Monthly Archives: May 2009

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…

BEST OF SHOW: International Contemporary Furniture Fair

Hot Seats And More:  Michael Cannell at ICFF

New York design guru Michael Cannell is the publisher of — an addictive daily ballot on home furnishings, furniture, lighting, and storage — and former editor of the House & Home section of The New York Times. His new book is The Limit, chronicling the Ferrari race team of the early 1960s. Here he is:

Option 2

I asked Mike to review the International Contemporary Furniture Fair, which took place this week at Manhattan’s Jacob K. Javitz Convention Center, for Eye On Design. Here’s his report.

“The International Contemporary Furniture Fair is the country’s premier design event and a showcase for new furnishings from the U.S. and abroad. The mood at this year’s show, which closed on May 19th, was subdued, for obvious reasons. But good things can come out of a recession. Overall the work this year was more practical and affordable, and with a new emphasis on sustainability. Below are our ten picks for best of show:

Andrew Moe presented the Oslo Line, a collection of furniture with slim, simple lines that he made from reclaimed lumber (console desk and chair, below).

consoledeskmain1 moe, oslo collection

The pieces are almost Shaker-like in their simplicity.

One of the more popular stops at this year’s fair was IKEA, which displayed its new PS Collection, which emphasizes recycled materials.


The BRYGGA swivel chair by Marcus Arvonen, above, is surprisingly comfortable with its irregular red plastic planks (grained like wood) on a steel base.

At age 82, Pierre Paulin may have been the oldest designer at the fair. More than 50 years after producing his first work, he made the Flower Chair, below, from injection-molded translucent polycarbonate for Magis.

Flower Chair by Pieree Paulin for Magis

The swoop-back armchair is classic and Jetson-modern the same time.

Maaike Evers and Mike Simonian, a Dutch-American duo known as Mike and Maike, collaborated with Council, a young San Francisco design firm, to produce Divis, below.

Divis Table_Council

It’s a solid-wood table with splits that mimic the natural cracks that occur in lumber.

The French brothers Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec spent two years producing the indoor-outdoor, stackable, batch-dyed polyamide plastic Vegetal chair for Vitra, a Swiss manufacturer, below.

Vegetal Chair_Bourrellac

Its plant-like structure is based on the vines trained to form seats found in Victorian gardens. It comes in six colors.

Hiroshima by Naoto Fukasawa is an unassuming beech dining chair, below.

Hiroshima Chair_Naoto Naoto Fukasawa

But its exquisite proportions—the tilt of the seat, the tapered armrest — make it feel graceful and weightless.

Cardboard was much in evidence at this year’s fair, including the flat-pack Transformer light by Chun Wei Liao shown below.

Transformer_chun wei liao

Now this is thinking outside the cardboard box.

Tom Dixon, the Londoner who helped put glamour back into British design, showed the Spot table with enamel tops on heavy cast-iron bases.

Tom Dixon_Spot Table

Brothers Paul and Vincent Georgeson of Misewell captured the back-to-basics spirit of the fair with designs of solid wood, steel, and aluminum, including this tripod-base Conrad coffee table.


Ray Power’s swirling Link Pendant lamp is hand-made from polywood, visible in this close-up.

Ray Power_Link pendant

It’s a durable wood veneer that’s easy to clean. Here’s another image —

ray-power-link_gy pendant lamp  from bonluxat

to show it hanging — like a luminous coiling serpent.”

Visit the ICFF website for more information.

Craftsman Style Today

Of Mica and Men

Craftsman is the energizer bunny of revival styles — it just keeps hopping into another decade. Originally an early 20th-century success story, it has been undergoing a robust renaissance for the last thirty-plus years. Just look at the cornucopia of Craftsman style products available today, the best of which express connections to nature and the hand-made:

oak and mica lamp

From the Oak and Mica Table Lamp at Arts and Crafts Tile, above, to the vivid geometric ceramic based on a rug Frank Lloyd Wright designed for the Hoffman house, below (also from Arts and Crafts Tile),

FR6370BR FLW Hoffman rug

to rugs themselves, such as this Tiger Rugs example from Modern Bungalow:

CraftsVine_SpringCC5   craftsman vine from modern bungalow

To vases — see the Curled Fern from Door Pottery below.

vs_CurledFernSM_lg photo

And what about clocks.

mantel clock from carreaux du nord

This slender “Cotswold Cottage” design is from Carreaux du Nord. And furniture, of course, like the drinks table from Black River Mission, below:

17tab1 drink table from black river mission

Don’t forget those Elbert Hubbard or Gustav Stickley-inspired motto plaques (these gents helped found and popularize the American offshoot of the Craftsman Movement in the early 1900s), like this one from Arts and Craftsman Woodworks:

live_for_today-537x166 motto

You can even have a Craftsman bird feeder:

bf_shortdfly bird feeder from modern bungalow

The Dragon Fly design is from Modern Bungalow — call it a “tweeter feeder” and then twitter about it!

The Craftsman bungalow has seen an equal surge in popularity as homeowners look for comfort and character within smaller spaces while making the most of limited resources. Simple gable roofs, extended eaves, exposed rafters,  front porches, and easy garden access are important architectural attributes. Brooks Ballard, the newest designer in our Signature Collection, has carefully studied the Craftsman bungalow and updated it for modern living.

461-3p1-2116 photo

His Hayes design (Bungalow Plan 461-3, above) is especially appealing. A useable 8-foot deep front porch sets the tone.

461-3mf-2116 plan

Inside, the living is contemporary, with an island kitchen that opens to both the dining area and family room.

Or consider his Dillon (Foursquare Plan 461-2, below), a classic  four-square design.

461-2p2-2520 photo

Again an ample entry porch creates a neighborly stance.

461-2mf-2520 plan

The plan includes a rear breakfast area and screened porch, and a hint of formality in the butler’s pantry between kitchen and dining room.  With a Master’s in Architecture from Georgia Tech and a Master’s in City Design and Social Science from the London School of Economics, Brooks knows how to put houses together to form thriving pedestrian-oriented communities. And he takes a “green-build” approach: Home widths are based on 4-foot increments for less waste during construction. Bump-outs are kept to a minimum. Roof lines are simple. It’s efficiency with a heart and soul — hey, that almost sounds like a Craftsman motto! Welcome, Brooks, it’s great to have you on the team.

To browse a large collection of Craftsman style house floor plans click here.