Group of friends build a DIY cabin retreat, complete with suspended tree decks

December 3, 2018 by  
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While most couples tend to meet up with friends at a local bar or restaurant, Jeff Waldman and his partner, Molly Fiffer, decided they wanted to create a more nature-based social spot to spend time with their friends. So, the ambitious couple, who have no design or construction experience, spent more than two years creating an amazing DIY outdoor retreat tucked into a heavily forested 10-acre lot deep in California’s Santa Cruz Mountains. What began as a simple structure to enjoy the outdoors has resulted in not only a beautiful off-grid cabin made out of reclaimed wood, but a series of elevated tree decks, a wood-fired hot tub, an open-air outdoor shower, and the cutest little outhouse you’ve ever seen. The cabin was inspired by Waldman and Fiffer’s vision of building a serene place where they and their friends could get away from the hustle and bustle of daily life in order to reconnect with nature. Once they found the perfect spot in the forest, the couple then went about salvaging building materials, including a large front door and most of the windows. The ambitious couple did most of the work themselves, with the help of friends, without having any prior design or building experience. The result is a stunning retreat comprised of the wooden cabin, winding elevated decks suspended from the trees, an outdoor shower and what very well could be the coolest outhouse on earth. The cabin The main cabin is at the heart of the impressive forest retreat. Using a salvaged front door and windows to guide the construction, the wooden cabin design morphed into a beautiful structure with a sloped roof. Set off the ground to reduce impact on the landscape, the cabin includes a large open living space and a sleeping loft. Large windows flood the interior with natural light and a wrap-around wooden deck is perfect for gatherings or just soaking up the incredible views. Related: The adorable Acorn tiny cabin is made of wood salvaged from an old mansion Made out of local redwood sourced from a nearby mill, some of the beams used in the construction were salvaged from Habitat for Humanity’s Restore. Waldman explains that the group was very careful to protect the local landscape during the building process, “The loft floor is made from madrone slabs, which we milled from the trees we cleared from the site. On that note, we’ve been proud of the fact that we’ve cleared small problematic trees, or end of life heart rotted large madrone, but have yet to cut down any redwoods. We cherish those.” Suspended decks with outdoor shower and hot tub In line with the group’s dedication to protect the existing trees, they decided to add a series of suspended decks to the design. Anchored into the tree tops, the decks are 15-20 feet high and are accessed via a 20-foot long bridge. This low-impact construction allowed the group to build a series of interconnecting surfaces without disrupting the landscape. Although the suspended decks are incredible for strolling through the tree canopy, there are also a few surprises along the way. A lovely outdoor shower sits approximately 10 feet off the ground. The shower, which is left completely open on one side, is heated via an off grid heater and has solar-powered lights . Also on one of the platforms is a wood-fired hot tub that is heated with leftover scraps from the cabin build. Off-grid outhouse Located 100 feet behind the cabin is a 10 x 10 outhouse, set off the landscape with blocks. The incredible cube-like structure has a surprisingly contemporary aesthetic. The entrance is an open air deck with an outdoor sink that was reclaimed from the local rebuilding center. The exterior cedar siding, which was bought on eBay, has been treated with Scandinavian pine tar to achieve the jet black color and protect the exterior against the damp coastal climate. The interior, which is clad in black bear wallpaper, is installed with a solar-powered fan and lights. The Dojo Also on site is the Dojo, which houses an open air kitchen that operates with a propane stove and is also installed with a solar-powered lighting system. The structure is covered with a grey tinted polycarbonate roof to allow natural diffused sunlight through to the interior space. Although it looks like heaven on earth already, Waldman says that the cabin retreat is a work in progress. When not having ax throwing or archery competitions, the group is making plans to build a guest hut and treehouse. + Jeff Waldman Photography by Jeff Waldman

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Group of friends build a DIY cabin retreat, complete with suspended tree decks

