Growing popularity of small rustic cabins speak to our future, via our past

The shelter was built perpendicular to the chimney in order to create a cloistered outdoor space.

A luscious new book of photos, called Cabin Porn, isn’t inviting readers to hole up in the woods to look at naked bodies.

It is inviting them to look at photos about holing up in the woods.

The book is the brainchild of tech entrepreneur Zach Klein, co-founder of Vimeo, who bought some land in upstate New York in 2010 with his wife and friends. They started collecting photos of cabins as “inspiration to guide us and motivate us” to build their own. Eventually, they built some cabins on the property they call Beaver Brook, and they shared the photo collection in a popular Tumblr blog called Cabin Porn. They also opened a school at Beaver Brook, where individuals can learn to timber-frame a building from scratch in a few days.

All of that led to the Cabin Porn book, published by Little Brown, edited by Klein and aptly subtitled Inspiration For Your Quiet Place Somewhere.

Ironically, Klein says the title Cabin Porn is “difficult for me to justify” because “it was never a fantasy. My friends and I were out there doing it.”

Cabin Porn isn’t the only sign that cabins are having a moment. The New York Times’ T magazine recently proclaimed in a headline that cabins are the new American dream. Pinterest is loaded with accounts like Rustic Cabin Life and Cozy Cabins. Students at Harvard’s Millennial Housing Lab just launched a project called Getaway, which offers tiny houses in rural settings for rent by the night for city dwellers looking for an escape.

Sebastian Heise / Little, Brown & Co. via AP
Sebastian Heise / Little, Brown & Co. via APThis shows a small home built at a seemingly unusual angle in Oberwiesenthal, Germany.

Why cabins? Simplicity and immersion in nature explain much of the appeal.

“There’s something really satisfying about being reminded that life outdoors is really affordable,” Klein says. “You don’t need a McMansion to enjoy the woods.”

But while cabins might be simple structures, the images in Cabin Porn are spectacular and compelling, even when the buildings are little more than ramshackle shelters tacked together from scavenged boards.

The rustic settings are beautiful, on mountaintops and by the water’s edge, in deserts and the woods. And the dwellings’ designs are intriguing, from converted vehicles and silos to tree houses, pods, sheds and bungalows — along with more conventional wood-frame homes with pitched roofs.

Noah Kalina / Little, Brown & Co. via AP
Noah Kalina / Little, Brown & Co. via APA home in Wonder Valley, east of Twentynine Palms, Calif. The wings of this home meet at a 135-degree angle, and from the bedroom on the left, occupants have an unobstructed view of the sunrise.

The term cabin has a particular sensibility, Klein notes, part of the narrative of taming the frontier and cutting down trees to build homes and settlements. Log cabins symbolize “resilience and self-reliance,” he says.

“What I’m drawn to is creating minimal comfort outdoors so that I can be as close to nature as possible,” he said.

He also notes that rustic cottages are part of the culture in many places, especially northern Europe. The book’s photos range from a shack in a sheep-herding camp in New Zealand to a boathouse on a lake in Germany.

Cabin-love is also related to the tiny house movement. “The American dream is exhausting,” Klein says. “Having to live up to this model of largeness is really draining. People are drawn to the possibility that we can be happy with a lot less.”

Sarah Barnard, a Los Angeles-based interior designer who specializes in sustainability and healthy living, has a number of clients who have high-pressure jobs and nice homes in the city, but own cabins for weekend escapes. “In the city, we cannot help but be influenced by fashion and our neighbours and advertising and all these things that impact how we purchase and how we decorate and what our daily lives look like,” she says. “Whereas cabin living allows us … a kind of freedom from the confines of those social expectations.”

Ryder Pierce / Little, Brown & Co. via AP; handout
Ryder Pierce / Little, Brown & Co. via AP; handoutA “teakettle house” in Galveston, Tex.; the book cover.

Those inspired to pursue their own cabin in the woods might want to know, however, that reality can be more complicated than the ideal. Klein admits that the cabins he and his friends built at Beaver Brook “ran into problems,” from mice infestations to family members who couldn’t handle the lack of amenities. They’ve since built a building with plumbing and electricity “that’s weathertight and rodent-proof, so we could be there all four seasons,” he says. “Now my mom will come to visit.”

Klein’s sojourns in the woods have also left him with Lyme disease, which comes from tick bites. It’s “a reminder,” he says, “that nature isn’t move-in ready. It’s not sterilized. It’s very much a force that has to be reckoned with. It’s humbling.”

It’s also a good reason to have plumbing in your cabin. “We needed to make it easier for showers,” Klein says, “to create proper conditions so people could check for ticks and clean things.”

 

Source: National Post, 10/25/2015

http://news.nationalpost.com/homes/growing-popularity-of-small-rustic-cabins-speak-to-our-future-via-our-past

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Sharon Chung

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