A Stained Glass Artist Creates A Mini Refuge

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Three years ago, stained glass artist and jewelry maker Neile Cooper was realizing that her success in jewelry making was leaving her missing the depth of work that her first love of stained glass commissions had brought her. Missing her original trade of creating beautifully detailed stained glass panels — combined with a passion for cabins and small living — Neile and her partner, Robert Giaquinta (a private tutor), decided to add a stained glass cabin to the one-and-a-half acre property that they’ve lived on for 16 years. Robert and Neile share their home with their two cats: their beloved 16-year-old Clarence and their one-year-old “terror,” Utah, who, they admit, do not live in peace together.

Neile shares, “Lake Mohawk, NJ is a sort of magical place, a storybook Tudor style lakeside town, the headwaters of the Wallkill River, awesome for swimming.” Despite the majesty of their surroundings, both Neile and Robert grew up in Northwest New Jersey and have debated moving out west, or up to Vermont. Building their glass cabin was a way to renew their inspiration and love for where they’re calling home, at least for now. Neile had been researching shed construction for a while, and in order to chase off a depression, she realized that just jumping in was the best course of action. Admittedly, Neile quickly found herself in over her head, but luckily had a handy father-in-law she could enlist to assist. They quickly built the frame and installed the reclaimed windows (everything in the cabin was repurposed from Craigslist, garage sales, Habitat For Humanity Re-Store, and hand-me-downs). You wouldn’t know looking at it now, but Neile says that three years later, she still has more she’s dreaming of doing to her magical 99-square-foot glass cabin. Her process is that she removes each window, repairs the frames, removes the old glass, and installs her new designs in their place. While the building of the glass cabin was somewhat simple, it’s obvious that Neile’s creations are anything but. The intricate designs in her stained glass creations are the same concepts she applies to her jewelry designs as well, going so far as to encase butterfly wings (ethically sourced!) in glass.

The roof was one of the most difficult parts of the process, but Neile knew she had to stay true to her vision of an all-glass cabin. It took a few tries, but eventually with some protective and water-tight sheets of lexan, the old tarp could be removed and you could once again see out to the beautiful wooded surroundings. The French doors are also set to be replaced, but as they were free from a friend, they’ll do for now. Neile wants to continue to finish the interior and create the multi-functional space she envisioned for guests, yoga, or a romantic dinner, and we’re so glad that she promises that if they do ever move, she’ll bring the glass cabin with them!

In addition to the glass cabin being an inspiring and motivating project for Neile, her goal also was, “for the glass designs to create a fantasy, an oversized dream forest. All of my favorite things are represented. I want to make work that I am proud of.” We certainly feel that this is something to be deeply proud of! To see more of Neile’s inspiring work and constantly evlolving glass cabin — and what inspired her design — flip through her awe-inspiring images. –Rebekah

Photography by Neile Cooper


-glass: Bendheim Glass, in Passaic, NJ (Neile admits that it’s “heaven for the glass artist, they carry the best.”), Bullseye Glass, The Warner Art Glass Center in Allentown, PA (“Perfect if you are interested in starting stained glass as a hobby,” Neile shares.)

-window frame paint: Behr Ultra in Valspar Fired Earth and Ralph Lauren Torch Black and Black Dose

-globe lights: Pottery Barn

-everything else was salvaged from Craigslist, friends, Habitat For Humanity ReStore, or garage sales

  1. Amanda says:

    Absolutely enchanting! I am especially impressed that so many of the materials are repurposed.

  2. lora says:

    vow!!! pure magic!

  3. Luisa says:

    This is breathtaking! What beautiful work.

  4. Dee says:

    This is spectacular! What talent!

  5. Mardy says:

    Having been a follower of Design Sponge for years; this stained glass cabin is now, and going forward, my favorite story. What an exquisite talent!

    1. Juliana says:

      I agree!!

  6. isabel says:

    Spectacular. What an enchanting place to live/sleep/work in.

  7. Louise says:

    This beautiful cottage made me think of the novel “Oscar and Lucinda” by Peter Carey, something I hadn’t thought in many years.

  8. missannethrope says:

    Oh, how lovely! I would love to see their house too; I’m sure it’s just as beautiful.

  9. valerie strait says:


  10. Clare says:

    ^^ Oh, yes, Oscar and Lucinda! Of course!