This off-grid home on a Greek island provides ‘cinematic frames’ of the sea

November 29, 2018 by  
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Located on a remote hillside on the Cyclades islands off the coast of Greece, the Parallel House pays homage to the beautiful sea that surrounds the island. But behind its stunning design lies a completely self-sustaining home. Designed by Athens-based En Route Architects , the contemporary, concrete residence runs entirely off the grid thanks to solar panels, a rainwater collection system and energy-efficient insulation. The 1,000-square-foot home uses traditional building methods to become completely  self-sustaining . Because of the sloped topography of the building site, the backside of the home is partially embedded into the landscape, providing resilient, natural insulation to the home. By submerging the back of the structure into the hill, the architects were able to open up the front facade to face the sea. The elongated volume is broken up into a series of large square sections that frame the views from different rooms. Related: An off-grid home in South Africa features a conservatory for fully enjoying nature Made out of exposed concrete , the home boasts an impressive list of passive features that help reduce its energy and water usage. The concrete walls and flooring provide a tight thermal insulation to reduce the demand for electricity and maintain a stable, controlled temperature inside the home year-round. A recessed corridor in the back of the home enables cross ventilation to keep it cool through the searingly hot summer months. For water conservation, the roof was installed with a rainwater collection system that drains gray water into submerged tanks to be re-used as filtered water. Adjacent to the off-grid home, solar panels hidden within the landscape generate sufficient energy to power the residence. + En Route Architects Via Archdaily Photography by Yiorgis Yerolymbos and Nicholas Kourkoulas via En Route Architects

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This off-grid home on a Greek island provides ‘cinematic frames’ of the sea

Gorgeous prefab cabin is embedded into the mountainous Norwegian landscape

November 19, 2018 by  
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Located in the mountainous area of Filefjell, Norway, a stunning, solitary cabin peeks out over the snow-covered landscape. Designed by Oslo-based firm  Helen & Hard Architects , the beautiful Gubrandslie Cabin, which is made out of prefabricated solid wood panels, is designed to provide a low-impact shelter that can withstand the extreme climate characterized by harsh wind and snow. Located on the border of Jotunheimen National Park, the private, 1,184-square-foot home is sturdy enough to withstand the weather while simultaneously leaving  minimal impact on the pristine landscape. Large snow falls can wreck havoc on structures in this area, so the architects built the cabin to be inherently sheltered from the elements. Related: Contemporary ski chalet boasts gorgeous panoramic views and a low-energy footprint The first step in creating the  resilient design was to research the local climate and geography. Using extensive wind studies as a guide, the architects formed the home’s volume into an L-shape to mimic the slope of the landscape. Additionally, the cabin is integrated deep into the terrain to protect it from the elements. The roofs are slightly slanted in order to make it easier for the wind and snow to blow over the structure, avoiding heavy snow loads. Using the same climate to the home’s advantage, the architects were focused on creating a serene living space that took full advantage of the stunning, wintry landscape. The volume of the cabin is divided into three levels that follow the topography. The ground floor, which is embedded into the landscape, houses a sauna as well as the garage and plenty of storage. On the first floor, an all-glass facade makes up the entryway, which leads into a spacious, open-plan living area. The living, kitchen and dining space was orientated to face another wall of floor-to-ceiling glass panels , providing breathtaking views of the exterior landscape. On the back side of the cabin, which houses the bedrooms, clerestory windows follow the length of the structure, allowing natural light to flow into the spaces without sacrificing privacy. + Helen & Hard Architects Via Archdaily Photography by Rasmus Norlander and Ragnar Hartvig via Helen & Hard Architects

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Gorgeous prefab cabin is embedded into the mountainous Norwegian landscape

