A DIY vacation cabin from the ’50s – for an affordable retro getaway

An affordable vacation cabin (1959)

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Build your own ’50s-style vacation cabin (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.

Vintage vacation cabin

Vacation cabin is one room, 18′ x 24′

The 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.

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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.

Retro vacation cabin rooms

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.

ALSO SEE: Post-war housing: See 35 small starter homes from the ’40s & ’50s

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.

affordable vacation cabin

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 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.

MORE: What did a typical 1950s suburban house look like? Feast your eyes on this fab prefab home built in 1958

Design for a vacation cabin from the 1950s

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 vacation cabin from the ’50s 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.

ALSO SEE: 130 vintage ’50s house plans used to build millions of mid-century homes we still live in today

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