Searching for inspiration to modernize a rustic cabin? Let these projects be your guide.
This Joshua Tree cabin only cost Kathrin and Brian Smirke $7,000—and there was a reason for its low price tag. The abandoned 1957 structure was in a decayed state and needed to be completely gutted. The couple took on all the work themselves, from demo to framing, plumbing, electrical, design, and interior build-out.
In outfitting the 480-square-foot abode, they preserved a little bit of local history: the homestead cabin is one of many scattered throughout the area as a result of the Small Tract Act of 1938, wherein the government sold off small parcels of federal land.
Sometimes you just know when you’ve found the "one." Such was the case for Karie Higgins when she first visited this midcentury cabin on the bank of the Wilson River, outside Tillamook, Oregon. "I thought I was going to start crying because I felt, ‘This is the place.’ We're standing on the deck, the river was right there and I thought, ‘This is literally heaven,’" says Karie.
The 1,057-square-foot cabin had two bedrooms, a bathroom, and plenty of deck space for relaxing riverside. The interior just needed a refresh. "The natural light was amazing in the great room, but it was really just a matter of brightening it up and removing some of the heavier elements to make it feel more spacious," says Karie. A coat of white primer and a load of stylish accessories did the trick.
"We’ve always had a dream of owning and renovating a cabin in the woods," says interior designer Hope Mendes. "A place where we could take our kids when we need to get away from the hustle and bustle of our work lives." A 700-square-foot cabin in Cobb, California, proved the perfect fit for that ambition.
Hope and her husband Tom embarked on a budget overhaul (keeping costs at $20,000 total) to update the cabin without compromising its innate charm. They power-washed the wood siding to help it blend into the forest, swapped the dated linoleum for wood floors, and painted the walls a warm white that highlights the preserved wood ceilings.
When remodeling a 700-square-foot cabin in Yucca Valley, California, interior designer Natalie Myers sought to subvert expectations. "I wanted to get away from the rustic-chic design sensibility expected in the area," says Natalie.
First, the designer needed to reverse the results of an uninspired flip, which wasn’t doing the cabin any favors. Myers introduced personality with a patterned tile backsplash and terrazzo counters in the kitchen, and stripped out laminate flooring to reveal the concrete beneath, which brings everything together.
After Kara inherited an A-frame cabin built by her grandfather 30 years ago on 20 acres near Utah’s Uinta National forest, she gave the structure a loving makeover for the next generation. To do so, she relocated the kitchen for better function and flow, balanced the abundance of wood with white paint to brighten up the interior, and chose furnishings that give off a more airy feel.
"A-Frame Haus is an homage to my grandfather, and a second home to all who enter through its doors," says Kara. "We took the incredible work he had already put into it, and did our best to improve."
This 1970s-era, cedar-clad cabin in Whistler, Canada, was in such dire shape that its newest owners thought it would need to be torn down. However, Stark Architecture had a different idea.
The firm suggested renovating the original structure and building a new addition— a "modern box"—which would be connected to the original home with a double-height, window-wrapped vestibule. The firm kept nods to the old, like angled wood ceiling beams, while binding everything together with a standing-seam metal facade.
Upon purchasing a neglected 1950s cabin in the Sullivan Catskills, an NYC-based creative couple—Lauren’s a design director and architect, and Michael’s a creative director—got to work. The petite cabin needed structural repairs, insulation for better energy efficiency, and an updated kitchen and bath.
They removed drywall and integrated painted tongue-and-groove paneling to make the interior more cohesive, and fine-tuned other elements, like the wood stove and kitchen, to let the 700-square-foot space sing. "People looking for second homes usually want something larger, but small spaces speak to us," says Lauren.
When interior designers and TV show hosts Colin McAllister and Justin Ryan realized how much work their 1987 cottage in Haliburton, Ontario, would need, they gave it a nickname: the "slanty shanty."
The cottage was dilapidated and populated with an assortment of pests, so the couple gave it a top-to-bottom overhaul that involved replacing the roof, lifting the home, and digging a new foundation. Now warm wood lines the ceiling and floors, and a timeless black-and-white scheme shines throughout.
This classic A-frame in Big Bear, California, was a 1970s time capsule when Courtney Poulos bought it. With only five weeks and a $40,000 budget, Courtney was determined to give the home a modern refresh. "We wanted to create a handsome space full of butterscotch and whiskey undertones, dark woods, and light accents," she says.
Courtney did just that, balancing the preserved structure with new fixtures and furniture—and she learned a valuable lesson along the way. "You don’t necessarily need to limit your creativity to a conventional cabin design," she says.
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