The key to this project was not overdoing it. "For a long time, we actually called it the Far Bedroom," says architect Joanna Shaw of Winkelman Architecture, and the end result—the 570-square-foot Far Cabin in Mid-Coast, Maine—doesn’t stray far from the original plan with just a bedroom, bathroom, and screened porch.
The clients, a couple with two children, have a longstanding tradition of spending summers here. They asked for a modest, remote retreat that friends and extended family could also use when visiting the area. Winkelman Architecture crafted a compact cabin that treads lightly on the wooded coast using materials that will patina over time to better reflect the natural surroundings.
The design process started with walking through the property to identify the perfect site. "One obvious move might be to find the place with the best ocean view and plop something down that’s big enough for everybody," says Shaw. "But that felt just too cumbersome on the land."
Instead, the team noted areas that should be left untouched—the water’s edge, rock outcroppings, stands of trees—so that the owners could later appreciate them from afar. Thanks to the cabin’s large windows, glass doors, and screened porch, the forest seems to "flow through" the building in an unencumbered way.
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For the interior, Winkelman Architecture considered "somebody’s ritual habits of waking up, what they do during the day, and going to sleep," and devised a restrained floor plan in accordance.
Measuring 150 square feet, the screened porch comprises over a quarter of the living space. It evolved "not so much out of the original program, but out of us spending time on the site," recalls Shaw. It allows the inhabitants to enjoy the outdoors without being feasted upon by black flies and mosquitoes, and provides another sleeping area in warmer months. Views of the ocean filter through the trees.
From the streamlined exterior that gently weathers over time to the play of shadows cast by the rafters, everything about the cabin is designed to keep its inhabitants in sync with the natural world.
"In a place that’s so remote and tucked away, it’s this really beautiful, graphic way of being in touch with nature changing," says Shaw.