The 1950s cabins below exemplify midcentury architecture and design — in a mini format. With their clean lines, open floor plans and seamless integration with nature, these charming mid-century vacation homes inspire design enthusiasts and history buffs alike.
1. The weekender vacation cabin (1958)
A complete year-round residence, the modestly priced Weekender offers roomy comfort.
Its compact, U-shaped kitchen is next to the bath. A small, glass-fronted dining area is left of a storage unit that faces the front door.
A fireplace in the living room and space to sleep up to eight completes the plan. The design is suitable as a guest house or rental unit.
Building time and material costs are kept low with the use of fir plywood construction throughout. The modular system affords the budget-minded home craftsman the opportunity to buy and build piecemeal. Later the units can be trucked to the site for assembly.
2. 1950s cabin in the woods (1958)
Reminiscent of a South Seas Maori (New Zealand) rainforest lodge, this novel retreat adapts to either flat site or hillside. Modular system design enables easy application of building panels.
Intriguing roof shape is formed of exterior fir plywood panels, while Texture One-Eleven, “grooved” exterior plywood, provides handsome and durable siding. New 1-1/8″ thick plywood panels called “2-4-1” combine functions of underlayment and sub-floor.
You can build this cabin yourself in a couple months’ of weekends. Parts can be preassembled in town and brought to the cabin site ready for installation.
Skylights bring illumination to cabin interior for heavily wooded locations. Some 952 square feet of interior living space includes kitchen, two small bedrooms, larger bedroom, bath, screened sleeping porch and living room.
Outdoor decked areas can be added to suit your needs. The strong steeply pitched exterior fir plywood roof will support heavy snows, resist high winds. (Alan Liddle, Architect)
3. Retro 1950s cabins floor plan (1958)
Turning to a rather more conventional type of construction — this vacation cabin is economy-keyed, utilizing exterior fir plywood for single-wall construction.
The peaked roof encloses an open half-attic above the kitchen-bath-bedroom side. Attic deck can be used for an extra sleeping area or storage. Expansion in front and rear can include possible dining room, more living room space and another bedroom.
This simple yet ample design is pointed toward owner construction. For ease of building, the exterior fir plywood roof is applied shingle-fashion over joists. Siding is nailed directly to studs with battens over joints, sealed with non-hardening mastic for water-tightness.
Siding may be stained or left to weather, relating exterior texture and simple construction more closely to a natural woodsy or shoreside environment.
No plumbing, heating or electrical work is included in the basic plan, but can be easily added. By pre-building plywood wall sections at home, you can put this one up fast on a foundation of pre-cast concrete piers. (Walter D. Widmeyer, Architect)
4. 1950s cabins: Seaside summer house from 1958
Two small cabins — one for living, one for sleeping — face each other across a partly-roofed screened court.
Carport, bathroom and storage-utility space opposite the viewing porch complete enclosure of the court. Court can be private garden, barbecue center, or off-the-beach play area — contrasting with broad expanses of beach and sea. This “compound” arrangement permits longer season of leisure-time home enjoyment.
Designed for a family of four, yet there’s plenty of privacy in the sleeping wing for couples. Doors slide open onto courtyard from both living and sleeping areas for spacious informality and easy traffic flow.
Outside windows have hinged fir plywood panels — sunshades in summer and close-up shutters in winter. For a relaxed atmosphere and ease of upkeep, interior is unfinished.
You can build this home yourself with a little professional help. Fir plywood sheathing and subflooring speed and simplify construction — keep costs down, too. (Philip Thiel, Architect)
5. 1950s cabins: Vintage weekend beach cottage concept from 1958
An entire summer or weekend is fun in this cottage. Designed for a family of five, it will sleep eight persons without resorting to sleeping bags.
The central fireplace is the heat source and accessory cooking facility. Built-in kitchen divider and corner bath and stall shower leave extra living room.
The open rafters, slanting seaward, can be covered for additional shelter. A single thickness of exterior fir plywood serves as siding, sheathing and interior facing, which simplifies construction and saves on materials.