5 tips for beautiful, sustainable Thanksgiving decor

November 16, 2018 by  
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November marks the season of Thanksgiving . With Halloween decor packed up and Christmas trimmings still in totes, it’s time to focus on unveiling the essence of Thanksgiving in your home. Shelves of decor line the store aisles, but many of those options contribute to the destruction of our environment. By making some small, conscientious decisions, you can reduce transport emissions, eliminate plastic consumption and give used items new life while giving your home the holiday flair you envision. While pulling together the look for your Thanksgiving decor, keep sustainability in mind with these tips. Emphasize natural elements The truly wonderful thing about the fall months is the abundance of natural materials you can find and use in your autumn decor. Skip the retail purchases and head outside for organic finds nearby. Curve those grapevines into a circle, and use this as a base for a fall wreath. Adorn it with the colorful red berries that dot the landscape this time of year, and embellish the wreath further with dried leaves or flowers, pine cones or nuts. You could even glue on small apples or pumpkins. Related: How to host Thanksgiving dinner in a tiny home or small apartment Similarly, the same materials can be used to create centerpieces for your Thanksgiving table or as seasonal decorations for your coffee table. Lay out pine boughs and top them with colorful gourds. Grab those still-firm pumpkins, carve them into a bowl and stuff them with fresh greenery. Use clear glassware, jars, vases or water pitchers to hold pine cones, leaves, berries, nuts or colorful rocks. Fresh citrus or apples make a gorgeous centerpiece when placed in simple clear or white bowls. Make a statement by placing a votive candle inside a carved-out mini pumpkin or apple. Set bottles around the house, and fill them with fresh-cut lavender, rosemary or mint. Surround that centerpiece with a eucalyptus ring. Your mantle is another perfect place to add some visual appeal. Thread together orange and red leaves to make a swag, and add small pumpkins painted different colors. Also, remember that Thanksgiving is represented by the colors and products of fall, so take advantage of hay bales, corn stalks and gourds to decorate your front porch. Avoid plastic Anyone who’s spent more than a few minutes considering steps toward sustainability knows that plastic is petroleum-based, which causes problems for the environment — and plastic never goes away. If you decide to purchase decor for your home, look for materials that are eco-friendly and will give you the gift of longevity, resulting in less waste. Find a wrought-iron turkey or hunt down ceramic pumpkins. Buy glass platters and real fabric tablecloths instead of the single-use versions. Upcycle With very little effort, you can find decor that allows you to reuse something that’s already been produced rather than buying new. For example, take those mounting canning jars and etch them with festive designs. Alternately, you could decoupage them with leaves. Fill with orange candles and display them on your mantle or table. Look around your house for a bucket or rusted watering can, and dress it up with bundles of wheat or corn stalks. Hit up the local thrift shop for table runners, used decor and themed dishware. While upcycling might involve plastic items and is not always a zero-waste initiative, the more life we can give to existing products, the less production pollution and post-consumer waste we will have — a win-win for the environment. Get crafty The long, dark evenings of fall are the perfect time to get crafty. Take the kids for a nature walk and collect acorns, leaves, twigs and other natural elements. Once you return home, glue the materials onto fall-colored paper, forming letters on each sheet to spell out, “Give Thanks,” or something similar. Punch holes in the top corners of each paper and thread yarn or rope through them to create a banner for your wall. Crafting can also overlap with upcycling. For example, paint a wine bottle, add a twist of twine to the top and embellish with words. Make a few and group them together. The kids can use toilet paper or paper towel rolls to make hanging turkey decor, place markers or napkin rings. Related: Six yummy, organic pumpkin recipes you can make for Thanksgiving! Turn food into edible art Most people associate Thanksgiving with food, and many would agree that food can be art. Why not give your edibles dual purpose by designing munchable masterpieces? Start with that cornucopia you’re dying to put out and fill it with candy, grapes, apples, pears, satsumas, chocolate, pretzels, bread or nuts. You can carve a watermelon into a boat or basket and fill it with fruit. Head over to Pinterest, and look for ideas that will transform your veggie tray into a turkey pattern. Don’t forget about dessert — make some cookie turkeys or cut out a leaf pattern from your upper pie crust. Remember that the goal is to express the spirit of the season, which is gratitude. Nothing shows gratitude for your home and yard more than using natural elements. Hosting a sustainable Thanksgiving also shows gratitude for the planet and those you love that live on it. Images via Shutterstock

