Dream Concept: Smiling Cabin by MiMo Architects

WORDS Cheri Morris


The Smiling Cabin is a concept space – a nest defined by escapism, made for stargazing and born of the stifling, homebound reality Johannesburg-based MiMo Architects experienced in 2020.

The cabin encloses a square patch in an imaginary landscape; one enveloped by unkempt forest and unbridled nighttime tapestries. A harmony of concrete, wood and glass, the cabin sinks into the earth with a heavy base. Through its windows, dwellers are invited to contemplate the forest around them.

The exterior plywood shingles are charred using a method called shou sugi ban, an 18th-century Japanese method of preserving timber by burning its surface. This adds an artful aspect that also happens to see Smiling Cabin blend into its natural environment.

The bed space under the stargazing window was designed purely for the purpose of drifting off under a glinting night sky. During the day, a custom-made skylight promises to keep the sun subdued. Wishbone chairs – by Danish designer Hans Wegner – mark the ideal spots from which to absorb forest vistas, while a bedroom in the roof space delivers the experience of waking up in a forest canopy.

The choice of timber for this project aligns with MiMo Architects’ drive to work with renewable, carbon-capturing materials and to support the local forestry industry. Base wall materials are available in concrete or locally sourced stone or brick, left in raw form.

If Smiling Cabin were built in a tropical climate, windows would be replaced with roll-up grass mats. Plus, the timber structure can even be cut to size in a carpenter’s workshop and assembled remotely.

Love this space? Check out this Norwegian forest cabin by Mork Ulnes Architects.