Yes, You Definitely Need a Gnome For Your Cabin. Here’s Why:

Whenever I arrive at the cabin, before unloading our duffel bags and the cold-chest out of the back of the Jeep, I walk the barely-there path to the screen door and simultaneously reach for its handle and bend down to pat Woody on his little pointy head. Woody sits outside the porch, just to the right of the screen door, and his head is smooth and welcoming like he has happily weathered storms while keeping watch over our happy place.

Mike will tell you that gnomes are a decorative accessory and I should stop buying them. But every time I pat that pointy head, I feel safe and happy and very, very welcomed. And history tells me I’m right.

I recently bought this little guy:

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. . . and he’s been waiting for cabin season, perched on top of book mountain. When he goes to the cabin, he will be welcomed by Woody, Yellow Gnome, Gus and Bjorn —

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— a little family of watchers.

 

When we were little cabin dreamers, we called a gnome a Tomten because of this book.

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The Tomten by Astrid Lindgren came out at Christmas time and it scared me because it was dark and ghostly and the Tomten secretly visited sleeping farm animals in the middle of the night. He was a little grumpy and disheveled but he took good care of the cows and the farm cats and even the children so, even though he scared me, I liked him.

According to tradition, the tomten lives in the houses and barns of the farmstead, and secretly acts as a guardian. If treated well, he will protect the family and the animals from evil and misfortune. He might even help out with some chores (dear gnome, clean mouse traps, please). However, they are also known to be short tempered, especially when offended.They are easily put off by lazy farmers and a careless lack of proper respect  — much like the native Minnesotans, don’t ya know. They will not under any circumstances tolerate rudeness, like swearing or urinating in the barn or mistreating your animals; this could result in a hard strike to the ear.

So, seriously, don’t mess with your gnome. And if you spill something on the floor, it is considered good manners to shout a warning to the gnome below. As in, “watch out, Woody!” If you don’t, you might spend half the day looking for your glasses when you just saw them RIGHT THERE! That, friends, is your gnome talking. Just be a good person, and your gnome will take care of you. I promise.


 

Some gnome words for your enjoyment:

 

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In Swedish, gårdbo, or “farmyard dweller.”

 

 

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In Norwegian, gardvord, meaning “yard warden.”

 

 

 

 

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In Finland, he is mostly known as joulupukki, or “Yule Goat.”

 

Don’t you think you need a Yule Goat this Christmas? Giving you the finger? I know I do.

 

My shiny gold yule goat, sitting atop book mountain, has not yet been named. If you have any suggestions for this newest member of our cabin-watching team, give me a holler, y’all.

 

 

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“Troll Wondering How Old He Is” by Norwegian artist Theodor Kittelsen

 

 

Things I Bought For My Cabin Because I Miss It: 2016 Edition

January is over and that’s a good thing. I had a little meltdown recently because my post-holiday slump was dragging me down the rabbit hole and it lasted a whole freakin’ month. My urge to leave and go somewhere, anywhere, was so strong but I was held hostage by my nemesis — the calendar (shakes fist in air). My life is not so complicated but when I added the plans and activities of two other people, there just wasn’t a single opening that was big enough to allow for a relaxing getaway; if you have to smash it in, it just feels like another obligation on the calendar. Gah!

I settled for an overnight at a hotel three miles from my house on what was to be the coldest cold snap of the year — the kind that makes your forehead sting. The kind that makes young women in tiny dresses and open toed shoes feel actual pain, especially when I walk by in my Sorel boots and dog-walking coat (she says from experience). And on this coldest of cold nights, we had tickets to (dot dot dot) a hockey game. And after the hockey game, we came back to find that the heat in our very nice, upscale hotel room couldn’t keep up, so we slept under layers of bathroom towels strategically placed over the standard, and normally adequate, bedding. There was a lot of survival cuddling that night but not even a skilled archeologist could have excavated my actual body from the many layers of clothing I wore that night.

It was a getaway . . . but not quite far enough away.

This is when I start missing the cabin. It’s a guaranteed change of scenery that never ever asks anything of me except to enjoy my surroundings. Even a cold cabin can be a respite — cold can be beautiful — it’s the GET part and the AWAY part that are important.

