Stonorov Workshop Architects’ (SWA) cabin in the Adirondacks stands alone on a 22-acre site so remote, it’s only reachable by boat. On neighboring land, along the wooded shores of this five-mile-long lake, five generations of the client’s family have whiled away summers in rustic quarters. For both the owner and her architects, preserving and connecting with this wild landscape was the beauty—but also the great challenge—of building here.
The construction process needed to be extremely light-footed and sustainable, producing a house that would perch gently on the sloped terrain, with minimal impact on its surroundings throughout its lifetime. But before any building materials or components could be ferried across the lake on a small boat or barge and carried 100 feet up a steep hill, everything had to reach the launch spot via a narrow dirt road that’s usually impassable from October through May, limiting construction time. Committed to saving as many trees as possible, SWA eschewed heavy construction equipment. Instead, partner Otto Stonorov (with an intern or two) hand-built the 783-square-foot, two-bedroom cabin, using a human-powered chain hoist, in place of a crane, to raise long timbers and wooden trusses onto the structural hemlock frame. (Only the foundations involved a mini-excavator, operated by contractors.) The lumber, including white pine siding and floors, was all locally sourced. A solar array, elsewhere on-site, powers this off-the-grid property, and sustainable filtration provides lake water for home use. Set on stilts, the house hovers above the ground.
For the interior, says SWA partner Tolya Stonorov, “we made almost everything ourselves,” including the dining table with benches, the precise finger-jointed kitchen drawers, with cutouts instead of pulls, and anything upholstered. They collaborated with artist Julia Busenitz of Luca Jackson to custom-dye fabrics with natural indigo.
Since the cabin’s completion, last summer, its owner has basked in the ever-changing views out, “amidst trees, nature, and whatever the weather brings,” she muses, adding, “Lying in bed here, watching stormy nights, morning sun on the calm water, or swaying trees, is pure magic.”