From the traditional cottage in Carmel-by-the-Sea to the modernist cabin built on a lava flow landscape, author Linda Leigh Paul’s new book, Cottage and Cabin, is both a meditative and jaw-dropping collection of 40 houses taken from five of her previous books. Each provides insight into structures that meet the specific needs of the owner, but where landscape (and the potential destructive force Mother Nature) is paramount in the design.
So take a blog-size tour of Cottage and Cabin based on our recent conversation with Linda, and enjoy stunning photographs that are sure to inspire you to start planning your idyllic refuge. First on our stop, an island getaway by a volcano.
AM: Some of the retreats featured in your book look out on redwood forests or cedar groves. Others the gentle tides of the ocean or a lake. And then there are the homes with unusual locations. For you, what is the most unexpected view in Cottage and Cabin?
LLP: Oh, definitely the house built near the volcano at Kilauea on Hawaii’s Big Island. That just shocked me. I love it because it’s a totally recycled environment. And I admire the boldness of the owner to go ahead and build there, because there could be a lava flow anytime. The volcano is still erupting. The architecture is extremely simple which makes the landscape look even more complex and beautiful. When storms pass over places like this, you get a different color on every rock. It must be a magical place. Maybe not to some people. But I would love to go there, especially during a storm to experience the elements.
AM: For many, water is an important contributor to the getaway feeling of a cabin or cottage. Which pool would you rather take a dip in? The seawater pool at Ravine Landing at Moonhole in the Grenadines….
…or the pool at the country cabin in Sonoma County, Calif., made from a reclaimed redwood water-tower tank. You note in your book that swimming there gives you a view of the tree tops.
LLP: I’m a fish, so anything is fine with me. I would like to be in Olle Lundberg’s water tower for a little while, looking out over the valley. It’s a wonderfully outrageous swimming pool, 25 feet in diameter. And it’s elegant and as simple as can be. But in reality, I would want to be on Bequia Island. The movement of water is really important to me. That has a constant exchange of water with the sea. It’s brilliant. Anyway, that’s the one I want.
AM: I loved the documentary Winged Migration, and now I have new inspiration to take up birdwatching. This is a serious passion for the owners of the Birding Cabin near Puget Sound.
LLP: I have tremendous respect for someone who would build a cabin just to they could watch the migratory patterns of birds. There isn’t much of a living space in it — a tiny kitchen and a futon in a corner. The real purpose of this place is to sit on those two wooden stools and observe birds. That’s a meditation. And it’s incredibly well built. Simple and strong as can be. I absolutely adore this place, and I wish I had it.
AM: Some like a spacious, restrained modern aesthetic. Others long for a retreat that has the feel of days past. What to you is the coziest cottage in your book?
LLP: Oh, without a doubt, that would be Treasure Cottage in Key West. It’s just a tiny space – a 500-square-foot cottage on a 30 x 50-foot parcel. But it’s the way it’s laid out. There’s the cottage with a tiny guesthouse on the patio, there’s a deck for outdoor dining. It’s absolutely as cozy as possible, in terms of having everything but in a very limited space. And then there are these little bird houses around the house, architectural models that with the variety of scale, add to the feeling that the house is a lot more spacious than it really is.
AM: In many of the designs featured in your book, the interiors reflect the natural elements of the exterior settings. Talk to me about one of the cabins or cottages that instead turn inwards. Where the decor makes an artful and personal statement.
LLP: I love Connie Umberger’s cottage in Nantucket. She built it by herself with her own hands after a family tragedy. She was shunned by friends because because they couldn’t understand how she could live in such a crude place. She had moved from a large house with seven bedrooms. A lot of times when someone suffers a broken heart, beauty unfolds on the other side of that bleak moment. She turned her back to that bleak time, and now she has tours of her garden. Her cottage excites me. The zinc cabinets she has in her entry area, I just love that with her collection of fragments. The dollhouse made by her grandfather in the late 1800s. Collect the things that you want to look at every day. Surround yourself with what is beautiful and important to you. Her decor is remarkable. A good decorator should help you do that, and sometimes they will pull more out of you than you knew was there. Connie did that on her own, and her decor is like an unfolding flower.
AM: I don’t want to ask you, what’s your favorite cabin or cottage in your book. But I am curious, what landscape are you most drawn to?
LLP: I am in love with every place in the book. But my secret desire is the house in Door County, Wis., that looks out on Lake Michigan. I grew up on the Great Lakes. I love the sun coming through the trees. I’m hard wired into that one. That’s outdoor living.
AM: Last question. In light of our troubled economic times, what advice to you have for those who long to have their own cabin or cottage escape and are budget sensitive?
LLP: The secret to building something on a budget is to find the property that you want with the view you want first, and then you can build a wonderful, tiny place with budget friendly materials. Spend the money on the property. I’ve had people say why do you show tiny houses on great big pieces of property in your books. Because that’s the way most people want to live on a getaway.