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Rustic Lakefront Home in Maine | A 400-Square-Foot Getaway

Karlin has sacrificed certain creature comforts–though to hear her tell it, they’re hardly sacrifices. One critical affordability decision was to eschew indoor plumbing. Karlin chose to keep the existing outhouse rather than pay to install a well, pump, and septic system. “I want to live lightly on the land,” she explains, “so I carry out my dirty dishes instead of washing them.” She brings potable water in from Belfast, and on hot days, she fills her custom outdoor shower with heated water from the stove. Made of a galvanized metal chicken feeder welded to a watering-can spout, it hangs from a tree and holds enough for two comfortable showers.

With no running water in the cottage, this sink is purely decorative.
Photo/Art by Lynn Karlin
With no running water in the cottage, this sink is purely decorative.

Keeping costs down also meant forgoing a heating system. Karlin’s house isn’t insulated, but it does feature a cast-iron propane stove, which, she says, “takes the chill and damp out of the air” on cold days. Because the house lacks plumbing, she doesn’t need a generator, either, which is just as well: “I don’t like the noise,” she says. When the electricity goes out, there are always candles.

Karlin also carefully culled the furnishings that came with the place, keeping the wicker loveseat and chairs (freshened up with a coat of white paint) and discarding much of the rest. She added more pieces, found at her favorite antiques stores, auctions, and flea markets (see the accompanying sidebar, opposite).

One decor trick she learned from her many years freelancing for House Beautiful and Country Living was to use side tables and lamps to make a place warm and cozy. “They eliminate dead spots in the room,” she notes. As she gives the tour of her petite cottage, she points out details: an oar she repurposed as a railing; the push-button electric stove from the 1950s that came with the house; the wood-framed chalkboard above the kitchen sink. “Surround yourself with things that you love–not valuable things, but things that make you happy,” she says. And that’s certainly how the little place on the water feels, a few miles from everything, quiet and peaceful. For Lynn Karlin, it’s the perfect carefree, low-budget escape.

Updated Thursday, April 26th, 2012
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