Design & Style

A functional outhouse

See how one cabin owner designed an outhouse to be light, ventilated, and odorless

By Fran Sigurdsson
Published: October 7, 2011
CBN-OUT_02006
Photo by John Sylvestre

There was a time when every cabin had an outhouse. You could heed nature’s call and admire the bamboo fishing rods and wood skis in the Sears catalog at the same time. (For you whippersnappers: Such catalogs sometimes doubled as toilet paper.)  
    Alas, indoor plumbing usurped the outdoor throne. But stalwart outdoorsmen like John Sylvestre are restoring the privy to its rightful place behind the cabin.
    When Sylvestre purchased a cabin in northern Minnesota in 2000, adding an outhouse was his first priority. “The outhouse is something unique to cabins,” he explains. “It’s definitely something people talk about. People have an image of an outhouse: It’s dark, you hold your nose, dodge snakes … .”
    Sylvestre’s whimsical version, “Taj Ma’Outhouse” as he dubs it, is anything but dank and smelly. For starters, Sylvestre sited the outhouse to maximize natural ventilation from prevailing winds. Screened windows on four sides of the southeast-facing structure keep it light and airy. The pit is vented with recycled copper pipes that extend from the seat board through the copper roof. Lastly, a polyurethane finish prevents odors from penetrating the wood.

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