If you’re like us, then the pandemic has you dreaming of absconding to a quaint, woodland retreat or building your own micro cabin in a secluded locale. The tiny cabins below—some of which are for rent—are destined for your vision board.
After a decade spent traveling and making documentaries, a filmmaker with no construction experience built an off-grid clifftop cabin in a forest on the east coast of Canada. He wanted to craft something simple from timber and other raw materials. "I would rather live in a cabin than a condo or a house that is merely a design trip," he says. "I wanted a comfortable home that’s inviting to live and function freely in."
Koto’s charred-timber workspace is an exercise in wabi-sabi design that embraces imperfection amid the natural world. The carbon-neutral structure is built from natural materials, and it can operate both on- and off-grid.
When architect Adam Pszczolkowski of Desea Architects set out to design his own family retreat in the community gardens of the Rakowiec district in Warsaw, Poland, he looked to nature and the aesthetics of a vintage Swedish radio. "It may sound funny, but the design was strongly inspired by an old Tandberg transistor radio," Adam says. "It’s a simple, horizontal box with eye-pleasing proportions and wood laminate sides. The gardens inspired the interior, which is finished with raw plywood that will age naturally."
When Troy and Dianna Shurtz thought to design and build their own shipping container home as a getaway, they knew it should be located near Hocking Hills State Park, an area south of their home in Lancaster, Ohio, marked by sculptural cliffs, gorges, and waterfalls. "I spent a lot of time in Hocking Hills as a child," Dianna says. "My father passed away at the age of 59, and I’ve always felt closer to him when I’m there, hiking or just visiting."
At just 400 square feet, The Nook in Swannanoa, North Carolina, manages to meld Japanese tranquility, Scandinavian simplicity, and a handmade, Appalachian sensibility. Owner Mike Belleme, a documentary photographer whose images have appeared in National Geographic, Rolling Stone, and The New York Times, imagined the cabin as "an experiment in storytelling."
The Workstation Cabin by Hungarian architecture studio Hello Wood is a sculptural timber pod inspired by the design of space capsules. It’s intended to sit in a garden or other outdoor area, and it can be configured as a fully powered workspace and conference room—or as a convenient guest bedroom or cozy lounge.
Nestled away in a remote and lush coastal nook of the Hawaiian island chain is the dream home of filmmaker Jess Bianchi and jewelry designer Malia Grace Mau, built by San Francisco–based artist Jay Nelson. This is one of those places that leaves a constant happy smile on your face while you’re there. You just can’t help but be in total awe of the artful craftsmanship, attention to detail, and curated taste in materials and decor. It’s like being in an adult fort—a modern Swiss Family Robinson compound that reflects the sophisticated, traveled taste level of its free-spirited, creative owners.
In Finland, houses with a floor area between 96 to 128 square feet do not require a building permit, so when local industrial designer Robin Falck decided to build his own cabin in the picturesque municipality of Sipoo, he made sure to keep the tiny home under 100 square feet.
When an urban couple decided to build an affordable tiny house outside the city as a retreat from their busy lives, they found a site in Sweden’s Stockholm archipelago and called on architect David Lookofsky of Lookofsky Architecture. Lookofsky took one look at his clients’ wondrous site—marked by towering pine trees, rocky cliffs, and cinematic views of the Baltic Sea—and decided he would reuse the existing foundation and not build beyond it, conserving both the construction budget and as much of the natural terrain as possible.
In the small town of Lubiatowo in Northern Poland, six cabins known as Szumilas ("Summer Houses") make up a holiday retreat. Owners Magda and Chris, both energetic 30-year-olds, sought a change of pace from city life. Inspired by their own travels—especially hostel experiences—and an appreciation of the great outdoors, they decided to invest their savings in building a series of holiday homes with nature at the forefront.
