Cabin Insides and Cabin Outsides MUST Get Married

This is my new inspiration photo.  We’ve come so far on the interior of our cabin that I now have the mindspace to look at the exterior….and go “harumph.”

This one is currently for sale on Upper St. Croix Lake just north of Hayward, Wisconsin (click here for listing) and embodies the rustic log lodge vernacular beloved by American cabin builders throughout history — but it also has delicate, feminine, colorful touches that give it the European feel that I like so much better. What do you do when you dream about this…..

…..but you find yourself with this?

cabin exterior tilt shift

Now I have a template and some hope; the inspiration photo has the same log siding and basic log cabin shape as mine which makes it an attainable goal.

The traditional log cabin is, in general, very masculine and utilitarian, as if the lumberjack of old got tired of sleeping outside with the animals of the night and said, “Me lumberjack. Me make house.”

He stacked logs on top of one another to make walls and added a lid so he wouldn’t get rained on. He cut square holes in the walls so he could see the bad guys coming.

And then the lady lumberjack (the lumber jill, if you will) came along and put sheets on the bed. She also added a small table and a bedside lamp for reading when the lumberjack was sawing logs (in the nighttime way). And because her mind was growing numb from staring at all that brown wood, she hung a piece of art on the wall.

My point is that the simple log cabin, simple as it is, can be so heavy-handed that it’s not comfortable. It needs a lighter hand to bring it to life.  It needs delicate touches to elevate it’s presence and make it more comfortable for the eating and the sleeping and the dreaming and the cozying up. It’s hard to do all that on a hard cot with no sheets, surrounded by brown.

The same concept applies to the exterior as well because the exterior tells the story of what lives inside; the interior and the exterior need to speak to each other in order for each to realize its full potential. Photos for this listing show minute details like vintage window latches, door hinges and hardware, and even an old-fashioned telephone that hangs on the wall. Why? Why would these photos help sell this property?

The short story is that these details give the cabin a personality.

The long story is that these details can help you bond with an inanimate object. Instead of a box of logs, this is a carefully crafted structure that was created by people who cared about it’s integrity. The structure assumably housed and protected these thoughtful, creative craftspeople who loved her back in return, filling the structure with a lasting aura that I think is technically called good juju.

Over time, subsequent residents apparently cared enough about the old-timey details that they kept them and repaired them and maintained them instead of replacing them with shinier things from Home Depot. And the good juju grew.

My cabin is full of good juju but I can tell that some people came just to fish and left the lumber jills at home. Despite grandpa’s attention to detail when creating the cabin, the children and the grandchildren may have slept on hard cots with no sheets because all they wanted was to wake at dawn to get some more fish. The cabin was only used for sleeping a good distance from the animals of the night and keeping rain off their heads.

It’s different now. There’s comfort and color and places to read. But the exterior isn’t telling the whole story. And I have some planning to do if I want this cabin to speak her truth. Using the inspiration photo as a guide, here’s my plan:

Step 1: Where possible, add some shutters with European detail. In Scandinavia, it would be a heart cut-out. In Germany, it may be X or Z-shaped cross pieces.

Step 2: Replace windows with more detailed versions, adding mullions and vintage hardware. You may not even be aware of mullions when you see them but look at the difference here:

Step 3: By the same token, look at the difference that colorful trim makes. Adding more color (red? blue? or even more green?) along with white mullions for contrast will lighten things up considerably.

Step 4: Adding a stone fireplace to our tiny footprint is not super realistic but I’m willing to try because, DAY-UM, look at that stone chimney that anchors the whole freakin’ cabin so beautifully. And no, Mike, it is not impossible. (click here to read about Mike’s favorite phrase and why I’m morally opposed to it. Why someone would get off on things being impossible is beyond me but he clearly enjoys it. It’s the strangest fetish). 

It is possible that I could take the stone chimney idea and transfer it to the concrete block area of the cabin (what I’ve been calling “the skirt”).

Step 5: I need some window boxes overflowing with red geraniums that will water themselves while I’m gone (don’t worry, I will find a way to make this possible). Flowers are fun and it’s one of the best ways to bring happiness into your house. Are you feeling down? Go to the grocery store right now and pick up a bouquet for your kitchen or entryway. Voila. You just redecorated your house and had a breakthrough in therapy for the low, low price of $6.99.

Given the money-pit nature of our first year in cabin ownership, I’m guessing these changes are a long way off. But just knowing that there’s a fantasy, waiting to be realized, keeps me content.

If you have a cabin photo to share, I would love to see it and so would Cabin Crush readers. Input is the fuel for creativity! It doesn’t have to be your cabin — it can be the cabin you secretly write about in your diary.  Feel free to share in the comments section or send to me directly. Thank you and have a good summer weekend!

Photo credits:, Betsy Speert, Houzz, vilinikon, stbeck, justmyfieldnotes.tumbler, Studio Shed, White Feather Dream


  1. Great article — especially the “conjectured” history of “the cabin” (er… “CAMP” — I’m still a New Englander at heart) — now, “exterior decoration” ???? I still think a nice big Finnish (or Swedish, or Norwegian – um-ya-ya – or even Irish flag – painted on the big wall next to the ‘cellar door’ would look cool… and serve as a ‘beacon’ for the weary fisherman to find his way home. Dad

    Sent from my “Wizard” tip calculator.


    Liked by 1 person


  2. Hi Kristin ~ Are y’all heading Up North for the 4th? Have a marvelous time!

    I’m sharing just a few cabin photos from 2012 for fun. 🙂 It was in my family since 1945, & I miss it so!

    (The writing on the containers is my mom’s; she also painted the outhouse door purple & made the macramé owl my nephew is holding.

    The rubber boots were my grandparents’ ~ they died in 1986, but their presences remained all the years after.

    The red pump was our only indoor plumbing, & boy, could my grandma work that sqeaky thing.)

    I always look forward to your next blog post… Cheers! Erika (old school chum of Anne Brown & Kerstin March)



    1. Erika, the pix aren’t appearing (rats!). Can you send them to me directly via the e,mail on my about page? THe description alone is worth a million bucks and I’m like ” I gotta see these!” We were indeed up north for the fourth and it was the most cabin-bonding visit yet; watched fireworks right from our porch. 🙂



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