Cabin Design: Feed Shed to Cottage
Designing our cabin layout using recycled materials.
When Mike and I started dreaming of a cabin on the ocean we imaged a small 1-2 bedroom shack where we could spend the night. Perhaps a small one bedroom with a loft, or maybe an A frame. Somewhere we could stay in the summer with our sailboat moored off in the harbor.
However, as we fell in love with the land and harbor, we imagined our family and friends visiting. Our cabin could be a gathering place for our large family. I have 3 siblings and 3 step sisters, and Mike has 2 sisters. Add to that spouses, parents, and an army of nieces and nephews and our little shack is getting crowded. We started thinking about a slightly larger cabin, but money was a real limiting factor for us.
Enter the "Feed Shed" in all its glory. Behold:
Mike and I are very lucky in that we own and operate a small manufacturing company. Part of our business operates out of rental building which used to serve as a Chicken Coop and Egg Packaging Plant. Next to the building we rent was an old "Feed Shed". The building was located next to the old rail bed, trains would deliver feed to the building for the chickens.
Since the closure of the Egg Plant the building has broken in to and vandalized. In the fall of 2017 while working next door, we heard noises coming from the Feed Shed. Upon investigating we discovered someone had entered the building and sawed-out and removed several supporting trusses. Apparently a local was stealing lumber and compromising the structural integrity of the building. If there was a snow-load on the roof the building could easily collapse, this was concerning to us since teenagers constantly broke into the building to hang-out. Mike called the owner of the buildings and shared his concerns.
The owner was also concerned about the hazard, so he and Mike came up with a plan. If Mike was able to deconstruct the old feed shed, he was free to keep whatever materials he could salvage! Talk about turning a problem into a solution... with some hard work we would have free lumber, plywood, in-tact walls and trusses. The building was 32' wide and at least 70' long, so if even a portion of the material was salvageable that would be significant.
The width of the building was 32' long, the length of the trusses. We had enough trusses for an entire cabin so we decided to go with a cabin ~30' wide. We landed on 26' wide, so that the trusses would overhang the cabin 4' in the front and 2' in the back. We then thought about doing a simple cabin 26' x 30'... BUT we both really wanted a vaulted ceiling in the living area. The trusses had a low pitch, and lots of wooded supports so they wouldn't work for a vaulted ceiling. The vaulted portion of the cabin would require new materials.
We had gathered our recycled materials in 2017 and didn't start construction until the summer of 2019 so we had a long time to mull over our design. We eventually decided that we would build the cabin for the future, and do what we really wanted. We didn't want to regret our design down the road so we went with our gut and designed a classic chalet.
Our cabin would have a 26' x 46' footprint (after we built our foundation the dimension increased to 26' x 47'). The cabin would have 2 wings on each end, each 14' x 26', utilizing the recycled trusses. In the middle we would build a vaulted/cathedral ceiling running front to back. The picture below is a rough sketch of our cabin design.
The 1st wing (on the far left) would have our master bedroom, a large bathroom, and a small room for either an extra bathroom, closet, or bedroom. The 2nd wing (the far right) would have a large mudroom and two bedrooms. The middle room would be an open concept kitchen, dining, living room with the wood stove. The middle room would also have a small loft located on the back of the cabin above the kitchen. See the drawing below for a general layout (not to scale).
It was really important to us to have a large porch (mudroom), to keep the cold out in the winter, and also lots of storage space for coats and boots. We also wanted a large bathroom, several closets, and an area off of our bedroom for a bathroom or closet in the future. Hallways off of the main room would minimize the doorways in the main living area, and create some separation for bedrooms and bathrooms.
In the main living area we planned to run the kitchen along the back wall. Lower cabinets, a double sink, a propane stove, and wood burning oven were some of the second hand items we have accumulated over the last 2 years. We'd place a table and maybe a kitchen island in the middle of the room. The wood stove would be placed in the living room near the entrance to the mudroom, surrounded by chairs and couches. The front of the cabin would feature a large window and garden doors (eventually leading to a patio). Above the kitchen we would have a loft for extra guest space, most likely accessible by a ladder.
Now that our cabin was designed the challenge was to transform the old feed shed into an ocean front cottage. Follow along with us as we share how we built our cabin from scratch, using recycled materials, and the help of only friends and family!
A great place to start is our series on Building the Foundation.