But my cabin is seasonal. There is no heat source. And it’s location up the long-ass driveway would mean I’d have to call the National Guard for a ride to my door. It’s a completely uninhabited locale; what few neighbors there are abandon that stretch of road long before the snow flies, leaving our cabin to weather the winter alone, with only the trees and the foxes for companionship. I don’t even know what it looks like right now; how deep is the snow? Up to her windows? Higher? Is there anyone living under her eaves? Have there been any visitors, wild or otherwise? There’s no way for us to know. Mike is probably experiencing small bouts of angina as he reads this, an unmonitored cabin being one of his greatest anxieties. So many things to go wrong without his supervision. Maybe a collapsed roof or a frozen pipe. Or a destructive band of hibernating bears denning in our kitchen cabinets (sorry, Mike. Those things AREN’T happening. I PROMISE!).

It’s a good thing that I miss my cabin. This forced separation keeps the romance alive. And I keep her in my heart by buying her gifts. Not as many as last year, our first year apart, but just a few baubles to show how much I care.

 

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Vintage Orange Carafe: When you put a pitcher of water on the table, everyone drinks more water. And if that means that I can have this vintage orange carafe, then I will drink lots and lots of water. Lots.

 

 

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Paint by Numbers Tray: At the cabin, you often find yourself bringing food outside. But when you have your drink in one hand and your snack in the other, how do you carry your  People magazine? That’s why this small Paint by Numbers Tray is a necessity (yes, Mike, I said necessity), just big enough for a tall glass of Mr. Pibb and a small bowl of Cheetos. Because you can have junk food at the cabin. The close-up on the right shows that this paint-by-number is left strategically undone for your enjoyment. If you’d like one of your own, you can find it online or in-store at Fishs Eddy.

 

 

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Linen Alphabet Wall Hanging: Most vintage-esque cabin finds are clutter-y and rough around the edges. If you have too many of them, your eye gets overstimulated and your mind manufactures a smell like wet basement. This linen alphabet is spare and minimalist but still has a whiff of happy days gone by. And textiles are perfect for the bathroom; it’s basically like hanging a towel on the wall.

 

So the missing has begun. And so has the dreaming and the planning and the continual nesting. Are you wondering about the little gnome in the top photo? Sorry, you’ll have to wait until next time. . .

 

How to Stay Happy in the Dark of Winter

As we edge closer to December 22, each day gets darker and darker. I begin my day in the dark — and my day isn’t even close to ending when darkness falls again; I often have a compulsion to put my jammies on before I’ve even figured out what we’re having for dinner.

In some parts of the world, they get only a few hours of precious daylight this time of year. And some get none at all.  Despite the darkness, Denmark and the Scandinavian countries routinely top the surveys of the world’s happiest people. Last year, Denmark was #1 followed by Norway at #2, Sweden at #5 and Finland at #7.

Not coincidentally, these countries also lead the world in the strength of their collective cabin culture. In Sweden alone there are nearly 600,000 summer/winter houses and more than 50% of the population has access to one through family or friends. Scandinavian cabins aren’t symbols of privilege;  the dwellings are simple and cozy,  helping people connect with nature, connect with people, and shed the clutter and noise of the city.

Sometimes the cabin is known as smultronställer , meaning “wild strawberry spot,” a Swedish expression for a place special to your heart.

 

I don’t think anyone would deny that being at the cabin makes people happy. And the feelings of happiness generally come from a cozy comfort shared with people you love; it’s like we feel swaddled in physical, emotional and ambient warmth.

The Danes call this feeling “hygge” (sounds like hyoo-gah). And some theorize that hygge is the reason that Danes are among the happiest people in the world, even in the dark of winter. Because they don’t just save hygge for the cabin . . . they bring it home and live it every day. For them, hygge is a way of life.

This funny word has no direct English translation but NPR’s Claire O’Neill describes it like this:  “fireplace warmth with candles and family and friends and food and tucked under blankets on a snowy day, cup-of-coffee conversation, scarf-snuggle, squiggly, baby love.” Doesn’t that make you happy?

