Lloyd Alter


One of the benefits of building a seasonal cabin, or in a location where heating or cooling are not required, is that you can dispense with drywall and insulation and just let the structure all hang out. No places for mice to nest, nothing to ever paint, no hidden spaces to worry about. You also don't have to worry about double glazing and sealing the place up as tight as a drum as you do when you are trying to keep heat in or out.

Single glazed windows, especially those with divided lights, also have much lovelier proportions than the clunky crossbars that divide double glazed units. I scrounged as much as I could for this project; the doors came from an office renovation, are in fact interior doors but have stood up to the weather for fourteen years. The dining room table is in fact a slab of bowling lane from a demolished bowling alley. The side table to the left was made from the wooden flooring for shipping containers.

It used to be hard to find this kind of stuff; almost everything just went to the dump. Now, Habitat for Humanity has stores across North America where you can buy donated building materials and support their work, while getting quality stuff with character. In many cities, there are local businesses and non-profits that recycle building materials- here is an example in Buffalo. Deconstruction has become big business.

I didn't build it this way because I was cheap, although I did save a lot of money; I didn't do it for environmental reasons, although I have always tried to use an economy of means when I built anything.

Most of all, it was to get a certain character, a feeling that we had always been there rather than dropping in something new. There is a patina of history in used materials, a back story that adds to the richness of the building experience. The warmth of the old wood can be felt on the coldest nights.