Canadian River Cabin

Coasting out from Oklahoma City, urban backdrop dissipates into country, light pollution fades. Signs of civilization thin and nearly drop out, but among the turbines, half a mile from the Canadian River’s red-stained waters, a cabin sits perched on the high point of an eighty-acre plot. As a child, the owner listened to his parents speculate on what an ideal spot for a home the site would make, and now that’s what it’s become. On waves of Bluestem Prairie, where nature reclaims dominion, Canadian River Cabin is the end of the road.


El Reno, Oklahoma







September 2022

Canadian River Cabin

The big sky that envelops Canadian River Cabin, the verdancy of the landscape in spring—these natural set pieces prop up the home’s image as a warm, familial gathering space, a gateway to the quiet beauty of the Oklahoman prairie. The structure peers from atop a ridge onto a patchwork quilt of cultivated land that’s shaped by its proximity to the Canadian River. With guest and primary bedrooms that extend to the south, the home’s shape was designed to take views of this breathtaking scenery from as many perspectives as possible.

As the towering turbines attest, this part of Oklahoma sees its fair share of winds. But the structure’s profile, with its low-slope, heavily insulated roof, helps Canadian River Cabin navigate them. Steel columns keep the home’s winglike cover grounded in the face of powerful uplift forces when gusts come sweeping down the plains. In consideration of heavy regional rains, Plural avoided all but one roof penetration, for the woodburning stove.

But Canadian River Cabin’s form isn’t just a functional response to its environment—it’s also inspired by the surrounding landscape. The roof’s slope departs from the ground as it moves west, emulating nearby escarpments that erupt from the earth and dot the plains. Plural made a case study out of these landforms, sketching on them to discover Canadian River Cabin’s low-slung character.

Materially, Canadian River Cabin also conforms to the elements. A rust-red palette of locally sourced bricks and color-matched mortar clads the exterior, affirming the cabin’s relationship with the surrounding red-dirt country. The division between a uniform band of brick below and a narrowing stripe of corrugated metal above is another nod to the surrounding escarpments, the earthen faces of which are stratified with similarly contrasting bands. The metal also acts as a datum, tracing along the house, organizing the facade’s openings, roughing in texture along the top of the exterior, and further shading the structure’s windows.

The porch that wraps the structure opens to the beauty of the surrounding prairie, hemmed in by red brick planters that match the structure’s palette. The home’s southwest corner is highly glazed, which affords stunning views. The windows peer over the outdoor gathering spaces, across the Canadian River Valley, and onto Oklahoma’s feathered orange sunsets.

As with so many of Plural’s projects, the design team used software to model the angle at which the sun hits Canadian River Cabin at various times of year and used that data to orient the house and shade the windows accordingly. The result is a generously daylit home that avoids direct sunlight during the warm months, from March 7th to October 7th.

Inside, woods and whites create a textured environment that’s full of light. In the kitchen, the cabinets and floors are maple, while the ceiling is Alaskan White Cedar from Delta Millworks. The abundance of cabinetry is apt for this getaway destination, where storage space is crucial, and the shaker style contributes a counterpoint to the sleek, minimal character of the rest of the home. Brass detailing adds warmth and additional texture to the lightness of the interior, composing the cabinet pulls, the appliance handles, the fittings on the lights, and the legs of the chairs that pull up to the island.

Ultimately, Canadian River Cabin fulfills its owner’s desire for an efficient, low maintenance home, one that admires its surroundings while providing flexible space for gathering. The living spaces are positioned to open to the porch, where festivities can overflow. The L-shaped floor plan, with a single hallway that jogs to open to every room, reduces circulation and keeps the home’s footprint to under 2,000 square feet.

Flexibility and efficiency are none more apparent than in the bunk room, which makes Canadian River Cabin a retreat that comfortably sleeps eight but can accommodate up to twelve. As in the kitchen, storage space here is ample, ensuring there’s room to stow both overnight bags and long-term essentials that visitors might need for repeat stays. Here, everything from the millwork at the base of the bunks to the ladder that extends between them, climbing in tandem with the window that looks to the turbines on the plains, was custom designed.


Contractor: RJ Designs

Structural: Obelisk Engineering

Photography: Leonid Furmansky