16 Inviting Countryside Cabins

By Byron Loker / Published by Dwell
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In 1845, one of America's most famous writers, Henry Thoreau, built a small home for himself on Walden Pond, a piece of property owned by poet Ralph Waldo Emerson. He spent more than two years there seeking a more simple way of life, and ended up flipping the standard routine of the times.

This quest for a more peaceful, idyllic way of life is leading many "into the wild" to create humble homes, studios, or getaways. Take a look at these 10 examples of countryside cabins that bring the inhabitants closer to nature on a daily basis. 

Professional backcountry snowboarders Zach and Cindi Lou Grant modernized a run-down A-frame cabin outside of Park City, Utah, to help them access untracked powder and follow their dreams.

Professional backcountry snowboarders Zach and Cindi Lou Grant modernized a run-down A-frame cabin outside of Park City, Utah, to help them access untracked powder and follow their dreams.

Photo by Kate Osborne
A constellation of cabins in Norway strikes the perfect balance between public and private space. The family retreat abuts a rocky cliff in Herfell. The central cabin provides communal living spaces, while the two cabins that flank it are used as private sleeping quarters.

A constellation of cabins in Norway strikes the perfect balance between public and private space. The family retreat abuts a rocky cliff in Herfell. The central cabin provides communal living spaces, while the two cabins that flank it are used as private sleeping quarters.

Photo courtesy of Reiulf Ramstad Architects
Jason and Suzanne Koxvold commissioned Studio Padron to design a 200-square-foot guesthouse on their Ellenville, New York, property. The geometric structure’s dark cedar cladding contrasts with the inviting interior, which is heated by a cast-iron Jøtul stove. A layer of built-in bookshelves made from felled oak lumber also helps insulate the building in winter.

Jason and Suzanne Koxvold commissioned Studio Padron to design a 200-square-foot guesthouse on their Ellenville, New York, property. The geometric structure’s dark cedar cladding contrasts with the inviting interior, which is heated by a cast-iron Jøtul stove. A layer of built-in bookshelves made from felled oak lumber also helps insulate the building in winter.

Photo: Jason Koxvold
A lakeside prefab in Norway is a study in idyllic seclusion. Alone by a small lake amid a virtually untouched mountain range in western Norway, the Bjellandsbu, a 376-square-foot hunting cabin, is the far-flung prefab of which many dream. For Snøhetta, the firm that designed the retreat for finance guru Osvald Bjelland, building here necessitated a flexible approach.

A lakeside prefab in Norway is a study in idyllic seclusion. Alone by a small lake amid a virtually untouched mountain range in western Norway, the Bjellandsbu, a 376-square-foot hunting cabin, is the far-flung prefab of which many dream. For Snøhetta, the firm that designed the retreat for finance guru Osvald Bjelland, building here necessitated a flexible approach.

Photo: James Silverman
Architect Tom Kundig’s assignment was simple enough: Build a tiny, Thoreau-like getaway for an Atlanta-based writer who owned 10 acres on San Juan Island in Puget Sound. "The idea was not to clutter anybody’s thinking, especially a writer’s," he said.  So he designed a 500-square-foot retreat that’s both womblike and open to its surroundings.

Architect Tom Kundig’s assignment was simple enough: Build a tiny, Thoreau-like getaway for an Atlanta-based writer who owned 10 acres on San Juan Island in Puget Sound. "The idea was not to clutter anybody’s thinking, especially a writer’s," he said. So he designed a 500-square-foot retreat that’s both womblike and open to its surroundings.

Photo: Tim Bies
Katie and Danny MacNelly met as University of Virginia architecture students and started their own practice, ARCHITECTUREFIRM, along with another former UVA classmate. Together, the couple designed and built their family’s country retreat, a three-volume residence near Virginia’s James River.

Katie and Danny MacNelly met as University of Virginia architecture students and started their own practice, ARCHITECTUREFIRM, along with another former UVA classmate. Together, the couple designed and built their family’s country retreat, a three-volume residence near Virginia’s James River.

Photo by James Ewing
A father and son built this off-grid cabin in the Wisconsin woods. A vision of an archetypal little cabin in the woods—reinterpreted with a contemporary aesthetic and a sustainable footprint—inspired Bill Yudchitz and his son, Daniel, both architects, to put their years-long dedication to the small home movement into action five years ago.

A father and son built this off-grid cabin in the Wisconsin woods. A vision of an archetypal little cabin in the woods—reinterpreted with a contemporary aesthetic and a sustainable footprint—inspired Bill Yudchitz and his son, Daniel, both architects, to put their years-long dedication to the small home movement into action five years ago.

Photo: Narayan Mahon
Like a little chapel on the prairie, architect Jean-Baptiste Barache’s simply elegant retreat in the tiny Normandy town of Auvillier is a modern play on centuries-old forms and technology.

Like a little chapel on the prairie, architect Jean-Baptiste Barache’s simply elegant retreat in the tiny Normandy town of Auvillier is a modern play on centuries-old forms and technology.

Photo: Céline Clanet
Designer/inventor Jaanus Orgusaar’s modular, hexagonal housing concept creates space in geometric patterns. The rhombic dodecahedron may not sound cozy, but his NOA Cabin concept in Estonia makes this shape, the basis of his intriguing housing concept, into something inviting. With the building's unique shape, it's easy to add another module and expand.

