Cabin Porn When It’s Most Needed

In the brief interval between our extended family’s stomach flu and my sudden craving for kimchee (the mouth waters in both cases), I spent one convalescent day on an improvised bed on the floor looking at Cabin Porn.

The blog, which began in 2009, features photos of cabins, huts, retreat homes, abandoned and repurposed buildings, and other structures with a certain romantic aesthetic: remoteness, beauty, self-sufficiency, and minimalism. Their Instagram account has more than half a million followers. Two books (one a NYT bestseller from 2015, the other just out; both now in eight languages) and a calendar have been made of the photos and stories, most submitted by readers.

The founder of the Cabin Porn empire is Zach Klein, co-founder of Vimeo and DIY.org, and an early partner in CollegeHumor.com. He got the idea for the site as he was developing 50 rustic acres in upstate New York, with his family and friends. Many, like me, say the Cabin Porn photos are therapeutic.

“You know, I never intended that that way, but it is remarkable how often we receive letters from people letting us know that it plays that role in their lives, that this is their way to relax or to de-stress themselves,” Klein told CBS News.

When we lived a block from a city library, I used to check out coffee-table books of architecture and interior design and carry them home. The farther we lived from a library, the less I checked them out, though I sometimes made time to sit with them in a library, the shelves rising up like walls and the view distant through a window. I liked trying to create versions in our houses of ideas I found in the books, on the cheap, and in the process developed my own aesthetic. (My vision of long retirement bliss would be a small and simple home—the beauty coming from it being part library, part art gallery, part greenhouse—with rocks, trees, and water just outside.)

Funding aesthetic simplicity is hard. There are other simplicities, but you likely do not want them. Simplicity from poverty is different (in fact it is often cluttered, because who can afford to throw away something that might be needed?), as is simplicity of purpose (a building devoted to some single industrial task, eg), and simplicity by severity. Many of the structures at Cabin Porn served other purposes originally, such as a hunter’s cabin, coast watchers’ office, or alpine ski hut. Making these places secure and comfortable, and providing them with power, water, food, and a sewage solution gets expensive, and never mind all the craftwork cabinetry, quirky angles, and giant windows.

I often tell my boys we pay for things with time, money, or labor. I like to think I will still have the juice to use my time and labor to make my own version of, say, the furthermost-back garden at Entsuin Temple in Japan. Klein, who is said to be worth $10 million, says (in effect) we should get off our beds, sick or otherwise, and do something about our fantasies.

“New York State, you could get an acre of agricultural land for about three-thousand bucks which is the price some people pay for their television,” Klein said in the CBS interview, evidently speaking of himself. That does not include the cost of housing, improvements, or sustained living, let alone boondoggles. Still, the fantasy beats a sick bed any day.

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