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Q&A with Adam Storey



“There’s something quite exciting about a business building cabins in Scotland, surrounded by the raw materials that created it."

As we launch The Journal and take a closer look at everything Corr Cabins, as well as interviewing designers and creatives who inspire us along with people who share our passion for life outdoors, we’re beginning this new series with an interview with Corr’s founder, Adam Storey.



Adam is also the Creative Director and founder of the Edinburgh-based design and architecture studio S+Co.


“I have a passion for working in hospitality, in designing hotels, restaurants and bars, and I believe that buildings tell a story,” he says.


“I also love being outdoors; I like being up a mountain or riding a bike or surfing. That authentic connection with the outdoors is something I want to share. Bringing the two together makes for a unique proposition where you have high quality design and architecture with a hospitality slant, combined with a real affiliation and connection with the great outdoors.”


We had a chat with Adam on a blustery January morning in Corr HQ in Edinburgh, and talked about the challenges of designing compact living spaces, sustainability, from felled tree through to final product, and the simple joy of waking up in a spruce-lined cabin.




What was the catalyst that led you to launch Corr Cabins?

 

Everyone has a romantic idea of a cabin surrounded by nature and I absolutely share that. A few years ago I had a garden in East Lothian that backed onto woodland, and having just set up S+Co, I decided that I was going to design and build my own cabin as my studio. That process in itself was really rewarding and sparked something of a reaction from people when they arrived at this cabin, as while I loved the space, I wasn’t aware of how excited other people would get about it.

 

And that got me thinking. With S+Co we were working with different businesses looking at cabins and hotels and outdoor rooms, and I started researching cabins that were either designed by established architects, that were very expensive, or cheap glamping pods that were poorly made and poorly insulated, so they were seasonal.

 

Being a fan of simplicity and of using elegant and simple materials cleverly, we set about developing and designing the most economical but simple and beautiful cabin we could. We had a workshop in Edinburgh at that time, and started building the cabin before having a home for it. After speaking with a few people who were interested, I was introduced to Tom Lewis, the owner at Monachyle Mhor in Perthshire, where the cabin is now sited, and I was able to realise a dream of mine in building a dream cabin in a dream location.

 



 

How did that first cabin design evolve?

 

We had some great images of the design and had a very good reaction on social media, but we were unwilling to sell a cabin until we’d built one – and we learned a lot from that process of building the first cabin, testing it, staying in it, and also capturing data from guests who stayed there.

 

We’d started the design process pre-Covid and released the cabin during that first summer when hospitality opened up again. The pandemic shifted people’s perceptions of enjoying the great outdoors and the staycation phenomenon became a big deal.

 

We had a flurry of orders on the back of launching the first cabin, and that in turn changed how we built the next cabins. We set up a workshop in East Lothian, on a farm steading on a country estate, and we were there for a year-and-a-half. This time was really valuable as were able to innovate how we built each cabin and work on the process ourselves rather than commissioning that out to someone else, and we fine-tuned everything about the process, including the materials and the sustainability, which was really exciting.





When thinking about designing within a compact floor plan, how long did it take to refine these ideas and make the space work as well as it does?  

 

That actually started at a young age. As a child, my family would travel in a caravan round every national park in the UK and across Europe, so I spent a lot of time in a small space and quickly realised that everything had to be dual purpose and very functional. I also spent a lot of time on boats, and this made me think about compact spaces and how they could make you feel a certain way, while also keeping things clean visually, where everything had a place to be stored away.

 

That connection with the outside is key as well: having one large aperture of a window that frames the view. It’s an essential feature of the cabin that opens up that space massively, and as a result, less is more.

 


In terms of the design process, we spent a year looking at different formats of the design, trying to get the most out of a small space, and being really economical with materials. As we were building this in the workshop, it was also important to understand the parameters around what’s manageable to lift and move, and also to transport down a little farm road to the site.

