever put a Christmas bow on an antique prop sword that was used in the Ziegfeld Follies? Yeah, probably.

Anyhow. Love the sheddycabin.

Sure, there is still some silver-colored ceiling … insulation showing that I need to put planks over. And you’ll see some OSB chip-board here and there. But it’s functional. And it’s awesome. And it’s warm. Well, heck. Don’t take my word for it. Here’s a few pics.


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The Franklin County Glitteratti

I was just reminiscing about the time Dr. Trudeau came by the house. Several times, actually. And Paul Smith came by repeatedly. And P.T. Barnum. Yes, yes. I wasn’t actually there. However, our little hamlet was the pass-thru to Paul Smith’s famous resort once upon a time. And after the railroad came in and the train station was built, our hundred-yard-hamlet was the station stop for the hotel, guests being taken the final two miles by coach. 

When we took down our unfortunate old house, we found a little something underneath it. The foundation, beams, and log joists from an very, very old log cabin. From photos, we were able to see that the house dated to at least 1915. But underneath, the original structure was much older. Before the 1880s, the only real structures were a few trapper cabins along the main road. Perhaps the solution to the mystery lies there.  There’s been a dwelling here on this old road a really long time. So, you see, all those folks really did pass within a few feet of our door. 

Town-wise, we’ve had John Burroughs, Thomas Edison and Harvey Firestone. Marjorie Merriweather Post moved in down the street, summers only. Calvin Coolidge was here, using Miss Post’s camp as a Summer White House. I imagine one or two of them must have cast a shadow on our old front porch, being as the village store has always been next door. 

True, the “new” Grange Hall (built in the 1930s) is now a good friend’s antique store. And the old Legion Hall has been turned into a beautiful house and studio. But most of the original building are gone. History disappears so easily. I used to idealistically think that I was not someone who would ever tear down a 130-year-old house. But, I’ve learned that a house is not good just because it’s old. Still, I felt a little bad about that; taking down the oldest house left.

I’m comforted a bit when I think about the fact that the original cabin foundation is now a rock wall along the front. And I have sixteen of those 150 year old logs from the original cabin structure. They’ll end up in our house, or maybe a nice, tough barn. I certainly can’t let that old trapper’s hard work go to waste.

Those rocks and logs belong to the property as far as I am concerned; and they’re staying right here.


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Close Enough for Jazz


What an astounding day on Sunday! Over 60 degrees, and sunny! It felt like late Summer. I was doing a little work outside/inside, and got to thinking about jazz. Really’, I said something our loud – the title of the post – that got me to thinking about it. Jazz tunes are largely based on studied improvisation. When something is good-enough-for-the-time-being, a popular musicianly phrase is “Close enough for jazz.” Meaning, “It’ll do.” 

That’s the current state of my Endless Cabin Project. The walls are done, except for a little stretch behind the piano. And some of the ceiling. But, it’s hardly horrible work, and I should have that part done soon. On the down side, the newest development is that even with the wall heater, it’s still kinda cold in there. I can turn on the big portable heater, but it’s a pain and it uses a lot of propane. Anyhow. With just the room heater – cold. Oh, it’s not over friends. I have to insulate the floor. 

I didn’t really ever mean the cabin to be a frosty Winter proposition, so I didn’t have it insulated by the builder. (Note to self – Plan ahead.) So, I have to insulate the floor. Or I could just get a woodstove, which puts out a ton of heat. Frankly, it might be less expensive too just get the woodstove. (Note to self – Add up cost of insulation, furring strips, and flooring.) Am I just telling myself that because I really want a stove? Probably.

000_2003Anyhow, it all worked out – A neighbor and I stirred up a barter – I mow her (small) patch of grass a few times a month next season, and she gives me all the 2x4s and plywood I need (plus the 8′ of leftover insulation she has). Awesome. All I’ll have to buy is the remaining insulation. 

All the same, it is awesome to have it mostly set up, and at least workable. As of last week, there were still big panels of insulation stacked against the walls, and the wood planks were taking up about a fourth of the space. Nowadays, even with the unfinished nooks and crannies, it’s pretty neat to hang out in there! I had me a right nice case of writers’ block in there today. 

I suppose I have another Winter project on my hands. Or, ya know, I could just buy that wood burner I want.


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