Welcome to the Kitchy Cabin, a wonderland of midcentury decor and whimsical design.
Claire Thomas swears she had no intention of buying a cabin; and then her sister went on a lake trip and could not stop raving about it. Immediately, she began feverishly looking up housing prices in locales with natural pools to dip her toes in.
Once a day, she’d skim through "bizarre parameters" in a multitude of neighborhoods. Some of her search queries included: "What’s the most expensive house in Bel Air? Are there any original 1920s to 1930s Spanish Colonial Revival homes available in Pasadena? What about ranch property in Ojai?"
Thomas was unable to quell her fantasies about what she’d do with such a property—a trait she picked up from her mom. "My mom would hesitate (just for a moment!) at what she loves more: her children, or a perfectly timed house flip—so I’m sure I got the bug from her." She spent her childhood Sundays perusing open houses with her mother just for fun. Though she hadn’t been to Big Bear since she was 12, she was overcome with an obsession to own a cabin there.
"I remembered the lake and the skiing, and now that I have my son, James, I wanted to create a cozy home away from home that we could call our own. I was like a woman possessed. An A-Frame cabin in Big Bear must be mine!" Luckily, her husband was on board to renovate a cabin into a vacation home/rental.
"We went up to Big Bear to just ‘have a look,’ which was very much like the time I took [my husband] to ‘check out this cat’ when I already had food and a litter box ready in the trunk of my car. Mochi has been very happy in our home for three years, and Craig is now a cat person."
When they saw the 1970s chalet-style A-frame in the Moonridge area, they immediately fell in love. The mountain abode is nestled on a quiet street a mere 10 minutes from the slopes, and it shares its lot with a gathering of large trees. The house also comfortably accommodates up to 10 people, so it's perfect for hosting friends and their families.
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"There [was] room for my full vision of an après-ski family weekend: late mornings sleeping in with the master bedroom fireplace going; puzzles and cards being played under the soaring A-frame ceiling; fondue or hot cocoa bubbling in the open kitchen; and a crackling fire pit outdoors for s'mores in the summer, or a cozy moment with hot toddies and piles of blankets."
Naturally, her first inclination was to turn to Pinterest for inspiration, where she was bombarded with a barrage of white-washed hygge spreads and Nordic minimalism. While she loves the clean aesthetic, it just didn’t feel right for their cabin. Channeling Big Bear’s "marvelous kitsch factor," her board was rife with color, texture, and surprise—a departure from their main house in Brentwood.
"I wanted to recreate the feeling of an après-ski fondue party—vibrant and chic, but a bit boho. Like Gstaad in the ’60s or something."
Remodeling is where her passion for storytelling—and background in film, food, and media— came into play. For her, spaces are just another way to share a narrative, with each room transporting you to a distinct place and mood.
"For each common space, I wanted there to be a clear focus, sort of guiding the activity there. For the living room, it’s the vintage fireplace; for the game room, it’s the vintage poker table; for the backyard, there’s a sunken dining room and another vintage fireplace. Every space encourages gathering around something."
While her Brentwood abode is geared around a vintage aesthetic and preserving the tone of the house, the vacation home is all about being whimsical. It’s not without hygge vibes though—she purposely didn’t put a TV in the living room or master bedroom, as her and her husband have a habit of "two-screening" (working on their computers while watching TV). Here, she tries to disconnect a bit.
Thomas renovated the 2,000-square-foot space, transforming the open living room, dining room, three bedrooms, master suite, and kitchen into the eccentric getaway of her dreams.
The complete overhaul involved reconfiguring the game room and kitchen, swapping out appliances, adding a soaking tub, and installing funky pieces from Fireclay Tile—and the results are stunning. The cabin exudes a sense of stylish wonder with a playful, retro palette and quirky but refined furniture.
Currently, she spends a couple weekends a month at the Kitchy Cabin, though she hopes to start spending solid weeks at a time in the cheery getaway.