In years to come, you’ll praise the durability of modern, all fir plywood construction while enjoying the comfort, individuality and easy maintenance of this modern weekend cottage. (Frederick Liebhardt, Architect)
6. Build your own 1950s cabin (from 1958)
From Woman’s Day (August 1958)
This vacation cabin is the answer to everybody’s dream: a place to get away from it all for as little money as possible. Just $1,500 buys everything you need to build it.
On the following four pages, you will find the complete story of the cabin: its conception by the editors of Woman’s Day, its birth on the architect’s drawing board, and finally its actual construction in the wooded hills of North Carolina, to prove that it would live up in fact to all that it promised on paper. We think it does, and we hope you’ll agree.
Front of the cabin has a large glass area and a covered deck for outdoor eating and lounging.
Vacation cabin is one room, 18′ x 24′
[This 1950s cabin] appears larger than its 432 square feet because of three features which were architect George Matsumotos’ answer to the editors of Woman’s Day when they insisted on livability and attractiveness as well as a price tag of only $1,500.
These three features are: two walls contain large glass areas; the ceiling follows the line of the steeply pitched roof; there are no partitions except around the bathroom.
Not only do you have the resulting illusion of spaciousness, but there is also actual additional living space on the wide covered deck, a perfect spot for outdoor lounging and dining. Indoor dining takes place at the rolling plywood counter which seats four comfortably.
Underneath the counter, there is storage space for dishes and above it, a pegboard panel is set in a wood frame. It stands opposite the kitchen wall and serves to separate cooking and living areas.
The pass-through between the pegboard and countertop makes serving and clearing easy, and the kitchen-side of the pegboard panel is a convenient place for hanging pots and pans.
The vacation cabin’s kitchen is actually a 12-foot-wall-to-wall counter in which a single-compartment stainless steel sink is set. Countertop gives the cook a large working surface; drawers and shelves below provide generous storage space for food and bulky kitchen utensils.
Later, if the cabin is wired for electricity, counter-top burners and an under-the-counter refrigerator can be installed. A prefabricated fireplace warms the cabin on chilly mornings and evenings. It is given a central location so it will throw heat to all parts of the room.
Sleeping area is a raised platform
The raised platform is 6′ x 12′ with built-in storage walls on either side. Curtains or shoji screens can be added to separate it from the rest of the living area. The foam rubber cushions which serve as seats by day are pushed together at night to make floor beds.
Since a natural wood finish is appropriate to a rustic hideaway, the interior walls, fir plywood panels, were left unfinished. Outside the panels have a weatherproof sealer which was added at the site.
Walls and roof of the cabin are fir plywood; framing is fir; foundations are concrete piers. The house was designed to take advantage of standard-size panels; plans and precut wood may be obtained from local retail lumber dealers.
Located to the right of the sleeping platform is the bathroom. It contains a sink, toilet and shower; the shower stall is lined with waterproofed plywood. All bathroom parts may be ordered from Sears, Roebuck and Company.
Living area of this 1950s cabin has built-in furniture
Built-ins make maximum use of space. Connecting built-in seats with a table at either end put one entire wall to work. The seats are upholstered with foam rubber cushions covered in plastic for easy care, and like those in the sleeping area, they can be converted into beds at night.
The cost of the wood needed to make this built-in furniture is included in the price of the cabin.
The architect, who made large glass areas a basic part of his plan, nevertheless realized that a certain amount of wall space is required for furniture, built-in or otherwise; he provided it, without sacrificing light, by placing a row of high windows across one end of the cabin.
A hanging kerosene lamp provides illumination for this area until electricity is added. Another later addition might be one or more bunk houses to sleep children or guests.
For the story of how bunk houses make the vacation cabin grow, including the cost of the lumber, plus the building story of the cabin itself and details about the plans, please [see below].
How the 1950s cabin grows
Bunk houses provide additional sleeping accommodations for the vacation cabin. Each unit, 8 feet by 12 feet, is large enough to contain a closet and four bunks.
Cost of materials, including those for the bunks and closet, is $295 per house. The bunk houses repeat the lines of the cabin and, like it, are made of precut fir plywood except the glass doors, framing and supports. Placement of the bunk houses should be determined by the size and contour of your lot.