In southwest Finland, two students with little experience but a lot of gumption design a minimalist home in the woods and build most of it—from the roofing to the stovepipes—on their own. Located in Lavia with nary a neighbor in sight, the remote cabin is set close to a lake and surrounded by a swamp and an old forest. The site was selected for its lake views and close connection to nature. "On some days you can see moose, deer, and traces of lynx," say the designers, who use the cabin as a retreat from city life.
Nine years ago, Jessica Helgerson turned a former goose check station on Sauvie Island, a farming community along the Columbia River in Oregon, into the perfect tiny house for her family. Today, the idyllic cabin has been repurposed once again—to house a surgeon during the coronavirus pandemic.
Imagine lying in bed in a tiny glass cabin at the foot of Iceland’s most active volcano and watching the spectacle of the northern lights, or a five-hour-long sunset play out through the transparent roof and walls that surround you. This is the magical reality crafted by Estonian brothers Andreas and Jaak Tiik. The duo’s company ÖÖD Homes built a tiny cabin for Panorama Glass Lodge Iceland on a remote site at the foot of the Hekla volcano in the south of Iceland.
Sadie, the new self-sustaining tiny home by CABN, gives guests a chance to reconnect with themselves in a remote patch of wilderness in south Australia. "One of our goals from the start was to allow our guests to truly escape back into nature, focus on what’s important, and turn their technology off," says spokesperson Shane Laidlaw.
Located on a 50-acre site along the Appalachian Trail in the tree-covered hills of Virginia's Hunt and Wine Country, the Lost Whiskey Cabin is an ultra-compact, off-the-grid, 160-square-foot holiday dwelling that’s all about unplugging from technology and losing yourself in nature. Named after the property’s proximity to two Marshall landmarks—Whiskey Hollow and Lost Mountain—the Lost Whiskey Cabin is part of a larger tourism and leisure development called the Lost Whiskey Club, which features a communal farmhouse, a mobile whiskey bar, and off-the-grid holiday rental cabins (including the Lost Whiskey Airstream).
When Florida couple Jon and Niki Nash wanted a modest weekend retreat near Mississippi State University, where their daughter attends college, they commissioned their nephew, architect Will Randolph of Archimania, to design a tiny house on a beloved piece of family land outside of Starkville.
After renting in San Francisco, California, for 10 years, Molly Fiffer and Jeff Waldman wanted more: more autonomy, more of the outdoors, and more space to host their tight-knit community of friends. In search of a retreat, they purchased a piece of land in the Santa Cruz Mountains on which to build.
This whimsical structure, designed by Miller Kendrick Architects, is one of the winning designs in a series of eight pop-up hotel cabins located in three secret locations throughout the Welsh countryside. The design competition hosted by Epic Retreats invited architects from around the world to craft space-saving designs inspired the mystic folklore of Wales, while utilizing modern construction techniques.
Inspired by the classic A-frame cabin design, architecture firm Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) has created their first tiny home with Klein, a prefab-housing startup in New York. Sited in Hudson Valley, the 180-square-foot sleek black cabin is known as A45. Despite its small size, the cabin’s innovative design creates more usable floor space by rotating the classic A-frame structure 45 degrees. This allows the lower part of the house to only touch on two corners, which maximizes the wall height to a soaring 13 feet inside. The resulting crystal-like shape gives A45 an ever-changing appearance.
Known as "Immerso Glamping," this alpine cabin designed by Italian architects Fabio Vignolo and Francesca Turnaturi is true to its name: It allows guests to go off the grid and reconnect with nature in an inventive way. While the prefabricated shelter is designed to be easily moveable, Immerso Glamping is currently located in the alpine village of Usseaux in Italy’s Piedmont region. It is available to rent on Airbnb.
Surrounded by boulders and twisted yuccas, two cabins in the Mojave Desert stand like Monopoly houses, their steel siding weathered to a tawny finish. But behind the simple gabled forms lies a complex network that enables them to operate wholly off the grid.