As the days get darker and the stress of the holiday season looms, grab some hygge and cabin it up at home. Don’t shortchange yourself! You deserve this! And here’s a place for you to start:

 

 “Hygge-at-Home” Tips from Cabin Crush:

 

 Candles  At breakfast, at dinner, at coffee time, at reading time, at TV time. Candles aren’t just for ambience; they become a ritual of slowing down and savoring the moment. Benita Larsson of Swedish blog Chez Larsson (instagram @benitalarsson) says Swedes use candles not just on special occasions but on most days during the darker months of the year: “Sitting at the breakfast table at candlelight is the best thing. Swedish households are known to use up bags of votives and boxes of tapers in no time at all.”

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Winter Home Scent Collection from Restoration Hardware

 

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I just bought these yesterday at CB2


Blankets Not just one, but many. Layer them. Share them. We have three people in our house and two of us fight over the three blankets in the room. And not just for the family room couch, either, but on just about every sitting place in your house; when you go to an outdoor cafe in Sweden, each chair will have a lap throw draped over the back and you routinely see coffee drinkers wrapped in blankets as they sip. When people in America get cold, they either put  on a jacket or go inside. In Sweden, they wrap up in a blanket. Have a basket nearby so you don’t have to scream at  people to fold their blankets at the end of the night. Here are some faves:

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Faribault Woolens for Target       Faribault Woolens Recycled Wool Throw     Pendleton Yakima Camp Throw

 


 

A Seasonal House Drink  

Many people would die without their coffee in the morning. For some, it’s a reason to get out of bed. And much of that is due to the warm, comforting ritual it provides. Why don’t we have an evening drink ritual? A hot chocolate or a decaf macchiato to enjoy together by the fire (or, if you’re at my house, by The Simpsons)? My son loves the privilege of sipping a decaf sugared-up creamy cream “coffee” with the adults. It  feels special. Here’s a drink I relish. I’m totally serious, I relish it:

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Freeze leftover coffee in ice cube trays. Pour cream (yes, just do it) or almond milk (if you must) over the top. Sip slowly while the coffee cubes melt and mix with the cream. It’s like forced relaxation.

Photo credit: stylecraze.com

 

Lower Your Dining Room Light Fixture  I once got a comment from a Danish woman that Americans hang their dining room fixtures to high: “It’s not hyggeligt,” she said, hyggeligt being the way we describe things that encourage hygge.

A lower-hanging fixture casts a more delineated glow around the people at the table; it’s cozier, glowy-er, it makes people lean in and feel a part of the circle while everything else fades into the background.

Plus, it just looks better. Don’t think of your dining room light as a ceiling fixture; it’s really more of a table decoration. Try hanging your light 24- 30 inches above the surface of the table. Trust me on this.

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Too high!!!

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     So much better.


 

Games or Puzzles on the Coffee Table

After owning the cabin for more than a year, Liam opened a never-before-opened drawer and found a collection of playing cards that spoke volumes to me. It was like an anthropological relic — this is what these unknown people who came before us did together! If you want more cozy family time, you have to have a reason to occupy the same space while interfacing with each other. Having a game or a jigsaw puzzle at the ready, calling out to you as you pass by, will do the trick. Click here to read a piece that I wrote for Momfilter.com about playing cards with my son in restaurants.

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And there are plenty of beautifully packaged games available today that would be worthy of space on your coffee table (hmmm…not a bad holiday gift).
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Ridley’s Games Room Dominoes 

 

Good luck with your hygge . . .

. . . may this season of darkness be the brightest ever.


Sources:  visitdenmark.co.uk, sweden.se, thelocal.se, npr.org

The Social Media Introvert’s Guide to Instagram (plus Cabin Crush’s Top 9 Instagrammers)

Of all the social media outlets, Instagram is my favorite. Despite carving out my own little corner of the inter webs, I’m sort of a social media dum dum when it comes to the rest. On Instagram, I can walk around by myself and look at all the pretty pictures but I’m not required to go the after party and discuss each piece with people I barely know. Nor do I feel the need to consider how the artists would feel if I failed to give them a marker of approval.

In truth, I’m a social  media introvert. I don’t enjoy surface-level exchanges with large groups of people. But I also don’t deal well with lengthy personal blogifestos — I’m much too lazy for that. But I do like pretty pictures that I can observe in secret from my own corner of the party.

That doesn’t mean I don’t like to call attention to myself; I love a good post that makes people go “It’s Kristin! She came out of the corner! Let’s listen!”

