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The Modern Cabin: Classic Materials, New Approach

Not that long ago, "customizing a cabin" meant choosing between two different species for your logs and settling on a corner profile. Today’s cabin consumers have a considerably wider variety of options that have expanded the definition of "cabin" to anything from a traditional cozy log structure to a contemporary abode of glass and steel. Take a look at these ways to think outside the box when designing yours.
by Gibbs-Smith Publisher

The most unusual cabin Michelle Kodis researched for her Modern Cabin book was the one featured on the cover. "It’s essentially a floating glass box supported by an inner brick core, " Kodis says. "The 1,800-acre ranch site precluded the need for shades or curtains, and the owner likes being in constant visual contact with the surrounding landscape."

The core aspect of the cabin — its utility as a retreat, and its "soft" imprint on the environment — hasn’t changed. Cabin design and definition, however, have dramatically been altered.

"The desire for a retreat has always been with us, but as our world becomes increasingly harried, the need to connect to nature — and to ourselves — has been amplified," says Michelle Kodis, author of Modern Cabin (Gibbs-Smith, $39.95, hardcover, 208 pages, 250 photos). "That, combined with the growing number of people who appreciate and understand the value of good design, has resulted in the ’new’ cabin: a place to get away from it all, in style."

Modern Cabin looks at 22 retreats that redefine boundaries, planning, and architecture of cabin-sized spaces.

The modern cabin, Kodis says, is all about the smart use of space and the innovative use of materials. "Today’s cabin allows other materials to become part of the fabric and texture of the building: metal, concrete, glass, brick, stone, as well as wood," she says.

In terms of style, Kodis says the modern cabin:
• Has a functional, well-conceived floor plan that utilizes the available square footage as intelligently as possible
• Is sited to take advantage of natural light and views
• And is designed both for comfort and to be as low-maintenance as possible.
In addition, today’s cabins are far more eco-friendly than those of yesteryear.

"Architects today are creating cabins that use more energy-efficient materials and which are oriented to harness the power of the sun for passive-solar heating, for example," Kodis says.

Two cabins in the book feature "green" or vegetative roofing. Another incorporates recycled wood and eco-friendly paint and other finishes. "One cabin in Jackson, Wyoming, (shown below) is even equipped with special foam shutters that, when closed up at night, trap heat in the house, in turn reducing heating bills," Kodis says. "Yet another cabin in Canada has special windows: highly reflective glass windows taken from a dismantled Toronto office tower. The builder got these high-end windows for free."

The recent push toward "hybrid" construction — the merging of log, timber, stone, and other natural materials — has led to a resurgence in inspired design and intricate planning, and Kodis agrees that today’s custom wood home designs feature a smart approach.

"Today’s log home features more than logs because clients are more savvy about the use of materials and how a complementary blend can create a visually beautifully home," she says.

Green CabinCabin essentials

Building a modern cabin of your own? Author Michelle Kodis has a few tips to pass along.

• Do not get overly impressed with a large floor plan. Often, the smaller the house, the better utilized the space and the more comfortable it will be.
• Consider long-term maintenance as you select materials and finishes. The retreat is to be enjoyed, not worked on every weekend!
• Make every effort to capture the sun if you live in a cold environment, and be equally aware of shading if you live in a hot climate.
• Pare down the materials palette to create a consistent look and also to save money.
• Look for deals on salvageable materials (for example, the cabin in Canada that has the office tower windows).

Published in Country's Best Cabins
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