The ONE thing my cabin needed…

“Is your cabin done?”

This is a question I get almost daily. And I never answer it the same way twice. Some days, the answer is yes because we can eat, sleep and pee comfortably and I’m pretty sure the Finnish Carpenter is never coming back.

Some days, the answer is no because the shower water comes out as a gentle trickle and if you want to change the water temp, you have to go into the dirt basement with a flashlight and a wrench. And there’s a kitchen cabinet door that hasn’t been installed so, if we need something from under the sink, we just take the door out like a puzzle piece and set it on the floor. In the absence of kitchen drawer pulls, we peel the drawers away from the frames with our fingers. The Vintage Bare Bulb Flushmount remains our primary source of light in the kitchen. And, on the days I say no, I may have just spoken with the Finnish Carpenter who swears he’s coming back even though he’s just swamped because the weather has been pretty rough this year and every day it rains it sets him back two days but he’ll try to make it over there sometime this week (…sometime this week….sometime this week…..sometime this week….).

But he never does.

When we pack the car for each trip up north, it still feels like we’re moving in. We still worry that we won’t be able to fit everything into the back of our Jeep and I tread carefully as I put things on the driveway to be loaded, knowing that Mike is judging each item I parade out the door — because our definitions of “necessary” do not match.

When I take the deer head off the wall of my entry way at home and place it on the “to be loaded” stack, he puts his hands on his hips, clenches his jaw, and blows hard out his nose. Go ahead — try it. This is how you know you’re in trouble at my house.

In answer, I say “Why not?”

“Because,” he says. “I don’t want to take something away from here to put it up there. It makes no sense.” Mike likes things done. And if I remove the deer head from the entryway, our house will be undone.

“And then we’ll have a bare wall and you’re just going to have to buy something for here….why?”

Mike has forgotten about the closet full of art in the upstairs guest room that makes him so mad. And the canvases and framed pieces that lean against the stack of rubbermaid tubs in the basement. And for sure he’s forgotten about the two boxes I found tucked in a corner last week, unopened from our last move. And for sure FOR SURE he doesn’t know about my Pinterest board called “Art and Accessories” that’s just waiting to be tapped. Finding a replacement for the deer head won’t be difficult.

I assure him that I can make the deer head fit in the Jeep. I assure him several times. And the deer head goes to the cabin.


I spy with my little eye, a deer head.

But sometimes it’s just one single item, placed just so, that tips you over into the done category, even if you have a long punch list and a Jeep full of stuff that says otherwise. There’s something about that one single item that allows a space to officially claim its personality. And when this happens, you feel it and you relax because, finally, you are home. You are no longer striving to create something because, with this single item, “create” becomes “created.” You and your space have finally found each other, as if the house says “Oh THIS is what you wanted? That’s what I wanted, too.” And, this time, when you curl up on the couch, it’s soft and cozy and you don’t want to get up because the groove fits you perfectly.

For me and my cabin, it was a set of lighted marquee letters spelling the word LAKE, placed carefully on top of the game cupboard.

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When I got home from the cabin, people asked “Is your cabin done?” 

And I said, “Yes.” Even though I can’t take a real shower and I open kitchen doors by putting them on the floor. I tell them that, for the very first time, the cabin feels like ours, for real. because the moment I put those letters up, I stopped looking for what needed to be tweaked. Instead, I swam and I read and I went for boat rides without wondering what else we could do to make this place more comfortable and, magically, the soul of the place transferred hands for good.

In the end, the one thing my cabin needed was heart. The lake is the heart of this cabin. And just because the lake is outside doesn’t mean that we don’t need to feel it while we cozy up inside.

Before the LAKE letters, I had added a few other things that made me happy. None of them gave the cabin “done” status, but they were all rungs on the ladder to cabin perfection.




The Birches Pendant is an old discontinued item from Pottery Barn that we bought two houses ago. It goes with us to every house and I’m going to ask to be buried with it. What you can’t see is the big hole punched in the side during it’s last ride on a moving truck — but still, I refused to part with it. For three years, it’s been sitting on top of an office cabinet, homeless, just waiting for us to buy a cabin.



This is Bjorn and Gus. They sit on a table next to Mike’s side of the bed. Are they necessary? Yes, because they make me laugh. And I picture them talking about Mike while he sleeps.

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After unsuccessfully trolling Etsy for months, looking for kitchen art that I had dreamt up in my head, I finally opened a kitchen drawer and found something fast (“it’s in my hand right now”), cheap (“free – because I already own it”) and functional (always add bonus points for functional). A quick trip to Target provided the $24 shelf upon which my fast, cheap, functional items sit.

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The deer head is so happy here. It’s a cheeky nod to typical cabin design without becoming a complete cliché. And the white papier maché lightens and brightens the dark interior so I don’t feel like I’m living in a Hobbit hole.

I think it’s clear that I tend to nest pretty hard. I need my surroundings to be comfortable and beautiful and, frankly, borderline irresistible. I spend my life in these surroundings, each and every day, and I just think my eye should enjoy everything it lands on (can you say visual learner?). When I look at something, I don’t want my first thought to be “I hope that doesn’t give me cooties.”

This is why I work so hard on the insides. The outsides come next. But, for the time being, I think the outsides will take care of themselves.



  1. It is all so perfect. I love it, every bit, especially Bjorn and Gus! Oh, and thanks, Mike, for dealing with the deer head . You see, it was worth it!



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