The word “cabin” evokes a modest log structure, usually featuring a stone fireplace from which a curl of smoke wafts into the sky. This idyllic dwelling might be tucked amongst trees or situated by a stream, often with a stunning mountain or lake view. Traditionally built with small windows and dark logs, though, the cabin has long been characterized by cave-like interiors. This was partly due to the limitations of the materials and partly by design: the more closed off from nature a cabin felt, the more it became a refuge.
In recent years, the ideal of the cabin has transformed. Cabins must no longer be small, or cut off from the outdoors, or dark. Increasingly, they are open to nature, with bigger windows and doorways and lots of outdoor living space. Yet they still retain a coziness and warmth that makes them true retreats.
In cabin style today, traditional elements—wood, stone, sheltering eaves, cozy interiors, adjacent outdoor spaces—might be combined with flat roofs, steel details, floor-to-ceiling glass and global influences. In the book Cabin Style, an Idaho home of reclaimed wood and glass is furnished with a hint of Far Eastern influence with a view oriented toward natural hot springs and the Sawtooth Mountains, while a Wyoming ranch house has a 1950s vibe with red window trim and a long porch with rocking chairs. Slopeside ski homes in Montana are imbued with color and verve, whereas in Tennessee, it is all about life on the lake.
Kentucky-based interior designer Chuck Bolton was asked to furnish a cabin by JLF Architects and Design Builders on a conservation property with a spring creek. The structure—stone, with a log wing that nods to nearby Yellowstone—sits tucked amongst mature trees while oriented toward lush bird and elk habitat. In such a setting, says Bolton, “My first principle in interior design is to get out of the way.”
Nearby, a home designed by CLB Architects expresses its character in reclaimed wood, posts and beams; multihued corral boards help it blend into the landscape while its roofline echoes the mountain peaks. Inside, high-end finishes, airy volumes, and modern light fixtures are balanced with grounding beams and reclaimed materials.
Though very different, both homes capture the ethos of cabin style today. On the inside: expressive, organic, unique. On the outside: respectful of place and sitting lightly on the land.
Explains JLF Architects’ Paul Bertelli, “We discuss what we see in the land, so that the architecture doesn’t lose an opportunity in the landscape, and the landscape doesn’t lose an opportunity in the architecture.”
In Cabin Style, the results of that approach are evident, in original designs that are cozy yet light-filled, grounded yet open to the outdoors, and in buildings that seem to belong.