In response to the Bay Area’s housing crisis and a recent relaxation in accessory dwelling unit (ADU) rules, Emerging Objects has crafted an experimental housing prototype: the Cabin of Curiosities. True to its name, the unusual structure is clad in over 4,500 3D-printed ceramic tiles and features a beautiful front facade full of succulents.
The 250-square-foot hexagonal studio that brothers Marlin and Ryan Hanson of Hanson Land & Sea designed and built for their client, a birth doula and mother who lives on the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia, is a much-needed and not-too-far escape. In fact, it rests in her own backyard among a woodland of cedar, hemlock, fir, and maple trees. "I live on forested acreage in the small community of Roberts Creek," she says. "The studio is where I slow down, write, meditate, and reconnect with nature. It’s also where I teach private prenatal classes and yoga."
"Our primary focus is to offer quality tiny homes at an affordable price," says David Reiss-Andersen, who cofounded the Oslo, Norway–based tiny home company Norske Mikrohus with his wife Jeanette, who’s also the firm’s lead designer. "There’s growing awareness of compact living, minimalism, and sustainability," David says. "We want to help provide people with the freedom that comes with living with fewer things, lower costs, lower energy use, and less waste."
When Willeke Makatita approached Gijsbert Schutten and Gijs Coumou of Liberte Tiny Houses, she had one very specific request: a compact dwelling that would let her simplify her life and live as close to nature as possible. "Willeke loves walking, camping, and bushcraft," Schutten says. "She asked for a home that would suit those passions."
When architect Johnathon Little and his wife Zoe moved back to England in 2017 after living in Oslo for a decade, the couple decided to channel their newfound love of Scandinavian design into a Norwegian cabin–inspired playhouse for their two young daughters. The idea, which started off as a sketch, evolved into three prototypes for an entirely new venture: Koto, a design startup that produces eco-friendly modular structures.
In Texas, where everything is bigger, Ryan McLaughlin is placing his bets on something small. Specifically, a simple 160-square-foot cabin that he hopes city-dwellers will book for $149 a night to get away, find some focus, and reconnect with nature.
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 that prioritized locally sourced materials.
Set on 103 acres on picturesque Coos Bay in Southern Oregon, Bay Point Landing is an outdoor resort offering Scandinavian-inspired cabins, Airstreams, and full-amenity RV sites. The architects, OFFICEUNTITLED, took cues from the local landscape and weather to shape the site. "Seeing the hills of the dunes bounce around each other helped me design the roof [of the clubhouse], which is tiled up to emulate them," says principal architect Christian Robert. "The angled layout was intentional to help protect our guests from the wind."
The Site Shack is a tiny prefab cabin that sets up anywhere in a snap. At under 100 square feet, the 8-by-12-foot tiny cabin includes just the essentials: a wood-burning stove, a desk, and storage.
Next to an old farmhouse in the East Tyrolean village of Nussdorf, Austria, is an unusually shaped, shingle-clad cabin, designed by architects Peter and Lukas Jungmann, that's raised up on skinny steel struts.
The Falls Church, Virginia–based architecture firm GreenSpur has found an architectural solution to work commutes that negatively affect health and the environment. "Traditional work commutes contribute to greenhouse gas emissions and poor air quality," architect Zach Gasper says. "And, time spent sitting in cars is linked to higher rates of depression and stress." As such, Gasper and his fellow architects at GreenSpur, with Alexandria-based McAllister Architects, have devised Creative Cabin, a 280-square-foot backyard construction, located in the suburb of Arlington Forest just outside of Washington, DC.
A labor of love, the 377-square-foot woodland cabin is a design/build project completed over multiple trips to the lakeside lot in the village of Nouvelles in southern Belgium. The architects built the cabin using locally sourced, storm-felled timber to deepen their understanding of materials and construction.
Getaway’s rentable woodland tiny homes offer an escape from urban life just a short drive from Atlanta, Boston, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Portland, and Washington, DC. Black-painted wood cladding gives the homes a quiet presence and allows guest to focus only on the trees that surround them.
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.
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