wooden office cabin with shou sugi ban cladding and bi-fold doors

Estuary Cabin

Estuary Cabin

Location

Topsham, Devon

Size

22m²

Materials

Larch, Oak, Woodfibre

Design

Rupert McKelvie

A multifunctional cabin overlooking the river Exe near Topsham, a Devon town whose sheltered port made it a thriving base for merchants and seafarers in bygone times.

Our clients, carefully restoring a Dutch-style merchants’ house for their retirement, sought to create an artist’s studio in their waterfront garden that, incorporating a kitchen, could also function as an open-plan space for dining and entertaining.

The black, bitumen-painted hulls of boats that bob nearby are referenced in the cabin’s charred cedar exterior, created using the Japanese shou-sugi ban technique. Elegant in its simplicity, the structure’s monolithic form recalls traditional beach huts and sits peacefully against its waterside backdrop.

Inside, contrasting materials invite diverse sensory experiences. A granite hearth, cut by hand, provides intriguing texture, while walls wrapped in tactile bandsawn English oak create a feeling of warmth and release an earthy, woody scent into the air.

Cornerless doors fold open from the living space, dissolving the boundary of indoor and outdoor and framing expansive views from east to west. In warm weather, social activity can fall out onto the decking as guests watch boats pass as the tide creeps in among the reeds.