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Pod, people! Outbuilding design is New England meets sci-fi

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Podzook-Exterior-Outbuilding
The gull wing door is standard on Podzook pods, but comes from the United Kingdom. Most of the materials used to construct the pod are locally sourced, however. Handout

It’s a mod take on the “she shed” and the “man cave” with a sci-fi look: a pod without the body-snatching.

They’re built by Judy Bernier, who was looking for a studio/shed for her coastal Maine home when she came across a UK website advertising office pods. The designer, Chris Sneesby, decided it was too expensive to ship them overseas.

“I saw this thing, and there was no question that I’d get one at some point in life,” Bernier said. “You can’t help but smile when you look at one. It’s odd and unique.”

Bernier, director of an architectural-model shop, said she worked out a deal with the UK designer, started Podzook in Waldoboro, Maine, and began building and shipping her pods right away. Her first project was a pod in her own backyard, which serves as her design studio most of the time.

“When my sister comes to visit me with her family,’ Bernier said, “I move into the pod and just give them the house.” The pods technically can’t be billed as bedrooms or cabins because there don’t have two points of egress; there’s the gull wing door and a porthole window.

The pod is 9 foot, 6 inches at its “equator.” The top of the dome is 8 feet, 3 inches high. The gull wing door is standard. According to the website, the walls are curved plywood with encapsulated insulation and a plasterboard finish on the inside with a high performance foil insulation and vapor barrier. There are no visible joints. The flooring is reclaimed hardwood.

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The dome is 8 feet, 3 inches high. —Handout

Prices start at $17,000, according to the website.

The pods generally take 8 to 10 weeks to complete. The biggest variable is the plastering, which can dry relatively quickly or take a very long time, depending on the weather, Bernier said.

Plastering a dome-shaped building is more challenging than it may sound.

“If the pod business doesn’t work out, I could always plaster domes in the Vatican,” Bernier said.

The pods — which are heated by electric radiant mats in the floor and have lights and outlets, too — are usually placed on concrete blocks on a level section of yard and weigh about 1,000 pounds. She often recommends fastening them to the ground.

Bernier said people who inquire about the pods typically intend to use them as writer’s cottages. Most of the inquiries come from the West Coast, but she does get her share of interesting potential customers.

“One guy from Vermont wanted a pod to make bone broth,” Bernier said. “Another guy from Switzerland wanted to turn one into a tree house. I even thought it would be fun to float one in Lake Megunticook and list it on Airbnb. Who wouldn’t want to stay there?”

Because of their small, simple design, Bernier said, they’re a great workspace.

“You go in there and have a sense of calm,” she said. “It’s very Zen, very meditative. It attracts a quirky person. When you have your own pod, you aren’t distracted by what else is going on in the house.”

The shingled facade gives them a distinctively New England look, and the rounded pod shape gives them the out-of-the ordinary vibe you would expect from someone whose Twitter bio proclaims she has “a reckless disregard for right angles.”

“They’re part sculpture, part structure,” Bernier said. “They look fantastic in a garden and fit well into the landscape. They’re much better than anything square. They integrate well into the landscape. It heats up quickly in 20 minutes, and it stays warm all day. They’re very much like a little boat.”

Her light sense of humor is evident when she talks about pods. Many people who inquire make “pod jokes,” and she said she loves that.

“I’m a ‘podtrepenuer,’ ” Bernier said. “You can’t help but smile when you look at one. It’s odd and unique. And you can slip the word ‘pod’ into almost anything with a little thought.”

She wouldn’t rule it out, but said there are no plans for a podcast at this time.

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