Design & Style
E-mail Article to a FriendPrint ArticleBookmark and Share

Cabin Life Design Competition

Published: May 16, 2012
Welcome to the 2012 Cabin Life Design Competition, featuring new cabin designs from architecture students at the University of Minnesota and North Carolina State University. In May 2012, readers, Cabin Life newsletter recipients and the public helped us decide the winner of the competition by casting their vote for their favorite cabin design (scroll down to view all 10 designs).

These 10 designs were hand-picked for the competition by Dale Mulfinger, FAIA, professor in practice at the University of Minnesota Department of Architecture, and by Georgia Bizios, FAIA, professor at North Carolina State University School of Architecture, College of Design.

To see the winners, check out the October 2012 issue of Cabin Life, on newsstands now! Subscribe today so you don’t miss this exciting issue!

Peter Atkins, University of Minnesota
View ThumbnailsView Full Screen
1 / 3PreviousNext
Copyright © 2012, Peter Atkins. All rights reserved.
Architectural Model
This cabin was designed for the Moulton–Redenbaugh family from St. Paul. With three children of a wide range of ages, it was important to create small social gathering spaces for each age group and friends that accompany the family to the cabin.
    The site on Lake Vermilion features steep bands of rock outcroppings that provide views across the lake to the west. The cabin is tucked into a hillside, becoming an extension of the prominent rock outcropping next to it. The upper level of the cabin is covered in dark shingles and cantilevered out to enforce the sense of weight and the mass of the rock. The modest materials and form let the cabin blend into the landscape.
    Inside, the cabin opens up to a light-filled, vaulted space. The open floor plan of the first floor lets the communal kitchen, dining and living spaces flow together. Sliding glass French doors that wrap around the west and south sides open the interior space up to the outdoors and the deck.
    The second floor is composed of sleeping quarters on the north end and a loft that covers half of the living space below. While the first floor frames views of the horizon, the loft focuses on the vaulted interior space. A small reading box floats above the open living area, providing a lookout from a higher vantage point.

Garian Baker, North Carolina State University
View ThumbnailsView Full Screen
1 / 3PreviousNext
Copyright © 2012, Garian Baker. All rights reserved.
Architectural Model
The cabin, located in a wooded area off of the Haw River in Pittsboro, N.C., is designed to the specifications of a client looking to host and entertain his large family. The client requested a one-story cabin that would allow for active engagement with nature while accommodating some of the client’s older family members when they come to visit.
    The cabin is designed as a linear bridge over a unique land feature, giving it great possibilities to create dynamic, impactful moments specifically for this site. Also designed with a consciousness towards energy demand, the cabin takes full advantage of southern and northern light for daylighting, with large, operable apertures positioned to take advantage of wind for natural ventilation.

David Benson, North Carolina State University
View ThumbnailsView Full Screen
1 / 3PreviousNext
Copyright © 2012, David Benson. All rights reserved.
Architectural Model
The River Rock Cabin is sited at the location of a large natural rock formation in the Haw River Valley in Chatham County, N.C. The rock measures up to 12 feet tall and 16 feet wide and is surrounded by a field of smaller boulders.
    A private drive to the cabin follows the topography from a rear access road to the cabin near the waterfront. Both the access road and building are positioned to require minimal site disturbance during construction. The building hovers slightly above the site on piles.
    Hiking trails and walkways on the 11-acre site provide access to the river and the hills to the east. Platforms along the riverwalk provide spaces to sit and observe wildlife and can also serve as campsites for surplus guests or children in pleasant weather. The main parking is removed from the building; the walkway between the parking pad and the cabin is integrated into the trail system and provides accessibility to both the main and loft levels with gentle ramps.
    The main feature of the 936-square-foot cabin is the outdoor deck that divides it. From the river, the deck frames the view of a large boulder behind the home and, from the house, offers views of the Haw River. The deck includes both covered and open areas as well as a screened-in porch that serves as an outdoor dining area. The rear of the deck is anchored in the rock formation, the centerpiece of the space. Smaller boulders protrude through the deck, providing natural tables and sitting areas.
    The cabin has two dedicated bedrooms. The northern “River View” bedroom has views of the river and a wall of northern glass bringing in soft, even light. Along the eastern facade, this bedroom has clerestory windows, which maintain privacy while allowing some morning light into the space. The southern “Boulder Garden” bedroom has floor-level windows, which frame views of the boulders that the cabin hovers above. It also has a southern window wall, which brings in warm, southern light in the winter and prevents heat gain in the summer.
    At the center of the building, the “sunroom” – adjacent to the deck – contains the kitchen, dining and living areas as well as a small breakfast nook and a thru-wall fireplace between the living and outdoor dining rooms. With floor-to-ceiling windows, this room is light-filled and offers the home's best views of the river. Windows and doors line up along the 80-foot length of this dogtrot-style structure, allowing views and breezes along its length.
    The cabin has a laundry/storage room and a bath for each bedroom. In the detached “Boulder Garden” bedroom – which can be used as either a guest or master suite – a bathroom that opens directly onto the deck keeps the owner's dogs from dirtying the house after a day of playing in the river and woods.

