Progress at the Cabin

What a summer. As usual, when I tell myself I’m going to try and simplify my life I inevitably end up taking on another project that makes life more complicated. The cabin – which is still meant to be a haven for reconnecting with nature and a simpler, less complicated way of life – took a ton of work to make it… well, comfortable. There are still a lot of things to accomplish, but the transformation from summer shack to a place that feels like a big hug all year long has started to take shape. It has been a lot of work, but also very rewarding; especially now that we are reaping the rewards.

The cabin was built in 1984, but it looked and felt much older. Most of the houses in our neighborhood, which is about 20 miles outside of Flagstaff, were intended to be for summer use only. The house had an old wood burning stove and baseboard electric heaters, and certainly no air conditioner. In the past, when the weather started to cool off in the Valley of the Sun (that’s Phoenix) everyone drained the water from the pipes, packed up and left for the winter; mainly to return again around Memorial Day. The cabin looked and felt like it had not been touched in forty years.

Family Room before

I wanted to maintain the integrity of its roots but also bring it into the 21st century. And that started with some major structural upgrades. The foundation was a wreck and had to have major, major repairs. And by repairs, I mean, actually, rebuilt. The cost was so high I still refuse to say the number aloud, but suffice it to say the house is no longer split in half and sliding down the hill.

The next major improvement included adding a brand new, high efficiency HVAC system. Even though we will probably only use the air conditioner three or four weeks a year, it is really nice to have during that time. And, of course, central heat was essential to be able to use the cabin year round. I mean who doesn’t want to go to a cabin in the woods at Christmas, and possibly play in the snow. Although those two projects took an enormous amount of the budget, we were still able to make some major changes to the function and aesthetics of the house.

Family Room/Dining Room/Kitchen before

A Cue from Mother Nature

 Last year I designed and sold a home in the Biltmore area of Phoenix, and a neighbor came by to take a look. This neighbor also happens to be a high-end house remodeler and sells her projects for millions of dollars. She said to me something I’ll never forget; and it was probably one of the biggest compliments I’ve ever received. She said, “You know, I’m really good at building the structure of the house. But your style and your designs make it feel like a home. That’s something special.”

I thought long and hard about what she said. I mean, I’ve looked to her as a mentor on occasion. But I realized she was right. And although at one time I aspired to live in a house like the ones she builds, they do lack the warmth and coziness I crave.

When my kids were little, I coveted to finer things in life. I picked out and bought the sofa you are never allowed to sit on. And then the kids and the dog and my grungy, sweat soaked tennis coach husband jumped right up on it and dashed my dreams of perfection. And rightly so. Life is meant to be lived, not looked at. And the way I style my homes has fortunately changed to reflect that over the years. The cabin is no exception. In fact, I wanted it to be the rule. Everything inspired by nature. A resting place while we experience and enjoy nature and get back to a simpler life and simpler time. 

I am so happy with the results. I used LVP flooring throughout the house. It looks like wood but is waterproof and really easy to clean which is great for bathrooms and a good option in the winter for wet, muddy boots.

The honed light grey quartz countertops are more casual and durable. I love the wood of the cabinets but all those uppers were a little too orange (just like the ceiling.) Now there is just enough wood to remind you you are in a cabin. But the room is lighter and brighter and has more life. Did I menation that I really like black? So, of course, there are black accents everywhere – the vent hood, the appliances, the faucet, and the hardware.

Now that we’re finished with the heartbeat of the home, it’s time to move on to the bedrooms.


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