Frame construction

Frame construction using sawn timber clad onto a timber frame looks more finished than the machined logs and may fit some landscapes, such as in Britain, where log construction is not traditional. The design of the cabin need not follow a traditional or domestic form, and can be of more neutral, asymmetric forms such as intersecting monopitches. A-frames can also be interesting and contrast with everyday residential landscapes. Trees, landforms or other natural features can be the source of inspiration for their design. Overhanging roofs, balconies or decks, cabins on stilts jutting out over steep slopes or water are all features that can be accommodated in appropriate places.

The external finish of the cabin should, as above, reflect the textures and colours of the landscape so that their impact is lessened. Vertical board-on-board cladding of rough sawn, left-to-weather timber looks excellent. Clapboard is more traditional in some places but is normally painted or stained, not left to weather. Shingle or profile steel roofs also give texture.

Shadows cast by deep bargeboards and a dark stain for the roof help to give the cabin visual weight and reduce its apparent size and reflectivity, thus reducing its impact both on the site and in the wider landscape. Window frames and doors can be given a brighter colour to provide an accent.

Frame cabins are an easier form of construction if large expanses of glass are wanted to let more light in, to give wider views out and to merge the inside with the outside. Fine mesh screens to all windows, doors and ventilation apertures should be fitted to prevent biting insects from getting into the cabin.

Decks, porches, balconies or other sitting out or eating areas can greatly increase the opportunities for inside/outside living, perhaps in conjunction with french windows as suggested above. Given that many cabin sites are on uneven ground, the most of this can be made for decks protruding out over sloping ground. The landform and site can also be used to take advantage of breezes to help keep biting insects away, although in extreme conditions fans may be required to create a sufficient breeze.

Decking and handrails (if the slope is steep) should reflect the design of the rest of the cabin and take account of the safety issues described in Chapter 9. Access to the cabin and its deck by people with disabilities should also be a standard consideration. Access from behind the cabin should ensure a fairly level approach so that any landform falling away is taken up by the deck. Thus taking advantage of scenery also provides a good barrier-free approach. Elsewhere, ramps may be needed if the cabin is raised on a stone under-building.

External finishes should avoid urban materials. Natural stone surfacing or timber decking should generally be used for paths to the access road, which should follow all the recommendations for car parking described in Chapter 5. Attention to detail in the finish of the areas immediately around the cabin is important, because much can be disturbed or lost during construction.

It may be appropriate or necessary to provide some lighting for access to cabins at night. Rather than use urban types of lighting on high poles, it is much better to choose low-level lights set at waist height, which illuminate the path only. This reduces the overall effect of lighting and helps to maintain the atmosphere of remoteness so important for the quality of experience.

Sites for barbecues can be laid out near the cabin in an open area, safe from the spread of fire, together with picnic tables. Sometimes these are shared by several cabins in a large development and are placed a little way off so as not to be overlooked or invade the privacy of the cabins.

Signs, enclosures for rubbish bins, car park barriers, picnic tables, bridges, steps, gates and all the other artefacts that might be needed as part of the cabin development should all be designed to reflect the idiom used in the cabins. If possible, litter bins should be incorporated into the exterior structure of the cabins.

A reception building, perhaps including public phones, television, a shop, indoor games, refreshments and laundry facilities, may be needed at larger sites. The design should also reflect the architectural style and construction of the cabins.


As well as single cabins to be occupied by one family it is not infrequent for a single building to contain two or more units, or for cabins to be arranged in multiples. In North America these are referred to as condominiums or ‘condos’ for short. The same design and layout criteria apply, except that because of the multiple occupancy there is a greater density of facilities required, such as more car parking and services per unit. In some areas the denser clustering and greater density can solve problems by concentrating use into a smaller and less fragile area, or constructing fewer actual buildings. Nonetheless, there can be difficulties related to the privacy of shared decks or balconies. In other places the density can cause problems if the landscape is sensitive, such as greater visual impact, greater site disturbance and adverse effects on natural drainage. This means taking more care in site choice, layout and design as well as the design of buildings.

Frame construction

Updated: October 11, 2015 — 6:15 am