Beautiful cabins and hideaways from around the world
The back-to-basics hideaway is booming, with everything from a Nordic pine shack to a petite tree house. Clare Dowdy wonders why the remote cabin is so ideal right now.
What do rural cabins provide that we do not have at home? They are typically smaller than many permanent dwellings and have more basic furniture, fixtures, and fittings. However, these perceived drawbacks are part of what makes them so appealing. They provide a break from everyday life by allowing residents to experience a different way of being. “We are all looking for a ‘third place’ (somewhere that is neither our workplace nor our home) where we can be a different person,” says Robert Klanten, publisher and CEO of Gestalten, citing the kaffeehaus – or coffee shop – in the 1920s, the local bar in the 1960s, and the club in the 1980s and 1990s. He now believes that the third option is a cabin. “We may relax and recharge, and eventually become a different person, either temporarily or permanently.”
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This sentiment appears to be shared by the vast majority of people around the world who are designing, building, visiting, or simply admiring cabins on paper and screen. Cabin Fever, co-edited by Klanten and Elli Stuhler and published by Gestalten, demonstrates that the fever persists from Australia to Iceland.
There’s a lot to like in the latest crop of small and simple cabins. These designers have elevated simplicity to the level of art, making an austere and minimalist lifestyle appear attainable. Is it because of the obvious effort and love that has gone into making more with less?
“Returning to basics with design is a healthy reminder that we actually need very little,” Stephanie Wade writes in the book. The views from these structures certainly suggest that all that is required is a pair of walking boots or a swimming suit.
However, such a way of life can be deceiving. Surviving on the bare necessities requires effort and planning for many of us. “Spending time in remote places… necessitates packing a few extra items,” Wade adds.
Being in a safe place surrounded by wild nature makes our everyday worries disappear – Mikko Jakonen
Croxatto and Opazo Arquitectos’ La Loica and La Tagua cabins (in Chile) are perched high above an otherworldly Pacific coastline, while Malek Alqadi’s Folly cabins are in the southern Californian desert. The “thick walls and pitched roofs of the insulated cabins make the location bearable year-round,” according to the architect. Meanwhile, Sigurd Larsen’s treetop cabins in Denmark are weatherproof due to insulation and thick glass walls.
But getting close to nature in a remote location is also one of the cabin’s main draws. “Cabins allow you to be a guest in an impossible place, if only for a short time,” Klanten says.
Mikko Jakonen of Helsinki’s Studio Puisto agrees: “Being in a safe place surrounded by wild nature awakens something primal in us. It takes away our everyday concerns.”
Even with modern construction techniques, architects want to make the most of local materials. Woonpioniers’ Indigo cabin in the Netherlands is lined with locally sourced wood both inside and out – spruce and black-stained larch. And the Aure Boathouse by TYIN Tegnestue in Norway is made of Norwegian pine.
Others use “true” materials such as glass, steel, and concrete. The polished steel facades of Casa Etérea in Mexico (by Prashant Ashoka San Miguel de Allende) and Synvillan in Sweden (by Sandellsandberg Arkitekter) reflect the surrounding nature. Sigurd Larsen hopes that the moss will cover the untreated wood and metal facades of his Danish tree-top cabins.
This concept of collaborating with nature is also evident near the lava formations. Iceland’s volcanoes and hot springs. Studio Heima’s Aska Cabin has a charred timber façade “echoing the patches of bare rock that peek out from under the snow”, writes Klanten, while its roof, “planted with indigenous vegetation for insulation, embeds it within its beautifully bleak surroundings”.
Meanwhile, at many locations, massive panes of glass bring that uninterrupted view – the reason you’ve probably made the trip – even closer. Studio Puisto’s Kivijärvi Resort in Finland, like many other cabins in the book, has an entirely glazed wall.
Klanten has noticed a trend for “more vertical cabins with two floors (kitchen below, bed with a view above)” in terms of architecture. Many of these are modern interpretations of the traditional A-frame structure. Small sleeping areas are tucked beneath the roofs of Norway’s Hytte Imingfjell by Arkitektvaerelset Imingfjell, Switzerland’s On Mountain Hut by On, California’s Folly, and Chile’s La Loica and La Tagua.
Cabin culture is deeply rooted in Europe, stretching from the Scottish Highlands to the Alpine and Nordic regions, where the first cabin structures appeared as early as 3500BC. And the dominant interior aesthetic around the world is influenced by the Nordic countries.