Four compact, cedar-clad cabins are perched in the Santa Cruz Mountains overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Designed by Cass Calder Smith for the Djerassi Resident Artists Program—a respected resident-artist programs operating since 1979—the Diane Middlebrook Studios are built for authors to hunker down and get writing.
Smith received a relatively open-ended brief when he was commissioned. “Think about what a creative writer would enjoy being in and go for it,” he says. “The land is so powerful. The basic thing was to make sure you can look out and see the surroundings.”
In designing the 280-square-foot cabins Smith thought about what writers would need to push through any creative block. What it boiled down to was a distraction-free environment. No bold gestures or frills—it’s a Thoreau on Walden Pond approach.
Though all four structures are sited very close to one another, the don’t share walls, and you can’t see any of the other buildings once you’re inside—a move that offers privacy but not complete isolation. The studios are outfitted with a bed, writing desk, and chair. A large sliding glass door faces south creating a stellar view and passively heating the interior. The materials are similarly Spartan: cedar cladding outside, a galvanized metal roof with solar panels, concrete floors covered with carpet tiles, and sheet rock walls.
While Smith is known for designing swanky restaurants and gorgeous modern homes, he liked the restraint inherent to this project. “It’s refreshing,” he says. “It’s nice to do something that’s almost monastic.”