Picturesque Cottage Nestled in an Apple Orchard
A screened-in structure caught our eye—and earned a $1,000 Delta prize package—in our 2016 Reader Remodel Contest as our top yard pick
Location: Winterport, Maine
What they did: Built a 12-by-20-foot screened-in cottage, tucked within an apple orchard, with lumber milled from the trees on their property.
Shown: Pine clapboards for the screened-in cottage were not harvested from the Andersons' land; they came from a mill up the road.
Their story: "Harry and I are serial renovators and have never lived in a home that wasn't at least 100 years old. After we finished an eight-year DIY renovation of our current house, a 1790s Colonial, we needed a new project, and a screened-in cottage was the perfect solution—it allows us to enjoy spring and summer in the buggy Maine woods, and was a nice compromise since Harry wasn't eager to let me build a tree house."
Shown: A pile of first cuts sits in front of a stack of squared timbers.
"Naturally, as DIYers we're thrifty, and when we realized buying the lumber would be too expensive, we decided to mill our own—about 40 trees in all. We hired a portable-band-saw operator to slice the cherry, pine, spruce, and eastern larch trees we harvested from our yard into boards and posts, then let them air-dry for a year. While the boards were drying we looked for a spot to build under the canopy of our heirloom apple orchard, and once we figured out the cottage's size, we dug and poured a dozen concrete piers to support the deck boards that make up the cottage floor."
Shown: Lynn made the farmhouse-style table with eastern larch legs, topped with cherry and white pine.
"I learned a lot from my father, who was a carpenter, and Harry grew up on a small family farm, so we're both comfortable working with our hands and tools. It took about three months to finish the structure, and Harry was with me every step of the way. We both travel a lot for work, and he surprised me after one trip by designing and building all the rafters. We used most of the cherry on interior details you can see, and after I was quoted $500 to build a screen door I made those, too, with skills I learned making our kitchen cabinets. I used an inexpensive doweling jig for the joints, and built the doors from 5⁄4 pine so they'd have a nice "ka-lunk" when they slam shut.
"The cottage is about 100 feet from the house, so we can see it from the kitchen. In the winter it's especially pretty when snow overhangs the eaves of the metal roof. Mostly it's been great for entertaining family and friends, without worrying about bugs!"
Shown: Lynn, Harry, and their two golden retrievers in front of the cottage.
Hardest thing we did: Nothing was terribly hard but sometimes it's the spatial things that cause head scratching--like digging 12 holes for concrete footings that actually line up. A few stick out a bit, but the Hostas help hide bad aim.
What we learned: When harvesting and preparing wood, stack and stick it out of the sun and off the ground. Paint the ends to minimize checking, and regularly turn the hardwoods, so they don't warp. Cut lots more than you think you'll need; there’s plenty of waste from milling. The upside: We have enough slab firewood for many years!
Leave it to a pro: We left it to the pros to saw out the lumber, and used our local planner mill to finish the boards. Maybe Santa will leave a bench planer under the tree this year.
Personal touch: The screen doors started off as money saving, but ended up being a focal point with the cutouts. We love our dogs and our land, and spend many nights outside star gazing. So the trees, the star, and the pup howling at the moon, cut with a band saw, reflect us and our life.