How Cabin Architecture Relates to Shaun Cassidy

This is a story about a visit to the Lake Home & Cabin Show….

… which I meet Dale Mulfinger, the Cabinologist, and act like a Leif Garrett groupie.

If you are a cabin lover, a cabin owner, a cabin seeker or a cabin dreamer, you are probably familiar with the name Dale Mulfinger.  If not, consider this your introduction.

He is the Shaun Cassidy of the cabin world; Minnesota’s best known – NO! – the nation’s best-known cabin architect and author of five books including “The Cabin,” “Cabinology,” and “Back to the Cabin,” books that should come with a bib so you don’t drool on the pretty pages.

Until I was standing in front of him at the Lake Home and Cabin Show, I didn’t know that a 70 year old architect could summon the same feelings that I had for Shaun Cassidy…….

Unknown      images-3      Kind of the same, right?


…….but that is exactly how I acted. Dumb and stupid and twittery, trying not to fawn but failing, having nothing to say but not going away because I’m trying so hard to think of something, anything, to say besides what I’ve already said six times ( “I really love your books. Your books are great. I love all your books. You write books.”)  So I just stand there with my backpack on my back and my free tote bag made of recycled pop bottles full of brochures and flyers from all the booths I’ve visited. I stand there like I’m on the verge of saying something except that I’ve already used all of the words I know. So I’m just standing there in front of him swinging my recycled pop bottle bag and mumbling non sequitors.

“yeah….so……cabins…..” Just marking time while I try to decide if it’s a good idea or a stalker-y idea to mention that I’ve memorized parts of his books.

I was making a huge impression and I’m sure he will next ask me to marry him.


Long ago, when I was just a cabin baby, he captured my heart with the crushable cabins featured in his books.  There’s this one:




And this one:




And this one is actually his own cabin, held up by what he calls a “Minnesota Redwood.” He went out for a boat ride one day and came home to find that his wife had painted the supporting tree trunk tomato red.




If you’d like to stay in a Dale Mulfinger designed cabin, there’s this one at Ludlow’s Resort in Cook, Minnesota:




Dear Mr. Cabinologist, you have influenced me in so many ways.  In fact, the cabin I’m so lucky to have right now, the one that has become the subject of blog posts and the captain of hearts, is mine because of your words. Case in point……my cabin is not nearby. It’s two hours beyond the two hour limit we had agreed to during our cabin search. That’s not fudging, that’s blowing it out of the water. But when we saw our perfect little too-far-away-cabin in the snow, I remembered a passage you wrote about the drive to the cabin, about how the last 30 minutes is excruciating and you complain and ask each other “Why did we get a cabin so far away?!”  And then, the minute you arrive, the regrets fade away because it’s just so obvious why you’re willing to drive so far…….it’s worth it.

I shared this passage with Mike on our way home and there was very little doubt after that, as if Dale Mulfinger himself had just given us permission to buy this way-too-far-away cabin. It was Cabinologist-approved so it would be ok.

Perhaps the reason his designs and his books resonate so soundly with cabin people is because he is a cabin person himself, consumed with creating a cabin life rather than a cabin showplace. His design ethos is defined by how he lives at the cabin rather than the fancy amenities he can provide. Read this quote about how he spends a cabin day and tell me you don’t want a piece of this action:


“I go to the cabin to be outdoors, to bond with nature, to have quality time with family and friends, and to dabble in building things. I feed the deer and the birds and make crepes for my grandchildren. I repair my boats and occasionally can keep a motor running long enough to make my way down to the other end of our 23-mile lake for a beer and burger. Or I will putter out to a favorite nearby bay for some fishing, return with a dozen bluegills, and spend an hour cleaning them for dinner.

I may consume the better part of a morning teaching myself (again) how to replace the chain on my chainsaw. I will walk down the hill to the shore to cut up a basswood the beaver has felled only to find I have put the new chain on backward. By dusk I will be exhausted from 30 trips up and down the 28 steps to the lake with 40-pound pieces of tree trunk on my shoulder.”

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       ~Back to the Cabin, (page 3)


Just replace “building things” with “weeding things” and the chainsaw with a set of loppers and I think we may be cabin soul mates.

We putter and we daydream and we commune and we sit and we toil all in the name of beautiful places and time that is unclaimed. It is the antidote to the current American Dream in which the list is long and there’s always someone needing five things from you yesterday, five things that will burn down the house if not delivered immediately and in triplicate.

And the fact that this notion can influence architecture and drive an aesthetic movement sort of explains everything about me………..welcome, once again, to Cabin Crush.



All photos are from Dale Mulfinger’s books, available at virtually all Minnesota bookstores and online:

Unknown-3  images 

Unknown-2  images-5




  1. Cabinology? Who knew? Well, you of course!
    The last bit reminds me of my grandfather’s place in California, about 3000 ft up the side of a San Jacinto mountainside, a round house with stone floors and a wood burning stove. A view of the valley illuminated at night. No sounds of cars or the rushing life of other humans. He fed the birds. He hauled firewood. He built things. He created art–stone sculptures in fact. He was a most beautiful man, more beautiful than Shaun Cassidy. 🙂 And I thank you for bringing him to mind today.

    Liked by 1 person


  2. I read you and it makes me want a cabin in Minnesota on a pretty lake. Then I remember the time I went to visit my sister in upstate New York in July (she lives in the finger-lake region). The freaking nights got down in the 40’s and the days were “hot” (according to them 80 is “hot”). It’s been cold consistently here for the last several weeks. I cannot wait until mid-March when the temps start rising and we get a nice 80 degree spring with nights in the low 70’s. I would never make it where y’all live. I can’t breathe if there’s no humidity. I prefer 100% humidity. I think we’re part fish. I love those cabins!

    Liked by 1 person


  3. Cabinology: “The study and implementation of personal dreams related to planning, designing, constructing and/or living a simple life, in a simple structure, close to nature, the purpose of which is to bring peace, contentment and satisfaction to one’s soul.”
    – A.Moore

    Liked by 1 person


What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s