Suzanne Marie Cash, North Carolina State University
View ThumbnailsView Full Screen
1 / 4PreviousNext
Copyright © 2012, Suzanne Marie Cash. All rights reserved.
Architectural Model
The Artist Retreat was designed for Mikey Irwin, a high school English teacher. The cabin is one main room that is divided into private and public sectors. The circulation creates this division. Mikey’s strong desire to bring the outdoors in inspired the louvered walls that are on the north, south and west facades. These interactive walls not only draw the outdoors inside, but they can also be adjusted throughout the year to create comfortable temperatures inside.


Holly Engle, University of Minnesota
View ThumbnailsView Full Screen
1 / 3PreviousNext
Copyright © 2012, Holly Engle. All rights reserved.
Architectural Model
The Crow’s Nest is designed to embrace the changing of the seasons while remaining efficient and sustainable. Ascending towards the top, indoor and outdoor spaces blur together, allowing the environment and the cabin to become one.
    The first floor contains a hallway, mechanical room and bedroom that are nestled into the ground, creating the feeling of warmth. The spiral staircase, acting as the spine of the cabin, is located in the north corner and allows for air and light to move between all of the floors.
    Moving up the stairs, the split-level includes a wood stove and reading area. The second floor contains the kitchen, dining room, and bathroom. The dining room is perched in a glass box, offering breathtaking views of Lake Vermilion while blurring the lines between indoor and outdoor space.
    Wrapped in glass, the top of The Crow’s Nest contains a bedroom, bathroom, and deck. The glass opens up, creating the illusion that the lofted bed has become a part of the trees and letting the summer breeze flow through the cabin. The deck offers a space to observe the slow passage of time from sunrise to sunset.
    The inverted roof is designed for a rainwater gathering system to decrease site water usage. At night, the generous windows and warm interior-lighting design transform The Crow’s Nest into a beacon, calling you home through the darkening woods to a cozy escape.

Jihyeon Jeong, North Carolina State University
View ThumbnailsView Full Screen
1 / 3PreviousNext
Copyright © 2012, Jihyeon Jeong. All rights reserved.
Architectural Model

Designed for a retired professor to enjoy both alone and with extended family, the cabin is located on a south-facing ridge high above the Eno River in Pittsboro, N.C. All spaces enjoy magnificent views of the river and other ridges, and connect to the outdoors through large window openings and decks. A studio space on the lower level provides overflow space for art projects and entertaining and connects to a ground level patio. The cabin is located with a magnificently panoramic view on a high hillside, as if two butterflies were sitting on a cliff enjoying beautiful scenery.


Beth Koeppel, University of Minnesota
View ThumbnailsView Full Screen
1 / 3PreviousNext
Copyright © 2012, Beth Koeppel. All rights reserved.
Architectural Model
This design began by considering what elements create the quintessential cabin: a sense of place, traditions and togetherness, and a quirky character that has developed over generations of use. These characteristics were then transformed to a modern aesthetic to meet the desires of the client, a young family of four, and to accommodate passive strategies to allow for a highly energy-efficient design.
    A sense of place is rooted in the use of local materials – the exposed beams of the timber-frame structure and a massive stone wall that shelters the cabin from cold winter winds. Tradition and togetherness are present in the hearth of a two-sided fireplace that centers the main living spaces. This family has a passion for astronomy, so the crowning piece of the cabin is a glass observatory where they can gather under the night sky. The playful windows of the southern façade reflect the relaxed atmosphere of cabin life. When opened, they allow the entire main living space to become a screened porch during the summer months. A green-roof system provides exceptional insulating properties and aesthetically lets the cabin merge with the landscape.
    The entire cabin is 1,200 square feet. The living space is centered between a more private bedroom and bath on the east side of the cabin and the observatory tower on the west. The tower houses a bedroom and bathroom on the lowest level, a bunkroom and powder room on the second level, and an enclosed observatory on the third level. The main living space (kitchen, living, and dining room) spills out onto a stone terrace with a campfire pit.

