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Molly’s Cabin in 100 Country Houses

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Molly’s Cabin in 100 Country Houses

Beth Browne—Three and a half hours north of Toronto is Pointe au Baril, a remote archipelago in Georgian Bay on a cusp of the Canadian Shield—a large area of exposed Precambrian rock. Twelve kilometres from the marina on a 1-hectare island is Molly’s Cabin, a private seasonal retreat for a multi-generational family. The aim of the project was to balance comfort with the bare necessities so that its inhabitants live lightly on the land and fully engage with their surroundings.

The 93-square-metre cabin consists of a bedroom, a living room with a library nook, a kitchen/dining room and a small loft that can serve as a drawing studio, library, playroom or supplementary bedroom. Although open in plan, the L-shaped design facilitates both privacy and interaction. Wooden decks and bridges extend the interior to the outdoors. While modernist architectural ideals are at work, the design is a playful re-interpretation of the humble architectural vernacular found on these islands. The cabin fits snugly against the boulders and is sited close to the edge of the water. Shielded behind a large rock and a signature tree, there are multiple views of the fast-changing weather from under the shelter of the tent-like flaps.

Topped by a broad shingled asphalt roof and constructed from recovered timbers, the cabin is anchored by a Rumford fireplace that makes use of local stone. The building is designed with plenty of dual-function elements: exposed rafters provide additional storage, a dining-room cabinet doubles as an outdoor tool shed and the library windows roll open to convert the interior into a breezeway. Solar panels power a pump that draws fresh water from the lake. Fuel for the stove, fridge and lamps is supplied by propane or lamp oil. On the other side of the island there is an outhouse with a composting toilet and two older sleeping bunks.

Molly’s Cabin is familiar, experimental, respectful and assertive. The design challenges the current tendency in the area for extravagant architectural statements, creating a solution that is inventive and sustainable.