That is the way of the rare and recently discovered gregarious introvert. It is the equivalent of finding my spot at the party and making everyone come to my corner if they want to talk to me — which is what I totally do in real life. No mingling for me. This is my spot and I’m having my own little party right here and you are all invited but I’m not moving.

Unless, of course, you have Guitar Hero in which case I will totally come out of the corner but you will have to whisper in my ear when it’s someone else’s turn to play the drums. And if someone else has the microphone then I’ll just grab a hair brush and stand next to them.

So Instagram is my jam. And cabin lovers abound there; visual stimuli goes in, drool comes out. It’s awesome. If you are an introverted outdoorsy nature loving cabin dreamer, you should join us.

If you’d like to follow me and my cabin-leaning feed, you can find me here. Here are some of my latest:

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And here are 9 of my favorites to follow. I’d love to tell you that there’s some secret internet algorithm that makes 9 the most attractive number to use in your listicles — but the truth is that my threshold for technical frustration is exceedingly low so I decided that 9 is the new 10 and then I quit. Explore and enjoy…


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Stuganiskogen, stuganiskogen

“Trying to create a cosy house in the Swedish woods.”

I don’t know what’s happening here because I don’t read Swedish. But I do know that I would definitely sleep better under a reindeer hide.


 

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Lotta Jansdotter, lottajansdotter

Textile designer Lotta Jansdotter posts pix of her fresh, crisp, Scandinavian designs. But in July, she hosts the Lotta Jansdotter Aland Workshop and Nature Retreat at her childhood summer home on an island in the middle of the Baltic Sea, between Sweden and Finland. This is where the magic happens.


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Pines and Cones, pinesandcones

“Off grid cabin life on Äleby Gård, Selaön in Sweden.”

Again with the Sweden. These people just know how to cabin. And how to light candles at the breakfast table.


 

 

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Cabin Love, cabinlove

“Cabin candy for somewhere far, far away. Let’s be cabineers together!”

I really, really want to be a cabineer.


 

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Cabin Porn, cabinporn

“Inspiration for your quiet place somewhere.”

The elicit name that started the beardie-hipster-off-th-grid cabin movement. The Cabin Porn book is now available at cabinporn.com/book.


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Camp Brand Goods, campbrandgoods

This outdoor adventure apparel from the Canadian Rockies features photos of beautiful outdoorsy people in beautiful outdoorsy settings.


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 Askov Finlayson, askovfinlayson

“Inspired by our region’s history of adventure and culture of creativity. Products of lasting quality and timeless design. Welcome to the North.”

Minneapolis’ own Askov Finlayson is named after a road sign on the highway heading north. Their feed features not just their north-loving products but also images of the north-loving lifestyle that inspires their brand.


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Our Camp Life, ourcamplife

More beautiful people in beautiful settings who are constantly on vacation.

 


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#1 Camp Wandawega, campwandawega,

“A little Wisconsin getaway with a big history. This feed is co-created by the growing creative community who share this place with us.”

And by creative community, we mean people like Land of Nod and other makers of give-it-to-me-I-really-need-that-thing-now design. Plus, Camp Wandawega is an actual camp — restored and operated by aesthetes who are also lovers of all things campy and camp-y. In addition to their cute as a button cabins, you can also stay in a restored airstream trailer known as the Canned Ham.

That makes Camp Wandawega my number one Instagrammer by a landslide.

Stuff I Bought For My Cabin Because I Miss it.

So now I’m totally outed because my husband hasn’t seen any of this stuff and he’s probably opening this post and going “What the @*&!?” I’ve been squirreling away my stash in a special cabin hiding spot all winter so I wouldn’t scare him or invite any sort of scolding about things we don’t NEED. Which would inevitably lead to a huge argument because everyone knows that every cabin needs a yellow gnome but he’s going to claim that he’s never heard that and then I’ll be like “What? Were you born in a BARN?” Here’s a rundown of the winter booty:

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   817JywcPyiL._SL1500_  Heath Ceramics Dish Towels, Charley Harper Front Facing Fish Tea TowelNow Designs Fishies Towel

Why so many dishtowels? Well…..that I don’t know. I wasn’t even aware that I’d purchased so many dishtowels until I pulled them out of the secret cabin stash today. And I don’t even use dishtowels on a regular basis because that would involve drying dishes, something I find happens naturally if I just leave stuff on top of the stove and walk away. I think drying dishes is for people who can’t sit still…which is not a problem for me. So the dishtowels are a mystery. Except that they’re pretty and I want to look at them. Okay, mystery solved. Thank you for the minute-therapy.

