Saturday, October 16

Writer’s residence: a self-built cabin in the woods | Interiors

TO own room and £ 500 a year ”, Virginia Woolf said she needed it to write. While Roald Dahl could only work in his garden house, where he sat in a worn armchair with a wooden board on his lap, Maya Angelou always rented a basic hotel room in his hometown as an office.

Most writers have a place like this, where words come out easier, and Jill Mathieu, former editor-in-chief of Vice and now a copywriter living in Ghent – has his own version. When her search for a quiet place to write failed, Mathieu built what she calls a “carabane,” a cross between a caravan and a cabin, or cabin – on wheels. But your cozy workspace has become something more: a regular weekend stay.

At first, he wanted to get away from his coworking space in Ghent and find a more inspiring place: “I need a window with a view. When I look at a blank wall, I cannot write. The carabane is far from everyday life and here I have a different sense of time. In Ghent, the days have a clear structure, not here. “Ghent also has wifi, which its hiding place does not have.” Emails, Zoom meetings and commercial texts have no place in the carabane. I do that in Ghent. ” .

The Carabane's kitchen, writing and bedroom areas
Cozy and compact: the kitchen, writing and bedroom areas. Photography: Luc Roymans /

Mathieu’s carabane measures just 2.5m by 8.5m, but feels more spacious thanks to a roof that gradually rises to 3.5m. “My house in Ghent is eight times bigger than this. But sometimes it feels smaller, because it is enclosed between other buildings. “

Mathieu designed the carabane herself. “I only saw tiny, ugly houses on Pinterest. Everything seemed so new. I can do better, I thought, and started to draw. “

It took two years to build and it has been in a friend’s garden since the summer of 2020. Mathieu enlisted the help of a couple of helpful friends who made special structures for festivals and events, but she did her best too, learning the concepts. joiner and designer woodworking basics Alexandre lowie. “Every Thursday for a year I went to his studio where he taught me the basics of carpentry.”

The Carabane façade, made from sawmill waste.
In the forest: the facade is made of sawmill waste. Photography: Luc Roymans /

The interior of the carabane has a Japanese touch with tatami in the living room and kitchen cabinet doors blackened with Japanese. shou sugi ban technique. Also, the wooden sitz bath is a nod to the Japanese. hot tub, a hot water bath. Influence is no accident. “When I was collecting my first ideas, I traveled around Japan for a month. There I saw, for example, the technique with wooden slats that I applied to the facade and the tiled kitchen worktop ”.

He also used recycled materials extensively. Thermal wood from the facade, a sustainable alternative to tropical hardwood, is a waste from sawmills. The wide plank flooring comes from an old hotel. “My two excesses are the ovangkol wood bathroom and the sash window next to the bed. They cost a lot of money, but I don’t regret it ”.

Wooden tools.
Craft kit: wooden tools. Photography: Luc Roymans /

Although the carabane was originally intended as a writing hut, it is now a weekend getaway as well. Mathieu and her boyfriend Jules escape there every Friday night. “At first the question was: are we going this weekend? Now is: what time are we going? As soon as I get here, I am relaxed. At home we have a full schedule, but we rarely have plans for the weekend here. The days go by reading, cooking and eating ”.

“The only thing the outside world sometimes reminds us of is the hum of the E17 motorway. But we call it ‘mar 17’. That makes the noise less bad. ”

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