This Slide-Open Prefab Was Designed to Set Your Brain on “Default Mode”

The ANNA cabin splits in half to open the interior and, the creator says, your mind to nature.

Welcome to Prefab Profiles, an ongoing series of interviews with people transforming how we build houses. From prefab tiny houses and modular cabin kits to entire homes ready to ship, their projects represent some of the best ideas in the industry. Do you know a prefab brand that should be on our radar? Get in touch!

Cabin ANNA began in 2016 as a way for Caspar Schols and his family to cope with a personal tragedy. At his mother’s request, he built a refuge on her rural forested property where the family "would feel connected and feel one," says Schols. "I started dreaming of how we could be surrounded by life instead of shielded from it." In ten months, the once physicist completed the Garden House: a prototype of what would, to his own surprise, turn into a much larger project oriented toward a deeper connection with the planet. We asked Schols about to tell us more about ANNA, what he looks for in a potential client, and his plans for a more affordable model.

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What’s the most exciting project you’ve realized to date?

This cabin in De Biesbosch in the Netherlands, a wildlife reserve. For next year, we’re looking forward to working with ten unique clients and locations in both E.U. and U.S.

Who are your clients?

They range from nature reserves, to people that want to add a cabin to their estate as a place for friends and family to stay, to beautiful eco-resorts. They are all uniquely different. We select our clients based on their story and location, and whether we share a similar vision of the world, a world in which people live close to nature and in balance with it. One client has an estate meant for anyone who’s feeling burnt out and needs to reconnect to the essentials. What all of our clients have in common is that they’re all extremely conscious of mental health and the planet.

How does the cabin align with this vision?

ANNA is a tool to reconnect to nature. All of our projects revolve in one way or the other around that. When I returned home to the Netherlands after my studies, I met Margriet Sitskoorn, professor of clinical neuropsychology at Tilburg University. She was able to explain why ANNA’s sliding layers, operated by muscle power, are so important to the design. Her reasoning goes like this: The brain is wired to understand what we can do with an object, based on the interaction between the properties of the object and the motor system of the human body. Therefore, the brain gets "confused" when the act or movement of the body is not aligned with the action that was set in motion. This is often the case when we interact with electronic devices like computers and iPhones.

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So, let’s say, if ANNA’s layers were operated electronically, you would press a button with one finger and as a result a whole 2,500-kilogram section would start to slide. Your mind has set about the movement of an object, but your body was barely involved. The body and mind are, therefore, not aligned.

When your mind and body are aligned, however, it strengthens the experience. When you push the layers of ANNA by hand, the body prepares the mind to open up and connect to the natural environment. It’s not just the physical boundaries that disappear, psychological boundaries simultaneously dissolve too. Your inner and outer world become one. You are fully immersed in the moment.

In professor Sitskoorn’s terms, our thinking and feeling determine our actions but our actions also determine our thinking and feeling. This is called embodied cognition. And then, when you are fully immersed in a natural environment, your brain can relax and go into "default mode." In this state of reflection, transcendent experiences and recovery processes can get going, both being essential for our mental health.

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Photo courtesy of Cabin Anna

Photo courtesy of Cabin Anna

What does your base model cost and what does that pricing include?

The price of the ANNA is €437,000, before tax, shipping, installation, or off-grid systems. The cabin would be shipped in modules to you, and we would build it on-site in approximately two weeks.

We are currently developing a second model, which can be ordered as a flat-pack for you to build yourself (or with the help of a contractor). We aim to deliver the first of these ANNA One cabins in the second half of 2024 at a starting price of around €250,000. We hope to share more information on the design, options, and pricing at the end of this year.

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What qualities make your prefab stand apart from the rest?

ANNA is unique in its operation and experience. It has a sliding system that is easy and safe to operate by hand, and can be assembled and disassembled so you can move it at any time. But it’s also highly durable and comfortable in a wide range of climates, with double-glazed windows and airtight rails.

The cabin can be manufactured on CNC machines and assembled by anyone (without schooled labor), anywhere in the world. This means in the near future we can produce them locally to reduce the carbon footprint.

The ANNA has fun features like a bed and a bath that fold into and pop up from the deck. These are all operated by hand to increase interaction with the cabin and the environment. We see the cabin as an authentic tool for you to make any place in nature your home.

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Where do you ship/where is the prefab currently available?

The E.U. and the U.S., but we make exceptions for particularly stunning locations.

Is your design currently pre-permitted in any U.S. municipalities?

It is not, but we are looking into this.

Are there plans to expand to different parts of the country/world?

We want to be available on all continents.

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How long can a client expect the process to take after they put down a deposit?

Normally six months, but at the moment we have a waiting list.

What aspects of an install do you manage?

We deliver the ANNA turnkey and assist in the permitting process. Hookups to water/electrical are done by local contractors.

What aspects of the design can a client customize?

The ANNA only comes with full options: an in-floor bath, in-floor bed, a mezzanine bedroom, wooden bathroom, outdoor shower, high-end fixtures, and a fully equipped kitchen.

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