• Cabin fever: why the humble cabin has raised in prominence in Australian architecture & design

    Part 2: Materials

    Australian hardwoods, corrugated iron and stainless steel fittings. Australian-designed and made cabins are both immediately obvious and appealing. We’re lucky because our natural environment serves up strong and textured set of materials. Our indigenous culture inspires rich colours and our history of pastoral land use has created a classic and evocative Australian bush home. They each inform the architecture and design of the contemporary Australian cabin. 

    Today we’re taking a look at just a few from our favourites.

    It follows on from our blog from last month, the first in our two-part series on Australian designed cabins. Last month we looked at the use of space. A cabin demonstrates how one small space can serve many functions. We love the flexibility in the design and shared some of our favourite examples here

    For blending into the natural landscape nothing compares to the Moonlight Cabin. The design is by Melbourne-based architects Jackson, Clements and Burrows. The cabin is clad in spotted gum and in the words of the architects “acts like a ‘gore-tex jacket’ to protect the cabin from the elements”

    Moonlight Cabin by Jackson, Clements, Burrows Image © Jackson, Clements & Burrows.

    Permanent Camping by Casey Brown Architects find its place in the natural environment using a different method. It uses the materials of pastoral homes and out-sheds. The structure is a two storey copper clad tower. As with pastoral homes, the internal structure is crafted from local hardwoods, in this case, recycled ironbark.

    Permanent Camping, Mudgee by Casey Brown Architecture. Image © Casey Brown Architecture.

    Australian history goes back much further than the settler-housing that inspires many bush cabins today. We’re pleased to see indigenous-led architecture and design explored and exhibited in Melbourne today. The Koorie Heritage Trust at Federation Square is a great example and last year showed an exhibition called Blak Design Matters. The exhibition asked the question: what is meaningful Indigenous design and why does it matter?

    The Koorie Heritage Trust at Federation Square designed by Lyons Architecture and IADV.
    Image © Peter Bennetts

    Our survey of cabins wouldn’t be complete without a look at how our bush has inspired materials and form. Cabin 2 by Maddison Architects takes the form of the bushland that surrounds it. The angled Moonah trees find a partner in the curved roofline.  

    At Made by Pen although we specialize in product design we are inspired by design in its larger form, in cabins and homes. We’ve got a lot to thank them for in a design sense, for showing us how to use space and how to be creative with materials, but mostly for bringing us closer to our sweeping Australian landscapes. 

    Cabin 2 by Maddison Architects. Image © William Watt

  • Cabin fever: why the humble cabin has raised in prominence in Australian architecture & design

    Words by Corinne Roberts

    At Made by Pen we know we’re not alone in loving cabins. They have captured zeitgeist. Cabins are usually built from basic but good quality materials and demonstrate to us how one small space can serve many functions.

    Australians have embraced small-living partly due to necessity. Big inner city houses on long blocks, dominated by expansive hills hoists, have long been sub-divided and rebuilt as townhouses and apartments.

    Eat, sleep and by comforted by an open fire in the Bruny Island Hideaway by Maguire + Devine Architects. Image © Maguire + Devine Architects.


    We now need living spaces that are flexible and give us the freedom to be interpreted in many different ways – rather than many rooms cluttered with belongings (see our blog on decluttering).

    Perhaps it’s a living room that serves as a home office, a place to watch TV, a reading room and a kids play area all in the one.

    This is not just evident in how we live, but in how we holiday. Or at least, what we lust for in a holiday, enter the cabin.

    As people interested in design, we love cabins because a lot of thought has been put into how the space will be used. Perhaps the bed is also a place to sit and contemplate. The kitchen is almost always striped back to its bare functionality.

    The multi-use living space of the Garden House by Baracco Wright Architects. Image © Baracco Wright Architects.


