Time to take a break: 5 cabin retreats in the middle of nature

These days, more and more people have been drawn back to a simpler life close to nature – a trend which is well reflected in the growing demand for minimalist and sustainable homes. From tiny houses on wheels to traditional cottages in the countryside, there are many ways to make the most of small spaces. But why would you choose a little shed in the woods over a luxury hotel at the beach? Turns out, there are plenty of good reasons.

The perks of living in a cabin

For the construction of modern cabins, architects rely on natural materials such as timber. The main goal is to keep the ecological footprint at a bare minimum – by creating as much living space as possible out of a few square metres. With huge glass fronts and multifunctional furniture, for example, a room will feel a lot larger than it actually is. Wondering what that looks like? Here are five cabin retreats that combine off-the-grid vibes with up-to-date interior.

1. Buitenhuis: holidays at a cabin in nature

You don’t always have to build or buy your own tiny house – sometimes, all it takes is a weekend away from the city. The so-called “Buitenhuis” (which translates to “outdoor house”) in the Netherlands offers the perfect setting for that kind of trip. Located amidst beautiful scenery near the tranquil town of Otterlo, it measures not more than 40 square metres. Amsterdam-based architect Chris Collaris partnered with the design studio Dutch Intervals to develop this mini holiday home. The black wooden facade makes for an eye-catching contrast against its green surroundings. On the ground floor, the cabin retreat has one bathroom, one bedroom, and a spacious living area with an open kitchen. There’s also a second level with another sleeping bunk at medium height. A huge glass front separates the living room from the terrace, so the guests will see plenty of green whichever way they look. Inside, the “outdoor” feeling is present as well – thanks to wooden floors and furniture, lots of plants, and earthy colours on the walls. Gira Esprit switches and socket outlets with linoleum-plywood frames round off the nature-based concept.

The front of the house has a large glass front
Gira Esprit switch and socket outlets in Dutch outdoor house +

Gira switches made from linoleum-plywood

Two materials in one sustainable design line: Gira Esprit switches with linoleum-plywood frames.

Gira Esprit switches and socket outlets with linoleum-plywood frames blend in seamlessly with the wooden floors and ceilings. Source: Ronald Smits

2. Silberhaus: a cottage house on the edge of the forest

You love to go hiking, canoeing, or mountain-biking during the day, but spending the night in a tent is not really your cup of tea? Then a cabin retreat like the “Silberhaus” in western Germany might be right up your alley. The owners, Kai and Mira Spangenberger, renovated and modernised the entire interior in 2020. 53 square metres – complete with one bedroom, a living and dining area, as well as a kitchen – offer enough space for groups of two to four people. During the colder months, you can spend cosy evenings in front of the fireplace or at the outdoor sauna. In the summer, a large terrace invites you to lean back and enjoy the picturesque view onto the surrounding woods.

3. Cabin One: home is wherever you go

As building land becomes more and more expensive, many people can’t afford to – or simply don’t want to – settle down on a large property anymore.

Recognising this trend, German architects Simon Becker and Andreas Rauch have developed a new housing concept. Cabin One is a minimal house that can be placed virtually anywhere: in the garden, on a parking lot, and even on large rooftops. You might use it as your primary or secondary residence, a holiday home, or a separate home office. The basic module of this cabin retreat comprises 25 square metres and can be further extended or downsized, if needed. It comes with a small kitchen, bathroom, and plenty of cleverly hidden storage space. For the interior, the Berlin-based architects chose a clear design language that is visible in every last detail – including the Gira E2 switches mounted on the wall. There’s also the option to integrate smart technology and thus add an extra layer of comfort. By way of example, you might use an intuitive control unit such as the Gira G1 for lighting and heating.

black tiny house
Kitchen area Cabin One
Gira G1 in kitchen smart tiny house +

Gira G1

Heating, blinds, lighting: control your entire Smart Home with Gira G1. Compatible with KNX and wireless systems.

With the Gira G1, you can integrate smart lighting and heating control into a mini home. Source: Cabin One

4. Chalet Pic-Bois: a modern cabin in the woods

At a remote location surrounded by maple and poplar trees, Canadian architect Ravi Handa has built a two-storey house for a family of three. The Chalet Pic-Bois near Lac Brome, Quebec might seem quite simple at first glance, with its slim structure and gabled roof. But once you step inside this cabin retreat, you’ll soon realise how much thought went into its spatial concept. The living area on the ground floor has a high ceiling that reaches up to the roof, creating a cathedral-like ambiance. Handa used this vertical extension to integrate a gallery that serves as a bedroom. The minimalist interior is characterized by neutral colours, bright wood, grey fabrics, and black accents. Windows in varying sizes frame the idyllic view onto the trees outside.

5. The 72 Hour Cabin: a place to relax and recharge

Can you really calm down and restore your inner balance in three days? That’s what Visit Sweden sought to find out in 2017. During a case study, five international participants – who all worked highly stressful jobs – went to a remote island north of Gothenburg. They were housed in cabin retreats with glass roofs and facades, to bring them as close to nature as possible. Inside, there was just enough space for a double bed and some shelves on the wall. All participants spent most of their time outdoors – swimming, fishing, and cooking over an open fire. The result after three days: everyone’s blood pressure and pulse had dropped significantly, while the overall stress level was cut down by almost 70 percent. Following this initial success, the 72 Hour Cabins are now available for bookings at several locations.

Tiny cabin with glass walls right next to a lake

As you can see, there are a lot of ways to enjoy some quality time in the wilderness – even if it’s just a short trip on the weekend. Or maybe you’re already thinking about buying or building your own home?

Then a cabin retreat might be the right solution: using up less space and resources, it offers a sustainable alternative to conventional housing. Maximum comfort at minimum cost – a win-win for ourselves and our environment.

Have you ever stayed at a mini holiday home close to nature? Or do you even own a tiny house yourself? Tell us more about your experiences in the comment section.

Architecture Healthy Housing Sustainability
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