I was looking at one-room schoolhouses lately and found the aesthetic very similar to cabins and tiny houses. The setup is almost the same with one door, one wood stove, typical windows, and that's about it. I wonder if it's possible to model my cabin on such a school.
The similarities don't just extend to the exterior. In a lot of ways, the layout - everyone facing forward - applies to a lot of cabins which are also oriented the same for the most part. Most of the direction of life ultimately takes one aim. With space for just a small table and chair, a bed, and a fireplace, the Walden House fits this aesthetic nearly perfectly. I don't think I'll be building the cabin in the Walden frame exactly, but there will be a lot of similarities.
My cabin will be 8 x 12 feet to the exterior - after a lot of back and forth fluctuating on dimensions - and there will be one wood stove, two standard windows and a window on the door. Getting light from multiple directions was very important. And maybe one folding table and a chair. I haven't settled on the table or chair completely because any flat surface tends to quickly get covered in junk I don't need.
Not leaving space for clutter is a key goal and I also want to make built-in closets that will house the bedding and such. I'm tempted to go the Japanese route with a sliding door closet to both save space and keep the doors simple and dust-free. It can then extend the full height of the cabin as well. I also wanted to avoid using a full bed to save space. I considered a folding bed like a Murphy bed, but that too is a bit of a hazard and that's one more wall that I can't use for storage. A roll up futon is the next best option and it doesn't have the hazards of permanent fixtures or frames. And it's a lot easier to take outside and dust whenever needed. Life is impermanent as well and embracing that feels important.
I decided "The Cabin" will actually be 4 small structures:
- Main living cabin (8 x 12)
- Library or study (6 x 6 or 8 x 8, budget permitting)
- Outhouse and shower (6 x 6)
- Solar power shed (4 x 12)
Dedicating resources to heating and cooling structures I'm not immediately using felt wasteful in the long run. Besides, multiple structures give me an excuse to venture outside, which is one of the wonderful side benefits of cabin life. Smaller structures also let me live in a complete building quickly instead of having to live with the detritus and mess of construction, as is the case during the construction of larger dwellings, when all these things are under one roof.
The solar power shed will contain the batteries, the inverter, and cables. The powered structures will be wired with direct burial cable. This is a lot simpler and less expensive than running thick, heavy cables from the batteries to the cabin. And this gives me the flexibility to place the solar power shed out in the Sun and almost in direct contact with the solar panels. I decided the panels will be mounted on a fixed frame on the ground for easy cleanup of snow and less susceptibility to strong winds.
The other structures will be in the shade most of the time to take advantage of natural cooling during the summer. When the leaves fall in autumn and winter, the sun will bathe the structures in natural warmth so I can reduce wood heating to mostly nights.
I've debated whether or not I should wire up the library for electricity. Power could mean access to the computer, which I plan to take with me, and potentially the internet, which has given me great access to information at the cost of destroying my ability to focus on anything in particular for any meaningful length of time. The solitude of not being connected is something I've missed. And limiting the library to daylight hours creates a schedule for intellectual consumption. I believe schedules are important to all forms of consumption, including nutrition and information.
All of the structures will be within line-of-sight with potentially the solar power shed outside of that range. The decision to keep the outhouse away from the main structure was met with some criticism when I discussed it with friends, but I think this too is important to my peace of mind.
There's a wonderful treatise by Junichiro Tanizaki called "In Praise of Shadows". It had a strong influence on most of my decisions regarding the cabin and the lifestyle I've pursued since reading it. The outhouse is a taboo subject, as are most subjects related to bodily functions, but this taboo is personality limiting and ultimately self-decpetive. Everyone poops. Pooping is endemic to our species so hiding its function is both a lie and, ultimately, counter-productive. The solitude of the outhouse is one of the subjects discussed in "Shadows". The respite it gives the mind from the performance art we call "society" will be most welcome.
Most of my time will be spent in the main cabin, including cooking and sleeping, followed by the library. The main cabin and the library will be the only two structures with a wood stove.
I don't have a timeline for construction and I haven't even selected the land yet. There are many options in upstate New York, but few are cheap and buildable. I was searching for solitude, not isolation so I wanted to avoid lands where there are very few neighbors and even fewer emergency services. I'll be living by myself after all and life is not without risk.