An escape to a cabin in the woods usually feels like a removal from routine—find yourself far away from the busy, fast-paced, and often crowded surroundings of everyday life. But Courtney Poulos’ classic A-frame house on a shaded cul-de-sac in Big Bear, California, was something different: it was a time machine back to the '70s. "There was lots of worn-out carpet," Poulos says. "It just looked tired and needed a facelift."
The angled exterior, with its sharp form of two triangles that jut toward the sky, was painted in a one-dimensional shade of brown that matched the tree trunks and dusty ground around it. Inside, the many large beams that support the structure disappeared into the walls of the same natural hue, and a well-worn couch slumped across from a hearth propped on mismatched brick.
Poulos, who owns ACME Real Estate in nearby Los Angeles, aimed to transform the 880-square-foot cabin into a modern getaway without abandoning its midcentury feel. "We wanted to create a handsome space full of butterscotch and whiskey undertones, dark woods, and light accents," she remembers. But Poulos also couldn’t let some real-world challenges spoil her future vacation home, either. She only had five weeks and $40,000 to make these changes, and all materials had to be hauled up to the mountains from the city.
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Almost every part of the home received an upgrade. In the living area, the wood beams were painted a rich ebony hue to distinguish its striking details, and the matching hearth’s brick base was covered with raven hexagonal tiles that allude to those in the bathroom.
Before: Living Room
After: Living Room
The solid wood cabinets in the kitchen were salvaged—there just wasn’t enough time or budget for new ones—but raw-edge open shelving, Calacatta countertops, and hand-finished subway tiles were installed with new appliances to add a lightness to the corner location. "The refrigerator is black, which I wouldn't usually choose, except that it's the first thing you see when you walk in the door, so we wanted it to blend in seamlessly," she says.
The bedrooms take on a different personality than the common spaces. If the living area is sophisticated, then the sleeping quarters are bohemian. Patterned textiles and saturated colors give them an eclectic effortlessness, which is then balanced by the minimalist bathroom. "We also pulled in as much light as possible," she explains.
When the renovation was complete, Poulos realized how an otherwise dated cabin of the past could find such simple avenues into the present. "You don’t necessarily need to limit your creativity to a conventional cabin design," she says. "It was a treat to maintain the balance between the vintage architectural space and the modern finishes for a covetable end result."
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