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Tower cabins

Like a treehouse, tower cabins offer a beautiful view of our surroundings

By Mark R. Johnson
Published: July 19, 2011
Tower cabins come in all shapes, sizes and configurations – each with a unique story.  But they all have one thing in common: They're designed to capture the view. Like a treehouse that lifts us up into the rare air of the tree canopy, tower cabins elevate our perspective, giving us a birdseye or squirrels-eye view of our surroundings – the much-loved woods, lakes, rivers or oceans outside our cabins.

And they're all different. There's the tower featured on page 40 of this issue that's designed like a forest ranger's fire lookout. Some towers, like the one at left, are attached to the cabin, while others stand alone, commonly serving as guesthouses or bunkhouses. A few, like the "Girls' Fort", are designed for children. Some are new, but some – like the rustic log tower on the facing page – are steeped in history. Regardless of the type of tower, enjoy the view!
SLEEPING TOWER – This family retreat is located on Dabob Bay off of Washington's Hood Canal, Olympic Peninsula. Completed in 2008, the post-and-beam getaway is situated on a ridge, with ravines on three sides. And the architect designed the home so that its three elements – the entry, the great room and the sleeping tower – follow that meandering ridge. The tower offers a dramatic experience, reaching high above the cascading ravines below. And the top level of the tower conveys a 360-degree view of the surroundings.

Architect: Greg Bjarko, Bjarko Serra Architects, Photos by Ben Benschneider.

RUSTIC STYLE – This Minnesota northwoods log tower was built in 1931 to support a large wooden water tank that supplied water to a resort. The renovated tower now serves as a guest cabin, complete with a small deck, futon, bed and writing desk. Photo courtesy Sue Beach,


THE GIRLS' FORT – This tower was designed to give the cabin owners’ daughters a retreat space of their own. The 144-square-foot sleeping porch has an interior ladder leading to a stargazing platform above.

Photo courtesy of the architect: Kees Architecture, LLC,

MONTANA TOWER – Built in 1995, this tower is not a secondary building, it is the family cabin. Located in Finley Point, Mont., the tower cabin is used for gatherings with extended family and friends. Architect Kevin Gordon designed the two-story cabin with wraparound windows in order to capture views of nearby Flathead Lake and the surrounding Montana wilderness. Gordon's chief inspiration here was Frank Lloyd Wright, as reflected in the cabin's low-pitched roof with a long overhang, Prairie-style windows, wood siding, open floor plan, rich interior woodwork, exposed wood beams in the ceiling, and Arts and Crafts furnishings.

Tower built by Gordon Construction. Photos by Roger Wade Studios.
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