Scott Newkirk is a fashion stylist and interior designer based in New York, and as you can imagine he has a pretty busy schedule during the week. However, when spring arrives he spends every weekend he can in his small, off-grid cabin located in Yulan, NY.
The rustic cabin is only 300 square feet in size and has no running water or electricity. The lack of modern amenities reflects Newkirk’s wish to “switch off” from the busy life he leads during the week. There’s no TV, and definitely no computer. If he wants to take a bath he has to visit the nearby brook. It’s truly off-grid, a complete disconnect from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Before building his beautifully finished cabin, Newkirk had been visiting the site and staying in a wood-frame tent. Unfortunately the wood-frame tent was burned down. Not one to be dismayed Newkirk seized the opportunity to create a more permanent structure on the land.
After reading the 1973 eco-architecture book, Handmade Houses: A Guide to the Woodbutcher’s Art, Newkirk was inspiring to create his own small, handcrafted house constructed from recovered and salvaged materials. After the tent fire in 2003, he started to sketch out his own ideas.
The cabin measures only 14-by-14 feet and took two years to complete, with the help of three different builders. According to Newkirk it was difficult to find local builders that embraced his ideas concerning simple, eco-friendly construction: “I finally found a talented and dependable local guy, Craig Petrasek, to complete construction with reclaimed wood, extend the deck area, and build the stone patio.”
The cabin is constructed with a traditional post-and-beam frame. Several reclaimed elements have been incorporated, including old square-head nails that have been used to fast the exterior siding and floor. The side windows are handmade, whereas the large glass-panelled windows on the front are standard aluminium frames that have been clad in wood.
The completed project also contains an outhouse, guest house and an outdoor shower. From Newkirk: “The house reminds me of every fort I built in the woods as a kid growing up in Jackson, Mississippi.” His parents visit every year and stay from July to October in another cabin that’s also off-grid and without modern utilities. “I stress that, because they actually live off the grid full-time, and they are 75 years old. Being able to provide them with a getaway and spend time with them is pretty precious.”
For more retreats check out Quebrada House, a lofted getaway hidden among the trees of a forest in central Chile. Or the Sol Duc, a 350 square foot cabin on stilts designed by Olson Kundig Architects. See all retreats.
Photos: Dean Kaufman