Cabin Dreams for Today

A More Affordable Vacation Retreat

A few years ago Sunset Contributing Editor Peter Whiteley and I came up with a new twist on the cabin idea: “A  Getaway That Grows.” Peter’s ultimate design is really a deconstructed vacation house: you start with a compact, permanent, lockable kitchen-bathhouse and add tent bedrooms and storage on a 2,500 sq. foot deck as needed. Here’s how the Sunset Summer Retreat looked in the magazine’s parking lot then (visit Sunset’s Celebration Weekend at their headquarters in Menlo Park, California — annually in May) to see the great home design ideas they have come up with every year):

cw_retreat_final_pw birds eye view

It’s a strong idea that seems even more relevant today.’s Stephen Williamson, Nicholas Lee, and I have a further refinement: Use one of our small house designs as the centerpiece, like William Turnbull’s Sea Ranch cottage Plan 447-1, below:

web_landing_intr turnbull interior

The 650 square-foot structure puts kitchen, living, and sleeping area in one open space.


Only the bathroom is enclosed.

Or consider Plan 23-2289.


It packs a lot into a mere 400 square feet.


Plans like these give you a head start on the heart of the design (see our Cabins Collection for more ideas). Then add the tent structures (what could be greener?) with or without a deck. Sunset used tents from Sweetwater Bungalows.

FireShot settwater bungalows frame

Their tent structures are based on simple wood frames, like the one shown below:

full_10x12_12x14 tent cabin frame

Sweetwater tent bungalows come in various sizes including 10′ by 12′, 12′ by14′, and 14′ by 20′.

The “inside-out approach” is just one way to rethink the cabin. Here’s another I saw on a recent trip to the Rio de la Plata delta town of Tigre, near Buenos Aires:

Buenos Aires 097

It’s the Sarmiento cottage, a national historic monument where Domingo Sarmiento, the 7th president of Argentina, lived from 1855 to 1888. The house is enclosed in a glass box to protect it from the elements: now the outside is inside! Something to think about for winter, perhaps…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s