Here are some words that came out of my mouth recently:
“This is not an antler kind of cabin. We are not antler people.”
And I say this despite my weird jubilation surrounding the waning trend of hanging faux deer heads on every empty wall. It’s a totally overdone design fad that I just can’t give up. AND YOU CAN’T MAKE ME!
But cabin antlers are different. Cabin antlers are not ironic or tongue-in-cheek or made of surprising materials like fuchsia velvet (just saw that one yesterday – circled the store 3 times before I finally put it back because I couldn’t think of an empty, un-deer-headed wall in my house on which to hang it). Cabin antlers are literal. And that makes them not all that exciting to me.
When people buy cabins, they get super excited about going to the cabin store and getting some cabin stuff. And the cabin stuff comes in various themes including Pinecone, Moose, Canoe/Paddle, Things From My Grandma’s Pantry, and Antler. The choices can be really cute – or really predictable. Like maybe you didn’t even go to the cabin store but you just ordered the Box-o-Cabin from Cabins R Us and set up shop without any thought at all. It’s not very personal. My cabin is far too personal to look like everybody else’s.
Our cabins are nothing if not personal and that’s why people have such strong feelings about them. These are places that are handed down through the generations, where we spent our childhoods, where we got to know our grandparents and our cousins and our crazy aunts and our drunk uncles……and ourselves. The cabin presents the ultimate opportunity to get to know ourselves because we have the quiet and the time and the lack of wifi necessary to hear ourselves think.
So if you really love your Pinecone/Moose/Grandma’s Pantry motif at your cabin, and it makes you happy, then that’s great – but if it doesn’t mean anything to you and it’s just the first thing you saw at the cabin store, then skip it and wait for something that speaks to you. And if you find a deer head that actually LITERALLY speaks to you, please call me immediately because I need that.
I’ve learned that you need to have something a little kooky, slightly off beat – a surprise – before your home feels like home. The cabin is not matchy-matchy; it is more often matchy-mismatchy because it’s full of things you’ve collected since the beginning of time (hence the Grandma’s Pantry trend). One of my favorite cabin pieces is a sewing table I found at the end of someone’s driveway in Portsmouth, New Hampshire; it’s broken and it’s heavy but it’s perfectly patina-ed and it will be a kooky surprise when I put a typewriter on it to serve as a community cabin journal (and while you read that sentence and exclaim about what a good idea that is, I am now wondering if I stole that sewing table by accident. In Minneapolis, “at the curb” means “free – please take this.” That’s universal, right? Doesn’t matter, I’ve crossed state lines with it so it’s not going back now. And technically, the movers moved it across state lines so THEY stole it. Done. Moving on).
But the collected/possibly stolen look can go horribly wrong. It’s a very slippery slope that can easily get out of hand and, before you know it, you have the Sanford and Son look. Beware the Sanford and Son look! Last year, we rented a cabin that was rustic and charming and full of vintage ephemera tucked into every nook and cranny. There were a lot of nooks and crannies. So, so many nooks and crannies. And there was so much vintage ephemera that it spilled over into the crap category. For some people, this brings a lot of happy, nostalgic feelings but it made me kind of itchy. I dreamed about heisting little objects – a couple of Shirley Temple salt and pepper shakers, a cracker tin or two – and hiding them in the woods just to see if the cleaning staff would notice. Because they wouldn’t! I dreamed of hiding things in the woods, one by one, until one day the cleaning staff would finally look around and say “Is there something missing here?” How long would it take, I wondered.
And, yes, there were plenty of antlers. How many things can you make from antlers? The answer is all of the things can be made from antlers.
My cabin style may be a little unexpected. Cleaner, brighter, more minimalist (no Sanford and Son) and, dare I say it, more modern. You can dress a log cabin in modern clothing and still go to heaven. Like this:
But then something funny happened. There was so much clean and bright and modern that I needed something to rough it up a little bit. And one day I said to Mike, “You know what we need? An antler chandelier.”
And his response was one of the biggest surprises of my life. He said, and I quote, “Totally.”
It’s rare that Mike gives two hoots about design choices. There was a time when he thought it was ok to keep his bike in the dining room. But this little exchange stirred something in him and he started checking in with me every day – “Did you find an antler chandelier? Are we getting an antler chandelier? When does the antler chandelier arrive?”
So now we’ve checked two of my design boxes: 1) surprising and 2) personal.
To add irony to this already ironic scenario, the antler chandelier was one of the biggest expenses in our shoestring design budget. And we found it at – this is so strange – Cabela’s. So you can pick up a chandelier when you buy your ammo.
Here’s the before picture. A porch filled with construction crap.
And here’s the after. A place that says “Welcome to the cabin!”