Design for Your Cabin LifestyleWhether your retreat is a waterside cabin, a desert hacienda or a ski lodge, time spent there is precious. To make the most of your stay, the layout needs to work for your family. Architects have the ability to tailor a cabin to the client’s lifestyle and the site. Accomplishing it takes a lot of know-how, input from the client, and dozens of big and small decisions along the way. Many folks, though, are sketchy on what architects do besides draw blueprints. Or, more to the point, how an architect can add value to your cabin.
Architecture “is a mystery profession,” acknowledges renowned Tampa architect Bud Dietrich, AIA. Dietrich’s designs have been featured in “Not So Big Remodeling” by Sarah Susanka and Marc Vassallo, and in other publications. “We as a culture know what to expect from a doctor, lawyer, accountant, but not from an architect. Homeowners tend to think architects cost money. It’s an expense, yes. But I’m convinced they can save you money by looking at your options and preventing mistakes.”
Often, architects can coax clients into a smaller footprint, says Good. Not only does reducing square footage save on building costs, it conserves energy. And foregoing a formal dining room or third bedroom (maybe occasional guests can sleep on a trundle bed or window seat) might free up dollars for a wood-burning fireplace, quality range, or maintenance-free deck.
“[Architects are] good at getting the most function out of less space,” says Albertsson. “If you think you need a 1,600-square-foot cabin, but your budget only allows for 1,400, or if you have a very tight space and you want it to do a long list of things, not everything needs its own room.”
Architects are up on the latest tricks to keep a cabin cozy, pleasant and energy-efficient. For example, does your place have a musty odor when you open it each spring? An architect may call for spraying closed-cell insulation into the wall cavities of an older cabin to stop drafts and prevent moisture and mold buildup. And energy-recovery ventilators keep just enough fresh air circulating when the cabin is not occupied, says Good. (An oversized bathroom ceiling fan set on a timer to go off for 10 minutes twice a day also works, he adds.)
What Does an Architect Do?
- Programming or pre-design: Deciding what to build and setting a budget
- Schematic design: Initial designs that may include site drawings, elevations and 3D images
- Design development: Refining the schematics
- Construction documents: Essentially, nitty-gritty assembly instructions for your builder*
- Bidding or negotiating: Choosing the contractor
- Construction administration: Overseeing the actual building
Be an Empowered ClientAn architect will ask lots of questions about your intended use of the cabin: Is it just for summer, or year-round? Will you entertain frequent guests or host family reunions? Do you plan to retire there? Will it be passed down for future generations? Be prepared.
For the initial meeting, gather lots of pictures similar to what you hope to achieve with your project. Hopefully, you’ll find inspiration in the pages of your favorite magazines, like Cabin Life. These days, it’s easy to email your architect images you find in magazines or on the Internet. Social media sites like Houzz (www.houzz.com) can help homeowners find a handle on the design they want, and the right person to deliver it, says Dietrich.
“A lot of our clients are using Houzz,” agrees Albertsson. Her firm also uses Pinterest (www.pinterest.com). “It’s more person-to-person. Instead of sending people links, we will create a pin board for them.”
After listening to your expectations, hopes and desires, an architect is likely to come up with creative design ideas you would never have dreamed of on your own.
Sense of Place
Do I need an architect to design my new cabin or my cabin renovation? That’s a question Cabin Life hears a lot from readers. And it’s a fair question because certainly not everyone wants or needs the services of an architect.
- GROUP A (the exception): Could be you’ve found the perfect design for your dream cabin. Your property is flat. Or your remodeling project is small and doesn’t involve load-bearing walls.
- GROUP B (the rule): Many cabins heed the “Call of the Wild.” Instead of a tight suburban lot, cabin-worthy sites typically have a topography that makes building a challenge. Often, the locale is environmentally sensitive and subject to a maze of building restrictions. Most likely, you fall into this category like the rest of us.
Waterside CabinsGlare is just one issue when building or remodeling near the shoreline. Many other factors can hinder progress, and an architect can steer you clear of those, even hidden ones.
The AcronymsOnly a licensed architect can use the title “architect.” In most states, a candidate must complete a minimum of 5 years of schooling and 3 years of working in an architect’s office before taking the licensing exams. Architects are required to renew their license, usually every 2 years. What’s with all those letters after an architect’s name? Here are some clarifications:
AIA – Member of American Institute of Architecture
CID – Certified Interior Decorator
IIDA – Member of International Interior Design Association.
LEED AP – LEED Accredited Professional (LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design – a rating system of the U.S. Green Building Council)
NCARB – Registered with the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards and licensed to practice architecture in at least one U.S. jurisdiction, and may qualify for reciprocal registration in all states.