    At Made by Pen we work with designers that push the brief for freedom and flexibility in how we use space. The Sway floor lamp by Nick Rennie and Linea desk organiser by Jim Hannon-Tan are both important contributions in this space. Pushing Australian design forward. Showing us our future. Cabins meanwhile take us back to our past. We can find inspiration from cabins in how we use space today while not compromising on design. Or maybe we just like them for the feeling of nostalgia they give us, for a more simple life

    A simple A-frame creates a flexible living and sleeping space in JR’s Hut on Kimo Estate. Image ©Kimo Estate



  • De-Cluttering Means Choosing Well – Making the Most of Beauty and Space

    It’s nearly a full month into the new year, and the cleansing bug has captured us at Pen – this week we completed an essential tidy and reorganisation of our studio. We feel ready to embrace 2019. We know we are not alone, with nearly everyone we have spoken to also furiously decluttering. But, how do we avoid falling into bad habits as the year takes hold, so that come 2020 we are not again surrounded by ‘stuff’? Much like our previous articles where we spoke about ‘good design’, and ‘buying once, buying well’, decluttering allows us to again discover those pieces that hold true value and posses the qualities imbued in good design. Pieces that are impactful and relevant, pieces that are functional, beautiful and evolved. We are reminded of what should always be our benchmark for purchase. Our first blog of 2019 unravels this. Enjoy the read!

    De-Cluttering Means Choosing Well – Making the Most of Beauty and Space

    It seems that everyone’s interested in decluttering lately. Living sparely..…embracing minimalism. Marie Kondo and her catchphrases are everywhere from Netflix to social media and there’s a lot to be said for following her advice and ensuring that all of the items in your home “spark joy”.

    The basics of the Kondo way involve ridding yourself of unnecessary objects; clearing your home of clutter and keeping only those things which bring you happiness or which are strictly necessary. One quote which holds a lot of resonance for many people from Kondo’s book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organising is “The space in which we live should be for the person we are becoming now, not for the person we were in the past.” The reason this quote speaks to people is that the majority of us want to improve, to grow and to succeed. Clutter and mess only serve to distract.

    Responsibility and clutter – choosing well.

    Taking responsibility for the planet on which we live is an important part of minimising our belongings. Shopping is fun of course; most people enjoy acquiring new things and there’s nothing wrong with that, to a point. The problems only begin with over-consumption and thoughtless purchases. The trick to taking responsibility and still enjoying beautiful things is to choose well. Choosing well involves consideration. What do you need? Where will you keep it? Is there space for it? Is it of quality that will last? Does it possess both form and function equally? Asking these questions before any new purchase will help ensure that you choose only what’s needed and that you’ve considered the built environment in which the piece will live.

    Clutter clearing and how to begin
    If there are certain spaces within your home which fill you with horror because they’re a disorganised mess, then it’s likely that you’re more than overdue for a clear-out. We all have things we love and have kept because they’re souvenirs or keepsakes. Again, the problems start when we keep too many things or store them poorly. Going room-by-room, evaluate the contents of each space. Start with the worst and carry on until you have a list of things you consider might possibly be superfluous to your needs. Good choices for the “get rid list” include things which are broken, things without functionality, and things which you haven’t looked at or used for a year.

    Organisation – keeping your things neat.

    A good mantra to repeat to yourself as you go about your reorganisation is “a place for everything and everything in its place”. For many people this is the key to a tasteful tidy and peaceful home. If each and every item has a spot reserved for it, then there’s no problem when it comes to keeping your home looking beautifully organised. Storage boxes, shelves, neatly arranged cupboards all play their part in this and so do beautifully designed organisation pieces like Linea by famed Adelaide designer Jim Hannon-Tan. This architectural piece is reminiscent of a streetscape and is beautiful in it’s own right…but it’s also brilliantly useful as a storage component to any room which needs a special place for smaller items. The first set is available with components made from brass, and Carrara marble whilst the second is a contemporary range using coloured silicone. Linea is incredibly versatile finding organisational function bench-side in the bathroom, hallway, in the kitchen or in the home office.

    Choosing pieces which will last a lifetime, retain their sense of style is a key part of living a clutter-free life. Beautifully made pieces please the eye, are made well and serve a purpose. This is what you need to bear in mind as you evaluate your home and its contents.


Back to top

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This