Stylish cabin in the woods

800-square-foot retreat gets owners back to nature

Surf shack in the woods

The red chaise is Yvonne Neumann's favorite spot to curl up with a book. Sliding glass doors open a corner of the living area to the patio.

Thomas J. Story

Surf shack in the woods

Cabin floor plan

Nik Schulz

Long before he went to architecture school, Andy Neumann was a champion surfer. So it's no wonder he refers to his 800-square-foot, solar-powered retreat as "the surf shack."

The strongly geometric cube-shaped cabin, located 2 miles up a canyon in California's Central Coast, packs a lot of design ideas ― from storage walls to a hearth-desk ― into a compact space overlooking a creek in rolling, oak-studded ranchland.

"I had the luxury of camping here for three years and taking my time to get a bead on my design," says Andy, who shares the retreat with his wife, Yvonne. "I knew I wanted to experience the outdoors while being sheltered in an uncomplicated way."

The kitchen/living/dining area and enclosed bathroom occupy the cube; a bedroom is attached to one side like a saddlebag. The shedlike main roof is actually two triangular planes forming a trough that echoes the canyon slope and channels runoff to a salvaged anchor chain. Sliding window walls on four sides and at a corner of the living area open the house to the landscape.

The remote site is in a high fire-risk zone, so Andy used noncombustive building materials (including 10-inch-thick plaster-and-metal lath walls that are the color of the earth) and eliminated roof overhangs, a common transfer point for wildfires. Electric power is generated by solar panels on top of the south-facing detached, one-car garage.

Large-capacity military-surplus batteries are used to store the energy, eliminating the need for a generator. The cabin's mechanical systems are in the garage, which keeps the main living quarters tranquil. Propane powers a very quiet refrigerator and stove, and heats the water for the radiant heating in the poured-concrete floors.

The layout of the cabin exemplifies Andy's pared-down aesthetic. "My brother-in-law built me a large maple 'box' that I pushed into the corner," he says. The outside wall of the box contains cubicles for kitchen storage and books. Inside is a bathroom and walk-in closet; on top is a study/loft with two beds.

The cabin is both a launchpad for surfing and a place to relax in the rugged landscape. As for the sleek geometry, Andy says, "It honors the spirit of freedom that drew me here in the first place."

Design: Neumann Mendro Andrulaitis Architects, Carpinteria, CA (805/684-8885)

More: Geat cabins and vacation homes

Printed from:
http://www.sunset.com/home/architecture-design/stylish-cabin-in-the-woods-00400000012454/