Our pastoral American landscapes of lakes, rivers and mountainsides are dotted with existing cabins built from the late nineteenth century and on. Although many new cabins are under construction, old ones often command the best sites and are ripe for reinvestment. As an architect working in cabin land, I’m regularly called upon for designs for cabin upgrades. The scope and scale of these projects vary widely, but they often demand respect for the nostalgic memories of generations of family life in retreat.
Is your cabin old, tired and designed for your grandpa’s lifestyle …which is not your own? Some thoughts from my 30 years of cabin research and design experience to address items such as:
1. Cabin Preservation; Should your cabin be on the National Register because Sigurd Olson or Justine Kerfoot once lived there? Or you can’t imagine altering Aunt Helen’s fine retreat. Or it was designed by a great architect, like Edwin Lundie or Lisl Close.
2. Cabin Seasoning; No, this does not mean adding salt and pepper, but rather extending the one season you can use the place. You’d like to keep the bats out, shore up a sagging foundation, or add more light and view.
3. Cabin Remodeling; You want to retain the shell but upgrade the performance. You want to refurbish, refresh, yet refrain from adding on. Maybe zoning won’t let you alter the footprint so close to the water’s edge.
4. Cabin Addition; Now there can be many options and zoning rules or budgets may play a big role here. Do you like the character of the existing cabin and seek to extend it into the addition?
5. Cabin Transformation; You want it to look all new, but zoning or budgets suggest retaining the old shell. You want a new bright interior, not the old dark wood from the 30’s.
6. Cabin Transposing; It was a school house but it will become your cabin. Or was it a granary, barn, caboose, or some shipping containers?
7. Cabin Accretion; Your cabin has grown incrementally and is likely to continue to do so. How do you add when you know it’s not likely the last addition.
Here are some extra references from my previous books to peruse and brush up on!:
1. Historical Preservation:
The Family Cabin “Windswept” pg 38 – 45
2. Cabin Seasoning:
(A one season cabin is rebuilt for many seasons)
4. Cabin Addition:
Back to the Cabin “A Plus” pg 86 – 91
6. Cabin Transposing:
The Family Cabin “Peace Cabin” pg 26 – 31