The Lost Cabin

Erin French's 160-square-foot, multipurpose huts in the woods are one good thing to come from Covid.

“I had been dreaming up something along these lines for four, maybe even five, years, since basically when the Lost Kitchen became far bigger than I ever imagined. I recognized that it wasn’t just a casual little place in the middle of nowhere with good coffee and free Wi-Fi; it was becoming a destination restaurant, and we didn’t have anywhere for people to stay. But it was challenging to pull the trigger. I was always scared, financially, but also we didn’t have time in the season to take on a construction project. When Covid hit, and everything came to a screeching halt, I thought, ‘We’ve got nothing to lose.’ I had always envisioned sleeping cabins, but maybe they could be dining cabins instead, where people could safely enjoy a meal.

“We completed one cabin a first; we wanted to make sure we liked the design and could make tweaks if needed. Now that we have three cabins ready, we’re prepared to do some spring dinners. Right now, we’re still relying on outdoor dining—we don’t think we’re going to be quite ready to go inside to our very tight, intimate space this season and it will be June until the weather’s good enough to be eating outside in the evening. The cabins will allow us to hug the seasons on either side of summer.

“We worked with Whitten Architects, and I had a very clear vision of what I wanted: a lot of glass and a feeling of being in nature, with the breeze blowing through the room in the summer when the windows would be open on either side. And I wanted tall ceilings so it didn’t feel like you were stuck in a box, so that it would be cozy yet spacious. And then we kept in mind that they’d be transitioning into sleeping cabins—how can this work as a dining space, and what size table can we fit? When can we put a bed in here, how’s that going to fit?

“We had all of the timber frames custom milled right here—just a couple miles up the road there’s a sawmill. I wanted them to be a little stark and simple, kind of Scandinavian. Right before Covid, my husband and I were in Sweden on vacation, and I found these off-grid, glass-filled huts in the woods. They call them 72-hour cabins. There was a bit of inspiration from that.

“The wood stoves are from a Danish company called Morsø. We had purchased one for our house a couple of years ago and love it so much. They’re efficient and gorgeous. For sleeping cabins, we plan to be luxurious with the linens with lots of Maine-made stuff: Brahms Mount is making custom blankets, and we’ve also been working with Smith’s General on custom pillow designs. The dining room table and chairs are by a company called Ethnicraft. I love the simple, clean lines. And then we have a sideboard with all the things that we need. We ended up using very simple pine to line the interior walls, and we pickled it so it wouldn’t yellow, kind of a light stain, very neutral. I didn’t want there to be any distraction when you were in the room. It should be all about what’s on the table.

“We’re still figuring out how people will book these dinners. Maybe we should make them treats that people can donate to local people who have been on the frontlines and who just need a break, a moment to escape the past year and to feel a bit of hope. Because I think that’s what our dinners do for people. It’s a feeling, an all-around good feeling that we give people, and we garnish it with food.”

—Erin French, founder of the Lost Kitchen