Designed by David O’Brien Wagner

with Roderick Vahr

Situated on 140 acres of rolling woodlands and prairie, LongHouse is the second of two cabins on a rural retreat intended to connect inhabitants to the natural surroundings. The owners are a multi-generational family who share their retreat as an Airbnb-style rental. The family’s goal is for the cabins and land to be a restorative getaway, particularly for those who may need wellness recuperation. LongHouse provides a single level, ADA friendly alternative to its companion tower cabin nearby.

LongHouse sits on the bluff edge of a small lake, and is tucked within woods just beyond farm fields replanted with native prairie grasses. This particular site was chosen with the Owners for its intimate setting overlooking the lake, its ability to be hidden from view from other parts of the property, and for its feeling of immersion into the tree canopy. Two large oak trees anchor the building to its site and help shape the floor plan. A small twist in the floor plan helps preserve the oak trees and allows them to become part of the interior experience. The twisting plan also reacts to a subtle bend in the lakeshore opening up longer views both up and down the lake.

Interior spaces are stretched across the bluff edge in two interconnected volumes, one with a flat roof plane for the east bedroom and one with a soaring shed roof for the great room and west bedroom. The great room takes advantage of the shed roof with high windows on the uphill side to let in daylight and provide cross-ventilation, while on the downslope side the roof helps direct views out to the horizon and down toward the lake. Large windows bring nature fully into the spaces, and corner windows accentuate the panoramic vista. By situating bedrooms at each end of the main gathering space greater privacy is provided for multiple family members, for two couples, or for a guest and their caregiver. Each bedroom is appointed with a generous bathroom, a fireplace or woodstove, and are adorned with the same large windows and corner vistas as the main great room.

Outside the main cabin a covered boardwalk hugs the building edge and extends to a satellite porch space. The porch sits under a diagonally oriented butterfly roof with exposed beams and rafters of Douglas fir. Two back walls provide a sense of protective enclosure while two open sides provide generous vistas and airflow. Concealed, drop-down insect screens can be lowered with the push of a button to provide a bug-free haven.

Additional environmental strategies include:
• Passive solar orientation
• Summer shading utilizing roof overhangs
• Shading using deciduous tree cover
• Super-thick walls allow for maximizing insulation
• Triple-pane windows, with solid wood frames, manufactured within 500 miles of the site
• Operable windows for cross-ventilation
• Ceiling fans for cooling to limit need for mechanical air conditioning
• Solar panels located in the prairie behind LongHouse are sized to supply 100% net-metered electricity
• LED lighting throughout
• High efficiency appliances, fixtures and mechanical systems

Construction by One-Cut Construction
Engineering by Christian Solterman PE, Align Structural
Photographs by Corey Gaffer

2023 Home of the Month Award