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A lakeside sauna boasts mystical views and a gleaming facade

October 29, 2018 by  
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Norwegian design practice Feste Landscape / Architecture recently completed the Soria Moria sauna , a sculptural, shingle-clad structure on Bandak Lake in Dalen, Norway that overlooks breathtaking mountain and water views. Developed as part of the ‘Tales of the Waterway’ art initiative for the Telemark Canal, Soria Moria is one in a series of projects that use art, architecture and lighting design to celebrate the natural beauty of the local landscape and traditions. In addition to the use of locally sourced building materials, the sauna features a wooden facade that’s integrated with gleaming golden shingles to reference local folklore. Covering an area of roughly 420 square feet, Soria Moria consists of a covered seating area, a sauna, a changing room and pine decking. Feste Landscape / Architecture found that — unlike much of the area around the lake — the Sigurdsevja inlet offered deep enough water for bathing at the shoreline. As a result, Soria Moria was elevated on stilts along the inlet and is connected to the lakeshore to the west by a long, zigzagging boardwalk that also links to an existing network of footpaths around the lake. The building takes on a striking, angular silhouette, which was inspired by the steep mountains that surround Bandak Lake. The dramatic mountains and lake are framed with massive panels of glass that blur the boundary between indoors and out. In keeping with the traditional vernacular, the structure is clad in Øyfjell Sag wood shingles that reference local building techniques. Gold-colored Nordic Royal metal shingles are also embedded into the facade to evoke the “mythical and outlandish.” Related: Floating sauna with charred timber cladding boasts minimal site impact “It also references the obvious contrast which arose between the uncultivated people of Telemark and lavish upper-class foreign travelers during the establishment of the nearby Dalen Hotel at the end of the 19th century,” the architects added. Completed this year, Soria Moria was developed by the Telemark Canal Regional Park in collaboration with Tokke municipality. + Feste Landscape / Architecture Via ArchDaily Photography by Dag Jenssen via Feste Landscape / Architecture

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A lakeside sauna boasts mystical views and a gleaming facade

The peaceful Micro House serves as an artist’s refuge in Vermont

October 29, 2018 by  
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Tucked into a hilly landscape in a remote area of Vermont, a 430-square-foot tiny home holds court among the wildflowers. Designed by Vermont-based Elizabeth Herrmann Architecture + Design in collaboration with the artistic homeowner, the cabin-like Micro House is a sophisticated, minimalist structure with a design inspired by the works of Henri Matisse. Initially, the client contacted Herrmann to create his dream home set deep within the idyllic Vermont mountains; however, after much debate and a few obstacles presented by the original design, Herrmann came up with the Micro House. According to the homeowner, the inspiration behind the design comes from the work of renowned French artist, Henri Matisse. “Matisse wanted you to walk around his sculptures and be surprised [about] what would happen,” he said. “And, in a way, that’s what I wanted to have happen with my house. The house [looks so different] from the four sides and angles. It’s shocking to me and that has always made me happy.” Related: How high-tech Kasita microhomes could revolutionize homeownership At just 430 square feet, the volume is quite compact, but sculptural features including sharp angles, a shed roof and large square windows override its tiny presence. Clad in cedar panels stained a light gray, the home has a neutral tone that blends into its natural setting most days but stands out in certain seasons. The sunflower-yellow front door along with a few restrained splashes of color on the interior add a sense of welcoming whimsy to the home. The interior is an open layout, with the living and dining room defined as one space. Various square windows were placed strategically throughout to not only let in light but to frame the stunning views as if they were works of art. The windows were also specifically arranged to optimize natural ventilation and airflow in the warmer months. Locally-sourced maple flooring runs throughout the house and complements the all-white walls. In the center of the  tiny home , a small dining table sits under the large window in the living room, allowing for optimal views of the mountains in the distance. Throughout the space, similar practical features such as a built-in sofa, a small sleeping loft, a simple bathroom and attractive storage solutions give the home a serene, no-fuss atmosphere. The homeowner and guests can simply focus their attention on the incredible Vermont landscape that surrounds the Micro House. As the artist explained, “You know what’s amazing about this house? The view you get out of the different windows. You can lie in the bathtub, and when put your head [down] and look out the window, you can see the moon.” + Elizabeth Herrmann Architecture + Design Via Curbed Images via Elizabeth Herrmann Architecture + Design

