Micro-Cottage by Architect Cathy Schwabe

Building on a Regional Modernism

Our Signature Plans Collection is expanding dramatically, most recently with work by Berkeley architect Cathy Schwabe. Before launching her own practice Cathy worked with well known Bay Area architect Joe Esherick at his firm EHDD. She says:  “For me, Joe’s often-quoted question ‘How would a farmer do it?’ means designing buildings that make sense on their sites, whose practical approach to materials and construction details ensures that they will last and whose design

891-1 lead image

has a straightforward, simple beauty.” You can see this principle deftly demonstrated in her 864 sq. ft. modern, shed-roofed, board-and-batten studio, shown here opening to a flagstone terrace. It’s our Plan 891-1 (all photos by

891-1 metal siding

David Wakely). The metal siding is for extra protection on the shady entry (north) side in this particular installation. The soaring beamed ceiling,

891-1 living space

tall glass doors, and high window framing the tree and washing the wall with



light express a modern, nature-oriented warmth. The layout is simplicity itself: the living space seamlessly connects to the terrace and rises the full height of the

891-1 second floor

cabin, with the bathroom and workroom enclosed under the loft, which can double as a bunk room — just add a ladder. Large, brightly colored wall

891-1 barn doors closed

panels — green barn door at the workroom, yellow-orange sliders at the alcove —

891-1 barn doors open

serve as accents for the surrounding white walls and add a theatrical “Voilà!” when opened. Originally designed as a multipurpose space for making art, enjoying holiday meals, and housing overflow guests, it would also make a fine weekend cabin. Cathy says: “The large, light-filled primary space, with polished concrete floors and a ceiling painted blue between exposed wood framing, adapts easily to the changing uses.” Indeed, one way to adapt this plan as a weekend getaway would be to turn the alcove behind the sliders into a kitchenette and treat the work room behind the barn doors as a bedroom. Want it! Want it beaucoup!

Cathy’s connection to Northern California architectural history is strong. She says: “My work follows and builds upon the work of many others who have been influenced by that special blend of the Craftsman and the Modernist, linked with a clear response to site and climate, that has resulted in the Bay Area Modern Tradition.” Visually, her studio design reaches back to Joe Esherick’s

Esherick house at Sea Ranch

Hedgerow house at Sea Ranch on the Sonoma Coast, from the mid-1960s, with its shed roofs and window bays (photo courtesy Sea Ranch Escape); to the long

Voss house via env design archives

barn-like silhouette of the Voss house near Big Sur designed by William Wurster, from the early 1930s (photo by Roger Sturtevant courtesy Calisphere); and to

Mathewson house by Maybeck via BAHA





Bernard Maybeck’s Mathewson house in Berkeley, of 1915, with its window walls reaching up into the eaves (photo by Daniella Thompson courtesy Berkeley Architectural Heritage). Cathy will be launching more plans in the coming weeks so stay tuned. Let your summer cabin dreams begin! (Mine already have).

For more posts on Cabins click here.

To see our Micro Cottage Collection click here.

One response to “Micro-Cottage by Architect Cathy Schwabe

  1. I like the interpretation of this simple design and Cathy’s statement of designing buildings that make sense on their sites, whose practical approach to materials and construction details ensures that they will last reiterates how often we can get a little carried away in trying to replicate fashion over function. The books on the shelve above the doorway / window will require a lean against ladder and this could be used on the other side to access the loft but consideration to the safety in the form of a railing and or hook.

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