Can an Architect Help You Build a Better Cabin?
March 1, 2008
My fascination with architecture and the design of cabins was launched
during the third grade (many years ago) when my buddies and I built our
first fort along the edge of the woods overlooking a pond in Kansas.
The casual living area of this cottage in Cannon Beach, Ore. (designed by the author) has an open and airy feeling. The stairs to the loft wrap around an incense cedar tree trunk. The finishes reflect the owner’s interest in natural materials and colors.
Photo by Nathan Good, AIA
unstated at the time, our goals then were not that different than those
of my current clients for the design of their homes and cabins: to
provide shelter, comfort, durability and character. If we would have had
an architect’s services to help us, we might have avoided the wet
floors from a heavy rain, the door that would never close quite right –
and, of course, the eventual collapse of the walls from high winds.
your retreat is being designed from scratch or being remodeled, every
getaway should be equipped to last well into the future. Many owners of
vacation homes are expressing a growing concern for changing climate
conditions. So architects have begun to design what we refer to as
“future-proof” homes, capable of withstanding more extreme weather
conditions, forest fires, insect infestations, earthquakes and
To create a getaway that will be
around for the enjoyment of future generations, consider using new
construction techniques and products. Durisol and Faswall, for instance,
are two of my favorite wall-forming products. Both are insulated
concrete forms that are used in constructing the exterior walls and are
designed to protect the occupants from severe storms and natural
“Green building” is another emerging trend in cabin
design. Many cabin owners, in tune with the natural environment that
surrounds their retreat, are looking for ways to preserve energy. For
example, creating a well-insulated cabin will enhance comfort and reduce
the demand for energy. New innovations in rooftop solar panels can now
provide most, if not all, of a cabin’s energy. Also, a cabin designed to
maximize natural light will enhance views unique to each setting while
conserving energy. Local materials are another great resource. They
reduce the amount of energy (and carbon emitted) required for their
Then there’s the matter of building character and
personality into your functional cabin space. Some of my favorite trends
in residential design have been mainstays with cabins: smaller
footprints, expansive porches, window seats, clever storage spaces,
covered outdoor rooms and open great rooms. Several of my firm’s
recently designed cabins also have incorporated a viewing tower, which
doubles as a game room, an overflow sleeping area and an away room
(typically a small room that opens off the main living area for
activities that require some quiet).
You can get the most out
of your getaway retreat through thorough planning. Designing a cabin
can present many unique challenges that can be overwhelming for new or
even seasoned owners. An architect can turn challenges into
opportunities by offering unique and thoughtful solutions and by
bridging the design needs of the cabin owner with the expertise of local
builders and talented craftsmen.
One of the greatest rewards
for a cabin architect is to create a getaway that will not only stand
up to nature but also blend the owners’ aspirations with a gorgeous
natural setting. Architects cherish the opportunity to create dwellings
that match their site like your best fitting jeans and a favorite pair
Architect Nathan Good has clients from Ohio to
Hawaii and Canada to Mexico. His Oregon-based firm specializes in custom
homes with an emphasis upon sustainable design. View a few of his
projects at www.NathanGoodArchitect.com.
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