With innate confidence and a team of like-minded collaborators, photographer Sidney Bensimon built the cozy Maine cabin of her dreams.
I wasn’t going to wait for this to happen to me,” Sidney Bensimon says.
When Bensimon decided to buy a plot of land in the small coastal town of Cushing, Maine, she was a single, thirty-something woman who was well aware of the traditional strings tied to homeownership.
“I had no financial help, and I didn’t have a partner at the time,” she says. “But I decided to go for it, and I ended up being supported by my community of family and friends the entire way.”
As a food-and-lifestyle photographer living in Brooklyn at the time, Bensimon was looking for a place where she could catch her breath and work in peace. She had fond memories of summertime trips to Maine, but when she started looking at properties, she couldn’t find the right fit.
“ The options were either too big, too small, or too expensive,” she says. “I wanted something on the water, and my friend gave me the idea to build it myself.”
Bensimon jokes that this monumental decision was blissfully naive, considering she knew nothing about construction. She did, however, know that she wanted a minimal yet comfortable light-filled home built with as many sustainable materials as possible.
New York–based architects Alessandro Ronfini and Thiru Manickam guided her through the process of bringing that vision to life—which took six months of designing and eight months of construction, and resulted in a two-bedroom, two-bathroom, 1,400-square-foot property.
“It was very collaborative,” Bensimon says. “Alessandro took the time to educate me as we designed the house together, and that helped with my expectations and understanding of what I could and couldn’t afford.”
The trio also collaborated on her must-haves, like pine floors and a woodburning stove set in the living room, which features an oversize window seat.
For the details, she relied on a network of acquaintances and old friends. A plumber gave her a claw-foot tub for free; a New York City friend supplied leftover tiles for her hearth and shower; and she traded her photography for her dining table from Fort Standard.
Of particular importance to Bensimon in her new home was the design of the kitchen. “I’m a food-and-lifestyle photographer, so I wanted the kitchen to be a place where I could shoot, cook, and entertain,” she says.
The showstopping terrazzo countertop on the island works as a perfect surface for photos, and the open floor plan adds to the airiness of the first floor.
“Throughout the entire process, I told myself not to settle,” she says. “There were a lot of things that were out of my price range, but I would either offer my photography as a trade or just wait for something to present itself. It always worked out.”
Bensimon met her now-husband, Devin Eiring, in Santa Cruz, California, as the home was being built, and they have since made it a year-round refuge. It’s the perfect spot for cozy meals, movie nights, and the occasional party; it’s the calm-yet-cool place she always wanted—even if it took “a leap of faith and a full-time commitment” to get it. She laughs when she says this, noting how much she’s learned in these last few years.
“I didn’t know what would happen for me in the future,” she adds. “But I thought that I might as well do what I wanted to do, and life sort of fell into place.”
By Kelly Dawson | Photography by Sidney Bensimon
This article originally appeared in the Winter 2021 issue of Drew + Jonathan Reveal, Drew & Jonathan’s lifestyle magazine.