    This place is a dream.

  11. Scott Allen Borner says:

    This is by far, one of most beautiful creations ever created! Keep on inspiring the world!

  12. Tori says:

    Simply enchanting and delightful! What an inspirational space!

  13. Ctremain says:

    What a beautiful story! Love that cabin! Xo

  14. Noreen Scuderi says:

    Neile designed a beautiful seascape arch for my master bath in my beach house in Ortley Beach , NJ . The combination of the turquoise glass for the ocean swimming with fish,the tan sandy beach and the blue sky with sea gulls , elevated my relaxing spa like bathroom to another level. She also designed the Barnegate Lighthouse oval glass window on my first floor.. Amazing talent!

  15. Lauran says:

    Wow that is unbelievable. Just made my day!

  16. Aidel.K says:

    Beautiful & dreamy!

  17. Karen Larkin says:

    I’ve loved stained glass art since a friend started designing at Dartmouth College in the late 60s. I love Lake Mohawk as well. So perfect together!!

  18. kitt says:

    My heart actually hurt (in a good way!) with the beauty of your creation, Neile. I’ve long been drawn to and inspired by nature, flowers, colored glass, crystals, gems and minerals, and the idea of a tiny hideaway. You have brought them all together in the most enchanting way; if you were ever to open this amazing cottage up to a select group of appreciators, I would put it on my bucket list of places to visit, just for the privilege of staying there. If you don’t mind a suggestion about the pullout sofa, mine was made vastly more comfortable by topping it with a 2″ memory foam pad. What a glorious talent you are!

    1. neile says:

      My week has been made by your super sweet comment!!

  19. Kiki says:

    Oh what beauty, light, joy, wonderment…. What an incredible talent and how absolutely beautiful it sits in this enchanted spot. It’s love on first sight, this one.
    Although I don’t understand everything (how can you build something from old glass and then make it your own creation?) I can live easily with my lack of knowledge, I’m just happy having seen this miracle. Thank You so much

  20. Jennifer says:

    This is my favorite piece so far on Design Sponge. This cabin actually makes me ache, it is so beautiful. Imagine living in such a place!! Thank you for sharing, here’s hoping we see more of Neile’s work in future stories.

  21. Vicki says:

    Jaw dropping. Exquisite. Ethereal. I can’t stop looking at it.

  22. sydney says:

    Oh frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!
    This wonderful little cabin is like a fairytale come to life. It’s so beautiful and enchanted and wondrous. I’m not sure if it counts as a house tour, but if it does, this is my favorite to date.

  23. Gosia says:

    this is incredibly beautiful! x

  24. Audie Bass says:

    what a simply magical space. the glasswork is breathtaking. It would be such a gift to be able to photograph the space in all the different lighting that passes by. thank you for sharing. i have the pictures bookmarked so i can go back and look at them to remind myself of beauty.

  25. Debbie says:

    So absolutely and utterly beautiful!! I live in North Idaho and have been recently wishing for a glassed in place to go in my yard. You have filled my mind with such beauty and possibilities! Thank you for sharing your art and craft with us here. By the way, your father-in-law does amazing work with wood! Love!
    By the way, do you have a protective double pane of glass over the stained glass work? And, how do you heat it? I imagine it must be very chilly out there!

    1. neile says:

      Thanks, Debbie, good luck with your glass house! I have a protective sheet of lexan over the roof, so it is protected. And it’s not heated. I bundle up to spend time out there in the winter, and enjoy it the rest of the year.

  26. Anne says:

    This is lovely – thanks for sharing!

  27. Bonnie says:

    This is stunning and just the thing to see on a cold, gray day! Thanks!

  28. Isabelle Kohler says:

    Wow! I love this so much! I can’t imagine the joy of creating something so beautiful and being able to retreat to it at any time!

  29. Pat S says:

    This is a magical place. She really scored on the blankets.

  30. kat says:

    This is INCREDIBLE. Would be the perfect space for a summer artist retreat. Wish I could spend a weekend here!

  31. Claire says:

    This made me well up – what a emotional inducing piece – it’s just fabulous. My favourite DS post ever.

    1. Grace Bonney says:

      thanks, claire :)


  32. neile says:

    You all have totally warmed my heart with these comments. Thank you so much for your encouragement!!! I wish I could have you all come to a party at the cabin to celebrate!


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