What is a Bunkie?

A beautiful backyard bunkie surrounded by lush landscape

So what exactly is a bunkie? Well, it’s a small guesthouse for your backyard, lakeside cottage or mountainside cabin. It can even be a poolside cabana. It’s an extra bedroom, an outside spare room for sleepovers, a kids’ playhouse, a home office, an art studio or just a quiet retreat. A bunkie can be a small log cabin in the woods or a little modern Airbnb off the main house. It can even be an enclosed office in an open space like a warehouse. Flexible and multi-purpose.

A waterfront bunkie is as good as a small home

This waterfront bunkie has all the comforts of home as well as a quiet space to slip away for the evening or as a sophisticated guesthouse for overnight stays. More formal and architecturally designed, this bunkie reflects the style of the main house, both exterior and interior. Calm, relaxed and detailed.

A rustic outdoor bunkie is built near a mountain trail
Image: wiserwood.com

More rustic and isolated, this bunkie/hut is a hiking hideaway. You’re up early and hitting the trails after a campfire breakfast. You can trek supplies in for a weekend in the great outdoors with a couple of friends keeping cozy at night and safe from the local wildlife… watch out for the bear family!

A modern bunkie is used as a poolside cabana
Image: thebunkie.com

Yes, the poolside cabana… it’s a changing room, an all-season playroom for the kids or a prep kitchen for afternoon barbecues. This model from The Bunkie Co. is easy to assemble and comes in kit form that can be put together over a couple of days.

A diy bunkie made from salvaged materials

This do-it-yourself bunkie has been made from salvaged materials by an enterprising handyperson, showing what can be accomplished with a little hard work and a frontier attitude. I can imagine that it sits on the bank of a creek in the shadow of a mountain range with coyotes howling in the twilight distance… no home comforts here, this is roughing it!

A backyard bunkie as a reading room
Image: pinkhouse.co.uk

The backyard bunkie – informal, quiet, maybe a reading room or a music room or simply catching up with friends. The natural wood shake roof and board siding lend a country feel to the urban home. Set on a cedar deck among the trees at the property’s edge with doors opening up to the yard and candles alit later, this little cozy nook is a warm addition to the home.

A bunkie playhouse

“Can we go outside and play? Puleeze!”
“But it’s raining.”
“But we’ll be inside OUR house.”
“Okay, put your boots on though.”
“Yay!”
The bunkie playhouse is worth every penny.

A bunkie home office
Image: idealhome.co.uk

Who says the home office has to be inside the home! Not this family. The bunkie’s versatility means it can be anything you want it to be. This inspiration comes from Ideal Home (UK), the building is by gardenaffairs.co.uk and the furnishings are ikea.com. The space is bright and light and easy to work in.

A bunkie as a craft studio
Image: womansworld.com

You’re an artist or a craftsperson and you need a studio… why not a shed-roof bunkie where you can escape for peace and solitude to work.

With some repainted used outdoor furniture and container plants, a couple of skylights and an easel you can toil away to your creative delight.

A bunkie as a meditation room
Image: studio-shed.com

Quiet, reflective… a meditation room, a serene space for contemplation, a modern zen mini-temple. This is the Portland Series from studio-shed.com.

Contemporary lines, natural materials and sitting in a far corner of the property, you can hear the recorded water music amidst the rustling leaves of the forest behind. A soothing retreat.

A bunkie log cabin made from a pre-cut kit
Image: bunkielife.com

This pre-cut kit model from Bunkie Life is a wonderful little log cabin. It’s about 80 square feet on the ground floor and 45 square feet up in the loft with a movable ladder, made from kiln-dried Northern Spruce. Tongue & groove flooring and cedar shakes, you and a couple of friends can put this woodsy treasure together over a camping weekend.

A contemporary bunkie installed on the wooden deck
Image: thebunkie.com

This contemporary bunkie from The Bunkie Co. sits right on the deck outside the main house. Again, it can be a guest bedroom or an Airbnb. Sleek, modern and solid with a view out to surrounding nature… even your neighbors will want to stay over!

This bunkie on casters can be moved around
Image: thebunkie.com

This bunkie really shows off versatility… an independent office within another business! What next? And it totally works. Imagine it’s on heavy-duty casters and can be moved around. The flexibility supreme.

Prefab bunkie kit
Image: canadianbunkies.ca

Bunkies come in all styles and are totally customizable. They can come in a kit that you DIY or have a professional assemble for you. You can download plans and build them with friends, it only takes a few days to construct. Prefab kits are factory built reducing waste and can be installed in three or four days. Delivered kits come with detailed instructions.

Because of its small size (usually about 100 square feet) a building permit is usually not required but you should always check local zoning bylaws.

