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A Hollywood Director’s Refined Off-the-Grid Cabin by Commune Design

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A Hollywood Director’s Refined Off-the-Grid Cabin by Commune Design

August 9, 2021

Where does Anthony Russo—who, co-directed with his brother four Marvel movies, including the highest-grossing movie of all time, Avengers: Endgame—go to decompress? Into the wilds of Angeles National Forest in the San Gabriel Mountains, where his 1900s cabin awaits with the promise of off-the-grid solitude, Thanos-style.

Russo’s stone-clad retreat was originally built as part of the U.S. Forest Services’ program to promote responsible land use. The sought-after director was captivated by the idea of having a remote place to escape to, away from the constant hum of cell phone alerts and the complexities of modern life. But while he was more than willing to rough it, he preferred to do it in style. Enter Commune Design, whose work for the Ace Hotels had caught his eye, he told AD in a recent interview.

The footprint of the structure measures just 600 square feet, so one would be forgiven for assuming this must have been a small and fast project for Commune. Building and renovating in an isolated area accessible only by a canyon trail, though, meant everything had to be brought in by foot either via a hand-built wheel barrel or pack mule. “We started the project in fall 2017,” Steven Johanknecht of Commune tells us. “Most of it was completed by fall 2019.”

Yes, it’s still a work in progress; the storage and shower sheds aren’t quite completed yet. But thankfully, Johanknecht’s client knows a thing or two about complex projects.

Photography by Stephen Kent Johnson, courtesy of Commune Design.

the cabin is perched along a  sque, boulder laden stream. the exterior remains  9
Above: The cabin is perched along a picturesque, boulder-laden stream. The exterior remains unchanged, other than a new front door and fresh paint (Farrow & Ball Studio Green). The lower portion of the cabin is to be a bunkhouse, as yet unfinished.
&#8\2\20;the solid white oak dutch door is new, and we worked with van cron 10
Above: “The solid white oak Dutch door is new, and we worked with Van Cronenberg Hardware to make a custom bronze doorknob that is a direct cast of a rock taken from the stream in front of the cabin,” says Johanknecht.
the firm cites swedish and french chalets, and japanese and shaker design as in 11
Above: The firm cites Swedish and French chalets, and Japanese and Shaker design as inspiration for the interiors. A vintage Bruno Mathsson lounge chair anchors a corner.
both the knotty cedar ceiling and the reclaimed oak floors are new, as are all  12
Above: Both the knotty cedar ceiling and the reclaimed oak floors are new, as are all the windows. “We designed hydraulic operated window covers that completely seal up the cabin from the elements, intruders, and critters when the cabin isn’t in use,” says Johanknecht.
in the living room, a vintage børge mogensen daybed (in original fabric!) is o 13
Above: In the living room, a vintage Børge Mogensen daybed (in original fabric!) is outfitted with a Gregory Parkinson blanket and pillows by Clay McLaurin Studio and Penny Morrison. The sconce is by Soane Britain (see Summer Lights: Playful Rattan Lamps, Sconces, and Pendants by Soane Britain.)
commune commissioned an artisan to build this gingko marquetry armoire, constru 14
Above: Commune commissioned an artisan to build this gingko marquetry armoire, constructed from redwood reclaimed from the cabin interior.
a ladder from the kitchen leads to a sleep loft, which features a ceiling cover 15
Above: A ladder from the kitchen leads to a sleep loft, which features a ceiling covered in grass cloth by Astek, a vintage Swedish flat-weave rug, and a basket by Dax Savage.
concrete floors take over in in the kitchen. all the walls inside are limewashe 16
Above: Concrete floors take over in in the kitchen. All the walls inside are limewashed. A ceiling light from Robert Long Lighting hovers over the dining nook.
note the old fashioned crank phone, which connects the house only to neighborin 17
Above: Note the old-fashioned crank phone, which connects the house only to neighboring cabins and the pack station.
a small but efficient kitchen. electricity comes from truck batteries, in a sep 18
Above: A small but efficient kitchen. Electricity comes from truck batteries, in a separate storage shed, that harvest solar power.
it&#8\2\17;s all about the details. finger joinery turns kitchen cabinets i 19
Above: It’s all about the details. Finger joinery turns kitchen cabinets into art; the pojagi sink skirt is by Adam Pogue.
this may be the most charming outhouse with a composting toilet ever. 20
Above: This may be the most charming outhouse with a composting toilet ever.
the canyon trail to the cabin. 21
Above: The canyon trail to the cabin.

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