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The peaceful Micro House serves as an artist’s refuge in Vermont

Stunning Costa Rican beach home uses passive features to stay cool

October 25, 2018 by  
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Located mere steps away from idyllic white sand beaches on one side and a coconut grove on the other, this beach house designed by Studio Saxe is giving us major home envy. Situated on Costa Rica’s Pacific coastline, the spacious 3,250-square-foot Villa Akoya’s beautiful aesthetic hides several passive strategies designed to reduce the home’s energy use and impact on the environment. The breathtaking location serves as the principal inspiration for the design. Built using traditional cinder block construction, the one-story home was was raised off the ground to create a continuous sight line with the ocean views. This feature also helped reduce the footprint on the landscape . Related: Triangular beachfront home is a dreamy retreat buried in the earth The beach house’s dimensions are divided into four separate horizontal roof planes that slant slightly upward, covering each of the three bedrooms plus the main living area. This strategy creates distinct volumes within the structure. Additionally, the flat wooden roofs extend out over the exterior walls to create large overhang extensions that shade the interior while creating several indoor-outdoor living spaces around the exterior. The interior layout includes several spaces that are open to the exterior, creating a seamless connection between the indoors and outdoors. All of the bedrooms have their own outdoor spaces, and an all-glass wall in the living room slides completely open, leading to a wooden deck and a swimming pool . Concealed within the design are several passive features to create an energy-efficient beach house. The “elevated” roof lines create a natural system of air ventilation, cooling the home in the hot summer months. The abundance of windows and glass doors brighten the interior during the day, further reducing the need for electricity. The home also operates on solar-generated hot water and has a gray water system. + Studio Saxe Via Archdaily Photography by Andres Garcia Lachner via Studio Saxe

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Stunning Costa Rican beach home uses passive features to stay cool

Stunning Costa Rican beach home uses passive features to stay cool

October 25, 2018 by  
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Located mere steps away from idyllic white sand beaches on one side and a coconut grove on the other, this beach house designed by Studio Saxe is giving us major home envy. Situated on Costa Rica’s Pacific coastline, the spacious 3,250-square-foot Villa Akoya’s beautiful aesthetic hides several passive strategies designed to reduce the home’s energy use and impact on the environment. The breathtaking location serves as the principal inspiration for the design. Built using traditional cinder block construction, the one-story home was was raised off the ground to create a continuous sight line with the ocean views. This feature also helped reduce the footprint on the landscape . Related: Triangular beachfront home is a dreamy retreat buried in the earth The beach house’s dimensions are divided into four separate horizontal roof planes that slant slightly upward, covering each of the three bedrooms plus the main living area. This strategy creates distinct volumes within the structure. Additionally, the flat wooden roofs extend out over the exterior walls to create large overhang extensions that shade the interior while creating several indoor-outdoor living spaces around the exterior. The interior layout includes several spaces that are open to the exterior, creating a seamless connection between the indoors and outdoors. All of the bedrooms have their own outdoor spaces, and an all-glass wall in the living room slides completely open, leading to a wooden deck and a swimming pool . Concealed within the design are several passive features to create an energy-efficient beach house. The “elevated” roof lines create a natural system of air ventilation, cooling the home in the hot summer months. The abundance of windows and glass doors brighten the interior during the day, further reducing the need for electricity. The home also operates on solar-generated hot water and has a gray water system. + Studio Saxe Via Archdaily Photography by Andres Garcia Lachner via Studio Saxe