A nice tiny bunkie in the snow
Image: summerwood.com
A Bunkie with a built-in pier on the lake
Image: summerwood.com

A bunkie can be a quiet getaway tucked in the forest or by the seashore. Maybe a small ski chalet for the weekend or a boathouse on the dock. It can be three or four season for year-round enjoyment. A bunkie can be anything you want, anywhere you want… it’s your dream.

INTERIORS

A bunkie interior
Image: bunkielife.com

Inside you have free reign: cottage or contemporary, nautical or barnyard, playhouse or den. Floor to ceiling glass to let nature’s beauty in, an open floor plan or a game room, all bunks or a Murphy bed… decisions decisions.

A loft bedroom inside the bunkie, with a queen-size bed
Image: bunkielife.com

A loft above with a queen-size bed or futon, clerestory windows with a slanting shed roof, storage cabinets with pot lights, a mini-kitchen, a mini-bathroom behind a sliding pocket door with a composting toilet, electric fireplace, or a mini wood-burning stove, the list goes on.

Image: cubicminiwoodstoves.com
Tastefully decorated bunkie interior
Image: bunkielife.com

Tastefully decorated and pleasant to wake up in, this little chalet feels like an alpine hotel room. The stained flooring contrasts with the natural pine throughout.

Two-storie bunkie interior
Image: tinyhousetalk.com

More wood but added finishes and decor. Louvered glass windows and a tropical plant breath freshness to the painted interior.

A bunkie hot tub
Image: summerwood.com

A bunkie hot tub… year-round enjoyment. Multi-panel windows let the outdoors in but these homeowners might want to grow a bamboo screen along the fence for privacy.

A bunkie with a kitchen
Image: tinyhousetalk.com

Who says a bunkie can’t be all, or most, things to some of us. A galley kitchen for light meals or late night snacks and a wine cooler under the counter… perfect.

A bunkie made from timber
Image: timberhomeliving.com

The classic atmosphere in a remote setting. A warming fire, a good book and a hot chocolate or snifter of brandy. Aahh.

Nautical style bunkie decor
Image: wiserwood.com

Color, theme and a little elegance go a long way. The nautical touches of blue, white and grey are very tasteful.

A Bunkie with bunk beds
Image: cottagelife.com

Bunkies equal bunk beds, with sliding windows for each and sheepskin throws and handwoven blankets.

The bunkie restroom
Image: hgtv.com

Yes, the bunkie restroom… white on white, clean and simple.

BUILDING BUNKIES

Bunkie kit assembled in the backyard
Image: thebunkie.com

Bunkie kits are easily delivered and assembled by your gang or professionals. Make sure the foundation is right for the site and local zoning requirements are followed if necessary.

Assembling a bunkie interior
Image: thebunkie.com

Interiors are also efficiently designed: Murphy beds that fold up into the wall, pre-built cabinets and electric fireplaces. If needed, composting toilets, R & U rated insulation standards for windows and doors – optional electrical and plumbing features can be added. But the original bunkie usually doesn’t include these luxuries… back to the basics – maybe as an auxiliary outbuilding for winter storage.

Delivery day! As in any build, you need the right tool for the job.

Bunkies prefab kits
Image: thebunkie.com

The prefab kits use sustainable practices, low-emission materials and the pre-built process in a factory minimizes waste. Solar packages are an option too. Roofs are engineered for snow loads and runoff.

Building a bunkie floor
Image: thebunkie.com

The site you choose needs to be prepped – if it’s a remote wooded area or a shoreline you’ll need to have the right foundation: either sunken concrete posts with floor beams or a concrete pad; if it’s your backyard or patio probably a tamped gravel bed and deck will do. Check with the bunkie installer or contractor, you will want it done properly.

Bunkie foundation is being leveled out

Your bunkie can literally go anywhere… level the area, put in the right foundation, footing or pad and then floor, walls, roof. Easy.

Building a bunkie the DIY way
Image: bunkielife.com

It’s like a big 3D puzzle, just follow the instructions and before you know it… it’s a BUNKIE!

BUNKIE STYLES

A contemporary bunkie with glass facade
Image: blessthisstuff.com

An old fashioned cathedral ceiling or a modern slant roof, wood spindle railing or contemporary glass, tilt-out casement or sliding aluminum doors. French doors, a Dutch door… or maybe sleek patio doors that bring the outside in. The bunkie is completely customizable and there are lots of small building specialists to help.

The actual building materials, depending on the bunkie architectural style, can be prefab interlocking logs or 2×4 framing with insulation and exterior vinyl siding – your choice of color. Western red cedar, kiln-dried Canadian spruce, pine, or fir, each has its own feel and texture. Tongue and groove flooring and shiplap walls or a finished veneer paneling inside. The choices are many when designing this new addition to your lifestyle.

Pressure-treated floor joists and beams on pre-cast footings set on 6” of a leveled drain gravel bed. Interior finishes can be ¾” tongue & groove pine or rustic barn boards. Wood or vinyl siding on the bunkie’s outside matching the home or cottage, pressure-treated cedar decking and railings… shingles, shakes or metal roofing, board and batten exterior? Anything goes with a bunkie… it’s up to your imagination.

