This Is How to Design Your Cabin the Right Way, Experts Say

When life gets a little crazy, the idea of snuggling up with a cup of coffee and a good book in a little cabin in the mountains or woods can seem like heaven. 

As with any themed decor, matching how you decorate your home with the style of the home itself  works best. However, even if you don’t have an actual cabin, you can incorporate that look—and its serenity—in just about any place you call home. Take a few tips from professional designers to create rustic cabin decor and cozy up your space.

“The idea of ‘cabin’ is iconic; a way of life that means you have the luxury to get away and enjoy nature, but without being too fancy” says Alecia Stevens, founder of Alecia Stevens Interiors. “Fancy is not what a cabin should be. To me, a cabin isn’t about the show; it is about the hearth, some solitude and nature.”

Here are the five designer-approved tips to make your cabin the perfect getaway.

1. Start With Wooden Furniture 

The foundation of any room is the furniture you choose. And in this case, you want to start with wood.

“It wouldn’t be a cabin with plenty of wood accents,” says celebrity designer Bobby Berk. “A live-edge table is a great piece that combines a simple shape with that rustic, outdoorsy vibe.” Berk suggests Croft House for ideas on minimalist wood furniture that would be at home in your cabin.

“We all know that log furniture screams cabin,” says Stevens. “Historically, furniture is made from whatever is available locally, so it makes sense that log furniture is at home in a cabin”  She recommends La Luna Collection, made in Wisconsin, for beautiful and well-scaled log pieces.  

But Don’t Go Overboard With Wood 

However, Stevens cautions that more is less with log cabin decor. “A little goes a long way and it starts looking like a cliche,” she says. “I like a cabin that looks like you have collected things over time, so use as many antiques and vintage pieces as you can find.”

Other Options 

If log isn’t your jam, Stevens suggests considering pine and old painted furniture as tables, chests, benches, chairs. “Woven furniture is also great—wicker pieces and rush seated chairs. The most important thing is that it feels organic and natural.” 

2. Add Carefully Curated Cabin Décor 

Kitschy Items 

There is no shortage of kitschy “Welcome to Our Cabin” signs, bear figurines and canoe bookshelves in the world. And kitschy has its place, definitely setting a cabin scene. Going all in with over-the-top, themed art is more chaos than cozy. Stevens has some ideas on a better way to artfully decorate your cabin in the woods—or wherever it might be. 

Modest Art 

“I think art can be almost anything, as long as its character is simple and a bit modest,” says Stevens. “Vintage pieces work especially well in a cabin. Old oil paintings stretched on canvas without a frame, oil on board, watercolors are especially nice and soft, maybe a collection of black and white photos that are relevant to the location.”

Items With a Nature Theme 

Anything that speaks to nature aligns well with cabin chic. And where to buy cabin decor? Berk says you can find a variety of great wood, ceramic and natural objects and accessories by perusing Bloomist. “Cabin chic is definitely all about creating that super cozy feeling and bringing in lots of natural materials,” he says. “You want pieces to be tailored and have clean lines to elevate the look from your typical cabin. I like to stick to a more nature-inspired palette of shades of white, brown, blues, and greens.”

Consider Mixing Decor Styles 

Vintage isn’t the only way to achieve the cabin look. “I think you could do something amazing and modern – like a large color photo that is a bit eccentric, and make that work, too. And I wouldn’t cross a gilt frame off the list,” Stevens says. “I have a beautiful oil painting of a dragonfly in a true water gilded frame and it would be wonderful in a cabin because of its reference to nature. If you have a lot of art, hang some of it salon style so it has more presence than scattered around the room.”

In a nutshell, Stevens says all accessories should be natural – things you find when you are out on a hike. “If it was designed in a cubicle – don’t use it!”

3. Bring the Natural Materials Into the Kitchen, Too 

Whether you are decorating a real cabin or making your home an oasis straight from the outdoors, the kitchen is key. It truly is the heart of every home. 

“For this, I would think about natural materials again—an old table, old wooden bread bowls stacked on the counter, baskets on top of the cabinets, stacks of vintage linen towels in a basket for use, a steel pot rack, copper pots if possible,” Stevens says. “Make it a real kitchen, not a white showplace from the suburbs.”

4. Focus on ‘Comfort’ 

Cabins are all about relaxing, taking time away from the stresses of daily life and enjoying a little silence and solitude. Or the best facsimile you can create within your four walls. Common areas such as the living room, family room or den have their own requirements. 

Add Plenty of Lighting (But Not Recessed Lighting!) 

“I think comfort is essential in a cabin. Light the room with lamps as much as possible as cabins can be dark sometimes—with white or light colored shades to throw the light around the room,” Stevens says. “Task lights are nice for a single person, but won’t light the room nicely. Every chair or seat should have access to light for reading.” She says recessed lighting is a no-no for cabin life. 

Cozy and Convenient Items 

Furnish your living areas with actual living in mind by anticipating the way the space will be used. “Make sure every seat has a table nearby to put the coffee or a drink,” Steven says. “ I use sheepskins on my linen sofas  and on some of my chairs. They are super comfortable and look great in a cabin setting. Have a large basket of cozy throws and blankets.”

Mixing materials can create a relaxed yet intriguing look that gives you the cabin decor you crave, with a personal spin. “Pair natural elements that have an aged look (like stone and leather) with faux fur throws and chunky knit pillows,” Berk says.

Focus on Functionality 

Be sure to focus on the functionality of your rustic features. “Fireplaces should have all the tools needed to make it easy to use—a way to stack wood, carry it in from outdoors in a basket or canvas wood carrier,” according to Stevens. And don’t forget to look down: Your floors add another layer to your design. 

Stevens suggests mixing some old rugs across your space. “Even if they are a little threadbare, don’t be afraid to use them. They will wear like iron.”

5. Highlight the Outdoor Space, Too 

Cabin decor is popular because it evokes the feeling of being out in nature. So it only makes sense that rustic cabin decor extends into nature itself in the form of decks, patios and fire pits. And the same basic rules apply.

“Outdoor seating follows the same idea as indoors,” says Stevens. “Use vintage outdoor furniture when possible. It’s not technically ‘outdoor’ rated by today’s standards, but has such a great old look. Otherwise, I would use teak such as the pieces from Kingsley Bate—the old steamer loungers, folding chairs, tables. It will weather to a beautiful old gray and look like it’s been in the family for years.”

Cabin living requires a certain aesthetic and state of mind. Take a few tips from these designers and create the perfect space to cozy up. 

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