We all make sacrifices, and between maintaining a job and raising a family, the sad truth is many of our personal dreams fall to the wayside, carried downstream by the current of life. Take Bruce Porter for example, who purchased a small 3/4 acre parcel of land on a remote island off the coast of Maine, and then spent the next 30 years dreaming of the cabin he would someday build there. Over the years he built many different ideas in his head, but it wasn’t until his daughter Alex grew up and became an architect that his dream finally materialized. She helped him create this 550-square-foot offgrid escape you see here. This story represents the realization of his lifelong dream, born from his daughter’s shared vision and resolve to provide her father a special sanctuary.
This masterpiece in design and elegance came about only through many years of persistence and the dedicated help of community and family. Located on Ragged Island, Maine it was designed by Alex for her father, Bruce Porter, a retired journalist and professor at Columbia University. It combines so many amazing design elements, from the simple yet satisfying architectural style, to the offgrid power and other features that make it a fully sustainable cabin designed for a rugged environment.
Only about ten other families live on the island, mostly lobstermen, and they often use gas or diesel-powered generators. Alex and her Father didn’t want the hassle of a generator so they devised their own solutions. Power comes from a solar system attached to the roof of the south-facing screened porch, and a small wood stove keeps the cabin toasty when the temperature drops. The shed roof feeds water into a sophisticated collection tank and they use propane to heat the water and power the kitchen range. Aluminum cladding shields the house from the elements, and like other cabins we’ve seen that survive in harsh environments this one includes panels that slide over the windows, covering them and protecting the exterior. They even use a refrigerator that was originally designed to keep medical supplies cold for offgrid use in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The Challenge of Building On An Island
Building a house like this on an island twenty miles off the coast presents a unique challenge in terms of delivering the building supplies. As with every step of the building process, Alex carefully thought how to deliver the locally sourced building materials, and settled on using an amphibious Vietnam-era Army landing craft that could drive straight up the beach. A riding lawnmower helped move lumbar from the beach to the build site. The location also required most of the build to be completed without the luxury of power tools.
The interior walls use diagonally arranged white pine boards for visual appeal, and Alex used locally sourced materials you might not think belong in a house, like cattle fencing for the loft fence and plumbing pipe for the railing. The small wood stove sits on a platform of local beach stones. They use a Sun-Mar composting toilet since there’s no such thing as septic systems and sewers on the remote island.
Photos courtesy: Eirick Johnson
Every Drop Counts
With the remote location and harsh winters, the cabin doesn’t make for a year-round living. It’s better suited as a place to escape it all, to write, relax, and play a game of cards. Given how long it took to complete the build, the days, weeks, and months they spend here over the course of time are priceless to this family, and like the water they save from the roof, every drop counts.
Visit the Alex Scott Porter Design website to see more of her work.