A mini-cottage bunkie
Image: wiserwood.com

Shutters, Adirondack chairs, window boxes and border perennials all make this bunkie a sweet little mini-cottage.

A bunkie with a shed roof
Image: canadianbunkies.ca

Cantilevered loft extension on posts, wood or aluminum railings, exterior lighting, outdoor electrical plugs, window boxes and planted containers are all options.

A bunkie workshop
Image: festoolownersgroup.com

Bunkies have been utilized in many roles – as portables for outdoor music festivals, grouped in a campground setting, a ski hut, workshop. How about a floating bunkie! Haven’t seen that yet, maybe it’s a first. Or a traveling bunkie on wheels! What next!

Portable bunkie cabins
Image: thebunkie.com

Bunkies have been used as portable cabins for outdoor festivals and camping sites, keeping couples and families safely distanced.

Image: thebunkie.com

A bird’s eye view of a bunkie campground – nestled among the alders next to the lake, makes you want to fly in by floatplane for a week’s stay.

Image: thebunkie.com

This bunkie grouping is perfect for corporate getaways and small weekend conferences.

Image: canadianbunkies.ca

Cape Cod by the lake… a simple and classic guesthouse.

Image: summerwood.com

And this little jewel is another mini-cottage at the edge of a neighborhood green space.

Image: cottagelife.com

A dining room tonight, a spare bedroom tomorrow, a concert shell for a backyard recital the next evening… busy bunkie!

Photo credit: Courtesy of Anisa Darnell at truthandco.co

Or the quirky children’s playhouse in the backyard with a sandbox next to it and a swing set nearby.

Image: bunkielife.com

Here’s a separate bathroom bunkie with a shower room.

A contemporary designed glass and metal bunkie, drywall interior, minimally furnished – modern in an out-of-the-way setting.

Image: exploratoryglory.com

Homemade bunkies can be rustic and rough-hewn but still have all the basic necessities for comfort in the woods.

Image: wayfair.ca

This Mini-Pod from Wayfair sits firmly on the manicured lawn behind the main house and is another example of the home office being separate.

Image: thebunkie.com

Designed and built as an integral part of the home’s landscaping, a paved walkway leading up to the bunkie guesthouse with specimen trees, shrubs and perennials blooming spring and summer.

Image: flowerpatchfarmhouse.com

Whether under a blanket of snow in a vacation spot or perched on the beach, nature views and experiences just outside your retreat set a calm and serene feel.

Redefining how you work, play, entertain and relax. Sophisticated or practical, country or city, mountain or riverbank, the bunkie haven.

Image: theownerbuildernetwork.co

A view to your favourite landscape, hidden in the garden, proudly on the patio, a hangout, a secret, a salon, saloon, poker night, party night, yoga or siesta, garden shed, woodshop, spa, painting studio, pottery studio, writer’s room, wine cellar, canning pantry…

Image: outbuildings.ca

… or even as a separate home gym.

Image: thebunkie.com

A hot tub on the wrap-around deck, the grill, Muskoka chairs, and a hammock with a shade sail or trellised arbor for the summer sun.

Image: summerwood.com

“Gone fishin’… back in a couple of weeks.”

Image: wiserwood.com

Wherever your mini-cottage or cabin lives, it not only gives you a small private space but can put you closer to the natural world: quiet views to a serene wooded environment, the calming lap of waves by a lake, the silence of a morning snowfall.

Image: instructables.com

Just the bare necessities, getting away from it all for a while.

Image: wiserwood.com

Or closer to home – open the doors to your home patio. Dining al fresco with friends who will be staying for a few days. The sun is setting and the outdoor lights come on. The patio bunkie has the dinner buffet and bar and then becomes the guesthouse at evening’s end.

Image: summerwood.com

Sunday brunch with family, now it’s an impromptu dining area with the sliding glass doors open to a brisk spring morning.

Design and build it – beach house? bunkhouse? chalet? retreat? office? hideaway?

Image: dwell.com

A different space, a new space. Modern and minimal, open but closed at the same time; spare but still welcoming and still outside.

An intimate space, a different and unique lifestyle; charming, warm, tranquil, secluded, private – all of these in one place, outside. The bunkie – be all that it can be.

About Joe Hats 127 Articles
Joe Hats is the founder of FreshPatio.com. Joe has been remodeling homes since 1997 when he bought his first fixer-upper. He has built many pieces of indoor and outdoor furniture with his own hands and has every DIY woodworking tool in his possession. Coming from an engineering background, he has designed and built many patio fixture plans. Following his wife's lead, he is also very passionate about home decor and together they keep track of the latest trends. When he is not remodeling or trying a new woodworking tool, he is busy gardening or designing a new outdoor plan.