When the writer built a dream home for his family, he forgot to include one important thing: a place to write. So he found an unconventional solution.

The cedar-shingled house that Andre Dubus III built for his family in the seaside town of Newbury, Mass., has four levels that sprawl across 6,000 square feet, with plenty of rooms that could have made a nice writer’s office. But Mr. Dubus plies his trade down in the mechanical room, near the exercise equipment and the boiler, in a lofted space that he built himself out of plywood.

Reached by a staircase nearly as steep as a ship’s ladder, the room is no wider than an outstretched arm and not much longer, with low ceilings that amplify the feeling of being inside a tunnel. There is a window, but Mr. Dubus has covered it with a blanket to block out the daylight. It serves only as an escape hatch in case of emergency.

Writing longhand with a pencil and paper, he has produced five books in this cramped space. He refers to it variously as “my writing cave,” “my dream portal” and “the engine house.”

Andre Dubus III has written five books by longhand in his solitary space, often while wearing noise-canceling headphones.  Sophie Park for The New York Times

“It’s not to code,” Mr. Dubus, 64, said one morning last month with a big, hearty laugh. “Actually, it’s a totally illegal dwelling. Just so you know.”

The rest of the house is inviting and comfortable. Earlier, Mr. Dubus had been sitting on the sofa with his feet kicked up in the high-ceilinged living room, which is lined with books that belonged to his late father, the acclaimed short story writer Andre Dubus, and dominated by a large stone fireplace.

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