When describing a tucked away cabin that a couple built for themselves, words like “rustic” or “quaint” might come to mind, but those words just don't do justice when describing the retreat that Dan and Diane Molenaar, owners of MAFCOHOUSE, built for themselves. They lovingly called it Molenarr Younge Cabin, located in Haliburton, Ontario.
More Farnsworth House than Little House on the Prairie, Molenarr Younge Cabin, completed by the Toronto-based couple over a two year period, for a total cost of under $165,000, is a minimal and modern sanctuary.
Inspired by the naturally lit interiors of Frank Lloyd Wright’s affordable Usonian homes, Dan and Diane knew they wanted lots of large windows. They stumbled across a perfect source when listening to a radio interview. Now 40 reflective five by six feet windows, recycled from two Toronto office towers, encircle the cabin’s Douglas Fir columns and beams.
Inside, a built-in dining area, crafted from decay-resistant padauk, takes centre stage. There’s a bedroom at one end of the space, and a living-room at the other end, all with uninterrupted views of the stands of pine and oak, and shoreline outside.
Sitting 70 feet above Drag Lake, near Haliburton Ontario, there’s no road access to the cabin and no electricity. Wood stoves heat the 900 square feet space, while propane powers the refrigerator and cooktop.
Dan, who took courses in renewable energy and architectural drafting to complete the project, says:
“In many cabins, there’s too much structure and citified comforts. We provided ourselves with the comforts we need, not the comforts most people think we needed,” though he also admits, “...the thought of taking glass that office workers had viewed the city through and setting it down where it could afford views of unspoiled nature was irresistible.”
The Molenaar's approach to Molenarr Younge Cabin turns the all-too-typical timber-clad McMansion model on its head, and it’s an approach that other people see the value in too.
In 2004, two years after the completion of Molenarr Younge Cabin, Diane and Dan, who already owned an upscale menswear boutique, founded MAFCOHOUSE, a company that makes 16' x 16’ post and beam modules that are designed and assembled to suit the site’s topography and client’s wishes.
MAFCOHOUSE boasts over 30 structures in its project portfolio. While many of these projects are significantly larger than Molenarr Younge Cabin, such as the Sportun Woodbury cabin, which is also located in Haliburton, (see pictures above and below), these cabins were assembled from 7 modules; the defining features of the couple’s first project include flat roof lines, expansive windows, and concrete pier construction (to avoid interfering with natural drainage patterns of the site), and the latter characteristics are evident in each one of their subsequent projects.
Log cabin construction may make sense if you’re felling trees on site, but when most construction projects entail shipping-in materials, often from many miles away, a modernist aesthetic - and the panoramic views it affords, are just as fitting.
This article was researched and written by Miranda Corcoran, an Industrial Design and Digital Media student at OCAD University.