 

 

          

Arrow Wall Hooks from CB2

Are you lacking in storage? HOOKS! I will use hooks for jackets, jammies, towels, dishtowels (just for looking at, of course), cabin clothes, book bags, fly swatters, art (use clip-on curtain rings!) and…drum roll, please…this brilliant idea: 5f8d1bfcad00a067c1fcfd4bd5adb875

Extra seating for our dining table can be folded and stored on the wall just like art. Every cabin needs a splash of red.

 

 

  

Woven Arrow Stripe Pillow Covers from West Elm

For me, a room isn’t finished without pillows. I see a couch with no pillows and I have to look away, like it’s reminding of that time I spent in prison. Mike doesn’t understand pillows and he takes them off so he can sit comfortably. Then I sit down after he leaves and scream “WHERE’S MY PILLOW!” I need more cush (koosh?) in my life. More cush, more color and more pattern; I only have so much wall space and there’s so much beauty in the world – I want all of it! –  so pillows become another artspace. These pillow covers from West Elm have a Scandirondack feel – I’m totally trademarking that. They are part Scandinavian, part Adirondack and they are oh so cabin.

    

      Elka Bowls from Anthropologie

Because the Anthro ladies were getting tired of me fondling them on my weekly visits. We go through bowls quickly at the cabin because of something called “cabin dip,” a special recipe that Liam makes all by himself involving a delicate mixture of salsa and Hellman’s Real Mayonaise. I’m just glad he’s finally eating vegetables.

 

  Foxgloves Gauntlet

For weeding! Duh! Because, once again, I am a Badass Weeder. I was traveling with two friends in San Francisco recently and they saw these gardening gloves while shopping at the Ferry Building. Together they grabbed the gloves and started shouting in unison, “KRISTIN! YOU NEED THESE FOR YOUR WEIRD OBSESSION WITH WEEDING!!” And though they are not natural born shoppers and can live without almost all the things, they wouldn’t let me leave the store without them. See the extra long thorn guards?! It’s just that important.

  Resplendent Flatware from Anthropologie

I had visions of collecting mismatched sets of vintage utensils but I couldn’t get over the thought that they’d been in a dead person’s mouth. So I got this brand new set from Anthropologie instead. Then I found out that Anthro has their own set of vintage mismatched collected utensils!

 

And I’m sure Anthro has a killer sanitizing machine (please help me with the name of that thing) or they wouldn’t be able to sell them in US markets so I’m considering an exchange. Although even the best sanitizing machine can’t wash away bad karma. 

Gnomes (from Home Goods. Who knew?) Who can resist a yellow gnome!? He will hide in the forest somewhere, nestled behind a silvery birch tree. Woody will welcome us at the front door.

 

 

Vintage Canoe Paddle from Grace & co.

The beauty of this canoe paddle is its unusual size (shorty) and its roughed-up condition. A shiny new canoe paddle may look too intentional, like “I bought this cabin-themed artifact to display as a completely un-ironic nod to cabin decor.”  Instead, the patina makes this a found object with a soul (and unlike utensils, it probably hasn’t been in someone’s mouth) and the funny shape makes it unique and, therefore, more fun to look at. I’m considering using it as a door handle on the screen door.

 

 

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Kikkerland Log Microbead Pillow

Liam has been begging me for this log pillow all winter; he finally figured out that I’ll cave if he adds the words “for the cabin” at the end of all of his requests. These are squishy and oddly smooth and just soft enough to be like a lovey but weird enough to be like a lovey for teenagers.

 

 

 

 

il_570xN.736813652_j8b3 il_570xN.736377628_n46p Drink the Wild Air Art Print by WillowAndOlive “Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air.”                                            ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

I will be waiting by my front door today until this arrives from Etsy.

 

As the weather warms, and we approach “opening day,” it feels good to pull these things out and prepare them for their new home. The countdown is on…

A New Cabin Bathroom Sans Bat Poo

Let’s review:  during The Awakening, in which I make a list of all the things that make me uncomfortable at the cabin, I notice that I look up at the ceiling before I sit down on the toilet;  I am well aware that I share this bathroom with a colony of something that is pooping in my cabin tub. And members of that colony could easily swoop down from the ceiling and get caught in my hair while my pants are down. Pants down makes everything worse.

