Escape The City
The Mountain Refuge
The Mountain Refuge
It’s no secret that the pandemic has had a profound effect on the way we live. One of the more positive changes to come out of lockdowns and restrictions has been our renewed relationship with nature.
The trend of escaping the city – in what some have described as an ‘urban exodus’ – has impacted countries across the world. In 2021, Bloomberg reported that 82% of urban centres saw more people moving out than in, swapping places like New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles for suburban or rural areas. The UK saw a similar trend, with the coastal region of Cornwall overtaking the capital, London, as the most searched-for location on property site Rightmove. Meanwhile, Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has made countryside revitalisation one of the key goals of his premiership, following a 12.5% increase in the number of people leaving Tokyo from 2019 to 2020.
Nature-based getaways have also gained popularity. This winter, Airbnb added ‘off the grid’, eco lodgings (‘one of the [platform’s] fastest growing categories’, according to Global Head of Hosting Catherine Powell) to its search options. What’s more, interest in short breaks in big cities (previously responsible for 11% of Airbnb’s revenue) is waning: its users are now looking for longer trips in lesser-known locations, unafraid to venture off the beaten path for a unique stay.
The Mountain Refuge
This has increased the popularity of projects like The Mountain Refuge (themountainrefuge.com), a prefabricated tiny-home concept created by Italian architects Massimo Gnocchi and Paolo Danesi. ‘Our goal is to develop one product that is conceived for all kinds of environments,’ Massimo told The Floristry. ‘If you want to be in Finland, with -20°C and 3m of snow, you can, because it’s structurally engineered and calculated for the harshest conditions.’
Complete with modern bathroom, kitchenette, water tank, electricity and heat, this is a remote retreat in which you can really live. And it feels like home, with its nod to traditional cabin archetypes and warm, wooden interiors. ‘Even with contemporary design, we will always try to evoke old feelings.’ explained Massimo. Sustainability is also an important factor – all materials have been chosen for their durability, while the sloped roof ensures longevity by protecting the walls from rainwater and snow. What’s more, the wood has been sourced within a 10km radius of the warehouse, to keep transport to a minimum and carbon emissions low.
But the main event is the 3.2m x 4.2m glass wall (above and opposite). Considering the first four units will be placed 1,600m up in the mountains of Sant Julià de Lòria, Andorra, achieving this feature is impressive to say the least.
Out Of The Valley
Meanwhile, in the UK, designer and maker Rupert McKelvie is the founder of Out of the Valley (outofthevalley.co.uk). The studio creates timeless wood structures, from off-grid homes (like Holly Water, below) to luxury camping sites, designed with respect for the land.
‘I take real joy in creating spaces that connect people with the natural world,’ Rupert told The Floristry, from his office in Devon (‘a large airy space made with lots of wood, unsurprisingly!’). Outside the window is a large copper beech tree; inside, his dog Inti lies by the fire. He takes early-morning runs by the river, swims when it’s warm enough (‘I’m still building my cold-water resilience!), and kitesurfs off the coast to connect to the elements. Altogether, an inspiring picture for anyone considering cabin life.
Having been brought up in the countryside, Rupert returned to Devon in 2013, after five years working in London. ‘I was restoring an old Douglas Fir timber framed barn into a workshop – it was one of my first large-scale building projects,’ he recounted. ‘Being absorbed in the spirit of the deep wooded Dartmoor valley influenced my interest in wood-based architecture. I wanted to live as close to it as possible, and that’s when I decided to build my first cabin. From this seed of an idea, Out of the Valley was born.’ And you can sense this personal connection and lived experience through the studio’s considered design approach: ‘We know what it takes to make these buildings feel unique; we carry our ethos and detail through every part of the cabin, from foundations to furniture.’
While the pandemic has resulted in an influx of Londoners moving to Devon, Rupert believes this desire to live closer to nature runs much deeper: ‘It’s only relatively recently in the timeline of humanity that we find ourselves inhabiting a built environment that at large was not designed to respond to, or connect the inhabitants to the natural world. High-carbon materials, like concrete and steel, now dominate our cities. Early shelters were very different – built using local raw materials, often semi-permanent, and always constructed with the elements in mind. Our desire to spend time in cabins echoes our ancestral story of habituation, it clearly illuminates what we need to survive and thrive. My time living in cabins showed me this, where less really is more.’