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Daughter Helps Father Design and Build 550 Sq. Ft. Tiny Cabin

The Porter Cottage is the picture of environmental sustainability. From the composting toilet to the solar panels that allows the tiny cabin to have modern furnishings without being on the power grid, this comfortable abode measures only 550 square feet.


The designer of this tiny house is Alex Scott Porter who built the place for her father, Bruce Porter. The family is no stranger to academia. Bruce, now retired, used to teach at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. Alex has a Masters of Architecture from Columbia but also attended Yale’s School of Architecture and earned a BA cum laude from Penn State. Following in her father’s footsteps, Alex has also taught at Columbia, Barnard and the Pratt Institute.

The cozy home Alex built for Bruce’s retirement is situated twenty miles off of the coast of Maine on Ragged Island. The power grid mainlanders take for granted is not available on this remote island so keeping the house self sustaining was priority. In fact, this island is the outermost inhabited island in the state of Maine and has no roads, stores, ferry service or year round inhabitants.

A well designed rainwater catchment system provides clean, drinkable water without a well. During the frequent downpours, the first five gallons of rainwater collected are immediately discarded as a way to clean off the roof. The rest of the water caught goes into a storage tank that feeds from the top so sediment has a chance to settle before consumption.


Other aspects of the unique location also added difficulty and creativity to the design and building process. The house is only livable in the spring, summer and fall because the winters are too harsh in the area. The design features a corrugated steel exterior with durable rolling storm shutters to protect inhabitants from ocean gales that are commonplace when you’re perched on the Atlantic coast.

Even more photos are available at the architect’s website: http://mini.alexporterdesign.com/alex_porter_new/index.php?/project/main-island-house/

Source: http://www.dwell.com/green/article/green-cottage-getaway-maine

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Alex

Alex is a contributor and editor for TinyHouseTalk.com and the always free Tiny House Newsletter. He has a passion for exploring and sharing tiny homes (from yurts and RVs to tiny cabins and cottages) and inspiring simple living stories. We invite you to send in your story and tiny home photos too so we can re-share and inspire others towards a simple life too. Thank you!




{ 29 comments… add one }
  • sunshineandrain January 10, 2013, 12:55 am

    Alex, is there a picture or pictures of the house?

  • Lisa E. April 22, 2014, 10:22 am

    This is really something, Alex. Beautiful house, beautiful surroundings, beautiful view of the ocean… wow! The whole thing is stellar. Congratulations to the architect(s) and builders on a really fabulous job!

  • Cahow April 22, 2014, 1:40 pm

    Ah, sneaky Alex!!! 😉

    Thinking that us “regulars” won’t remember this article posted longggg ago, under a different name! Still a gorgeous home, even reposted.

    It states this is located on Ragged Island, Maine, which is a PRIVATELY OWNED island. Hmmmm. So, WHO do you need to know in order to get land on this island and build there? Until her death, the island used to have the Summer home of Edna St. Vincent Millay and her husband.

    • Alex April 22, 2014, 3:01 pm

      LOL, you caught me! I brought it back to life from way back because I was able to add some photos that weren’t here before that I thought a lot of you might not have seen before. 🙂

      • Cahow April 23, 2014, 9:22 am

        Nice to see you on your blog, Alex! And no problem with recycling this home’s posting: it’s so gorgeous that another look at it is never a bad thing.

        I thought that you might have reposted it because the girl is called ALEX! ~wink-wink~

        • Kim Tripp April 23, 2014, 11:47 am

          As a “regular” as well, I immediately recognized this home. It is one of about 30 or so images that make my computer desktop. The folder that they are all housed in is aptly named “desktop dreaming”! I find it helpful to keep the goal front and center! Sooo happy to see the additional images and read the add’l info about it! Thanks for a great one Alex!

      • Rebecca October 20, 2015, 1:44 am

        I am a regular and remember it well. This is one I have in a folder of dreams. Happy to see it again.

    • Gloria October 19, 2015, 11:09 pm

      I’m a ‘regular’ here too — and I have NEVER seen this home! So it’s good Alex posted it again… meaning: even ‘regulars’ sometimes miss some posts! 😉 Thanks, Alex! –gv xxoo

  • Linda April 22, 2014, 1:46 pm

    This is great, but I don’t think I could live in it without a bathroom/shower.

