© Jonathon Donnelly

© Jonathon Donnelly
  • Builder: RBW Carpentry

© Jonathon Donnelly

© Jonathon Donnelly

From the architect. Slate Cabin is a writer’s retreat perched on the edge of Snowdonia National Park in Mid Wales. The building is set in a lush green valley that is ringed by barren, windswept hills and grazing pastures.


Ground Floor Plan

Ground Floor Plan

In response to this beautiful and yet harsh landscape, the cabin is a reductive black box that is anchored to the ground. It provides protection and respite to visitors who wish to escape the wind, rain and snow. 


© Jonathon Donnelly

© Jonathon Donnelly

Slate Cabin is inspired by the very bedrock of Wales – its slate. Wales is a unique landscape, scattered with stone-strewn mountains, abandoned quarries and old slate homes. These qualities encouraged us to base our design around this local and historically significant material.


Exploded Axonometric

Exploded Axonometric

Slate Cabin is envisaged as a visual infrastructure for cataloguing Welsh slate. The exterior of the cabin is covered in local stone, which is fixed to the building like oversized shingles. These recycled slate tiles were reclaimed from nearby farms, and are mottled and pockmarked with weather and time. They result in a building that is at home in the hills, with a rugged and rustic appearance.


© Jonathon Donnelly

© Jonathon Donnelly

In essence, the building is a simple, rectangular volume. The exterior is dark and muted, with a contrasting interior that is honeyed and warm. The spatial organisation is simple, with a single room for essential activities – sleeping, cooking, resting and relaxing – and a bathroom tucked behind.

The main room is designed as a crafted piece of joinery. Subtle shifts and steps are used to differentiate between functions, creating rooms within a larger volume. The bed sits up on a raised platform, and pulls back to provide space for a seat and desk. The bed head, meanwhile, wraps around to house a built in seat and table. This acts as a cosy place to share meals, which can be cooked on a small wood-burning stove.


© Jonathon Donnelly

© Jonathon Donnelly

Elsewhere, storage and shelves are artfully integrated. Stairs to the bed platform become a space to store books and shoes, while a shelf above the bathroom acts as a slot for hiking packs. All services are self-contained, which means that the cabin operates off-the-grid.

Throughout the cabin, openings are carefully considered to capture small vignettes. Along one wall, a slot window frames a long, panoramic landscape of mountains and fields. Meanwhile, a continuous lantern of high windows bathe the space in natural light. Glancing up to these windows reveals glimpses of distant hills and spindly, swaying branches.


© Jonathon Donnelly

© Jonathon Donnelly

To create a serene experience, the cabin is built of as few materials as possible. Soft, gentle textures intentionally contrast the stark stone exterior. Almost all of the surfaces are lined in birch plywood, which softly diffuses the light. The ceilings are draped in a woven hessian, a playful reference to the rural context.

The architectural approach explores the tension between permanence and impermanence, the efficient act of prefabrication and the slow beauty lent by natural materials. The building bears the traces of time, and is designed to blend in to its rural setting.


© Jonathon Donnelly

© Jonathon Donnelly