Tiny Garden Retreat on New York's Long Island

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By Diana Budds
In New York’s Nassau County, a 125-square-foot garden retreat offers a haven from bustling contemporary life.

As an artist, Jerome A. Levin seeks to restore a sense of magic that modern life has lost. "We live in a world of simulations, of shadows, of media—not of reality," he says. When building a backyard playhouse for his three children, Levin took a similar approach. "I tried to create an intimate environment that appeals to the senses in a concrete way," he says.

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Though diminutive in size, Jerome A. Levin’s backyard structure has lofty ambitions. “I wanted to create a place that feels like it has no connection to the world it stems from,” Levin says. Photo by Dustin Cohen.

Trained in fine arts at Otis College of Art and Design and in philosophy at UCLA, Levin has strong beliefs about what living in a small space can accomplish: "With the right disposition of mind, it enables you to think differently about your surroundings and your peers," he says. "The aim is no longer one of exponential physical growth and material acquisitions but of serene reflection. I wanted my children to have that experience."

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Through the pocket door and window, the Levin family can spy the verdant garden. Photo by Dustin Cohen.

Over the course of a year, Levin designed and built a 125-square-foot structure—dubbed the "Metapod"—in his spare time. It all started when Levin salvaged a large pane of glass from the street. He saw potential in the material to frame a portion of his Roslyn Harbor, New York, yard, transforming the plants and environment into a living Impressionist painting of sorts. Levin picked an unused portion of his quarter-acre lot for the Metapod’s site. He oriented the entrance to the east and placed the window to the west so that the kids—who often host sleepovers in the structure—can easily spy sunrises and sunsets. Inside, Levin modeled the minimalist layout after train sleeper cars. Above the desk and study space, he constructed a foldout sleeping loft, accessed by a ladder.

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Laminate floors by Dream Home, an Abbyson Living sofa, a desk, and a sleeping loft outfit the interior. Photo by Dustin Cohen.

To Levin, the project’s success lies in its ability to create a miles-away feeling. "It’s a peaceful and communal retreat from a bombastic world—cozy, inviting, and conducive to daydreaming," he says. "It’s almost monastic in the way one feels harmonized with the lush surroundings." 

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Levin’s daughter Charlotte and son, Dylan, both 11, finish homework in the Metapod. A linen curtain purchased on Etsy helps regulate the amount of light entering the space. Photo by Dustin Cohen.