ANNA Cabin: The Beauty of Living in Nature
The ANNA Stay cabin from designer Caspar Schols opens up a world of possibilities
“For me, being outdoors is the ultimate homecoming. Everything starts to make sense there.”
“I built my mother’s cabin around a massive oak tree that’s probably 100 years old. When you go to sleep with those tree branches hanging above you, it feels like Mother Nature is literally looking after you,” says award-winning Dutch designer Caspar Schols.
Schols built the cabin for his mother in 2016. Even though it was his first original build, the cabin won multiple international awards and set the course for a career of designing homes that are integrated with nature.
It took Schols nine months to build that first cabin—three times longer than expected. During that time, he lived where he worked.
“My favourite part has been sleeping next to the stove as it burns wood,” Schols says. “When you wake up in the middle of the night, there’s no roof over you. You hear the wind in the trees, you feel the cold on your face, but you’re warm under the thick blankets. Then you just lie awake for a little bit. You hear noises, smell the fresh air, and then fall asleep again. It makes you feel extremely relaxed.”
His mother’s cabin later became the blueprint for ANNA Stay, a dynamic home with wooden and glass shells. The wooden outer walls slide back, allowing people to witness the beauty of nature through the glass. The glass layer also slides back, giving the experience of open-air immersion.
The ANNA cabins are now available for purchase in Europe and will arrive in North America next year. In the Netherlands, they can also be rented short and long-term with more European countries to follow.
Living outdoors with ANNA Cabins
Schols started the process of designing the cabin when his mother asked him to build one in the backyard to “use for her therapy sessions, grandchildren, yoga, friends, dinners, everything,” he says.
But the seeds of the concept were planted much earlier in life.
“Growing up, my natural state was to be outdoors. I always say I’m not a spiritual person, but maybe secretly I am. For me, being outdoors is the ultimate homecoming. Everything starts to make sense there,” Schols says.
His mother has a similar connection to nature and an uncanny ability to be more aware when she is outdoors.
“She is so extremely pure. She has the talent to sit in a garden or under a tree for half a day and have the time of her life just watching all the details,” Schols says.
He recalls that his mother would observe even tiny differences in a tree from one day to another. This ability to observe the environment so closely is something that left a deep impression on the young designer.
When designing ANNA Stay, Schols wanted to open people up to a true experience of nature, so they could also feel, smell, and hear those minute details.
Schols says that his cabin can also teach people that every season is beautiful with its own distinct qualities.
“What’s nice about sleeping in ANNA is that you start to see the differences in the seasons. You see the subtle details of autumn and winter, how animals start to behave differently, and how a tree without leaves is actually equally or maybe even more beautiful than a tree with leaves,” he says.
Schols built the cabin for his mother next to a pond because she had been swimming outdoors every morning for 60 years, even in the dead of winter.
But with ANNA Stay, Schols says he wanted to flip the typical paradigm that the location should determine the design. He designed it so that it could go anywhere.
“Normally the architect goes to a location and builds something for that location, but we turn it around,” he says. “We say we have a cabin and the location needs to fit. The location needs to touch your heart,” he says.
Staying connected to nature
Schols says it’s important for people to understand the deeper meaning behind their work. For him, ANNA Stay originated from a deep conviction of the important role nature should play in his life on a daily basis.
But the widespread acclaim of the cabin, the stresses of investor pressures, and the demands of his entrepreneurial vision can sometimes wear on him. At those times Schols reminds himself that ANNA is actually meant to dispel such worries by offering a greater sense of connection to the outside world.
Schols recounts a passage from one of his favourite books, Walden, by Henry David Thoreau. The protagonist lies awake at night worrying about existential questions: ‘Why am I here? What’s my purpose? What’s going to happen after death?’
“He’s completely caught up in all these worries,” Schols says. “When he wakes up in the morning, the sun is up, and it snowed overnight. Through the window, the sun reflects over the snow and into his cabin. The moment he sees the sunlight and the reflections and the trees, everything starts to make sense. It’s not that he gets the answers, but the questions disappear.”
Schols gets that same feeling when he’s camping or sleeping in ANNA.
“A kind of peace comes over me. The moment I step out into nature, I completely forget about all my concerns,” he says.
An unforgettable bond
While living and sleeping in ANNA can help balance an individual, the dynamic cabin can also strengthen family relationships. One particular childhood memory is at the root of Schols’s design.
His family would usually rent a small house in the countryside of southern France. One night, everyone slept outside in a field, and he fell asleep nestled between his parents on one side and his brothers on the other.
“I just remember so vividly that you feel extremely vulnerable, because there’s no protective shell, no house around. You feel the wind, you see the stars, and you hear the animals in the night.
You feel the temperature differences. It’s kind of scary, but at the same time you feel very, very safe because you’re sleeping surrounded by your family,” he says.
Schols imagines that most people buying his cabin are visualizing it as a vacation home, yet he hopes ANNA Stay can become a way of living.
“I want people to live in this cabin the whole year round,” he says.
“Normally the architect goes to a location and builds something for that location, but we turn it around. We say we have a cabin and the location needs to fit. The location needs to touch your heart.”