Sara Marley, North Carolina State University
View ThumbnailsView Full Screen
1 / 3PreviousNext
Copyright © 2012, Sara Marley. All rights reserved.
Architectural Model
This cabin is designed for Michael Singer and his family. Sited on the Haw River in Pittsboro, N.C., this vacation home supports the client’s outdoor hobbies and reflects his preferences for open, multi-use spaces. Oriented east-west, the cabin captures views of a creek and the rapids of the river. The cabin is composed of an open central volume, which houses the public living and dining spaces, flanked by two smaller volumes, which house the private bedrooms and baths for Michael and his guests.
    The steeply sloping roof opens to the east at 15 feet tall, creating large 4-foot clerestory windows that allow the cabin to be almost completely daylit. The roof slopes down to 8 feet to the west to frame the view to the river. Three-foot overhangs serve to block the sun. This roof also creates space for a loft, which serves as an office and a space for grandchildren to sleep. To create the client's desired connection to nature, the cabin has floor-to-ceiling windows facing the creek and a screened-in porch to enjoy the outdoors without worrying about bugs.

Justin Petersen, University of Minnesota
View ThumbnailsView Full Screen
1 / 4PreviousNext
Copyright © 2012, Justin Petersen. All rights reserved.
Architectural Model
This cabin is surrounded by a heavily wooded forest on a site with steep terrain. Lofting the cabin allows it to become part of the tree canopy that is so important to the site. It utilizes the terrain in a method that eliminates the need to climb stairs, as the entrance is at ground level while the gathering space opposite the entrance is 15 feet off the ground.
    The layout is designed for two families that will be sharing the cabin, so there is a need for a flexible space that can accommodate a wide range of occupants. During the winter months, there is only need for two people on a hunting or fishing trip. The "Hunting Lodge" is a perfect sleeping space with a shared wood-burning stove that allows them to adjust the temperature of that space without needing to heat the entire cabin.
   A family reunion in the summer could result in as many as 15 people at the cabin. The "Bunkhouse" is a great space for lots of kids to sleep with additional beds in the form of pullout couches in the loft. The cabin opens up to the screened-in porch to expand the living space when a lot of guests are over or when the weather is nice.
    Most of the time, the cabin is only used by four or five individuals, so the space remains intimate while being able to open up and accommodate a large number of guests without getting cramped.

Benjamin VandenWymelenberg, University of Minnesota
View ThumbnailsView Full Screen
1 / 3PreviousNext
Copyright © 2012, Benjamin VandenWymelenberg. All rights reserved.
Architectural Model
This cabin was designed for a Minnesota couple who wanted an open floor plan that invited nature into their daily living. The sliding-window façade system allows the house to open up entirely in the summertime and be closed in the winter months. A set of insulated panels also slides over the glass façade in the wintertime, conserving a large amount of energy. The glass cube placed atop the tower acts as a serene “reading nook” and provides a breathtaking view of Lake Vermilion. Overall, this simplistically beautiful design acts as a living and breathing organism that welcomes nature into everyday living – the reason for going up north in the first place.


Voting for the Design Competition has now ended. To see the winners, check out the October 2012 issue of Cabin Life, on newsstands now! Or subscribe today to get your copy!
Subscriber Only Content
Subscriber Only Content
Look for this icon. This denotes premium subscriber content.  Learn more »
Become a Member
Register online for access to more valuable resource information.
Don't miss your connection to the reader forums, projects, photo galleries, and more.
Subscriber and Member Login

Free Twice-Monthly E-Newsletter

Receive useful tips & inspiration from Cabin Life