Finding the right team to build the cottage was critical to ensuring that the process went smoothly. We were so incredibly lucky to find the most amazing crew you could imagine headed by Mike Carty (middle) of Level Design Build along with his brother Ken Brake (left) and friend Aaron Chychul (right).
In the case of a super intense project like this one, it is essential that you trust your team, and more importantly that you like them, since you spend A LOT of time together — especially when you're off the grid and water access. This team made the building process a pleasure for both of us and they were the perfect match for collaborating with Arriz. All of them are hardcore outdoor enthusiasts with a love and respect for nature and they fully embrace sustainable practices. If you want to see what authentic ‘green’ living really looks like, these are your guys. Check out the incredible camping experience they had in Minesing swamp. They didn't touch the ground for the entire trip!
I knew that we could trust them with taking care of the land when we weren’t there and they continually impressed with their unstoppable energy and MacGyver-esque ingenuity. They even rigged up an outdoor sink for me using large flexible piping leading from the stream and water fall way back in the woods to a small stainless steel sink attached at the back of the Bunkie, which meant no more trips back and forth to the lake getting buckets of water!
Without any machinery (way too complicated to bring over), Mike and the boys came up with some clever ideas for hauling materials up the hill from the dock to the site. The guys drew from their experiences in rock climbing to develop this pulley system using ropes, clips and carabiners to move large batches of materials up the hill so they didn’t have to carry everything by hand.
The system worked in such a way that when a couple of guys ran down the hill while pulling the rope, the weight and momentum would pull the loads up. I am still in shock that they built the entire building this way and that every piece of wood and metal had to be hauled up with manpower alone.
Here is a large pile of lumber going up.
We had to buy a barge and hard working metal Stanley boat in order to get the job done. Here’s a shot of the boat with the barge behind — loaded up with materials. The guys must have gone back and forth hundreds of times on supply trips.
The guys worked straight through some pretty tough weather conditions — including the winter, which can hit as low as -30. Kenny and Aaron continued to camp in their tents despite all of the snow.
They even worked in the pitch black of the night using spotlights run by a generator.
They kept working right through the cold until the lake began to freeze. This was the last day of construction in late December with Aaron driving the boat through the ice (with our tin boat dragging behind). You can see the lake was starting to get pretty frozen. If they had waited any longer to leave they would have likely been stranded over there.
But they went back in mid-February to continue — dragging their sled behind an ATV across the frozen water.
The first stage was building the cottage foundation using steel piers fixed to the bedrock.
The platform stage was so exciting for me because you could get a true feel for the views and the building's footprint.
I love to do yoga and the open platform was an unbelievable place to practice — way up high amidst the tree branches. I felt like I was in the treetop fight scene in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, minus the fighting.
As the walls went up you got a sense of the interior space and lighting.
Here you can see the framing of the views I talked about in an earlier post.
Placing a window here will make this beautiful spot of rock face like a tactile painting. Arriz has illuminated it so that the rock glows at night.
Here is Arriz standing in the doorway of what will eventually be the long hallway or breezeway that runs the length of the building. This is the opposite end of the building from the rockface side (above). On this side we have framed views of the trees.
In the meantime I've been staying out of the way to let the guys do their thing. I've been working on the Bunkie and re-staining our deck chairs ... and dreaming about decorating the cottage when it's done.
1-2. Arriz Hassam
3-9. Mike Carty
10-12. Arriz Hassam
13-15. Mike Carty
14-16. Arriz Hassam