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Cabin Design; living the dream and the rookie mistake that never goes away

Guest post by Michael Hayward

It was a little over ten years ago when I broke ground on my first cabin build.

I had made the purchase of a remote bush lot four years earlier and in that time dreamed up dozens of ideas of how I'd build.

A unique aspect of this build was the 4 km of foot travel required to get there. Weekend by weekend I'd slug in another load of lumber strapped down to my homemade rickshaw through the buggy woods. Each trip had its share of chaos; maybe a broken wheel or rollover, and always push my to my physical limits.  At the end of each trip I'd neatly stack up the boards and step back to admire the growing pile, eager to build.

That pile eventually did get big enough to start framing. I had pondered the view over the small lake from a few different spots and eventually settled upon one. It wasn't where I normally camped when I went up, but had a great long view of the lake.

I imagined the vista from the loft of the A-frame inspired cabin, nestled in a valley at the southern part of the lake. As soon as the snow melted I would get a jump on building.

Spring turned to summer then fall. I spent more and more time in this spot, swinging a hammer and sawing away.  The cabin was taking shape and what was just a sketch, after so many treks in and hard labour was coming to be.

By the time the build was done and I had spent a lot more time there. As warm and sunny as it was out on the lake or walking around the woods, I noticed it was always cool at the cabin. The sun never quite reached it and was always hidden behind the stand hemlock trees. That undying urge you had to go swimming on the hike in, quickly faded upon arriving to the shady shelter, never seeming to get more than 19°C inside-even on the hottest days.

Years have passed and as special as it is in my heart, I've never really been able to shake how I would have situated and located it differently. Barring the idea of cutting down all the woods running up the hill behind, or picking up and moving the cabin with a helicopter, I haven't yet been able solve this problem let alone  elegantly.

While I may never be able to change what has already been built, and will occasionally get reminded from time to time by distant neighbours that I found the darkest part of the woods; I did learn from it.

I wish I had known then what I know now to better reap the rewards for all the effort, sweat and slogging that went into it. The next build would end up flourishing where the first fell short. Learning a new space and how it changes through the days and seasons will prove most valuable when coming up with or choosing your design.  Part of this is from time spent on site and part through learning to understand the sun, seasons and how that will impact the building within it.

With a little insight, foresight and practical planning you can avoid designing a beautiful place with a great view, but forever long for the rays of sun just out of reach.

Mike Hayward leads Minga's Tiny Homes and Cozy Cabins design courses. Check out our Upcoming Workshops page for upcoming dates.


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