The Djerassi Resident Artists’ Program provides the sort of peaceful working getaway that artists dream about.

Nestled in the Santa Cruz Mountains, the program has added four new sleep/work studios, the Diane Middlebrook Writers’ Cabins, built in memory of founder Carl Djerassi’s late wife, an author and poet. The cabins are small—280 square feet—and materials are simple and low-maintenance by necessity: Djerassi is nonprofit. And their cedar plank siding and galvanized steel canopy are lovely, but more important, weather well. Unadorned sheetrock walls and carpet tile samples make up most of the decor.

Simplicity of materials made sense for another reason: The site is on a former cattle ranch, so architect Cass Calder Smith took his cues from the rural setting. Still, given budgetary limits, creating cabins that were architecturally worthy was a challenge, recalls Smith, CCS Architecture’s principal.

“A lot of the costs were things you can’t see,” says Smith. Foundations had to be deep due to the clay soil. Because the cabins are on a hill, drainage needed to include an underground capture and diversion system. Code restrictions abounded, too, but working around all of these issues was worth it for a result designed to foster creativity.

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