The bat poop tub had to go. The peeing was just too stressful.

 

Several weeks later, I arrive at the cabin and see this at the top of our long ass driveway:

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YES!!!!  I did a little car dance because I knew the bats had been evicted. See those black flecks? That’s not an outdated design element, that’s the last vestiges of feces. Years of it fermenting and petrifying in my tub, waiting for the day when I lower my naked body into the water and bathe in it. It’s like a sacred spa treatment; I’d like the Fermented Bat Guano Bath for $200, please. I love you, bats, for your mosquito control and sonar abilities but please find your own damn house! Outside!

 

 

We replaced the tub with this kickass shower and built-in shelving, hand-built by the Finnish Carpenter (who builds saunas on the side. For more info on Finns and their saunas, click here). The tile is tumbled river rock grouted within an inch of its life by the Finnish Carpenter’s cousin, a man whose demeanor tells me that he prefers tile to people. Which works out well for me and my bathroom.

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It’s sort of a slapdash design that feels appropriately rustic but adequately clean and fresh. The combo of cedar walls and smooth rocks underfoot invokes a sauna atmosphere that vibes well with this forest-y, Scandi-infused locale.

 

The sink is Ikea’s teeniest option, allowing us to sit down on the toilet without wrapping our legs around the sink.

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At the expense of getting a little theme-y, the fish mirror works for a family of various heights. Thanks to puberty, I just recently became the shortest person in my family which causes some disagreement when hanging mirrors. If left to Mike and Liam, all mirrors would be hung so that I can only see my carefully sculpted eyebrows. On my tiptoes, I might be able to see that break in my nose where I got hit in the face with a frisbee. But with the new fish mirror, everyone gets their own fish of appropriate height. It’s so egalitarian.

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The most dramatic part of our cabin reno project was the removal of the Motel 6 toilet paper dispenser.

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As Mike removed it from the wall, Liam and I stood next to him and clapped importantly for the statement that this made. Nothing says cheap hooker like motel fixtures, am I right? Plus, a family of three in an 800 square foot cabin does not require an industrial grade “dispenser” for toilet paper; I’m guessing this artifact had been dispensing the same roll since the Clinton era.

Not only was this removal exciting from a Motel 6 perspective, it also gave me the opportunity to shop for an alternative. This should’ve been another make love to the internet situation, searching for something perfectly elusive, but instead I took the immediate gratification route and drove to the nearest (ha!) big box store……..and………I’m not kidding when I tell you that I’m pretty sure I saw Jessica Biel’s mom at the Shopko.

For those of you who don’t watch the news (aka Entertainment Tonight), Jessica Biel was born in Ely, Minnesota, gateway to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area and home of the nearest Shopko.

My toilet paper holder options were so limited at the Shopko that I couldn’t even muster the motivation to take a photo of my choice. But it’s still better than the cheap hooker-influenced design. And I saw Jessica Biel’s mom.  Maybe.  Well, I saw a motherly looking woman with Jessica Biel’s face and I got excited.

So…..is this a fantasy bathroom? No. But it’s a great example of simplicity and efficiency, form and function, authenticity and crisp workmanship, in the tiniest of spaces. When this cabin was built, no one peed inside. A shower was something that rich people took on Sundays. So to the original cabin owners, this would be the ultimate in luxury.

And the bats can suck it.

 

 

 

Featured image credit: Tim Flach

Gifts for the Cabin Lover (that’s CABIN Lover not Cabin LOVER).

tivoli

It’s not too late!  The cabin lovers or cabin wannabes on your list love gifts that remind them of their happy place.  The Tivoli Audio Model One Radio from Forage Modern Workshop in Minneapolis is said to be “the best sounding table radio ever made” (MSNBC) and won’t muddy up your cabin vibe with a lot of slick-looking electronics. We listen to a steady stream of up north radio while at the cabin – a playlist of classic rock, north woods NPR and, I kid you not, a very special polka hour.

Here’s more from Forage Modern and some of my other cabin-friendly sources:

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Nature Print,  Dining Stool, Minnesota Bottle Opener, Lumberjackin’ Minnesota Print Continue reading →