The House in the Woods

Posted on: January 18, 2010

The House

All too often when someone thinks of a house in the woods, the image that is conjured up is of a one room log cabin, small, cramped, maybe even of a dinky ‘tarpaper shack’. Our home was far from any of that. The elegance of the house often shocked first time visitors!

Peter and I had many long hours of discussion regarding our new house. What it looked like inside and out, what functions it provided, inside and out. We drew many plans, discarded most of them, and finally settled on a very basic design, with internal modifications to suit our personal preferences and needs.

We started with a house design of 40×25, to give us 1000 square feet of living space, and as we were putting that on a basement, actual useable area was double that. The building site we had selected, put that basement into the side of a hill, creating a walk-out feature that turned out to be extremely valuable to us through out the years. The house was a basic one story ranch style with a long covered porch. Our builder suggested we make the dimensions 40×24.. Even number divisible by 8.. A standard building measurement. With everything in eight foot increments, that eliminated much labor of needless cutting and fitting. The front of the house, where the porch would be, faced south, and that porch took on the size of 40’ long by 8 ‘ wide… it was a wonderful porch.. A fabulous porch, one we spent many, many hours on.

I have always had a preference for open spaces and large kitchens. I love to cook and knew this would be a focal point in the home, so the kitchen was combined with the main living space to utilize the heating of the cook stove. That area, on the east end of the house, was 15 x 24 and contained the large stone fireplace and living room, the kitchen plus dining space, approximately one third of the house. A nine foot atrium door opened onto that front porch, while a six foot sliding glass door opened to the back deck. On the east end was a 4×6 custom picture window, which, perched over that walk-out basement entrance, gave us an incredible view of our woods, and in the distance, Lake Superior. The cook stove was installed with it’s own chimney against the north wall, next to the sliding glass door. I had lots of space and an incredible amount of natural daylight.

The other end of the house, tucked into the hill, was the master bedroom, 12×24, with another 6’ sliding glass door that also opened onto the front porch, plus a large window on the west wall for cross ventilation. The north side contained a closet, but it wasn’t just any closet! It was 12 wide and 5 feet deep, held both dressers and double layered clothes poles on either side: his & hers! My first walk in closet.

In the middle of the house was an additional small bedroom 10×10, plus 3’ deep closets, one that opened to the bedroom, one that opened to the living room. Across the hall that connected the two ends of the house, was the bath room. I’ve never had such a large bath room before! Other than the usual toilet and sink, there was a ‘garden tub’.. extra deep for soaking, faucets in the center of the tub rather than at the end. Plus an extra large shower stall. The tub was for the occasional soak, since it took forever to fill! Showers were for everyday use. The shower was unique in itself, as in all the years we lived there, we never had running hot water. Seems that one year, Pete decided that “we didn’t move to the woods for you [me] to have conveniences”… guess running hot water was a luxury only I would enjoy. Anyway, the shower stall had a shelf high up on one side, accessible from inside and outside of the shower. This is where the five-gallon bucket was hoisted, once filled with hot water. A short hose fitted at the bottom with a sprinkler head, provided ‘sprayed’ running water by means of gravity. I learned quickly how to take a full shower, including washing my long hair, in only five gallons of water. It might have been functional, but I missed the water pressure.

In the basement, we installed two wash tubs with a ringer mounted between them. Laundry day was every day. Without running hot water, I had to heat water on the stove, take it to the basement and add it to the cold water from the tap. My hands quickly became raw from the cold. During the summer, clothes hung outside on a line strung between two of our large maple trees, and during the winter, items dripped from lines over the tubs, then finished drying on a wooden rack next to the woodstove in the kitchen. Doing laundry by hand is a real drag, and it got old real fast. Part way into the first winter, we started taking laundry to town to wash at a Laundromat.

In the basement also, was the wood burning furnace, and this was Pete’s to keep going, as I had the cook stove to deal with. One corner of the basement was Pete’s work shop for his stained glass, and the remaining corner was my pantry shelves, a Preppers dream!

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