Decorating & Design

August 13, 2009

Survivor Part 1: Cottage Edition

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).

Cottage Construction Mike Carty Ken Brake Aaron Chychul Portrait

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.

Cottage Construction Mike With Ropes And Pulley

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.

Cottage Construction Guys Running Down Hill With Pulley

Here is a large pile of lumber going up.

Cottage Construction Load Of Wood Being Pulled 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.

Cottage Construction Stanley Boat And Loaded Barge

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.

Cottage Construction Tent In Winter

They even worked in the pitch black of the night using spotlights run by a generator.

Cottage Construction Working Through The Night

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.

Cottage Construction Boat And Ice Breaker

But they went back in mid-February to continue — dragging their sled behind an ATV across the frozen water.

Cottage Construction ATV On Frozen Lake With Sled

The first stage was building the cottage foundation using steel piers fixed to the bedrock.

Cottage Construction Piers And Beams

The platform stage was so exciting for me because you could get a true feel for the views and the building’s footprint.

Cottage Construction Suzanne Walking On Beams And Platform

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.

Cottage Construction Suzanne Doing Yoga On Platform

As the walls went up you got a sense of the interior space and lighting.

Cottage Construction Walls Going Up

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.

Cottage Construction Framed View Of Rockface

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.

Cottage Construction Arriz In Breezeway

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.

Cottage Construction Suzanne Staining Deck Chairs

Photo credits:
1-2. Arriz Hassam
3-9. Mike Carty
10-12. Arriz Hassam
13-15. Mike Carty
14-16. Arriz Hassam