  • David Ridge April 22, 2014, 3:17 pm

    Still, What is the maximum footprint for a Tiny House? What is the maximum of square feet for a house to be a TH?

  • Katydidit April 24, 2014, 8:56 am

    Love the layout! From looking at the pictures on the web link, I assume the enclosed area off the porch has the composting toilet. Wonder if it has any indoor shower as well as the outdoor one. It also looks like it may be heated as because there are 2 chimneys in her pics, that would be a plus. I’m planning similar stairs and a wire wall, so that was soooo helpful. Thanks for the off grid look see.

  • Martha June 15, 2014, 5:40 pm

    I think it is beautiful, and looks much more spacious than 550 sq ft. I think I would want some sort of shower with warm water, at least.

  • TomLeeM June 15, 2014, 8:01 pm

    I think it is living off grid and in style. I like the stairs since it makes it easier to get to the loft than a ladder. One could have guests sleeping on the couch. I really like this. It is now on my list of dream homes.

  • Comet June 15, 2014, 11:49 pm

    One of the “smokestacks” might be the vent pipe for the compost toilet

  • Sterling Knight June 19, 2014, 4:15 am

    My family is from out in Casco Bay and I had never heard of this island so I looked it up. OMG, you have to hate people to live out there. It is literally over 20 miles + off the northern coast of Maine, and is about 2 miles from the nearest island that has any ferry service at all, maybe biweekly ferry service. I pity anyone out there in any kind of weather or having any sort of medical situation. The north Atlantic is not friendly when it gets going.

    • Gigi June 19, 2016, 4:38 pm

      Look at it as an adventure in living the life of past centuries. Some of us don’t mind solitude and the vicissitudes of climate.

  • Nicole June 21, 2015, 12:19 pm

    Beautiful job and what a lovely thing to do for a parent. Thank you for sharing.

  • kristina nadreau June 21, 2015, 3:37 pm

    such good use of space. attractive too. I would not want to sleep upstairs due to knees hating stairs, and I still like the hand rail.

  • Dave Wright June 21, 2015, 3:49 pm

    I’m jealous! Would my kid ever do that for his ol’ Dad? I count myself lucky to get a phone call on father’s day. Oh well!

    On the other hand, situated 20 miles off the coast of Maine, Dear Ol’ Dad isn’t likely to be “under foot” either. Hmmm, sorry… guess there is just no pleasing some Fathers, huh? Still, beautiful cabin!

  • Darrell Brown June 22, 2015, 8:43 am

    The view through the door and over the porch/deck shows some kind of water craft, possibly moored off shore. Was this the possible conveyance of materials to the building site? And this appears to be the last primary mode of transportation.

  • Darrell Brown June 22, 2015, 8:55 am

    When driving the French roads north of Calais, I noticed the roll down window covers. I supposed at the time that these were for protection from debris from passing cars, and not the weather off of the English Channel. Are these a roll down and lock design?

  • Tony October 19, 2015, 11:31 pm

    drool… just D.R.O.O.O.O.L.L.L

  • Kim W October 20, 2015, 12:12 pm

    Hi, Darrell. Most French homes have shutters of some sort – wooden fold back against the wall, metal fold back inside the wall or roll down. They are called ‘les volets’ in French and are to keep out ‘les voleurs’ ‘ -thieves! They keep the rooms shaded in the summer and keep the warmth in during the winter. They also keep the rooms quite dark, so I often sleep later in France than I do in England, especially in the summer!
    The insurance companies expect you to close them at night and when you are away, and may not pay out if your house is broken in to and robbed if you don’t do this!
    I like this house, but would want/need a bathroom inside the house and a warm shower! It is obviously just what the man wanted and I daresay guests could sleep on a sofa bed in the large living area.

  • Chuck June 19, 2016, 5:28 pm

    I totally love this house!!!!! Wish I could afford to have one built on some land near Joshua Tree National Park. As a gay senior with a cat, this would be perfect for myself and Charlie!!!!

    • Michael L June 19, 2016, 10:44 pm

      Chuck… I so agree with you… this house is awesome and Joshua Tree is one of the places God vacations in!

  • Chuck June 19, 2016, 5:30 pm

    The links to the architect’s website do not work.

  • jake June 20, 2016, 7:37 pm

    Alex, great style. As for the TH, very nice.

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