You don’t need a mountaintop experience or woodland dwelling to treat your cabin fever. The warm, rustic design details of a cabin getaway can be brought into your home no matter where you live, says Jeff Balmer, a fourth-generation builder, cabin designer and an owner of Lands End Development in Crosslake, Minnesota.
“The first step to bringing a little cabin into your own home is to create informal, rustic spaces meant for entertaining people,” Balmer says.
While it might not be in the budget to build a new mountain retreat or a house by the water’s edge, Balmer says the relaxed energy found in a cabin can flow through an existing home. “We do renovations to a home’s lower level, the master suite or a bonus room above the garage to create a getaway,” he says. “The cabin feel in a home is about getting back to basics and using natural materials.”
▪ Combining Natural Elements. Many traditional cabins tend toward warmer color tones, utilizing stained pinewood and natural stonework to achieve a rustic look and feel, Balmer says.
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“A cabin should feel cozy, without being suffocating,” he says. “An open floor plan or vaulted ceilings give cabins an air about them.”
The four earth elements are often represented in a cabin’s design: land, air, water and fire. “In a family room we see this all coming together: the stone and woodwork; the airiness of vaulted ceilings, the views through the windows of the lake outside; and, of course, the fireplace,” Balmer says. “For those who are remodeling and don’t live near water, people can purchase an indoor fountain and … hear the water trickling, too.”
▪ Bringing the Indoors Outside. Cavorting with nature is part of the cabin experience. “There’s always talk about bringing the outdoors inside a home,” Balmer says. “But, in a cabin, you also bring the indoors outside, and building a porch is a good way to start.”
Whether you’re shooting the breeze or just catching one, a porch is a natural place to gather without having to stray too far from home. A transitional space by its very nature, a porch connects a home to the outside world.
“Some people enclose their porch, so they can enjoy it all four seasons,” Balmer says. “Even on the smallest house, building a porch is high on the list for those who want to enjoy a cabin lifestyle.”
Of course, a porch swing is a prerequisite for many, but having comfortable seating, surrounded by fragrant flowers and landscaping, is also an essential part of creating an inviting atmosphere.
An invigorating way to bring the cabin experience home is to install an outdoor shower, Balmer says. “It’s not for everyone and certainly won’t work in every residential situation, but if you’re close to the beach, it makes sense to have one to get the sand off before going into the house,” he says. “Some people even use them as part of their regular showering routine.”
Balmer says installing an outdoor shower isn’t difficult, but it requires a drain. Of course, the shower surround can be private or open to nature, but Balmer says there’s nothing like washing up at sun-up in an outdoor shower.
▪ Building Built-Ins. A cabin is meant to be a gathering place, so space can be at a premium with a house full of people. “It’s in the cabin style to use every nook and cranny of a home, whether you’re building a bookshelf or a bunk bed,” Balmer says. “To create that rustic look, the trick is to use solid modern-day craftsmanship, but build in details that are usable and look like they’ve been there for decades.”
A wide hallway became a bedroom when Balmer’s team constructed a double set of built-in bunks along the walls. “A higher ceiling and plenty of light gives that bedroom-hallway a warm, cozy feeling,” Balmer says. “And when you have a bunch of people staying with you, you need to use every bit of space you have.”
▪ Kitchen is Central. While the kitchen is most often considered the heart of the home, it is also the core to cabin-style living. “When it comes to home design, we often start with the kitchen, and the rest of the house flows from there,” Balmer says. “You want the kitchen to be open, not only to the house, but to the outdoor spaces, where people can cook and eat outside.”
There’s no need to rough it in today’s rustic kitchen, which is built with modern amenities – including a large range, refrigerator, well-stocked pantry and kitchen island. The rustic charm comes from the use of antique decor and distressed cabinet finishes, which give the space character and warmth.
For a growing number of homeowners, the great outdoors has also become the newest frontier for culinary construction. An outdoor kitchen is built with amenities often found in its indoor counterpart, with appliances, countertops or cabinetry built to withstand a wide range of temperatures. Before purchasing any other outdoor appliances, look for the UL (Underwriters Laboratory) seal approving items for outdoor use.