Modern Cabana

September 16, 2010 — 34 Comments


photo by Charles Davis Smith

I don’t normally feature my own work on this site but I just received the professional photography back and things looked so good that I felt like I had to share this project. Here’s how this project came to be: the client was going to put a pool in and asked their pool contractor to help them with adding a pool cabana. As they started talking, the pool contractor quickly realized that this project was going to be a bit more than a rock grill and a trellis/ patio. I typically maintain a good relationship with everyone I work with and I get along really well with this particular pool contractor. Based on our relationship and his knowledge of my predilections, he referred the client to me and one of the most enjoyable client relationships was born.

Initially, the program called for a grill, bathroom with a shower and a seating area. As we started working through what they really wanted, the project grew … and grew. The clients still joke with me that they would sit out in the backyard, have a couple of glasses of wine and then start firing off  “what if” emails. A good case in point was that the cabana was framed and decked with the roofer on site when the clients decided that they liked how the cabana was turning out so much that they wanted to add a bedroom. Due to setback and space restrictions, that meant adding a second level. (Did I mentioned that the cabana was already framed?…). Glass half full guy says “that’s okay, I like a good challenge” but I love clients who like to ask the question “what if”? We came to have a tub in the bedroom under a similar creative process. While it wasn’t a lot of fun to find a way to slide in 3 more floor trusses into a sheathed building to carry the point load of a tub full of water, I still get a chuckle over the clients willingness to keep asking “what if…?”. I suppose this was only a good thing because on occasion I would have to say “no, we can’t do that” and they were okay with listening to me.

This project is a case study in what can happen when a great client gets together with a flexible architect. I have a lot of pride in this project and that’s the reason I am sharing it with you.




photo by Charles Davis Smith


photo by Charles Davis Smith.

photo by Charles Davis Smith.

photo by Charles Davis Smith.

photo by Charles Davis Smith.

photo by Charles Davis Smith.

photo by Charles Davis Smith


All Photos © Charles Davis Smith


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  • Wade B

    I did the audio video on this project and just ran across this. Would you be ok with us using your pics?

  • Absolutely gorgeous. No extraneous elements. The wall in front is magic. Next I would like to see an article on ‘the stair’ (!) And great clients. ‘What if’s?’ > ‘why didn’t we ……?’

  • Arq_gerar


  • This site looks great!

  • jacobspence

    If you have not already seen, you’ve been catalogued in ArchDaily’s online collection. Exciting!

    • Anonymous

      That is pretty cool – thanks for the heads up

  • Dcheatham

    Very nice!!

  • Pam

    What an awesome project Bob! Who says it’s over when it’s over… I guess sometimes baseball and architecture have their differences. I’m so amazed by your talent. Never mind that the design got remodeled after it was about have built, your design blends so seamlessly with the client’s original structures that they look as if they were all built at the same time. Well done!

  • I was going to say elegant but Kevin stole my line. Let’s go with gorgeous! Nicely done.

  • ClarityK (Sarah)

    Lovely – I’m tempted to burn my house to the ground so you can design me a new one (I’m sure my insurance company is not reading this…)

    • Sarah,

      Once your house in down give me a call, we’ll do something great together! (don’t worry, nobody reads this blog)

  • Kevin Eckert

    One elegant and modern cabana there Bob- very well done!

    • Thanks Kevin – just think … all this (waving arms around computer monitor) and I can hold my liquor.

      I think I am going to find myself in Seattle this November, start working on your tolerance levels…

  • Sweetness. I’m glad I didn’t have to hand draft that stair. I LOVE how the inside gets to play with the outside. & Vice versa. To me, that’s the most modern thing about the form.

    • Becky,

      That stair was by far the most compicated thing I have ever design. To get it to look simple was a mother…I modeled it in 3d about 100 times before drafting it in CAD. The Nanawall on the lower floor totally makes the project. I have always wanted to use one before but could never justify the cost. In this project, there was no other choice, it had to be done.

  • This is so neat-looking. The design flows beautifully from the interior to the exterior. Love it!

    • Thanks Emily-

      I was trying to stick this ‘box’ in the yard but not have it seem like something that landed from outer space. Getting it to appear open and engage the exterior was reallly important. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  • I feel the urge to shoot a money tube up that staircase! I agree with the people who want you to show more of your work. ‘Cause it rocks. I love that bedroom. And that big open space that leads to the patio. Okay, I don’t know the technical terms; the huge missing wall/door. I can’t wait to get rich and call you and say “what if.” Of course, knowing you, you’ll say “piss off.”

  • Richard

    Wonderful transition from home to cabana Bob. You have every reason to be proud of this job! I would be interested in knowing what the exterior cladding is( Citidel panels? ), and did you use Nana-Wall doors or Eclipse Architectural doors?

    I hate to say it but your Tweet posts are the highlite to the work day…Just don’t tell my wife, I’m supposed to like her posts more! LOL

    • Anonymous

      Don’t get me in trouble with your wife!! (but thanks for reading and commenting)

      The exterior cladding is lueders limestone panels and the doors are indeed Nanawall doors. I’ve never worked with Eclipse before, maybe their rep ought to look into that…

  • Christian Noble

    Bob – I’m a long time reader of your blog and an architect from Tennessee. I’ve enjoyed your reading your thoughts on architecture and scanned the photos of your project thinking… “This is a very cool project he’s going to talk about. I wonder who designed this and where it was built?”

    Needless to say, I was very excited to read that it was a project of your own! Count me as one who would love for you to interject more of your own work along with your interesting posts about other architecture, design, and other subjects.

    Very inpiring architecture!

    • Anonymous

      Thanks Christian,

      I always like when other architects take time out to leave a comment. I don’t post my work on here very often because this is my blog and not that of my office (church and state) and I don’t want to worry about putting the other people who work here i the cross hairs if I blow a gasket and say something crazy.

      I also like people to know that the work I publish here is my own so that way I feel entitled to say what I want about it but I imagine that I will find a way to put a few other projects that I’ve “worked on” up on here on the site.

      Thanks again

  • Guest

    Sure, a “what if” quality is great in a client, but it’s second to the most important quality: “big pocketbook”.

    Very nice work.

    • Anonymous

      Big pocketbook is right. The best thing about this particular project is that it started off with very humble origins and evolved into something tremendous (and expensive). These clients aren’t demonstrative and I didn’t enter this project with a “anything goes” mentality.

  • I hope you plan on submitting this to RA design awards, great job!

  • Anonymous

    Very nice. I like the exterior spaces as well as the interior.

  • Gorgeous Bob! You’re way too modest. “…this one’s not bad”

    • Anonymous


      I suppose that’s the Norwegian in me coming out – nothing is ever good, it’s just “not bad” or “it’s not the worst…”

  • Bob, Absolutely GORGEOUS! Love the very modern yet understated look and love, love, love the spiral stair! Great job!

    • Anonymous


      Thanks! That stair is without a doubt the most complicate thing I have ever design. It was darn near impossible to make it look simple. To make it more challenging, the interior stairs don’t touch the exterior structure or ss fabric – they cantilever off the center support.

  • Love it….yes, the timber framer is actually saying that.

    • Anonymous


      If you knew what the framers went through to get the additional floor joists slid into place to handle the load from that tub, you might even tip your hat to them. There isn’t a lot of decorative elements in this design to accommodate goofs. We were lucky that everyone started to really demonstrate pride in what was happening because this project is beautifully built.

  • Love it….yes, the timber framer is actually saying that.

  • Beautiful job. Love the stark parking facade in comparison with the open pool side.