If We Build It, What Will Come?
Welcome back to Future Cottage—here's the latest in chic metal siding, mysterious leaks, and planting bulbs for someday.
Welcome back to our “Future Cottage” series, tracking the progress, the challenges, and the breakthroughs as we build a modern, energy-efficient cabin for under $120k (the budget began at $100k, but, yeah, the pandemic changed all that). As part of our ATA Paid Family, more updates will be coming to you monthly, so stay tuned as our Future Cottage finds its groove.
Our sweet Future Cottage at sunset accompanied by a bulldozer we’ve been waiting for three weeks to show up…it finally did.
It’s nearly December, which, when you're building a house of any size, means a few things: 1. You’re literally racing against the calendar to get everything winterized before the hardcore upstate variety of cold weather (i.e.: motherfuckin’ COLD) messes with everything. And 2. You start getting real—like, really real—more than Real World real—about finances, incoming bills, and the serious business of reconciling budgets for the coming year.
Aside from the million house-keeping responsibilities and practicalities that come with any home project, there is also something spiritual, maybe even karmic, about building a house. Big, tiny, mobile, or as permanent as they come, there is symbolism in physically laying down a foundation—envisioning a house’s rooms, its windows, the various views over meadows and seasons… as well as those church-like mountains in the distance. There is also the thrilling, ceremonial part of choosing every single element of the house’s identity…and conjuring its spirit, one square foot after another. And, it’s not just the big parts like floors and roof slabs, but the finer things, too. Mostly the finer things. Details you really need to be close to in order to notice, like a friend’s fragrance. A special doorknob, a vintage coat hook, a perfectly placed shelf (exactly where a shelf should be!), “moments” someone might only discover by actually stepping inside and getting to know the house for themselves. Which is exactly the part that excites me…and makes me feel so alive in this process. Somehow, giving this little building life itself…or is it the other way around?
I swear, the house is gonna be great.
There are 206 bones in the human body. In a house—even if it’s just 650-square-feet —I wonder if that number could be nearly the same? I find this responsibility of piecing together these building blocks both extremely tedious and also incredible. Even though my partner Kevin is choosing a lot of it—regularly going loopy over the 497 styles of brushed metal door hinges to choose from—I am going a little nuts myself, looking at how all these materials will come together and be used…or misused. Because I feel a certain curiosity, or even responsibility in questioning and experimenting. Not just with the cost of things, both economically and environmentally, but learning how to unlearn certain traditions or home logics many of us were raised with, asking myself over and over: Do we really have to do it that way? I once saw a yellow metal construction-style staircase on wheels in the Nick Cave piece Crystal Cloudscape, at MOCA. I remember thinking then, Wouldn’t that kind of bright-colored metal staircase be wonderful in a small house? This practice of exploring tools and materials in ways that might not be so expected has become a panacea for all the harder, more pragmatic stuff.
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