Contemporary cabins for modern minimalists
From North Europe’s thick forests to the vast green expanses of the USA, tour some of the best architectural cabins
Set on a snowy mountain slope or by the water, in the Nordic fjords or in an American forest, the humble cabin is one of the most hard-working typologies. These small but perfectly formed structures can be used for anything from a workspace to a family vacation home or a secluded retreat for one. Smart as they are functional and minimalist in feel and nature, cabins have lots to offer; ever more so, in the current pandemic climate, when extra space becomes more important than ever and connecting to nature is critical. Here we round up some of the genre’s best.
A writer’s cabin in the north of Madrid is a striking bolthole for a children’s book author. The small home office, created by Barcelona-based MuDD Architects, uses a combination of digital fabrication and skilled building work for a curving sanctuary in the Sierra countryside. With temperatures reaching lows of -20 degrees in winter, the design accommodated the challenges of the area’s climate. ‘We wanted to achieve a very transparent building while still offering some comfort in winter,’ explains MuDD Architects founder Stephanie Chaltiel. ‘To do so, thick 20cm stone wool insulation was used in between the wooden structure, while a hung chiminea placed in the middle heats the cabin.’ A rich mix of woods adds to the ambience, with different tones of maple syrup finishings in the wood a warm juxtaposition to the locally sourced pine of the bookshelves.
Created through a collaboration between Koto Design and Aylott + Van Tromp, Hytte is a new modular hotel and retreat design that could be installed anywhere. Its name stands for ‘cabin’ in Norwegian and its concept represents just that; an architectural expression of pure simplicity, created through refined aesthetics and the needs of a 21st century nature-focused retreat. ‘Hytte is seeking ambitious partners to disrupt the current hospitality and tourism accommodation model from existing hotel brands to new start up ventures,’ says Aylott + Van Tromp’s Nathan Aylott. Nordic and Japanese traditions meet in this ambitious series of excuisite, design-led mini escapes.
Set in the green countryside of a New Zealand hill, overlooking the Pacific Ocean, this unusual cabin project is the brainchild of local architecture studio Casey Brown. ‘The demands of living are distilled to the essentials. The structure is made from recycled iron bark, sourced from an unused wharf float. It has three manual winches to lift and lower the sides of the building creating an overhang to protect against the summer sun,’ explain the architects.
Indonesia based architectural designer Alexis Dornier has created a prototype for a cabin in the woods. Tetra Pod, as the concept is called, is situated in Uluwatu, South Bali, and the plan is for it to be the first of many. Developed by Slit Studios as a series of rentable accomodations, the project will combine chic, boutique cabins with amenities on site, including a common area, sport facilities, spa, permaculture, and co-working spaces. In theory, the design can be replicated anyway, as it is available to all to buy, so you could even have it built in your own back yard.
This is an all-timber, sustainable cabin built in the natural landscape around Lake Mývatn, in Northern Iceland. Created by Studio Heima, the burnt pine and plywood structure is to be the first of several. At 21 sqm, it is compact but elegantly furnished with a double bedroom, private bath and an open plan kitchen. Using Shou sugi ban, the ancient Japanese technique for wood treatment that makes timber durable, the cabin is effectively and sustainably protected from the elements. Drawing on its context, the project was called ‘Aska’, which translates to ‘ash’, referencing ‘the Icelandic volcanoes with ash and lava lying like a blanket in the landscape,’ explain the architects.
Situated in the Canadian wilderness 2-hours outside of Toronto, this is a group of cabins designed with wellness and nature in mind. Created by Aruliden and Leckie Studio, Arcana is a ‘brand new hospitality getaway concept that prioritizes high-calibre design and architecture as a part of its offerings,’ explain its authors. Clad in mirrors, the cabins become almost invisible and merge with their green context, reflecting the trees and weather changes around them. The group of structures are now taking bookings for this fall.
Created at a time where all of us are seeking more and flexible space to work and rest at home, Modulr is a prefabricated cabin concept especially conceived as a contemporary solution for personal workspace. The design is created by in-house architects and comes with some pretty cool eco-credentials too. Each one is made with low-emission manufacturing processes and carbon-negative/fully recyclable materials, including high-performance insulation, Kvadrat fabrics and sustainable Smile Plastics surfaces. The sleek-looking cabins can even be transferable to different locations as the structure doesn’t require a permanent concrete base. And of course it comes in various configurations that can accomodate functions beyond an office environment, providing anything from a spare room to a home gym.
The Boulder, Norway
This Norwegian concept hotel provides the perfect combination - a high end, design-led environment and an experience that feels at the same time immersed in nature and offering a refreshing simplicity. The property features two ski lodges in Lysefjord, set upon a cliffside. Interiors are created by Vipp, while the clean, sharp, cedar wood-clad exterior allows the rich natural landscape to take centre stage. The minimalist architecture was created by John Birger Grytdal of Norgeshus. Inside the timeless and functional design by the Danish company unites warmth with dark tones (such as the oak ceiling) and cool cocrete flooring.
Majamaja Cabin, Finland
Facilitated by the City of Helsinki and offering visitors the option to stay at a serene spot on the Finnish archipelago, this cabin includes minimalistic wooden design and the highest ecological standards. Part of what will in the future become a whole ‘village’, this off-grid living experience is designed and masterminded by Littow Architects. The structure includes a clean, flexible living space as well as shower, kitchen and a dry toilet. Cleverly integrated furniture and a sophisticated white and grey colour palette form a functional interior with a distinct contemporary feel. Large openings allow the user to take in the scenery, which includes a sea-view over the Suomenlinna sea fortress and Unesco heritage site. The first Majamaja unit has now been constructed at Vuorilahdenniemi, Helsinki – while more are in the pipeline.
Dwelling On Wheels (The DW), USA
Seattle-based custom studios maker The Modern Shed has launched its first ever portable cabin. The design, named Dwelling On Wheels – a.k.a. The DW – does just what it says on the tin; it provides its owner with a flexible, compact little home that can travel to be installed wherever you want your life or work to be. ‘The DW can do a lot – it’s great for enjoying nature short-term, for off-grid living, or as a second, remote home,’ says the company’s owner Ryan Smith. The clean overall volume design continues inside in an all-wood wrapped interior. Smart, built-in storage, solar panels on the roof, a wood burning stove and high-intensity, slim insulation paneling in the walls are some of the project’s clever design and living features. A small entrance deck, connected to the ground via a retractable staircase, can expand to form a porch, providing the perfect spot to sit and relax.
Space of Mind, Finland
A collaboration between three Finnish studios, Space of Mind was conceived as a modular cabin to house a workspace, personal yoga or meditation studio, art studio, or guest bedroom. It could sit in a back yard, a more rural setting, or even a rooftop. Architecture studio Puisto, specialist interiors manufacturers Protos Demos and design house Made by Choice created the modern cabin as a dedicated space to think, recharge and unwind – ‘somewhere we can find our own peace of mind,’ explains the team. The cabin, a clean, minimalist, contemporary design, is made as a mass timber construction using ecologically sourced Finnish wood – this means it’s very durable against the elements too. Coming at just under 10 sq m total, the compact space comes with its own custom furniture that attaches to the wooden structure. It has been created light enough to travel and install even in the remotest locations. ‘As a concept, Space of Mind was initially developed in response to the on-going pandemic,’ says the team. ‘With many of us now spending significantly more time at home than ever before, our collective notion of a ‘home away from home’ needed to be redefined to fit our newly limited range for travel.’