The smallest cabin in the West

186 square feet is enough room for Denver architect
Mary Jo Bowling

Denver architect Jim Smith went looking for a remote area to build a cabin. He found it in Cotopaxi, Colorado, three hours southwest of Denver. "I wanted a place to get away from it all," he says. "And this is about as remote as you can get."

For Smith, designing the cabin was an experiment in seeing just how much space was needed for living. For him, it turned out to be 186 square feet. And it has no electricity.

"The small scale of the space pushes you to experience the land," says Smith. "You come up here to be outside - you don't need more space inside."

The design is based on the old settlers' cabins in the area. Nature was a big influence as well. "The shape of the roof and overhangs mirrors the shape of the bristlecone pine trees in the area," says Smith.

Inside, a single room contains a small kitchen and living-sleeping space. A smaller area acts as a mudroom and a bathroom. Smith used simple, inexpensive, durable materials - plywood, cedar, and galvanized metal.

Smith says that, as an architect, he had to restrain himself from overdesigning the cabin. The effort paid off. "It's a completely different feeling up there," he says. "The simplicity of the design and materials encourages you to live in a simple way, much like the early settlers."

Design: Agency for Architecture, Denver (720/359-1416)