Humbert & Poyet Discreet Hidden Havens & Retreats

Whether basking in sun or shrouded in shade, small environments made spacious present a case for cabin fever.

French firm Humbert & Poyet applies its signature savoir-faire to an airy and exquisitely well-fashioned cabin in the Italian Riviera.

Architects Emil Humbert and Christophe Poyet—the creative force behind their eponymous design practice—express a high-toned sensitivity for low-key luxurious living, as evidenced by the pair’s growing portfolio of projects ranging from the interiors of a stylish Parisian hotel to a fashion boutique to a theatrical-feeling restaurant. Of their most exuberant spaces to date is also their most romantic—the diminutive beach retreat La Mer Veille.  

That the posh, pint-sized hideaway has a nautical feel is apropos to the glittering setting and its designers’ inspiration—boat cabin design. This is apparent in both style and scale.

Architecturally, conditions of the building mandated replacing derelict elements like roofing, windows, cladding and paneling, while maximizing the cabin’s small footprint meant the designers focus on the essentials to ultimately carve out space for two bathrooms and a kitchen.

Everything, from the practical (storage, custom-made cabinetry) to the pretty (custom brass fixtures, reclaimed marine wood paneling), is bespoke.

Awash in natural white to imitate the cabins marking the Italian coastline, this dreamy aerie—a fetching mix of warm woven pieces, linen textiles and glamorous touches including brass accents and Carrera marble—basks in a rapture of blue sky and outstretched sea.

It’s a view that permeates the place and is most charmingly beheld from the roof, where a secondhand, oh-so-French loveseat provides an irresistible perch. 

With the sunny surround and chic interior setting, this cabin leans in the direction of a dreamy artist’s retreat or a summerhouse for those with Robinson Crusoe inclinations. The desire is not for an island, however, but an absolute oasis.

Photograph: courtesy of

A vacation home with camp-out qualities takes its cues from a classic Danish sommerhaus

Overlooking Hood Canal, The Coyle—a series of simple forms in Douglas fir-infested Washington—draws from aspects of Danish design (a steep gable form, the contrast between dark exterior and light interior) but is rooted to a landscape yielding views of the forest, harbor and Olympic Mountains.

“Our work begins with both an ephemeral exploration of the experience of being at the site and an analytical study of the opportunities and challenges it brings,” explains Dan Wickline, principal of the practice Prentiss Balance Wickline Architects that helmed The Coyle.

That the structure is nestled in the trees on the western part of the site, “There are large windows up against the vertical trunks of the tree line, creating an intimate connection to the forest,” he notes. “Through the trees there are some small glimpses of the view beyond to the west, and this screened view is in contract to the experience of the openness of the meadow and unobstructed vista beyond to the south.” 

A quiet space of 1,700 square feet, the interior is modest and economical, minimally trimmed, and featuring white walls, pine floors and wood windows—a palette suited to the natural surround. French doors open the cabin’s primary rooms to the majestic outdoors, expanding the living space onto the adjacent decks and meadowlands beyond. Moved a moderate distance from the new buildings, an existing structure was remodeled for its new role as a bunkhouse, one that further defines the entrance to the site while serving as a modern reminder of how best to set up camp these days.

Photographs: courtesy of Alexander Canaria and Taylor Proctor

The Upstate Angle TinkerBox, a rural idyll in woodsy Hudson Valley by Studio MM Architect, reflects the spirit of experimentation

It sounds so quaint, TinkerBox. But a closer excavation of the name reveals this remarkable work of architecture the result of Studio MM Architect’s engagement with contemporary design, local artisanship and craftsmanship. True to form, it’s also an experiment on part of practice to treat the structure’s cedar siding with the Japanese technique Shou Sugi Ban. Contrasted with its lighted interior and tapestry of rich seasonal tones, the exterior makes a dramatic first impression. 

TinkerBox is bigger than the sum of its many parts, which includes, most principally, a generous two-car garage, the “locus of the design,” according to the practice, “generating space for car storage and maintenance as well as a spacious wine cellar and a furniture workshop.”

Of immediate notice, however, is the two-story entryway highlighting a cantilevered roof with exposed wood beams and a double-height mahogany pivot door with dark bronze hardware—materials that complement the warm natural setting.

Another reminder of the site: solid wood open-rise stairs. Milled from trees harvested from the property, this flight of meticulously built steps lead to the 1,260-square-foot upper living level, which, along with the spacious yet cozy open plan living room, accommodates a kitchen and bathroom. 

Large windows, clean lines and custom work are characteristics of the space, which features a Studio MM-designed brass chandelier and other bespoke touches, including a headboard and linen curtains. Outside, the deck is an indulgence unto itself. Fit for entertaining, here one finds shelter, a fireplace that doubles as a wood-fired grill and more.

Photographs: courtesy of © Brad Feinknopf/OTTO

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