Designer/inventor Jaanus Orgusaar’s modular, hexagonal housing concept creates space in geometric patterns. The rhombic dodecahedron may not sound cozy, but his NOA Cabin concept in Estonia makes this shape, the basis of his intriguing housing concept, into something inviting. With the building's unique shape, it's easy to add another module and expand.

Photo courtesy of Jaanus Orgusaar
In 2008, students Drew Coshow, Robert Douge, Abigail Grubb, and Steven Ward designed the Pattern Book House. The name was inspired by pattern books that were popular in the 1800s and outlined how to build design details, from columns to cornices. With such a book in hand, any construction worker equipped with basic building skills could construct facades straight out of ancient Rome or Greece, which were the styles most often offered in these publications. 

In 2008, students Drew Coshow, Robert Douge, Abigail Grubb, and Steven Ward designed the Pattern Book House. The name was inspired by pattern books that were popular in the 1800s and outlined how to build design details, from columns to cornices. With such a book in hand, any construction worker equipped with basic building skills could construct facades straight out of ancient Rome or Greece, which were the styles most often offered in these publications. 

Photo by Ty Cole
A "tree house" of clean lines, ample glass, and thoughtful ingenuity lets a Washington, DC–area family and a stream of weekend guests enjoy prefab living in an unlikely locale—just outside Lost River, West Virginia.

A "tree house" of clean lines, ample glass, and thoughtful ingenuity lets a Washington, DC–area family and a stream of weekend guests enjoy prefab living in an unlikely locale—just outside Lost River, West Virginia.

Photo: Chris Mueller
An architectural idealist, Kristofer Nonn answered an online job posting for an ecological builder in Venezuela. The result of his short tenure in the country is two elegantly simple housing shelters. Zinc-corrugated roofing was used to cover the shelters, providing shade and preventing rain from collecting and causing structural deterioration.

An architectural idealist, Kristofer Nonn answered an online job posting for an ecological builder in Venezuela. The result of his short tenure in the country is two elegantly simple housing shelters. Zinc-corrugated roofing was used to cover the shelters, providing shade and preventing rain from collecting and causing structural deterioration.

Photo courtesy of Kristofer Nonn
 It doesn't get much more idyllic than this: An illustrator of children's books who lives on the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia needed a quiet workspace that was nearby, but separate from her family's bustling household. She contacted local designer, artist, and builder Riley McFerrin of Hinterland Design to replace an existing shed on her property—perched on top of a steep hill—by maintaining the old outbuilding's small footprint.

 It doesn't get much more idyllic than this: An illustrator of children's books who lives on the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia needed a quiet workspace that was nearby, but separate from her family's bustling household. She contacted local designer, artist, and builder Riley McFerrin of Hinterland Design to replace an existing shed on her property—perched on top of a steep hill—by maintaining the old outbuilding's small footprint.

Courtesy of Hinterland Design
After living on and studying a woodsy acre of land in North Zealand, Denmark, architect Jesper Brask cleared a stand of pine trees and, from the timber, built a getaway that's open to its surroundings. The house, which Brask shares with his wife, Lene, and sons, Kristian, Jens, and Niels, is used mainly in summer, when the weather is optimal for throwing open the glass doors.

After living on and studying a woodsy acre of land in North Zealand, Denmark, architect Jesper Brask cleared a stand of pine trees and, from the timber, built a getaway that's open to its surroundings. The house, which Brask shares with his wife, Lene, and sons, Kristian, Jens, and Niels, is used mainly in summer, when the weather is optimal for throwing open the glass doors.

Photo: Karina Tengberg
Fine craftsmanship underlies this collaboration between Zecc Architects and designer Roel van Norel in the quiet forest north of Utrecht in The Netherlands. Bert Oostenbruggen planned the home's basic structure, including its unusual shutters, while van Norel handmade its bespoke wooden interiors. Building atop the foundation of a previous greenhouse was a cost-cutting measure—it allowed the project to be considered a renovation and thereby qualify for a temporary tax reduction. Its traditional, gabled form also pays homage to the original structure.

Fine craftsmanship underlies this collaboration between Zecc Architects and designer Roel van Norel in the quiet forest north of Utrecht in The Netherlands. Bert Oostenbruggen planned the home's basic structure, including its unusual shutters, while van Norel handmade its bespoke wooden interiors. Building atop the foundation of a previous greenhouse was a cost-cutting measure—it allowed the project to be considered a renovation and thereby qualify for a temporary tax reduction. Its traditional, gabled form also pays homage to the original structure.

Photo Courtesy of Laura C. Mallonee


Black Shack Architects designed a modern motocross shelter in an elemental way.<br>When Glenn Rappaport’s long-time client approached him to design a shade structure along a private motocross track in El Jebel, Colorado, he was inspired by the elemental nature of the project. The family, with three teenage boys, wanted a shelter that would provide protection from the elements, a small changing area, restroom, fire pit, and storage for cold drinks.

Black Shack Architects designed a modern motocross shelter in an elemental way.
When Glenn Rappaport’s long-time client approached him to design a shade structure along a private motocross track in El Jebel, Colorado, he was inspired by the elemental nature of the project. The family, with three teenage boys, wanted a shelter that would provide protection from the elements, a small changing area, restroom, fire pit, and storage for cold drinks.

Greg Watts Photography

Byron Loker

@byronloker

Contributing blogger @ Dwell.com | Surfer | Traveler | Woodworker

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