I love spending time in my cabin in the woods, but, I have to admit I didn’t love trying to decorate it, nor did I love trying to find the right furniture for it. I knew I wanted to create a relaxing space that looked completely different from the home I lived and worked out of. If I had my way, that cabin was going to transport me back a century or more. The whole point of it is to help me cast off all the cares and troubles that come with wild and crazy 21st century living.
I came up with a system for making sure I got exactly what I wanted, and it made the whole process a lot simpler. Now, I’m going to share that system with you, so that you can do just what I did—get your space decorated and get on with your life.
There are a lot of great log cabin decorating ideas out there. Take a moment to look around and see what really appeals to you. You don’t have to copy anybody’s designs, of course. In fact, it’s not even necessarily possible, since every log cabin is unique. But looking at photographs can put you right into the spirit of getting out there to set up your own cabin.
Pick a Theme or a Style
A lot of folks talk about the log cabin style as if it’s some big monolith, but there’s actually a lot of variety to be had. Still, I was able to roughly group the most popular styles into three distinct categories.
The first one was the classic country cabin. This is the old, farmhouse, pioneer style. It’s set up to look like a family might live there. For example, a checkered table cloth and soft curtains aren’t out of place here. A lot of the decorations revolve around useful stuff like baskets or hanging pots and pans.
Then there is a distinctly Southwestern style which takes advantage of blankets, pillows and rugs that look like they came straight out of New Mexico, along with the associated color schemes. The log cabin is such an American tradition that you’ll find it anywhere, coast to coast, but that area of the world has a unique history and culture. It’s not surprising that they put their own spin on it.
Shabby chic is another popular choice. This style requires a lot of antique, distressed furniture. Most of it is going to be painted white or other softer colors.
The style I ultimately chose, however, was the good old hunting lodge style. We’re talking deep, warm colors combined with decorative touches like deer antlers and bear heads. There’s nothing wrong with the farmhouse style, but I wanted a cave where I could go to get away.
You can also go non-traditional. Not everyone who buys a cabin or cottage is after the same experience. Maybe it’s enough for you to have a get-away cottage, and now you want to fill the whole thing up with sports paraphernalia to make the ultimate “fan cave.” It’s your place, so you make the rules. I just personally happen to love those old-time, traditional touches for my own space, which is why most of the rest of my advice is going to revolve around developing the first three styles.
Make a Plan
The best decorating schemes should work with the space you’ve got. A lot of times, I’ve seen friends of mine work themselves into a tizzy trying to create a look they saw in some magazine or another, only to feel frustrated because their own cabins were too big or too small to accommodate that look.
I like to measure everything out so I can bust out the graph paper and place furniture on paper. That way, I don’t buy anything that I don’t need. Nothing’s worse than trying to cram some unnecessary furniture piece into your cabin scheme just because you don’t want to waste any money.
This is also pretty helpful if your cabin has an open-space floor plan, like so many cabins do. It gives you some time to think about how you’re going to use your furniture, rugs and other details to help give each area of the cabin its own sense of space. You don’t want your dining room to appear as though it’s running straight into your living room, and it’s easy to avoid this situation with just a little bit of planning.
Use Rustic Furniture as Your Base
Any traditional log cabin or country cottage decorating scheme relies on rustic furniture. A rustic look uses the natural world to its advantage, and you’ll find that thick log furniture pieces and natural woods really help to seal the deal.
Fortunately, it’s very easy to find a rustic furniture piece for almost anything you want to place in your cabin. Couches, side chairs, rocking chairs, bed frames, side tables, dining tables, dining chairs and more—it’s all available. To me, sitting outside with a cup of coffee to watch the sunrise is part of the whole experience. Porch swings and other outdoor furniture pieces are a must-have as well.
Note that you can personalize these pieces however you like. You can dress them up and down with cushions. You can finish unfinished pieces with different stains or lacquers. You might allow the wood to weather (or find a piece that’s already been weathered) if you’re trying to plug in to the shabby-chic style. If you want the hunting lodge look, you’ll want to stain your furniture to create richer, darker colors, whereas the country or cottage look will rely on much lighter lacquered woods.
From a decorative standpoint, they serve as the home’s backbone. Of course, you’ll want to make sure the pieces you choose are high-quality, comfortable pieces, too, since you’re actually going to be using them.
Use Fabric to Your Advantage
All traditional cabin décor styles make really good uses of fabric. Cushions, floor pillows, curtains and big, fluffy rugs are all important touches. They’re also the places where you’re going to be able to add the most visual interest. You need to think about both color and texture here.
Solid colors and stripes really go well with the log cabin look. If you want the pioneer, homey look then patterns are a very good choice instead, especially in softer colors and lighter fabrics. The Southwestern look uses the colors of the desert and relies on very rough, rugged woven fabrics.
Don’t laugh at me, folks, but I actually had to bust out some fabric swatches to make my decision here. Color has a real psychological impact on people and since I was investing so much into this space, I decided to just go ahead—go all out—and put it all out there where I could see it before I bought anything.
Don’t forget to enhance your cabin furniture with blankets. Placing cozy throws on couches and chairs helps to create some serious comfort on cooler evenings. When it comes to the beds, quilts are a must-have for all of the more traditional cabin styles. If you can, get authentic or handmade quilts to add that extra-special touch.
Use Finishing Touches to Make it Pop
While San Francisco isn’t exactly the first place I think of when I think of down home country charm, I had to admit that the SF Gate Home Guide had a good point about lighting and log cabins. Cabins do get dark.
You can go with ultra-authentic lighting like antique, distressed kerosene lamps. You can also go all the way to the other extreme, installing fancy track lighting in the kitchen and adding dimmer switches in the living room. The one thing you’ve got to do is keep in mind that wood gets dark, and a log cabin has wood on the walls, floor and ceiling. So put as much thought into your lighting scheme as you put into the furniture that you’re buying for your cabin. There’s nothing relaxing about sitting in a gloomy atmosphere!
There are some really cool branch lamps out there that make an especially neat touch.
Now, you can start adding other little touches. There are plenty of cool ways to create the rustic look.
Dried flowers, dried gourds and baskets are all nice touches. I’m pretty partial to adding deer antlers—especially when they’re meant to be useful. I love my deer antler coat rack! In the kitchen, items like cookie jars, pasta jars and even artfully hung pots and pans can all help contribute to your cottage atmosphere.
Look for creative upcycling opportunities. Arrange some flowers in a mason jar. Use branches to create curtain rods. Convert an old pallet into bookshelves. Turn an old watering can into a shower head. You’re only limited by your imagination, your creativity and your handyman or handywoman skills.
Don’t forget to add the personal touches that you and only you can bring to your new home. You might add some family photographs in rustic frames, or bring along a family heirloom that’s part of your personal story and tradition.
It takes a little time to gather up your cottage furniture. It takes a little effort to order it and arrange it in ways that will turn your cabin into a true home away from home. And it takes a bit of creativity to add all of the other touches as well.
The effort, however, is truly rewarding. You get a place where you can put up your feet, relax and build some long-lasting memories with your family and friends. You’ll know you’ve succeeded when your cabin or vacation cottage feels just as homey as home does!