Design-led cabins in spectacular surroundings

Lauren Hill

Senior Contributor

Remote forest, a private island and hills of vineyards provide the setting for some of the world’s most architecturally impressive cabins. Each environmentally conscious retreat combines inspirational design with a taste of adventure and immersion into the great outdoors.

Manshausen Island, Norway

The 55-acre private island Manshausen lies off the north coast of Norway, far above the Arctic Circle. Accessed by boat, this retreat owned by explorer, writer and photographer Børge Ousland is a destination that pairs adventure with breath-taking aesthetics. Designed by Snorre Stinessen, the striking cabins here extend out over the water with walls of glass on three sides ensuring maximum views of the mountains, sea, and if you’re lucky, Northern Lights. 

Breakfasts and meals highlighting local ingredients such as freshly caught fish, as well as lamb and reindeer, are served in the retreat’s restored farmhouse, which is home to a library and reception area in addition to the restaurant. Additional facilities include hot tubs, a protected saltwater pool and sauna. Adventurous activities and excursions from here range from snorkelling, scuba diving and sea kayaking to fishing, climbing, caving and hiking on bigger islands in the region.

Manshausen Island

Photographer: Steve King

Mökki Santara, Finland

In Finnish Mökki describes a ‘small cottage by the lake’. Mökki Santara offers a modern take on these traditional lakeside huts that you see throughout the country’s Karelia region. Designed by architect Carla Getz, this simple and strikingly stylish cabin, which is distinguished by a black exterior and made using regional and sustainable materials, provides light and warm wood-and-white interiors divided into kitchen, living and sleeping areas with a separate wood sauna. 

This inviting cabin, which sleeps up to four people, is located on the shores of Lake Santara. Surrounded by forest, this retreat is a base for hiking through the woodland, fishing and swimming in the lake. The cabin’s rowing boat allows more exploration on water. In winter, the area becomes a setting for ice fishing, ice skating and cross country snowshoeing.

Sacromonte Landscape Hotel, Uruguay

Sacromonte fuses landscape, wine, sustainability and design amid the vineyards and rolling hills of Sierra Carapé in the Maldonado department. MAPA Architects designed the architecturally impressive and sustainably built cabins here to disappear into the surroundings with their mirrored façades reflecting the landscape. 

Inside, the cabins, which here are named shelters, take inspiration from the environment through the use of natural colours and local materials, and they all lead out to a deck with circular pool. The retreat consists of Vineyard, Lake, Sierra and Horizon Shelters, a restaurant, winery and rows of vines. From here, guests can set out on guided hikes, tour the vineyard in an electric buggy, have tastings of Sacromonte wines and tuck into meals of the retreat’s own vegetables with roast lamb and focaccia baked in a clay oven.

Sacromonte Exterior

Photographer: Tali Kimelman

Sacromonte view

Photographer: Leonardo Finotti

PAN Treetop Cabins, Norway

PAN Treetop Cabins have won several awards for their architecture. These treetop hideaways in Finnskogen, Norway, integrate inspiration taken from Norwegian tradition into contemporary architectural style. The cabins were built in this secluded location to allow guests to experience the quiet of the forest, enjoy traditional food from the region and try outdoor activities — this part of Norway is known for its mountains, fjords and chances of seeing the aurora borealis. 

The vast forest is also said to be home to an abundance of wildlife such as elk, lynx, wolf and bear. Designed by architect MNAL Espen Surnevik, the cabins are built to sit harmoniously within this landscape, having minimal impact on its surroundings and mimicking the structure of North American A-lodges. Each of these cabins has a winding staircase leading up to its position high above ground. Activities from here include fishing, hiking, wolf safari and outdoor yoga.

PAN Treetop Cabins

Photographer: Fredrik Bye

The Mirrorcube, Sweden

Almost hidden by its mirrored walls, this cube-shaped cabin in Harads, northern Sweden, has become widely recognised for its distinct design. Tham & Videgård Arkitekter designed the box-like structure, which is suspended around the trunk of a tree, using an aluminium frame, wooden interior and reflective glass. Accommodating two people, the hideout comprises a double bed, lounge area, bathroom and rooftop, and is accessed by a bridge leading up to the treetop from the ground. 

This cabin is a part of the imaginative Treehotel retreat, which also encompasses cabins such as the Bird’s Nest and UFO. Guests staying here dine on culinary creations focusing on seasonal flavours—with experiential meals including candle-lit dinner under the stars on a frozen lake and three-course dinner 10 metres high up in a tree—and depending on the season, try activities like ice fishing, snowmobile safari, Northern Lights photography and horse riding. Yoga, meditation, trail running and relaxation in the sauna add a wellness element to the experience.

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