The innate joy of cabins
November 6, 2017
Words: Helene Ravlich/
Photos: Tom Powell
A cabin is defined as a “small wooden shelter or house in a wild or remote area”, and Icebreaker’s in-house photographer, Tom Powell is an unabashed fan of the small-but-perfectly-formed, rustic dwelling. The UK-born creative tells us why he loves being a cabin creature, & what makes a cabin truly great.
I have. I’ve done a lot of graphic design as well. I think when you’re a creative you kind of dabble a bit in everything. I really threw myself into photography when I was a young skateboarder. But when I went on to study I picked design as the work seemed more reliable.
Then, when I started working for outdoor agencies and magazines and noticed the photographers were getting all the fun jobs, I decided to make the switch back.
I’ve been to loads of amazing places since I decided to ditch my design job and travel as a photographer, and I’ve shot the whole time. When I first came to New Zealand I travelled around the country living in a van and working on organic farms, staying in amazing cabins in places like Kaikoura, which was incredible.
Then I left New Zealand and went to live on Vancouver Island in Canada, which was a very similar existence but a lot more vast in terms of scale. The organic farms I worked on were so much more remote than I’ve ever experienced before – there’s just so much space.
I associate being in a cabin with simplicity.”
Oh absolutely – people keep dogs to keep the bears away! The colors are amazing too; everything is just so vivid and real. The people and the pace of Vancouver Island are magical.
A brother of a friend in Cornwall has a cabin that I’ve spent a lot of time in over the last ten years, and it’s pretty special. Instead of buying a house he put all his money into some land and spends his time there in his cabin working on little projects. He’s a traditional stone roofer by trade and definitely has all the skills.But a cabin isn’t a ‘house’ as such. What’s the difference between a cabin and say, the ‘tiny house’ phenomenon of the past few years?
I immediately think of a cabin as being more rustic, with fewer luxuries. Cabins are also generally associated with mountains, and the kinds of activities you do when it’s cold.
I also think of a tiny house as something that’s much more design-focused – a lot of time has gone into developing its living spaces and functionality. Tiny houses usually cost a lot more too!
“When I first came to New Zealand I travelled around the country living in a van and working on organic farms, staying in amazing cabins in places like Kaikoura.”
I associate being in a cabin with simplicity. If you go with a friend you’re there to spend time together, if you go alone you’re there to reconnect with nature. You hear the trees and you hear the wind and are so aware of the weather, and you’re there to embrace it all.
There’s no rush and the most simple things become fun, like building a fire and keeping it going, or making a coffee. You take so much time over everything you’re doing and really start to appreciate the tiniest things. It’s almost like a meditation, I guess.
Totally. Going on a hike and staying in a hut overnight is a very different thing as the hut is there as a means to aid your hike. The cabin becomes a destination in itself. It’s why you are there.
“When you live in a city there’s so much clutter and distraction in your life, and being in nature for an extended period of time allows you to shed all of that. You reconnect with what you’re here for.”
It has to be made of cedar wood, as the smell of cedar wood is just so, so good! And it has to have a wood burner, as that becomes entertainment when you’re in a cabin. You have to chop wood, collect wood, keep it alive… it keeps you going all day. Privacy is also an essential, a location like on a mountain with a view would be incredible.Have you decided on a possible location for your future cabin?
That’s tough. I often see places where I’d love to have a cabin. I haven’t yet decided where I love being the most.Lastly, what does nature mean to you?
It helps me remember who I am. When you live in a city there’s so much clutter and distraction in your life, and being in nature for an extended period of time allows you to shed all of that. You really listen to yourself and your ego drops away. You reconnect with what you’re here for.