Cabin Fever: 7 Stunning Modern Retreats Surrounded by Nature

The discerning use of natural materials, with a strong emphasis on stone and wood, helps to maintain the minimalist aura of these homes.

Gavin Moulton Gavin Moulton

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The pandemic and resulting urban exodus of the past nine months has created an explosive demand for getaway homes. Now that telecommuting is rapidly becoming the standard for many workplaces, the temptation of escaping to a secluded retreat is more appealing than ever.

Without losing their connection to nature, these homes from across the globe shift the definition of cabin from rustic to sophisticated. The discerning use of natural materials, with a strong emphasis on stone and wood, helps to maintain the minimalist aura of these seven homes.

Skigard Hytte by Mork Ulnes Architects, Kvitfjell, Norway

Clinging to the ridgeline above the picturesque ski resort of Kvitfjell, Mork Ulnes Architects’ Skigard Hytte brings together the best of Norwegian vernacular design and sustainable building practice. The minimal impact philosophy is built into the foundation of the hut, by elevating the structure on piers to protect the natural contours of the site.

Elevating the cabin also offers practical advantages in both winter and summer, saving the lucky owner from having to shovel snow for access and providing restful shade for the sheep that graze on the mountain slopes. Perhaps the most spectacular feature of the design is its earthen roof, populated with native species of grass and melting the wooden cabin into the surrounding forest.

Hyak Cabins by Notion Workshop, Snoqualmie Pass, WA

If a boutique cabin in Norway is out of the question, look no further than Notion Workshop’s prefabricated A-frame. Referencing its ubiquitous predecessors in the 1970s, the A-frame remains the all-American getaway home, but by introducing engineered Mass Plywood Panels this classic cabin design becomes both more environmentally friendly and affordable.

The rendering is imagined in the summertime Cascades but due to its prefabricated design concept, can be built anywhere after ordering from Buildstone.

Lake House Voels by noa*, Völs am Schlern, Italy

It is hard to improve on the stunning natural beauty of South Tyrol’s Völser Weiher Lake, but the simple forms of the all-wood build designed by noa* (Network of Architecture) skillfully complement the alpine setting. The entire design is centered on the lake, with jetties for bathing, changing rooms and ample waterside terraces. Echoing traditional Tyrolean forms, the large projecting eaves protect the patio from sun and snow. A rectangular wing juts from the core of the cabin to the side, balancing and adding a dynamic pulse to the floorplan.

Whidbey Island Farm Retreat by mwworks, Whidbey Island, WA

Surrounded by the impressive verticality of a grove of Douglas Firs, the strong horizontal lines of mwworks’ Whidbey Island cabin link together its various pavilions. Conceived to host visits for up to twenty family members and friends, the plan embraces communal and individual spaces. The outside fire-pit with a pond-view and bunkhouse fulfills the former, while the cedar-clad master bedroom provides a sanctum within the retreat.

A daring feature of the home is its cantilevered projection extending over a squat wall of stacked Basalt stone. Evidence of the careful attention and planning of the house is the preservation of trees between its individual volumes. The glass and metal exterior brings to mind the rationality of Miesian aesthetics.

Glass Cabin by atelierRISTING, Fairbank, IA

atelierRISTING’s weekend escape in the plains of Iowa is a playful homage to the power of sustainable design to radically reduce the impact of new buildings. Down to the regenerated prairie it is built over (with piers to minimize impact), the house fully incorporates ideas of reuse. Salvaged glass and the use of wood further help to diminish the carbon impact of the project.

A wood-burning stove can heat the home in winter and a solar fan provides ventilation in summer. Viewed from the dirt road leading to the cabin, the structure appears to hover over the surrounding prairie grasses.

Metrick Cottage and Boathouse by Akb Architects, Seguin Township, Canada

Similar to the Whidbey Island cabin, the Metrick Cottage and Boathouse in Ontario was designed to meet the needs of a multi-generational family. Through the construction of three separate pods, Akb Architects amplified lake views and added privacy for multiple family members to simultaneously use the space. The central pod is the heart of the complex with living and kitchen space.

All of the interior walls are cloaked in torrefied ash, a darker wood that elegantly unifies the various parts of the house. At the lake’s edge, a large floating boathouse features an inviting dock with benches.

Lightus Retreat by Joongwon Architects, South Lake Tahoe, CA

The angular footprint of Lightus Retreat was determined by the natural pattern of coniferous trees on its mountainous Lake Tahoe site. This lends the house a highly angular shape with interior spaces flowing freely into one another following the contours of the exterior walls.

Plywood panels and white paint match the low-key energy of the retreat, while a triangular indentation between the reading nook and living room creates a touch of luxury with the outdoor spa deck. Though the Siberian Larch exterior siding is in line with the classic Lake Tahoe wood cabin look, transparent synthetic polycarbonate illuminates the bedrooms on both ends of the house and gives a contemporary silhouette.

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