Tiny Cabins in the Woods: Endeavor is Booked, But Firefly Beckons

They bill themselves as “Minnesota’s first tiny house vacation rental,” but Endeavor Tiny Homes now has some competition.

Courtesy Endeavor Tiny Homes

Endeavor’s first cabin, located in Silver Bay, is a millennial modernist’s dream: A sleek rustic retreat that combines contemporary amenities with a camping-out feel. Founded by Tyler Thompson, a veteran of camping and retreating along the North Shore, the 25-year-old graphic designer launched Endeavor in Spring 2018 and the Silver Bay cabin is so popular, reservations have been temporarily suspended.

Courtesy Endeavor Tiny Homes

So now what? The far more rustic, yet no less magical, Firefly is now on Airbnb. Located in the woods near Tofte, Firefly is the dream of videographer and dancer Tamara Ober, a longtime member of Zenon Dance Company, who designed the cabin in collaboration with builder and adventurer Lonnie Dupre.

Courtesy Tamara Ober

“Firefly is designed around efficiency of resources, time, and energy—in building construction and maintenance,” Ober says. “Lonnie Dupre has designed and built cabins for over 30 years, so he helped me combine the elements I loved the most from a few of his designs. I loved the surrounding windows, the timber frame, symmetry, and the traditional craftsmanship.” The cabin, she adds, “is sensual, simple, rustic, protected by surrounding pines yet offering a long view across Lake Superior’s horizon. Firefly is the result of Lonnie’s years of thoughtfulness, experience, and craft.”

Courtesy Tamara Ober

Firefly’s design, Dupre explains, is “a modified French Sill technique also known as post-and-beam construction. Basically, it’s a timber frame pegged together and in-filled between posts with horizontal timbers. I use White Pine timbers because this species is the most stable with little twisting or shrinkage when the timber dries.”

“Each post has a diagonal knee brace that is offset slightly to the inside of the building to allow a window to be placed to the outside,” he continues. “This protects the brace from the outside while allowing it to be seen from the exterior.” In contrast, “Most timber frames for homes are covered on the exterior with insulated panels and sided. I wanted to be able to see the timber frame on the outside of the structure as well.”

Courtesy Tamara Ober

To protect the timbers from northern Minnesota’s ice and cold, Dupre created “three-foot overhangs on the hip roof all the way around the building. Timbers are protected on the exterior with a mixture of pine tar, turpentine, and wax—and on the interior with a whitewash. The wall timbers like a log cabin are the structure and insulation all in one. Yes, the R value is small but the thermal mass is good, so once the building is heated, it holds the heat. And timbered cabins breathe naturally, making Firefly truly comfortable. A standard stick-framed wall has a minimum of seven products; Firefly has one.”

Ober books herself a retreat every month or so. Recently, she says, “I was sitting at the window in the silent morning, looking out at the water that disappears into the horizon and the snow-covered trees, and I thought how incredible it is to have this tiny cozy place, and what a work of art it is. The opposite of a work of art hanging on the wall, as the surrounding nature is the art, and the tiny house is the little frame structure tucked inside of the art. Staying in Firefly is like living in a small frame of artwork, within a larger context of nature’s artwork.”

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