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A Stained Glass Artist Creates A Mini Refuge

by Rebekah Carey

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

Neile Cooper's Stained Glass Cabin In The Fog On Design*Sponge
"A recent ice storm. Storms and wind make me so nervous about damage, but I also love how the space and the glass are so different with every day's different weather," Neile explains.
The New Jersey Glass Cabin On A Foggy Night On Design*Sponge
There's no shortage of charm here. "The cabin on a foggy night. It is lit by globe string lights (from Pottery Barn) that create a festive mood." Neile continues, "I love the way the glass is lit from within at night - so welcoming."
Cruelty-Free Antlers In This Stained Glass Cabin On Design*Sponge
Each detail of Neile's cabin is intentional, "The antler stained glass is above the front door. They are decorated with pansies, my partner's grandmother's favorites. The cedar rafter beams came from trees cut down on my parents' property where I grew up. I love that I used to play under those trees, and now I do again," Neile shares.
A Songbird You Could Stare At For Hours From The Stained Glass Cabin On Design*Sponge
Neile explains the inspiration behind her creations, "The songbird sits on a blooming dogwood branch. Since I find my inspiration in the nature around me, many of the elements are seasonal, and the windows were created in the season of the subject. I'll always remember designing this when the nearby dogwood blooms."
The Stained Glass Cabin Features A Hawk With An Impressive Eleven Foot Wingspan On Design*Sponge
One of the most impressive sections of the structure is the roof, but the hawk's size is even more incredible. Neile elaborates, "The cabin roof. The hawk was the biggest challenge due to its size - nearly 11 [foot] wingspan."
An Owl Set In Glass On Design*Sponge
An owl fit for a fairy tale, "The owl is one of my favorites! The eyes are cut from natural agate stones. I knew they had to be something special, and I searched for months for the perfect thing. I finally found these at a local rock and gem show," Neile adds.
Winter Does Not Damper The Spirits Of The Glass Cabin On Design*Sponge
Despite the snow, the glass cabin remains bright and cheerful.
Clarence The Cat Loves The Glass Cabin As Much As We Do On Design*Sponge
"My love, my 16-year-old black cat, Clarence, enjoying a sunny spot under the crystals," Neile shares.
An Impressive Wall Of Stained Glass In Neile Cooper's Glass Cabin On Design*Sponge
Neile tells us that the south wall gets great light in the winter. We love how it highlights the beautiful details of the designs in her stained glass. "I had to include some crocuses because they bring the joy that spring is nearly here. The blue and white on this bloom was inspired by Delft pottery...I wanted to see if I could create that beautiful effect in glass."
Neile Cooper Even Makes Spider Webs Charming On Design*Sponge
Neile explains, "The cabin has a bit of a spider problem. Spring is spent constantly cleaning out the webs, so this window is an homage to all the webs I've destroyed. Some of the 'dewdrops' are antique cut glass crystals, recovered from an old traditional stained glass window that was beyond repair. When the sun hits them just right, they make rainbows around the room."
A Sleeper Sofa Allows For Sleepovers In The Glass Cabin On Design*Sponge
"The couch folded out to its bed. I love to sleep in the cabin, but the bed is not very comfortable. I'm on the lookout for the perfect couch-to-sleeper," Neile adds.
Creatures Are Always Viewable Through A Cabin Made Of Glass On Design*Sponge
"I keep my nature guides and my binoculars handy. The cabin yard is always visited by whitetail deer, and sometimes foxes. We can see bald eagles, all types of hawks, woodpeckers, and I haven't spotted them yet, but in the summer we are blessed with the screech owl's call," Neile explains.
A Corner Of The Cabin Perfect To Work In On Design*Sponge
Neile describes her work corner, "My tiny writing desk is the perfect place to work and sketch and dream up the designs for the next windows. My childhood yard was filled with day lilies and tiger lilies, so this was a no-brainer for this particular window. It was a gift from my mother, she found it in the basement of the home when they moved in 45 years ago!"
The First Set Of Windows That Neile Designed In The Space On Design*Sponge
"This was the first window to have stained glass installed. The fern has long been a recurring motif in my work, so it was the right place to start. At about 6 [feet] tall, though, this was by far the largest stained glass fern I've ever designed! The window was a Craigslist score, pulled from an amazing Victorian mansion in the beautiful NJ shore town of Atlantic Highlands. A lot of the really good windows came from there!"
A Hudson's Bay Blanket Is Beautiful And Functional On Design*Sponge
"The room is furnished with a couch that folds out to a full bed, and a tiny desk that I use for work. I am in love with my Hudson's Bay blankets that I grabbed at an estate sale down the street for $20! The thick wool is perfect to cozy up the space," Neile happily shares. "These windows feature my favorite flower, the lily of the valley. Above are two dandelions, there to remind me that there is beauty to be found in what some consider a weed."
An Near-Arial View Shows Just How Inviting That Bed Looks In The Glass Cabin Tour On Design*Sponge
We can imagine how joyful it must feel to wake up in this inspiring cabin!
"My favorite thing about the cabin is that I made it! If you have a crazy idea, a wild dream, just do it! There really is no time like the present to get started and keep working hard every day. Your future self will thank you for it!"
Layout Of Neile's Glass Cabin On Design*Sponge
In Neile's illustration you can really see how masterful her creations are and how beautiful her vision.

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

  • 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!

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

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

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

  • 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!

  • 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!!

  • 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!

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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!

    • 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.

  • 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!

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

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

  • 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!

  • Neile is seriously talented, my daughter now wants her playhouse to resemble this wonderfully magical and enchanted glass cabin.

    Love this post, thank you for posting.


  • This is one of the most amazing things I have ever seen! I am in love with it! Also in love with all of your creative stain glass windows. The motifs are so fun and cheerful! I want one of these! Your stainless work is AMAZING!!!

  • I, too, have been using old wooden windows to create stained glass pieces of art. This cabin is beautiful and inspirational. Who knows, maybe there will be another one some day.