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Stunning Costa Rican beach home uses passive features to stay cool

Get away from it all in this tiny hut tucked into a Lithuanian forest

October 18, 2018 by  
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Designed by Ema Butrimaviciute of Lithuanian studio  Utopium , the Etno Hut is a 150-square-foot,  off-grid retreat tucked into a remote forest in Lithuania. Surrounded by breathtaking vistas, the tiny cabin, which was built with minimal impact to the landscape, is designed to provide a serene retreat for those looking to reconnect with nature. The cabin’s location, set in an expansive forest that sits between two Lithuanian cities, was strategic to its use. Wanting to provide city-goers with a serene weekend escape , the architect imagined a quiet retreat where anyone can escape from the hustle and bustle of city life without the inconvenience of driving for hours to get there. Related: Tiny ‘hut on wheels’ is the perfect vacation home to escape the concrete jungle Tucked into the edge of an expansive, lush forest, the tiny cabin was built on a slope facing south. Its orientation was strategic to take advantage of the sunshine and stunning views. The structure was built on a steel foundation screwed into the ground by hand as to minimize impact on the landscape. The entire hut, which was constructed out of Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs), was assembled in just three days. From a distance, the 150-square-foot cabin is virtually camouflaged into the forest backdrop thanks to its dark black facade. A large open-air deck leads to sliding glass doors that open wide to create a seamless connection with the landscape. On the interior, white walls and wood flooring brighten the modern living space. The cabin has a king-sized bed and a pull-out bed, a bathroom with a shower and a fully-equipped kitchenette. The space is meant to provide a relaxing atmosphere, with no transformable furniture or ladders — just everything needed for simple, uncomplicated living. + Utopium Via Archdaily Images via Utopium

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Get away from it all in this tiny hut tucked into a Lithuanian forest

A solar-powered home hides behind a colossal, sloped green roof

October 12, 2018 by  
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We often profess our love of green roofs , but a recent home design in Krakow has really taken the idea to the next level. Polish firm Superhelix Pracownia Projektowa has just unveiled a beautiful home with an enormous green roof that’s sloped over the entire northern side of the home. The roof is so large that it camouflages the barn-inspired home entirely on one side, providing the home with its name, the House Behind the Roof. The 2,000-square-foot home is located in a residential area outside Krakow. The building is part of a housing estate with 10 other homes built relatively close together. According to the architects, the first stages of the planning were focused on ensuring the privacy of the homeowners. As a result, the home’s design was created with the immense roof that pulls double duty as an eave that shades the interior while providing the utmost in privacy. Related: A green-roofed underground extension breaks the mold for school architecture Although the architects wanted to go with a traditional, flat green roof, local building codes prohibited them from doing so. As an alternative, the architects decided to top the home with a 45-degree sloped plane on the northern side. Covered with lush succulents, the roof gives a touch of whimsy to the design but also acts as a privacy shade and insulation. On the southern side of the home, multiple solar panels soak up the sun’s energy. At the apex of the A-frame roof, a series of large skylights allow natural light into the home. The house is clad in a light-hued Western Red Cedar. Because of the resilient nature of the wood , it wasn’t necessary to treat the timber beforehand. As a result, the wood will take on a silver-gray patina over time. Additionally, care for the green roof is also minimal. Long-lasting dry periods in this region are not common, and the succulents planted on the roof are low-maintenance. The rustic wooden aesthetic continues throughout the interior of the two-story home. Along with the skylights, there are multiple windows that are mounted high in the walls to provide the interior with natural light and ventilation. The home is laid out in a rectangular plan, reminiscent of a traditional barn . The ground floor houses the kitchen and living space, along with a bathroom and utility room. The master bedroom and en suite bathroom are on the top floor, as well as two extra bedrooms and a children’s playroom. On the bottom floor, large sliding glass doors lead out to an open-air deck with a barbecue and dining space. + Superhelix Pracownia Projektowa Via Archdaily Photography by Bart?omiej Drabik

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