 

It was interesting to have those parameters to work within, and also in making the decision to work with a palette of simple and affordable materials that would feel quite raw and honest. It’s a contemporary interpretation of what a cabin feels like. There’s that connection back to what a traditional, handmade log cabin would feel like, but realised in a contemporary way.



Can you tell us a bit about the importance of sustainability within Corr’s approach?

 

It was always a core principle for us, but as we’ve spent the last few years learning and developing and researching and connecting with different partners, we now have a better understanding of how more sustainable we can be from where we started. While sustainability was always important to us, I’m proud of where we’ve arrived at when building now.

 

We had previously built using SIPs (structural insulated panels). SIPs perform well thermally and they’re a good fit for building quickly, but there are quite a lot of petrochemicals that go into the insulation that we weren’t comfortable with.

 

So we spent the last eighteen months finding a partner who could build in a better way, and we were keen to retain this within Scotland. We’re now proud to say that Corr is the only cabin company in the UK that’s building with homegrown cross-laminated timber (CLT), which is insulated on the outside of the structural envelope with recycled materials. Our production factory is now in Invergordon in Easter Ross. Trees are felled 30 miles from the factory that each cabin is built in. The windows we use are made 10 miles away. There’s something quite exciting about a business building cabins in Scotland, surrounded by the raw materials that created it.




 

How has the design evolved as your manufacturing process has changed?

 

While it might feel like the same product, quite a lot has changed. Whereas previously we had a structure that was overclad with an extra layer of material, the structure is now exposed, so the internal envelope, both the ceiling and walls, are made from spruce – the CLT – as we no longer need that additional layer. We use 100mm of natural, untreated timber with no chemicals, so it’s naturally breathable and has warmth to it. We use recycled cardboard and newspaper insulation, so the cabins also have a different acoustic resonance. It’s very subtle, but when you’re inside a cabin it has a very calming, natural feel. It feels more like a log cabin like than it did before.

 

It's a bit like the iPhone: the first iPhone was very good and well received, but it’s very different to the iPhone 15. It’s about constant innovation.




 

Corr’s product range has also grown – can you tell us a bit about this?

 

When we set out we were focused on producing a product; now we have three cabin products, and around half of our customers are looking to innovate from that with a bespoke cabin, either evolving one of the products to suit their aspirations and location and customer, or creating something totally new but working with tried and tested production techniques.

 

It’s a very efficient way of creating a bespoke cabin as we know the building blocks we’re working with. Each of the three core designs can be evolved. Clients can identify the size and price point, and then we can evolve that product or build something totally bespoke but using these building blocks. This also means that we know quite quickly what a bespoke cabin is going to cost. It takes the unknowns out of the process for our clients.

 

What excites me, and what I really enjoy about design, is why we do certain things. These cabins came about through the desire to create a great experience for people – in how they can be used and how they sit within a landscape - and then the product is wrapped around that.




 

What are some of the larger scale projects that you’ve been working on recently?

 

We’re creating a retreat in the home counties featuring 30 cabins, where each has a two acre plot, so people are going there to get away from things and unplug, with space around them to really appreciate the setting.

 

Then, again outside London, we’re working on a corporate retreat where businesses will partner with business coaches and strategists. Along with the cabins, we’re designing hub buildings where people can connect and do activities, while creating that opportunity to also connect with nature and recharge.

 

We’re also exploring sustainable off-grid eco-tourism, and the opportunities and challenges that come with that to try and work with the most innovative renewable technologies.

 


How do you visualise Corr developing as you look ahead?

 

We’ve purposefully focused on developing our designs over the last few years and now, as we have confidence in our business and the market, we have the opportunity to fly the flag for high quality Scottish design and raw materials, where Scottish design sits on an international stage. This is something I’ve always been passionate about. We’re seeing more enquiries and orders coming from Europe and further afield - we have cabins going to a vineyard in Bordeaux in spring.

 

Rather than the traditional image of heritage, prestige and exclusivity that Scotland’s had on the international market, I’d like to see this more forward-thinking approach so that when people think of Scottish design, they think of high quality, innovation and sustainability. That excites me.




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