Mail Order Cabins Make a Comeback

Order a house online and put it together yourself, with about as much hassle as putting up your tent.


Anybody remember hearing about the houses you could buy through Sears mail order in the early 20th century? Or maybe you live in one? From 1908-1940, Sears sold homes. Yeah, you could order a house as easily as you could ring up for up pair of jeans. You chose your favorite design out of 370 options; they shipped it out on a train; you pieced it together following instructions in a manual. Boom. Instant, affordable home.

The Japanese company, Muji, is doing the same thing. Muji has always been on a mission. It was founded in 1980 as a rebellion against the consumer culture that was taking over in countries with rising economies. The people behind Muji were railing against opposite ends of the consumer spectrum at the same time: conspicuous consumption of luxury items on one end and straight-up mass consumption of crap products on the other.

So 35 years ago, Muji made a name for itself in Japan by focusing on non-branded, quality products that had a distinct function. They based all their design on three platforms: material selection, quality manufacturing with minimal waste, and simple packaging. Now, they’re opening a new market and applying their design focus to mail order houses.

The Cork Hut, designed by Jasper Morrison, is angled as a country get-away: a complete home in a mini package.

aj weekend cabin muji cork hut

aj weekend cabin muji cork hut

aj weekend cabin muji cork hut

The Aluminum Hut is a free-standing, two-story urban-inspired space that can be placed anywhere. It’s small enough to not even require a building permit…in Japan, at least. Designed by Konstantin Grcic, it’s clean to the point of…well..not including much more than a really sweet and well-insulated box.

aj weekend cabin muji aluminimum hut

aj weekend cabin muji aluminimum hut

aj weekend cabin muji aluminimum hut

The Wooden Hut is a window-filled, one-room cabin. Its huge expanse of windows open to what appears to be another simple hut. What you can’t see is a full Japanese soaking tub and functioning kitchen. Even with the amenities, simplicity is so pervasive in this sweet, little place that the designer, Naoto Fukusawa, summarized it in all of three sentences.

aj weekend cabin muji wooden hut

aj weekend cabin muji wooden hut

aj weekend cabin muji wooden hut

Muji is keeping a tight lid on how these will be sold. No word on how, when, how much, or where to buy. If you have some space you’re itching to fill, you can sign up for more information as they release it.

Weekend Cabin isn’t necessarily about the weekend, or cabins. It’s about the longing for a sense of place, for shelter set in a landscape…for something that speaks to refuge and distance from the everyday. Nostalgic and wistful, it’s about how people create structure in ways to consider the earth and sky and their place in them. It’s not concerned with ownership or real estate, but what people build to fulfill their dreams of escape. The very time-shortened notion of “weekend” reminds that it’s a temporary respite.

Photos by Muji

Contributing editor Brook Sutton lives in Durango, Colorado.
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Showing 4 comments
  • Jay Long
    Reply

    Love it!

  • Brian Barclay
    Reply

    I’ll take 7… Lol love the concepts

  • Rebecca whitted
    Reply

    Would love to know more !!

  • Donna Reece
    Reply

    Want many. Sign me up.

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