TEXT BY JESSE ELLISON
PHOTOGRAPHED BY MICHAEL D. WILSON
This couple’s tiny abode on a wooded Camden plot used to house — a pony!
Abe Goodale describes the idea to live in a pony shed as an “aha!” moment that happened in bed one night in 2018. At the time, that bed was a mattress in the back of his pickup truck, where he and his fiancée, Nadejda Stancioff, were living during a four-month road trip across the country. They’d just gotten engaged and decided to move back home to Maine. But with Stancioff in school for social work and Goodale trying to launch a career as an artist, she says, “we were like, ‘how can we do those things and not have a mortgage?’”
On Stancioff’s parents’ property in Camden, there was a 16-by-12-foot shack, constructed by her and her father for her childhood Haflinger pony, Nicky. It was in rough shape, but Goodale had a vision. “I was like, this is the perfect way to do it — to have a spot to live and not pay a lot.” Over seven months, the couple remade the structure almost completely, starting with shoveling out the manure and removing the rubber floor. After shoring up the framing, they added a small mudroom bump-out, pair of dormers in the loft, new metal roof, and new windows. Whether it’s still the original pony shed is a philosophical question too big to parse here, but suffice it to say, it no longer feels (or smells) like an animal’s quarters.
To trim costs, the couple cobbled together virtually the entire home from old, found, traded, and repurposed items. Most of the pine flooring came from trees she and her father felled to make Nicky’s paddock, which stretches beyond the kitchen, and the hemlock paneling is from the pony’s “kickboard.” They pieced together the rigid-foam insulation from scraps Stancioff snagged from a construction site she worked on and found the slate for the mudroom floor on Goodale’s grandmother’s property on 700 Acre Island. The kitchen drawers are vintage apple crates from his mother’s former sheep farm in Morrill. And a friend plucked the enormous slate sink from the side of the road and donated a grody fridge the couple spiffed up with bleach and black spray paint. All told, the materials cost less than $6,000. Goodale estimates the labor would have come in around $35,000 had they hired it out.
ABOVE 1) Charcoal drawings by Abe grace the pine-beamed living room. 2) Vintage apple crates serve as kitchen drawers. 3) The couple added dormers, an entry bump-out, and a standing-seam metal roof. 4) The bedroom features a live-edge, spalted-maple headboard and vintage suitcase “nightstands.”
At less than 300 square feet, the building is technically a tiny house. But it doesn’t feel like one, thanks to the open plan, full kitchen, and judicious pruning on the part of the couple. “I’m more of a minimalist and Abe’s definitely more of a maximalist,” Stancioff says. “Sentimentalist,” Goodale interjects. “Well, we landed somewhere in the middle,” she continues. “If we bring in something new, something old has to go out, which is nice because you realize you really don’t need that much stuff.”
Perhaps it’s because they once lived in a truck that sharing a small space hasn’t been an issue. The only thing they disagree on is the square-armed sofa — she likes how it looks; he doesn’t. Both agree it’s uncomfortable. Still, they sit there sometimes and think, “we did all these things,” Stancioff says. “It feels good.”