Planning the Cabin Design (interior and exterior)

I haven’t forgotten the cardinal rule of real estate; location, location, location. But precluding location issues that may warrant an exterior or interior change, I’ve narrowed down some of the preliminary design ideas to 3 specific ones.

These are from my new favorite book, Compact Cabins (highly recommended) which isn’t so much a book on actual design, but design ideas and how to approach the problem of layouts. Think of it as a roadmap to your own roadmap to a cabin design.

Apologies for the quality. I didn’t want to scan these in high res as that could be a copyright violation. I just wanted to share the three designs I’ve settled on to incorporate into my own.

I really like the floor layout here. The floor area is also what I've had in mind for a while.

The above cabin has pretty much most of layout for the 1st floor I had in mind except I want the bed on the 2nd floor. I basically want to keep all “plumbing” on the 1st floor to simplify construction and keep the 2nd floor as open as possible.

I also want a rear door by the kitchen, so by expanding the width and taking away the cabinet, I can put a door back there.


The front window arrangement is what caught my attention here. The simple roof oriented south would keep it from getting too hot in the summer while still allowing plenty of light.

That cabin has most of the exterior look I’m looking for when it comes to the windows. I do want lots of windows to let in plenty of natural light and also to enjoy the scenery. I’m not too crazy about the bathroom jotting out, but if I make the square footage the same, if not slightly bigger than the first cabin, I can squeeze it inside the main structure as in the first example.


This has the perfect height and outside shape. Also love the windows.

When I said I want the bed upstairs, this is exactly what I had in mind. I also want the top floor open to the bottom, and the front porch is just perfect. Couple this with the bottom floor arrangement of the first cabin (minus bed) and I think this is where I should start.


So overall dimentions would be something like…

  • 16ft x 16ft footprint with 16ft height (we’ll make this a cube, except with a sloping roof).
  • Similar porch as in the last cabin example.
  • 2nd Floor open to the 1st floor as in the last cabin.
  • Front fascade similar to the 2nd cabin example (we’ll lower and shorten the front window to fit under the porch roof. Maybe make it a patio door.)
  • Maybe an exterior storage shed similar to the 2nd example.
  • Single slope or at most, an asymmetrical roof with the greater surface area pointed south for solar panels.

The roof has me divided a bit, but I want it either a single slope roof or like the following…

Via Emily Badger

I also like all the glass, except I may have it pointed North to prevent direct sunlight making it too hot inside.

So there you have it… Ideas in place, I just have to go about designing the thing.

I still didn’t get a chance to play with SketchUp yet because of my schedule, but I plan to get something done by the end of this week. I also don’t want just rough sketches (we’ll start with those), I want the interior structure layed out as well. If a 2 x 6 piece of lumber is actually layed out in the program, I can truly visualize how to construct. This would also prevent logical errors in the construction.


8 thoughts on “Planning the Cabin Design (interior and exterior)

  1. I too have an affinity for small and compact homes. They have a way of recalibrating what it is we really need vs. what the real estate market tells us we need.

    As an architect, I’ll have to profess my aversion to these kinds of books despite understanding the reason for their existence. Books like that have a way of trying to minimize and dilute the process of designing buildings and all the issues that go into them. On the other hand, not many people are going to hire an architect to design a cabin.

    That being said, some things that I’d be focused on in making a sustainable cabin:

    Insulation: This is really number one. Personally, I’d be shooting for a R-35 to R-40 wall. Minimum of 2×6 w/ sprayed, open cell insulation and 2 inches of rigid on the exterior. Stay away from fiberglass batt–it’s not good to handle and the air seal is terrible.

    Materials: The standing seam roofing in the last picture you show is a good choice. It’s more expensive than asphalt, but it lasts longer, more durable and it looks better (also much greener). That cabin also looks like it uses reclaimed boards for siding which is a nice touch. Installing the siding in a rain screen system will help it last longer as well. If you can go reclaimed or FSC certified on any wood products, all the better.

    Windows to Wall: I’d try to restrict the amount of glass to where it does the most for you (view, natural light). Every window is a puncture through your wall that isn’t going to perform as well thermally (even if you get high quality windows, which is a good idea.)

    I’m sure you have an idea on the basics; low flow fixtures, no-VOC paint, low-voc finishes, etc. It looks like it should be a fun project.

    • Hi Tyler, thanks so much for sharing that.

      My reply was getting too long so I made another post. ;)
      All in all, your points are well taken.

  2. Pingback: Planning the Cabin Design II | This page intentionally left ugly

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