How often do you find a creative project looming and think, “If only I could just get away, hole up in the woods and think through this”? It’s a thought that has crossed my mind with each passing season. For Robin MacArthur, it’s a thought that crossed her mind, and she did something about it — a very big thing about it. She and her husband built a cabin with their own hands, dug the septic trenches and all!
Robin and her husband Ty both grew up in idyllic Vermont, but as a couple, they spent stints living and creating in Providence, New York and Philadelphia. Robin is a musician and author (her second book, Heart Spring Mountain comes out this January), and Ty is a composer for documentary films. They also collaborate musically under the moniker Red Heart The Ticker, but as they ventured away from Vermont, they came to a decision. “We realized that the only way we had a shot at having artistic careers was if we moved back to my parents’ land in Vermont and built ourselves a cabin where we could live mortgage- and rent-free. The dream!”
The land itself was storied already. Robin’s grandparents moved to an abandoned farmhouse on three-hundred acres of land in Marlboro, VT in 1950. Her parents later built a house on that land, and when Robin was 16 and “restless and stir-crazy in my parents’ house,” she and her dad built a cabin up the road. It was her teenage refuge, and the very beginnings of the cabin she would build with her husband, nestled beautifully in a west-facing clearing full of sweet smelling ferns. “I never imagined that I would spend most of my life in that spot, but who ever predicts the future?”
Robin and Ty’s creative retreat started out rustically — one room, an outhouse and no running water. It was sufficient at the time, but as their family grew to include daughter Avah and son Owen, the house also had to grow and mature. The two did all the work themselves: digging trenches, laying a concrete foundation, milling wood… really, all of it! Robin looks back and says, “We were deeply exhausted (and living in a construction zone) for a good five years. But now we have this beautiful, handmade, imperfect house that we can look back on with immense pride.” And that imperfect house has been the perfect backdrop for Robin and Ty’s artistic lives to flourish. —Quelcy
Image Above: Robin says, “I wanted our house to be intimate and cozy (for both style and necessity; we heat with wood only), but also spacious, in order to allow for privacy and foster creativity. I wanted rooms that would bring us together — around the wood stove, around the kitchen table — but also rooms that any of us could disappear into.”